Another blow to heritage in NSW

The recently re-elected Liberal State Government will dismantle that the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and its two principal functions will be absorbed by other departments.

ArchitectureAU says “The environmental protection and management functions of the office will be moved to an enlarged “Planning and Industry” department, while the heritage functions of the office will be moved to the arts portfolio.  Speaking to reporters on 2 April, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “We’ve moved heritage into the arts, because heritage and the arts have a very strong focus.”

The article goes on:  “The office has existed in its current form since 2011, first under the Department of Premier and Cabinet and then under the Department of Planning and Environment from 2014.  It is responsible for the management and preservation of the state’s natural and built heritage. It provides expert and independent advice on heritage issues through the Heritage Council of NSW.

Penny Sharpe, acting leader of NSW Labor and Shadow Minister for Environment and Heritage, took to Twitter to criticize the decision. “The premier said she would make the environment a priority,” she said. “Her actions today show that this was untrue.”

Nature Conservation Council CEO, Kate Smolski, said in a statement, “This shrinks the status of the Office of Environment and Heritage further and appears designed to reduce it to providing back-office functions enabling development.”

As noted it the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 April 2019:

One senior staffer told the Herald OEH had often provided a dissenting view to Planning, such as when new housing projects in the Sydney Basin threatened the dwindling natural reserves. Remaining koala corridors, for instance, were among the habitats at risk.  Work that had previously been conducted by inhouse OEH experts was being diverted to external consultants – a process staff worry will accelerate with the bureaucratic overhaul now under way.

Kate Smolski, was also quoted as saying, “Under a previous Coalition government, the environment was downgraded to an office and has suffered ever since due to the gutting of staff, the subordination to other departments and the junior position of the Environment Minister.”

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