|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
The Historic Buildings Act 1981 (the first Act was proclaimed in 1974) applied to buildings of architectural or historical interest. "Building" is defined very broadly in the legislation and includes: interiors, parts of buildings and "appurtenances thereto" as well as any structure, work or object. Land in the same ownership as a building might also be registered to protect it against development or subdivision where such action would lessen the historic or architectural significance of the building but land alone could not be registered. Precincts could not be registered, nor could items of cultural or scientific interest, or ruins, although these might be the subject of planning scheme controls under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
Under the Historic Buildings Act privately owned buildings which were of "historic" or "architectural significance" could be protected and assistance given for their upkeep.
Government owned buildings of "historic" or "architectural significance" which were still used for government purposes and which were not on a crown land reserve (i.e., were situated on government land) could, after 1989, be protected under the same legislation.
Buildings of sufficient architectural and historical significance were added to the Register of Historic Buildings. Additions to or removals from the register were Governor-in-Council decisions on the advice of the Minister. The Minister was under no compulsion to act on the recommendation of the Historic Buildings Council to add to the Register; nor was he or she prevented by the Act from advising the Governor in Council to remove buildings from the Register in the absence of advice from the Historic Buildings Council. There was no avenue of appeal against a decision for the Minister to add, not add, or remove buildings from the Register. Registration was aimed at preventing summary demolition or alteration of buildings. A repair order might be served on the owner of a registered building to prevent a building falling into disrepair (but not to enforce keeping the building in good repair.) Failure to comply with a repair order was an offence under the Act and fines or imprisonment might result.
Alterations to registered buildings were controlled through a permit-issuing procedure. This involved the determination of permit applications for alteration, removal or demolition of buildings either on the Register or subject to Interim Preservation Order control. (This was a determination of the Historic Buildings Council not the Minister or the Governor in Council.)
Financial assistance to owners of registered buildings could be granted in the form of loans and grants. With the consent of the Treasurer tax on land which contained a registered building might also be remitted or deferred.
The Historic Buildings Council made recommendations to the Minister and responsible authorities under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 on matters relating to heritage conservation.
The Council also undertook a broad public education role in the conservation of Victoria's built heritage.
Changes from 1995
In 1995 the Heritage Act (No 93/1995) was passed with the goal of providing a consolidated legislative framework for the protection and conservation of places and objects of cultural heritage significance and the registration of such places and objects. This Act was to replace both the Historic Buildings Act 1981 and the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981.
The Historic Buildings Council was to be replaced by the 16 member Heritage Council appointed by the Governor in Council on the advice of the Minister. These members were to be people with an interest and expertise in conservation rather than representatives of organisations. The exception was to be the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) which might submit a panel of three names for the Minister to choose one nomination.
The roles of the Heritage Council were summarised as being to facilitate simplified listing and approval processes for the Heritage Register which incorporate links to local planning schemes and to provide incentives and assistance for quality heritage conservation. Powers granted to the Council were comparable to those existing in prior legislation. The Council was to decide upon applications for listing of a building on the Heritage Register. Applications may be referred to local government or the responsible Minister for inclusion in local planning schemes. Objections to registration are also to be heard by the Heritage Council.
The Executive Director of the Heritage Council, appointed under the Public Service Management Act, is to establish and maintain the Heritage Register, make recommendations to the Council regarding applications for inclusion in or removal from the Register, to regulate the investigation and documentation of registered places and to determine applications for permits and consents under the Act. The Minister retained the right to have recommendations referred for determination by the Minister.
The Executive Director was to refer matters pertaining to permits to the Council for determination within certain classes determined by the Council. Appeals from decisions relating to permits and orders could be referred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (from 1998 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal). Repair orders are issued under the authority of the Minister.
The Heritage Fund was established to assit owners with maintenance and restoration works. This fund was to replace the former Historic Buildings Fund.
Government buildings on the Government Buildings Register
Government owned buildings which were still used for government purposes and which were not on a crown land reserve (ie. are situated on government land) could also be protected under the Government Buildings Advisory Council Act 1972. The amending Act of 1981 established the Government Buildings Register [see buildings, government (preservation of)].
Historic buildings and sites on crown land
"Historic sites or places" denotes areas (such as goldfields) or historic buildings once ly owned or government owned but no longer used for government purposes, which are on public crown land (usually reserved) [see crown lands (historic sites)].
Buildings within heritage areas
ly owned buildings can also be protected through statutory planning controls which designate certain areas as being of urban conservation or historic interest. Advisory services and financial assistance is given to encourage conservation and restoration projects with particular emphasis on the conservation of historic areas [see heritage protection].
Protection of cultural and natural heritage
National Estate funding is used to assist projects under these and many other types of conservation and preservation programmes which seek to protect Australia's cultural and natural heritage [see national estate].