Victoria is rich in built heritage. From the terrace houses in our inner city, to modern spaces like Federation Square, our state’s history is reflected in our built environment. Our cities and towns reflect the diverse nature of the history of Victoria, from pre-European settlement to the present-day, inclusive of First Nations, immigrant and contemporary Australians.
Victorians are proud of our heritage and we frequently fight to save much-loved buildings in our local areas. But successive Labor and Liberal governments have let developers buy up heritage buildings in our city, earmarking them for redevelopment as apartments or hotels. Buildings like the Palace Theatre have had their heritage interiors gutted despite community protest, while others like the Corkman Pub were demolished in the middle of the night. Iconic Melbourne places like Federation Square and the Curtin Hotel have recently been under threat.
The Greens believe that heritage, in all its forms, is an asset to be respected and protected for current and future generations. It is vital that we protect the built heritage of our city and state as well as nurture and create new cultural heritage.
Stronger local heritage protection laws
At the moment heritage buildings are classified as either significant or contributory, depending on whether they are individually significant as a heritage place, or whether they contribute to an overall heritage precinct like a street or a suburb. However, in practice, the latter provides weaker heritage protection, and many places with contributory status are at risk of destruction. This allows entire heritage precincts to slowly be whittled away, as streets like the Golden Mile in Canterbury are gradually destroyed by new development.
The Greens' plan would revamp our heritage protection system to replace significant or contributory protection with individual or precinct protection. This would better reflect the value of a heritage place and lead to more heritage places being protected.
New statewide standards for maintaining and protecting local heritage buildings
A large number of heritage places in Victoria are local heritage places, protected and managed by local government under the Planning and Environment Act. However, the level of protection varies greatly from council to council, and there is significant confusion and limited understanding of how to best protect local heritage.
The Greens' plan includes statewide standards for maintaining and protecting local heritage buildings, to provide consistency and guidance for councils managing heritage places. These standards would include stronger guidance about conducting heritage studies, including a requirement that studies are conducted on a regular basis.
Interim heritage overlays for councils
Currently, the Minister for Planning has the power to apply an interim heritage overlay to a place nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register pending its assessment. This power does not extend to local councils. This means if the minister fails to apply an interim overlay, or is slow on acting on a request from councils, there is nothing stopping a heritage building from being destroyed.
The Greens' plan would empower councils to protect their heritage places by allowing councils to apply interim heritage overlays while the heritage value of a place is being assessed.
Trial a new heritage nomination model to protect the community use of a space
Victorians are frequently outraged at the loss of heritage spaces that are valued community meeting spots. For example, we have seen too many pubs, theatres and venues in Melbourne threatened by facadism, where the building is bought up by developers and gutted, with only the facade remaining. This model was considered by the interim report of the Legislative Council's Planning and Environment Committee's 2022 Inquiry into the Protections within the Planning System, and recommended by the National Trust of Victoria.
The Greens would like to trial a new heritage nomination model to protect spaces of social and cultural value to communities, by protecting the social/cultural use of the site. This would allow communities to nominate places for local heritage if the place is or had been important for the community in built form or function. It would allow places like the Curtin Hotel to be protected as a pub, and prevent it from being sold and destroyed.