Working from home with the first fully virtual NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the NSW Heritage Act 1977. As it is the first fully virtual hearing it will not be broadcast live on the Parliaments website.

However, transcript of the hearing will be posted on Parliaments website at a later hour.

NSW currently has some of the oldest heritage legislation in Australia, which in twenty years, has barely changed. However, over time, a perception has developed that heritage listing can be a burden, with the most minor activities subject to costly regulatory obstacles.

NSW has a strong history of heritage conservation and protection. It has the second oldest state heritage legislation in Australia, with over 1700 items currently listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR), providing enduring protections to these significant items.

The Heritage Act 1977 (the Act), was first introduced in response to widespread community concern that heritage was coming under increasing threat from overdevelopment. The Act was initially designed to halt the increasing loss of heritage. Since its introduction, the Act has been amended to reflect changing circumstances. Today, the Act protects natural, cultural or built heritage items considered to be of significance to NSW.

The NSW community of today looks vastly different to that of the 1970s, when the Heritage Act was first introduced. Greatly increased cultural diversity and a renewed focus on Aboriginal culture and heritage, mean that many of the items protected by the SHR may no longer fully reflect the many different narratives and values that underpin our communities of today and tomorrow.

The Heritage Act was last reviewed in 2007, but the last major reforms took place in 1999. The Act is now in its fifth decade of existence and has been amended many times as its operating context changed. Despite these updates, the Act is now widely considered to be out-of-step with trends in heritage conservation and land use planning and development. It reflects an outdated reliance on prescriptive regulatory measures and compliance mechanisms to achieve its objectives, and is generally considered onerous, procedurally complex and adversarial to adaptive reuse.

The NSW Government proposes three key policy themes to guide this legislative review process. These themes relate to the key NSW Government priorities of: putting the customer at the centre of everything we do; a strong economy; and well-connected communities with quality local environments.

For more information on this inquiry, please visit the Social Issues Committee website.