Report highlights: State heritage assets

What the report is about

This audit assessed how effectively the Department of Planning and Environment (Heritage NSW) is overseeing and administering heritage assets of state significance.

Heritage that is rare, exceptional or outstanding to New South Wales may be listed on the State Heritage Register under the Heritage Act 1977. This provides assets with legal recognition and protection. Places, buildings, works, relics, objects and precincts can be listed, whether in public or private ownership.

Heritage NSW has administrative functions and regulatory powers, including under delegation from the Heritage Council of NSW, relevant to the listing, conservation and adaptive re-use of heritage assets of state significance.

In summary, the audit assessed whether Heritage NSW:

  • is effectively administering relevant advice and decisions
  • is effectively supporting and overseeing assets
  • has established clear strategic priorities and can demonstrate preparedness to implement these.

What we found

Heritage NSW does not have adequate oversight of state significant heritage assets, presenting risks to its ability to promote the objects of the Heritage Act.

Information gaps and weaknesses in quality assurance processes limit its capacity to effectively regulate activities affecting assets listed on the State Heritage Register.

Heritage NSW has adopted a focus on customer service and recently improved its timeliness in providing advice and making decisions about activities affecting listed assets. But Heritage NSW has not demonstrated how its customer-focused priorities will address known risks to its core regulatory responsibilities.

Listed assets owned by government entities are often of high heritage value. Heritage NSW could do more to promote effective heritage management among these entities.

What we recommended

The report made eight recommendations to Heritage NSW, focusing on:

  • improving quality assurance over advice and decisions
  • improving staff guidance and training
  • defining and maintaining data in the State Heritage Register
  • clarifying its regulatory intent and approach
  • sector engagement and interagency capability to support heritage outcomes.

Fast facts:

  • 1761 the number of assets listed on the State Heritage Register in December 2022
  • 50% the approximate proportion of assets on the State Heritage Register that are publicly owned
  • 9% the percentage of records on the State Heritage Register have been updated since 2015
  • 2 years the median time it takes to process a nomination for listing on the State Heritage Register
  • 53 the number of nominations awaiting processing for potential listing on the State Heritage Register
  • 87% the percentage of applications for works were assessed within statutory timeframes in Q3 2022–23.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.