Minister Moss defends heritage record


Above: On protection of the Coles mural on Railway Terrace, the Minister has decided that documentation will do. The mural is an early and relatively rare expression of an aspirational bicultural – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – identity for the town.

Following a ritual burning of the Heritage Act on Monday, by campaigners protesting the imminent destruction of the old Anzac Hill High,  the Alice Springs News put their criticisms to the responsible Minister, Lauren Moss.
We asked:
What is the Minister’s view of the exclusion of “social value” from heritage criteria to be considered under the Heritage Act? (This disappeared when the act was rewritten in 2011. Formerly the Act included criteria for places “highly valued by a community for religious, spiritual, symbolic, cultural, educational or social associations”.)
What is the Minister’s view of the five year restriction on renominating a site for listing after a first nomination has been rejected?
What does the Minister say to concerns that this has left vulnerable to destruction the following sites in Alice Springs:
The Walk-In Theatre and Kenna Residence (YHA, Parsons Street)
The Old Riverside Hotel (Todd Tavern)
Former Wallis Fogarty Store (whose original facade is intact behind the hoarding of Alice Travel and Cruise, corner Todd Mall and Parsons Street)
The Coles Mural (Railway Terrace)
Via a spokesperson we received the following reply:
The Heritage Act aims to protect, preserve and celebrate places of significant historic cultural heritage in the Territory, providing a robust framework for decision-making and taking into account community expectations.
Section 11 of the Heritage Act includes criteria for heritage assessment in line with national standards.
‘Social value’ is captured in criterion (g):
(g) whether it has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons, including the significance of a place to Aboriginal people as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions.
The Heritage Act passed in 2011 with bipartisan support. Timing provisions in the Act are there to provide a level of certainty to the community once a decision has been made to declare or not declare a place a heritage place. A place can be renominated within five years by the owner or with the owner’s consent.
The Walk-In Theatre and Kenna Residence (YHA, Parsons Street) is provisionally declared. Negotiations are ongoing with the owner about permanently declaring the place a heritage place, recognising that some sections have no heritage significance.
The Minister decided not to permanently declare the Coles Mural as a heritage place in line with the Heritage Act including a public submission process.
The decision gives consideration to the wishes of the owner and recognises that the mural has been carefully documented as part of the heritage assessment process.
The other mentioned sites were nominated under the old Heritage Conservation Act but have yet to be renominated under the terms of the Heritage Act.
Since commencement of the Heritage Act in 2012, there have been 19 places or objects permanently declared as heritage places, including the following in the Alice Springs region:
· De Havilland DH 114 Heron aircraft (object)
· Goolam Rasool Nazar’s Grave
· Little Flower Mission
· Yuendumu group of iron buildings
· Mt Riddock Homestead
· Raggatt’s Structure
· Chain Calibration site
Our questions to Chief Minister Michael Gunner, arising from what was said on the same occasion, have gone unanswered.
We asked:
Does the Chief Minister intend to pursue compulsory acquisition of Anzac Oval?
If so, is the intention to also pursue locating the national Aboriginal gallery on the site?
Does the government believe it has a social licence to do this?
Is the government in discussions with private developers who have plans to redevelop properties in Todd Street North and on Wills Terrace, linked to the government plans for the Anzac precinct.
If there are no longer such plans for the precinct, why is the government pursuing demolition of old Anzac Hill High? What does it intend for this site?
Is there a danger that the site will be left vacant?


  1. I stand by my belief that the NT Heritage Act 2011 is not worth the paper it is written on. My response to the minister is that:
    i. “Social value” is not entirely included in criterion (g), as claimed by the Minister, since it relates to “a particular community or cultural group”. Would the opinion of the general community count? I’d say not, if the recent decision against listing the Coles mural is any indication.
    ii. That the Walk-In Theatre and Kenna Residence (YHA, Parsons Street) are “provisionally declared” is not reflected in the NT Heritage Register website, which shows their status as “Not Recommended”; and
    iii. Although many of the threatened heritage places were indeed nominated under the previous Act, ministerial decisions not to declare them date to late 2013, well after the passing of the present Act.
    Although these places could indeed be re-nominated under the 5-year rule, recent ministerial decisions would suggest they would be un-successful, thereby giving owners another 5-year window in which to legally demolish their buildings.
    Any casual glance at which nominations have been successful over recent years suggests that heritage-listing is only for places and objects of little or no commercial value and that listing of our larger, more significant buildings, particularly those in our CBD, can be vetoed by the building owner, with a little co-operation from the Minister.
    It does indeed seem that there is little that can stand up to a developer’s “right” to make a quick quid, even if it will hurt our town’s local economy in the long run.

  2. I can see in my crystal ball another vacant Melanka site in store for Alice Springs, unless an urban grand plan takes place to rethink the whole of Town from South of the Mall to Hungry Jack going North and up to Anzac Hill. Unfortunately, besides Gunner and Moss, I cannot see in that same crystal ball any figure such as a Napoleon III or a Baron Haussmann to carry out a massive urban renewal program of new public works, art gallery and parks opening onto the River Todd.
    I love Alice Springs my little 3R (regional, rural, and remote) country town. Stop messing up with it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here