Progress on NT heritage bill
By Adriaan Anarco-Troika
DARWIN — Long-awaited legislation to protect the Northern Territory's heritage might be introduced in the May sitting of the Legislative Assembly, according to a spokesperson from the conservation minister's office.
National Trust director Penny Cook said her organisation had been lobbying for such legislation for about 10 years.
"The trust was a lone voice, but public outrage following overnight demolitions at Alice Springs in 1989 put heritage protection on the government's agenda."
During the elections at the time, Alice Springs was bombarded with graffiti accusing the Country Liberal Party government of destroying heritage.
After the loss of a by-election, the government moved to mend its differences with the public by announcing the heritage bill.
"This bill is a major step towards the identification and protection of heritage sites. The National Trust, however, has reservations on the draft", Penny Cook said.
"It has very convoluted processes that are going to make its utilisation very slow. It has flaws in the area of providing interim or urgent protection, and I still think it has got too much ministerial discretion in regard to long-term protection."
Author and historian Barbara James agrees. She told Green Left Weekly that while she agrees the bill is a step forward, its success would depend on the resources allocated to implement the legislation, and on the political agenda of the government of the day.
"It is difficult to say how effective the legislation will be, and to find how much the government is going to resource it", she said.
"At least we will have a registry, we will have processes for people to go through, the public can get involved by nominating sites to be included on the heritage register."
One of the biggest tasks for the new Heritage Committee would be to educate the community on the need to protect sites of significant value. Both cultural and natural sites would be covered by the legislation.