Defence is subject to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) which includes provisions to ensure the identification, conservation and protection of Australia's unique heritage assets at a National level.
Defence has led the Commonwealth by establishing arrangements that give effect to the Government's heritage agenda, whilst at the same time take account of the special needs of the Defence portfolio. Our focus is to balance heritage outcomes with economic, capability and operational factors.
The EPBC Act protects heritage values on Commonwealth land. It lays down the rules and procedures that all Commonwealth agencies must follow to manage and protect heritage values on land they own, care for, affect or control. All properties with heritage values owned and managed by Defence must be managed in accordance with the EPBC Act.
The EPBC Act requires Defence, and all Commonwealth agencies, to identify the heritage values of all their assets and consider heritage in plans for operational change and expansion, and in their strategic planning.
The first step in protecting heritage is identifying it! This is the purpose of Heritage Lists. There are three kinds of lists in the Commonwealth heritage regime and a very important heritage place may be included on all three lists. The EPBC Act establishes three heritage lists: the World Heritage List (WHL), National Heritage List (NHL) and the Commonwealth Heritage List (CHL):
The second way the EPBC Act protects heritage is through setting out a process to control the significant impacts on heritage values. The process is reasonably complex because it aims to be comprehensive. The controlling provisions of the EPBC Act are:
If a significant impact on heritage values cannot be minimised or avoided and the proposal is referred to the Minister for Environment, the Minister will then decide whether the proposal is a ‘controlled action’, or not a ‘controlled action’ provided the action is undertaken in ‘particular manner’, or not a ‘controlled action’. A ‘controlled action’ is an action that requires the Minister’s consent. If the proposal is a ‘controlled action’ then the Minister may request further assessments to be prepared.
Controlled actions might include such things as the modification of a heritage building or the subdivision of a heritage property. It might also include disposal of a heritage property (see Guide 15 of the Defence Heritage Toolkit)
A controlled action can only be undertaken after approval from the Minister for Environment has been obtained. Approval will only be given by the Minister where he or she has made a full assessment of the likely impacts of the proposed action and has determined that no significant impact will occur.
This process applies to all places with heritage values, not just those on the CHL, NHL or WHL. This is because the EPBC Act defines heritage as a part of the 'environment'.
The National Environmental Legal Register (Intranet users only) contains a complete database of region specific Commonwealth, State and Local Government environment and heritage authorities and related legislation.