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The NSW Government has recently released a draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 (ACH Bill) for consultation. The ACH Bill underpins a new framework for the management and conservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage (ACH) in NSW. In September 2017 the Government released a proposal paper which outlined a new system for ACH and invited the public to make submissions on the proposed new scheme. The ACH Bill, the major piece of legislation which will set out the new scheme, has now also been released for public comment. When the ACH Bill becomes law it will be the first stand-alone legislation for conserving Aboriginal heritage in NSW and will replace Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, currently the main piece of legislation governing ACH in NSW.
Some of the key changes introduced by the new ACH Bill include:
The ACH Bill is intended to be a high level, enabling piece of legislation which establishes the overarching framework for the new ACH scheme. Much of the detail regarding exactly how the scheme will operate will be contained in the Regulations or policies released by the Authority once it is established.
Nonetheless, those wishing to make a submission on the draft ACH Bill or reforms more generally may wish to consider the following issues:
These reforms are the most significant reforms to ACH in NSW to date. The new ACH scheme is likely to increase the area of land with ACH obligations in NSW. However, it also has the potential to provide greater certainty to those carrying out development on land affected by ACH in providing a clearer and more regulated approach to identifying ACH and then managing the development pathway. It is important that those who will be impacted by the new laws consider the Bill and discussion paper in detail and consider making a submission so that as many issues as possible can be dealt with before the scheme becomes law.
Public consultation on the proposed scheme and the ACH Bill closes on 20 April 2018. We recommend that anyone who carries out a development on land which is likely to be affected by ACH make a submission on the proposed reforms.