I was asked to check out the various political party manifestos to see what was on offer during the election campaign. Heritage appears to be a fairly minor issue in the election process as it was not mentioned at all by United Future, it received a passing comment by ACT, NZ First offered a one line policy and there was only slightly more from National and while the policies from Labour and the Greens were a little more detailed they are both quite brief.
Since there is not a lot on offer to tell where we might be heading in Heritage policy it might be interesting to first have a look at the policies implemented by the previous government over the last nine years.
The Heritage New Zealand Bill was introduced early in 2010 and eventually passed in 2014. The Bill proposed a fairly major overhaul of the then NZ Historic Places Trust and of particular interest to this gathering was the proposal to disestablish branch committees of the Trust. This change ultimately led to the formation of Historic Places Aotearoa. While there appeared to be strong support among the outgoing branch committees for a new national non government organisation it is sad that only about a third of the outgoing committees actually joined during the process of reforming following disestablishment. In the meantime we are left to reflect on the wisdom of the disestablishment policy in terms of the influence of Heritage New Zealand in the regions.
We have also taken a lot of interest in the change to the Register of Historic Places. The new act provides for a National Historic Landmarks List Ngā Manawhenua o Aotearoa me ōna Kōrero Tūturu covering places of outstanding national heritage value.
This separate list was to be made up of entries nominated by HNZPT and approved by the Minister, initially with a limit of 50 places, but this limit was removed before the Act was passed. In any case the Landmarks List remains closed and as far as we are aware there is still not a single entry on this new list.
As noted in a recent issue of Oculus a second Landmarks programme has since emerged, Landmarks Whenua Tohunga, which According to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage web site is a “partnership between Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga which showcases New Zealand’s historically and culturally important places”. The Landmarks name created some confusion in our minds but we now realise that Landmarks Whenua Tohunga is really a Heritage Trail type programme with a brochure covering nine sites in Northland launched last summer with plans to extend to Otago & other tourist or potential tourist areas..
In August last year The Government announced the EQUIP (Earthquake Upgrade Incentive Programme) grants designed to assist owners of heritage buildings, put under greater pressure to strengthen their buildings under the terms of the Building (Earthquake Prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016, with the cost of strengthening. It is interesting to note that this programme is administered by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage rather than HNZPT but It is pleasing to note that a number of grants have since been approved as part of this $12 million programme.
Earlier this year the Resource Legislation Amendment Act was passed. With relation to heritage, one of the aims of this act is to reduce undue interference in private property rights by heritage protection authorities such as Heritage New Zealand. While this act appears to prevent HNZPT from placing heritage orders on private property. While this act does not appear to reduce the advocacy powers of HNZPT we have noticed that there now appears to be some reluctance by HNZPT to advocate publicly in contentious heritage issues such as the demolition of the Te Urewera visitor centre at Waikaremoana last year so we really need to find out more about the current advocacy role of HNZPT.
At the Napier AGM Minister Barry’s speech mentioned the question of managing the pressures of population growth and urban development against the needs of heritage preservation. How the ACT manages these pressures is something that we are still coming to terms with.
Let us now look ahead at where heritage might be heading under the terms of policies offered by the various political parties during the election campaign. Looking at what was promised for heritage by the various political parties during the recent election campaign should provide us with an indication of their likely direction.
The United Future Party made no mention of heritage in its policies.
We were told that “ACT values the environment. Clean water, fresh air, efficient disposal of waste and the preservation of natural and historical features are all important for quality of life.”
During the election campaign the government referred to the EQUIP fund and the “successful operation of the Whenua Tohunga programme in Northland. Their future policies included;
Expand the successful Landmarks Whenua Tohunga to more regions to better showcase our history and attract tourists to less visited locations.
In a heritage related policy a $30 million boost to the Regional Cultural and Heritage Fund aimed at museums was proposed.
New Zealand First
The New Zealand First Policy listed under “Conservation” was as follows;
“Protect our historic heritage by amending legislation to clarify the protection of heritage sites, buildings, and objects”.
Perhaps predictably an e-mail to Ron Mark, their heritage spokesperson remains unanswered so I can only assume that maybe they propose to strengthen the linkage between the NNZPT list and local district plans.
The Green Party offered the following policy;
Protecting and Preserving Heritage
• Support the creation of a National Policy Statement for heritage under the Resource Management Act.
• Support central and local government funding schemes for owners of heritage buildings.
• Establish a well resourced national funding scheme for the earthquake strengthening of heritage buildings.
Look out for another reference to their first policy. The final policy appears to be a duplication of the EQUIP programme established by the previous government. However it is pleasing to see that the Green Party sees government funding as an important issue in heritage preservation.
• Work with local government, heritage organisations and across central government to investigate and develop a National Policy Statement on Heritage Protections under the Resource Management Act.
• Investigate methods to ensure that heritage buildings in private ownership do not fall into neglect or risk demolition due to the expense of new earthquake requirements. This might include tax incentives to restore listed buildings.
• Investigate the feasibility of moving heritage buildings in crown ownership, to the management of Heritage New Zealand.”
These are all positive policies but at this stage the Labour party is only offering to investigate them. It is interesting to note that the policy relating to development of a National Policy Statement on Heritage is also shared with the Greens.
A number of us recall the address given to our last AGM in Napier by the Labour spokesperson for Heritage (and now Prime Minister) , Jacinda Ardern. At that stage the demolition of the Category I listed Te Urewera Visitor Centre at Waikaremoana was fresh in our minds Jacinda explored some possible policies to avoid a similar recurrence. She initially suggested, in some detail, strengthening the links between the HNZPT List and local District Plans under the Resource Management Act to provide statutory protection to listed buildings.
Her alternative suggestion was to opt for, what she described as the “nuclear option” and finally create a national policy statement on heritage. Interesting to note that this was the option chosen for inclusion in the Labour Election Manifesto.
The chances of further development of these policies should be greatly enhanced by their compatibility with policies proposed by coalition partners, the Greens and probably, New Zealand First.
Our challenge is to persuade the government to advance their heritage policies from the “support” and “investigate” to implementation.
The above is the text of the Denis Pilkington presentation to the HPA AGM @ Timaru 2017
Denis Pilkington is on the Historic Places Aotearoa Executive
and a member of Historic Places Hawke’s Bay.