Supporting our Heritage
RSV’s Submission to the 2020 Review of the World Heritage Management Plan
Following a call for submissions in the 2020 Review of the World Heritage Management Plan by Heritage Victoria, the Royal Society of Victoria provided input on 27 July 2020. Sadly, this submission has not featured in the subsequent report, nor has it been acknowledged via other channels when queried.
We are concerned by this sustained omission. Consequently, we have decided to open our submission, and its ideas for supporting the heritage precinct, for general consideration of the proposal’s merits. Below is the letter sent from our CEO, Mike Flattley, to Heritage Victoria’s Executive Director, Mr Steven Avery, outlining our proposed to resource the World Heritage Management Plan into the future.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments and recommendations to the 2020 Review of the World Heritage Management Plan for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens (REB/CC).
The Royal Society of Victoria is providing a separate submission with regard to the impacts on our own site adjacent to the south of the Carlton Gardens through Ratio, our town planning consultants acting on our behalf. We write to provide this separate submission to keep clear our proposition for the future resourcing of the REB/CC precinct and its broader World Heritage Environs Area (WHEA).
As you will be aware, the Society’s own buildings predate the Royal Exhibition Building (1859 for our Hall and 1869-70 for the adjacent Cottage) and the cost of maintenance and conservation is considerable for a small, non-government organisation to sustain, often at the expense of our mission. Regardless, our continuous occupation of the site and execution of our responsibility to promote science in Victoria represents one of the most potent examples of living heritage in the precinct, with the eminently notable exception of many tens of thousands of years of habitation and cultural practice by the Woiwurrung/Wurundjeri peoples. We remain committed to our location, our role, our history and our future.
Simultaneously, one of our most significant partners is Museums Victoria; indeed, we were established in the same year as the antecedent Museum of Natural and Economic Geology (1854) to help govern the institution’s science program and share an early member, champion and leader in Professor Sir Frederick McCoy, among others. As such, we are aware of the burden the Museum carries in its role to simultaneously conserve and activate the Royal Exhibition Building, with the considerable sums granted in recent years only sufficient to address refurbishment of the cupola and one external side of this massive colonial building.
As with heritage programs the world over, there is a significant gap between the aspirations of a precinct-based conservation strategy and the means to enable it. Accordingly, we submit a proposed instrument to address the resourcing gap for consideration and further discussion with government colleagues.
Funding the Heritage of the REB/CC and WHEA
In considering our own future, the Society has given long consideration to the establishment of a Victorian Government hypothecated trust for the precinct. This would build a fund to both conserve and activate the heritage-listed buildings and grounds in the whole precinct, including our own. We wish to recommend that such a trust be established, and outline below how this might be enabled.
In general terms, an hypothecated trust is held separate to the general funds held by the state’s Treasury, with Trustees appointed to govern the management of the fund and the appropriate use of its proceeds with precinct stakeholders. Two familiar examples follow:
The Sustainability Fund
This fund gathers its resources from the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy, governed by Section 70 of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic). It’s an elaborate arrangement, but the upshot is that about 80% of the funds raised are allocated to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to further allocate as grants to organisations conducting eligible activities, or to underwrite the operations of Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority.
Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth)
VicHealth and its funding base was established under Part 3 of the Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic), directing levies on tobacco products to the activities of a new health promotion agency.
You will note that both these examples direct state duties and taxes from one activity towards the growth of a related hypothecated trust. In the case of a trust established to serve the built and living heritage of the REB/CC and WHEA, we propose that funds be raised through directing stamp duty, land tax and any other state duties relating to the development, occupation and transfer of properties and titles that fall within the WHEA to the proposed trust, in perpetuity.
A Board of Trustees would be appointed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning or its successors on behalf of the appropriate Victorian Minister. These would comprise senior representatives from significant, knowledge-based enterprises in the precinct – Museums Victoria, The Royal Society of Victoria, St Vincent’s Hospital, the Royal College of Surgeons – and chaired by a suitable representative from an appropriate Heritage regulatory and/or advocacy body, such as the Heritage Council.
Our intention is that the priority for the fund will be the conservation of the precinct’s built heritage; however, we recommend that the scope also be allowed to incorporate activation activities, along with special projects and programs that celebrate the history and enduring legacy of the precinct’s many occupants.