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A shared passion for heritage progress

THROUGHOUT the WA Business News heritage forum it was evident participants shared a passion to move the heritage debate forward and seek out real solutions.

For City of Perth senior project officer Noel Robertson, the solutions for issues surrounding heritage can be found in communication and education.

“To me it is about communication and throwing all the various bits and pieces on the table,” he said.

“It is about saying ‘look these are the different ideas we are generating in incentives, this is what we are talking about in terms of setting up an educational program, this is what are talking about in terms of setting up design guides to give greater certainty in particular areas’.”

Heritage Council chairman Patric de Villiers said the only way to address the issue was by treating heritage as part of the whole strategic plan.

“My view is that I need to get in the tent at the front-end for a delicate negotiation about how we go forward,” he told the heritage forum.

“I am led to believe that the Heritage Council has never been let in the tent either by the private sector to date or by the government, because they think we are a bunch of nutters.

“So if you are going to be in the tent and behave responsibly you have to take a broader view and I hope we will.”

National Trust chief executive Tom Perrigo said heritage was not about putting dots on maps.

“You can do that for the rest of your life and it won’t solve the problem,” he said.

“It is industry’s responsibility to come to bodies like us as much as it is our responsibility to come back to industry.”

In the past, Mr Perrigo said, there had not been enough dialogue, causing a reaction and, consequently, conflict. 

“When in reality, if people sat down and really started working through the issues I don’t think we would be that far off,” he said.

Geoffrey London said one of the things he was keen to do in his new role as government architect was to establish an architecture policy.

“I think we desperately need a vehicle that we can all bounce off and disagree with or agree with as a way to move forward,” he said.

“And obviously heritage will perform a significant part of that.”

Mr London said the policy needed to be strategic and identify key areas where particular types of developments were wanted to occur in accordance with the overall policy.

“And then I think it is possible to go out and encourage developers to go out and bring about some of these agreed policies,” he said. 

“Without that we are working in a very ad-hoc manner and it adds up to an ad-hoc city.”

Town of Cottesloe Mayor Robert Rowell said local government had to totally rethink our role and communicate more with Heritage Council.  

“And actually get help or more logical thinking to help local government to make correct decisions rather just than to employ some consultant who gets in a car and drives by a block and says: ‘That looks old and let’s list’.”  

Mr de Villiers said that, in spite of widely held views on property rights, there were clearly some logical requirements for statutory provisions.

“At the end of the day I resent my role to some putting black dots on people’s lives, because I think it is about values and a much broader debate,” he said.

“But at the end of the day I think we need to do the front-end stuff to get a rational basis on how that works.

“One it’s clear, two, everyone understands it, three, we don’t end up like what has happened in the planning system – layer upon layers upon layer with the last layer being the longest layer, so everybody wants to shoot me.”

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