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Estimates: Environment and Communications Legislation Committee (Parramatta Female Factory Precinct)

Lee grills The Australian Heritage Council on proposed developments near the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct that would nullify its heritage status and environmental protections. She queries why the National Heritage List, which the Precinct may or may not be on, will not be released until June 2017. 

Senator RHIANNON: My questions are about the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct. Changes to New South Wales planning controls allow the state government to declare the female factory at North Parramatta a site of state significance which, you are probably aware, effectively nullifies heritage and environmental protections. When these protections are switched off it paves the way for proposed developments, in this case including 69 separate buildings, some 30 storeys in height, adjacent to or within the precinct that is being considered for heritage status. How can this unique site be objectively and fairly assessed for heritage status when these developments can go ahead-possibly over 4,000 residences close to what is to be judged as a heritage site?

Mr Johnston: The Australian Heritage Council is assessing the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct for possible inclusion on the National Heritage List. That is based around the former female factory site and the Norma Parker centre. We have had discussions with New South Wales officials both from the heritage area and from urban growth and we have talked them through our council's assessment and its boundaries and the type of heritage values it will be looking at. They have advised us-and bear in mind that this is a New South Wales managed site-that within the core heritage precinct at this stage they are planning only two new buildings, one of three storeys and one of four storeys. We are not aware of any of the buildings in the area where the council is looking being proposed for demolition or anything like that. We will be keeping in contact with them as the assessment continues over the coming months, and we will talk to them in the future. That is our advice at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: Is it not the case, though, that the proximity of these buildings will be relevant to heritage status?

Mr Johnston: For the National Heritage List we list by heritage value, and we generally would not have viewsheds or proximity as a feature. But, that said, the council has not yet formally commenced its consideration, and anything that emerges in that will be part of the council's consideration. We will deal with any issues as they come up, but at this stage we have not identified any particular issues of concern.

Senator RHIANNON: You said it does not generally impact on your decisions. That sounds open, that it could. I am trying to get a sense of what the rules are, because there is growing concern that the heritage status could be jeopardised.

Mr Johnston: In terms of the Heritage Council's assessment, we do not expect that any of the buildings that the council will find of national heritage significance will be impacted by surrounding developments at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: Just on the time, when the announcement was made about assessing for possible inclusion on the National Heritage List it was said that it possibly will not be completed until June 2017. That is 20 months away. Why does it take so long?

Mr Johnston: The council are going to have a discussion at their meeting on 30 November, at which they are going to consider the work plan for this one and also for some of the others that have been added to their work
plan. As we discussed earlier, they have 14 national heritage assessments underway plus nine Commonwealth ones. It is a case of being able to sequence them within their resources. The council is hoping to complete it ahead of that schedule. We will find out more as we progress, but at this stage we are hoping to go to the public consultation phase, which is what we call the 'might have value' stage, potentially in the second half of next year.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

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