Historic Places Aotearoa Executive has released the text of their submission to the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill. This Bill restructures the current New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Some of the proposed changes include the following: renaming the NZHPT as Heritage New Zealand, abolition of the regional branch committees, all Board appointments to be Ministerial only [currently members elect three Board Members], Minister able to direct policy...
Submission is as follows:
To: The Local Government & Environment Committee
On the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill
1. This Submission is made by Historic Places Aotearoa Incorporated (HPA). HPA seeks to have the opportunity to have a representative appear in support of its Submission.
2. HPA has been formed as a National organisation to take over the role of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) in representing and co-ordinating the activities of the new regional heritage bodies which will replace the 21 Branch Committees of the NZHPT which will be dis-established by this legislation.
3. The effect of the Bill, if passed, is to alter the structures and functions of the NZHPT, meaning that the groups of volunteers around the country that have comprised the membership of the NZHPT Branch Committees need to re-form themselves into new organisations if they are to continue their heritage activities. HPA has been set up as the new parent body for such regional groups.
4. NZHPT has approximately 20,000 members and the objective of HPA is a large percentage of these will want to be part of this new organisation and be involved in local advocacy for the protection of heritage. Previously NZHPT has been something of a hybrid organisation being a Crown entity with regulatory functions as well as having a voluntary wing and it has apparently been found that this arrangement has caused “difficulties”. HPA, as the new national volunteer heritage body will seek to operate by utilising as many parts as possible of the existing NZHPT Branch structure where those groups elect to join HPA, with each regional society having independent legal status.
5. HPA is generally supportive of the Bill. While there was initially dismay among the voluntary members of the NZHPT from which the Branch Committee members are drawn that the review of the statute was to result in the dis-establishment of the Committees, we are now past challenging that decision. HPA is itself a demonstration of the resolve to form a vigorous new voluntary group of members supporting heritage born out of the organisation that is being demolished.
6. The Branch Committees covering the country were often referred to as the “eyes and ears” of the NZHPT. Enthusiastic and diligent local people, knowledgeable about heritage and history, would draw issues to the attention of the professional staff in the main centres and it was a system that worked well for 55 years. HPA has been set up to represent those volunteers now to be cut adrift.
7. The stated reasons for the legislative reforms are said to be twofold. First, the combination of statutory responsibilities and active Branch Committees has set up tensions within the Trust which have compromised its ability to perform its statutory functions. In other words, the professional organisation and the volunteer heritage advocates have at times got on opposite sides of heritage disputes and the body has not spoken with one voice. Secondly, it is said that as a Crown entity it is inappropriate for NZHPT to continue as a hybrid organisation with a wing of voluntary Committees and members and the accountability issues that ensue.
8. Given the above background HPA considers that the legislation should in some way direct NZHPT to facilitate the establishment of HPA including, where possible, encouragement to the transfer of the existing membership across to HPA or otherwise legally established volunteer heritage groups. While this has been the case to some extent by the Board of the NZHPT to date, which has endorsed HPA and provided seed funding, HPA understands that it may be the intention of NZHPT to seek to continue with a voluntary membership structure. There will of course be no representation for those members at Board level, as is the case at present. HPA notes that there is no specific authorisation for the continuation of a membership structure in the Bill and would not expect to see that in any event, given that is what has given rise to a problem perceived by NZHPT which the Bill seeks to remedy. HPA notes that Section 60 of the Historic Places Trust Act 1993, which specifically provided for membership of this nature, has not been carried forward into the Bill and indeed there is no reference to such a membership structure at all.
9. The Crown Entities Act 2004 does not appear to contemplate Crown Entities having voluntary membership either and it is submitted this would be a most unusual structure for a statutory/regulatory body in New Zealand. The Crown Entities Act in Section 10 defines a “member”, but that definition does not extend to membership of a voluntary nature in the view of HPA. It is correct that the Crown Entities Act in Sections 13 to 24 provides a wide range of powers to a statutory entity in order that it may perform its functions. As a general proposition, of course, a statutory body may only act in a way which is expressly authorised by its statute and as noted, the Bill is silent on the continuation of any voluntary membership arrangements.
10. The Bill should not be silent on the question of membership particularly if NZHPT seeks to maintain a membership base; HPA is prepared to enter into arrangements with NZHPT on the issues of existing life membership and reciprocal entry agreements with overseas heritage organisations.
11. HPA is also concerned about the effect of Clause 21 of the Bill regarding the protection of names. HPA and a number of other groups throughout the country have already been formed utilising the term “Historic Places” linked with their regional name and would like to be able to offer the ability to use this name to other groups yet to be formed to cover their respective regions. It is noted that the provisions of the Bill do not apply to any body that, immediately before the commencement of the new Act, included a name which is otherwise ruled out by Section 21(1).
12. HPA considers this provision should be deleted because otherwise there is going to be a very confusing and unsatisfactory situation in the future. It notes that the NZHPT is to change its name to Heritage New Zealand and considers that will resolve matters. Alternatively, a rider could be included in Clause 21 to make it clear that HPA and its affiliates may use the term Historic Places.
13. HPA does have some concerns about the new archaeological provisions though it generally welcomes the strengthening of the law in this area. These may be the subject of Submissions by individual members or groups within HPA.