On World Heritage Day Labor calls for the Berejiklian Government to stop the vandalism of NSW heritage

In Parliament | 18.04.18

As World Heritage Day commences on 18 April, the NSW Labor Opposition has produced a snapshot of the status of heritage in NSW showing a Heritage Minister who doesn’t care about heritage and a Premier who just wants to sell it all off to make a quick buck.

The list of crimes against state heritage committed by the Berejiklian Government includes:

  • Rejecting the Heritage Council nomination for listing of the Sirius building, throwing out the public housing tenants in The Rocks and selling the building;
  • Digging up Australia’s oldest town square, and destroying indigenous and convict heritage at Thompson Square, Windsor  for a much-criticised road project;
  • Failing to progress the World Heritage Listing of the Parramatta Female Factory, the earliest convict women’s site still in existence in Australia, and supporting the building of thousands of units at the site;
  • Refusing to protect the Butterfly Cave in Wallsend, a sacred and historic Aboriginal women's site;
  • Selling off the iconic sandstone Department of Education and Department of Lands buildings in Bridge Street, and refusing to rule out the same for the Chief Secretary’s Building; and
  • Cutting down 100 year-old heritage trees on Anzac Parade, planted during the First World War as a tribute to the original Anzacs.

The dire state of heritage protection in NSW is further illustrated by the meeting minutes of the Heritage Council of NSW, which describe a “triage list” backlog of more than 200 heritage nominations; “scarcity of resources” hindering heritage listings; and an inability of the Minister to act within legislated deadlines.

An analysis of the Heritage Minister’s lack of action shows neglect – Minister Gabrielle Upton is required by law to decide on nominations for listing on the State Heritage Register within 14 days of receiving the Heritage Council’s referral, yet she has not once met this legal timeframe.

The Minister takes an average of 153 days to decide on each listing, and of 21 heritage items referred to the Minister last year, just 10 items have been listed by the Minister. Eleven remain outstanding.

One year ago to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Heritage Act 1977, Labor Leader Luke Foley laid out a 5 point plan for heritage that would see a future Labor Government return proper custodianship of culture and history to government, and strengthen our heritage protection laws. Labor will:

  1. Develop and deliver the first-ever NSW State Heritage Strategy;
  2. Remove the ability of the State Government itself to use the economic hardship provision of the Heritage Act to refuse a building heritage protection;
  3. Stop a Heritage Minister ignoring out of hand a recommendation from the Heritage Council to protect a particular place, by introducing a public hearing to allow the advocates for preservation another opportunity to make their case;
  4. Restore the Office of Heritage within the Department of Premier and Cabinet so that heritage issues are at the centre of government decision-making; and
  5. Re-locate the Office of the Premier and the Cabinet room to one of Sydney’s pre-eminent public buildings, the Chief Secretary’s building on the corner of Bridge and Macquarie streets.


18 April was endorsed as The International Day on Monuments and Sites by UNESCO in 1983. It is known as World Heritage Day. The 2018 theme for the day is Heritage for Generations, seeking to celebrate inter-generational transfer of knowledge and youth leadership.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Heritage Minister Penny Sharpe MLC 

“From the Premier down to the Heritage Minister, the NSW Government shows a relentless, reckless hostility to the preservation of our precious environmental and cultural heritage. 

“This wilful neglect will see future generations fuming at the shortsighted, greedy approach of the current Liberal-National Government. We have already lost much that we will never be able to get back. 

“The historic sandstone government buildings of Bridge Street in Sydney have been flogged off to be turned into a luxury hotel. Century-old heritage trees on Anzac Parade have been chopped down with no thought for their history, and Thompson Square is being hacked at daily until there will be little of the past left behind.”