Image: Simona Sergi via Unsplash
In March, the National Trust was notified that the Legislative Council’s Environment and Planning Committee has decided not to conduct public hearings as part of the current Parliamentary Inquiry into Protections Within the Victorian Planning Framework, due to insufficient time reamaining in this term of Parliament.
In the interim, the committee – which has received over 260 submissions – has resolved to “do a detailed and thorough review of all submissions, prepare an interim report for the Parliament identifying the key issues and key questions and will be making a strong recommendation to the government that a full and detailed inquiry be undertaken at the commencement of the next Parliament.”
The National Trust is deeply disappointed that the promised hearings have been delayed indefinitely, and that the Inquiry will not be fully conducted in this term of Parliament, with no guarantee that the next Parliament will continue this work.
To prepare our submission, we consulted with hundreds of experts and community members, and found that many of the issues resulting in the destruction of our heritage are already well known and documented.
The core problem is continued inaction, and an ongoing failure by successive state governments to adequately resource the management of Victoria’s heritage by government and private owners. The decision to delay the Inquiry just reinforces this.
We are at a tipping point—with increased development pressures, the growing impacts of climate change, and an increased emphasis on fast-tracked planning approvals, the heritage places and environmental assets that make Victoria special are under threat.
We need to act now to ensure we have strong and clear protections that reflect the value of heritage to our communities, economy, and employment, and reflect its capacity to contribute to sustainable development.
The National Trust has put forward practical and achievable solutions to strengthen and improve the planning system, including establishing a dedicated heritage unit within the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; reintroducing state government funding for local heritage studies and heritage advisors; increasing the number of VCAT members with heritage expertise; and implementing the recommendations of previous reviews which have already been undertaken, such as the Heritage Council’s State of Heritage Review into local heritage.
We are also calling for new legislation to provide additional protection for places of community value, like the John Curtin Hotel, based on the system currently in place in the UK.
These are all issues which deserve to be fully explored through an Inquiry process, and in the lead-up to the State election in November we will be advocating for all parties to commit to the resumption of the Inquiry.