Ideally, the different levels of Australian government would provide enough funding to allow for more conservation, restoration, adaptive re-use and management of our built heritage. As in many other areas, there are limits on government budgets to support the built heritage, particularly during economically challenging periods. Local governments, which handle the majority of heritage sites, are underfunded and under-resourced. For these reasons, other avenues need to be explored to ensure irreplaceable heritage is not lost in the meantime.
What are the benefits to the government of investing in heritage?
Direct benefits will include preservation, conservation, restoration or adaptive re-use of the building.
Indirect benefits include the provision of accommodation for living and working; tax revenues; supporting traditional crafts and professional employment; tourism and associated employment and the improvement of facilities and enhancement of the environment.
It has also been shown that an increase in public investments in heritage usually levers a considerably higher investment from the private sector.
There is a need to increase private investment in heritage conservation. The sustainable approach should be for taxes and credit policies to favour conservation and rehabilitation rather than new construction. Most historic buildings should be capable of allowing an economic or beneficial use. This supports the concept of a ‘living’ heritage rather than a ‘museum’ heritage.
However there are limits to the use of private investment as financial institutions are often reluctant to lend money on old buildings to assist in conservation or restoration work because there are inherent risks as compared to new builds. A subsidy, in addition to private sources of funds can reduce the risk factor and may encourage an increase in private sector investment in this sector.
How can the government encourage increased conservation?
1) a dynamic approach, which involves policies and measures to stimulate the private sector to invest
2) a support approach, involves financial incentives and subsidies.
Within a sustainable framework, there is a need to balance the requirements of all interested parties: public authorities, private-sector interests and the general public.
A number of impediments that exist in this process result from either a lack of suitable administrative structures or from undue complexity, particularly overtly negative and restrictive control.
- Grants (both repayable and non-repayable) to help public and private owners restore or rehabilitate buildings. According to the NSW Government Environment & Heritage website the NSW Government has committed $5.96 million funding to the 2013-14 and 2014-15 NSW Heritage Grants program.
- Tax relief to enable owners to devote more of their means to maintenance and conservation.
- Subsidised surveys would encourage regular maintenance and conservative repair rather than costly restorations, which can be damaging in terms of authenticity.
- DA provisions that allow owners of significant sites advantages that will encourage conservation rather than demolition (eg increased FSR allowances).
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