Museum head says laws to protect heritage are “weak”

Museum head says laws to protect heritage are “weak”

Perth Museum executive director Reece Harley has slammed WA's heritage legislation.

The executive director of the Museum of Perth has lashed the State Government over heritage legislation that he says has failed Maddington Homestead.

The Heritage Act was beefed up in 2017, with the State Government at the time stating The Bill retained the strengthened penalties for deliberate destruction of registered places and responds to the community’s call for better protection for important heritage places that are left to become run down and at risk from ‘demolition by neglect’.

The current ruinous state of Maddington Homestead, still awaiting repairs from its billionaire property developer owners Golden Group, would seem to contradict that.

Museum of Perth executive director Reece Harley certainly thinks so, labelling the legislation as weak at best.

“It’s safe to say people in the heritage sector believe the act is pretty weak and Maddington Homestead is a case in point where it takes a very long time for even the mildest of conditions to be imposed on property owners when it’s quite clear they are presiding over an example of demolition by neglect,” he said.

Golden Group were served with a repair notice on May 18, 2021, and as yet no work – other than the lodgement of a building permit which is yet to be granted by the City of Gosnells – has been undertaken.

As far as a test-case goes, Mr Harley says the legislation has clearly failed.

“Maddington Homestead is the first property that has come under the new provisions where the State Heritage Council and the Minister have acted to require the owner to do repair work.

“The provisions only require that they commence actual work within two years.

“Now during that period of time, a building could continue to fall over or could go up in flames.

“The act is too slow and the provisions are too weak.

“The owners of Golden Group are not being held to account by the act for their custodianship of the property. Maddington Homestead was still standing when they purchased the land.

“What we’ve seen instead, over decades now, that the owners have sub-divided the land at a pretty profit and they’ve let the homestead fall into ruins.

“They’re not talking about restoration; they’re talking about stabilising the ruins so they don’t fall further into the ground.

“We’re not talking about a requirement to rebuild the property or a requirement to develop it as a heritage attraction open to the public, it’s simply stabilising the ruins.

“That would have to be the absolute bare minimum requirement for an owner and would seem to be a pretty weak provision of the act in my view.”

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