New laws that promise to tackle “demolition by neglect”

The WA Government is set to introduce new regulations to combat ‘demolition by neglect’.

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NEW laws that promise to tackle “demolition by neglect” are being proposed for WA in a revamp of the state’s outdated Heritage Act.

Heritage minister Albert Jacob has released a proposed new WA Heritage Act for a six-week public comment period and said the old act was “no longer fit for purpose”.

The new Bill includes provision for repair orders for demolition by neglect — the process used by owners to downgrade character properties with a view to bulldozing them for development — and easier, one-step heritage listing process and more open and accountable legislation.

The reforms were a 2013 election commitment, Mr Jacob said, and were intended to modernise heritage laws and provide legislation to recognise, respect and celebrate the State’s heritage.

He said the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 had remained substantially unchanged for more than two decades and was no longer fit for purpose.

“The Act has its origins in the 1970s and 80s and is characterised by a lack of clarity, cumbersome and inefficient processes, difficulties in interpreting the legislation, and perceptions of its effectiveness,” he said.

The Heritage Bill 2015 (Exposure Draft) was developed following two rounds of public consultation as part of the 2011 review of the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990.

Mr Jacob said repair orders would help prevent genuine cases of demolition by neglect by requiring an owner to make the place safe and secure. Repair orders are common in other States and would only be issued under strict conditions.

Other reforms include a one-step process to assess and recommend places for entry in the State Register of Heritage Places, significantly reducing time and costs, and making Heritage Council and Ministerial decisions on heritage registrations public.

Public submissions are open until September 25, 2015.

The Mount Lawley Society of WA said it was very pleased with the conservation amendments proposed in the new act.

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“Demolition by neglect has been a particular problem in Mount Lawley and we’ve been pressing all parties to implement protection regulations and legislation to prevent that,” said spokesman Barrie Baker.

“The conservation proposals are very much welcomed by the society.”

— The WA Government is inviting input on the Heritage Bill 2015 (Exposure Draft) at www.stateheritage.wa.gov.au