Monday, July 18, 2011

Heritage Committee of Hornsby Shire Council

This Wednesday night Hornsby Shire Council will be debating a report to discontinue the operation of the Heritage Committee and of the Heritage Assistance Fund.

The Heritage Assistance Fund allowed Council to provide by way of grants to assist owners of heritage properties. Because the total of the fund was only $60,000 pa its utility is limited. Its abolition will not be too significant.

However the Heritage Committee should play an important role. This committee should comprise local members of the community with knowledge of heritage matters who voluntarily provide their time and expertise to help Council understand matters of importance from a heritage perspective. Without this assistance Council will make decisions, especially planning decisions, without highly significant guidance and information. Because decisions often require local knowledge it is not the sort of information that can be bought on a consultancy basis.

The Council Business Paper suggests that the current Heritage Committee costs $30,000 pa to service. This seems a significant amount for a voluntary body and it is a matter for Council to manage its own finances but reduction in the amount spent should not mean that the Committee and its role is abolished.

If Council proposes to make planning decisions without this guidance then local residents are likely to see far more decisions that fail to pay due regard to their interests.

This appears to be the only committee suggested for abolition on the grounds of budget cuts.

The Civic Trust urges all members to immediately contact their local councillors to oppose the abolition of the committee.

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