Page 2112 - Week 07 - Thursday, 16 May 2013

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In determining the respective roles for the minister and council, consideration was given to the nationally accepted principle of separating the identification and registration of heritage places from decisions about their conservation and management, which is appropriate in the ACT. The identification and registration process should, in the main, be based primarily on an understanding and assessment of heritage significance. The Heritage Council is best placed and best qualified to make those decisions.

While decisions of the council are made in the interests of the community to protect and conserve the community’s heritage, there are instances where it is beneficial for the minister to have a stronger role where he or she believes that a greater benefit for the community, government or business might be achieved through the minister determining a proposal themselves.

It is not reasonable to expect that the Heritage Council can consider these broader matters in those exceptional circumstances. Rather, this is a responsibility which should rest with the minister. The registration model in the amendment bill will achieve this by providing a stronger role for the minister in the decision-making process through a call-in provision for exceptional circumstances where a decision about the registration of a place or object raises a major policy issue, would have a substantial effect on the achievement or development of the object of the territory plan or has a substantial impact on public benefit.

In particular, this will enable a broader scope of matters to be considered at the time of registration, particularly for complex, large-scale or particularly controversial places and objects. The provision ensures open and transparent processes are followed, such as the grounds for the minister’s decision being presented in the Assembly. It is proposed that no appeal against a decision called in by the minister be available.

Importantly, the current composition and independence of the ACT Heritage Council will remain, recognising the specialist skills and qualifications which those members bring to the recognition, protection and conservation of our unique heritage places and objects. In the majority of cases, the Heritage Council will remain the key body with responsibility for decisions affecting the territory’s heritage places and objects, including at the time of registration.

The model proposed in the bill will enable the council to continue the practice of separating registration and identification of heritage places and objects from decisions about their conservation and management. However, the model will also allow scope for the minister to consider a broader perspective where there is a clear need to do so. In these cases, it is the minister who is best placed to consider matters other than heritage significance which may be of benefit to the territory. It is my expectation that this power will only be used in unusual circumstances involving complex and controversial scenarios affecting the future of the territory.

I have previously referred to provisions requiring the council to fully brief the minister on any submissions received during the public consultation period. These requirements are strengthened in this amendment bill to enable the minister to direct

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