26 September 2023

Audit keeps Heritage Unit on the rail

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An audit into the effectiveness of the Department of Planning and Environment’s Heritage NSW unit has determined that the unit was effectively administering its relevant advice and decisions; effectively supporting its overseeing of assets; and administering heritage assets of State significance.

In her report, State heritage asset, Auditor General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford PSM said she assessed whether Heritage NSW was effectively administering relevant advice and decisions; effectively supporting and overseeing assets; and had established clear strategic priorities and could demonstrate preparedness to implement these.

“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,” Ms Crawford said.

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

She said Heritage NSW had 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,” the Auditor General said.

She said the listed assets owned by Government entities were often of high heritage value, (and) Heritage NSW could do more to promote effective heritage management among those entities.

Ms Crawford said she made eight recommendations to Heritage NSW, focusing on improving quality assurance over advice and decisions, staff guidance and training, defining and maintaining data in the State Heritage Register, clarifying its regulatory intent and approach as well as adopting a sector engagement and interagency capability to support heritage outcomes.

“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.

The Auditor General’s 54-page report on the Heritage Act can be accessed at this PS News link.

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