The Tasmanian Government has proposed new legislation to replace the out-of-date Aboriginal Relics Act 1975. The new Aboriginal Heritage Protection Bill 2013, which was introduced into Parliament last month was read for a second time on 21 November in the Legislative Council.
The new legislation aims to provide a modern, fair and balanced legislative framework for Aboriginal heritage, improving protection and management as well as providing certainty and clarity for land owners and developers.
The proposed new Act also intends to provide for the Aboriginal community to have an integral role in the management of their heritage and allow the State to implement contemporary systems of a similar standard to those that now exist in several other states whilst addressing a number of deficiencies of the current legislation, including its arbitrary 1876 cut-off date and inadequate penalties.
The legislation will establish an all-Aboriginal statutory body, with both decision-making and advisory powers over Aboriginal heritage with a view to extending the involvement of the Aboriginal community in decision making. This body will provide a distinct state-wide voice for the Aboriginal community on Aboriginal heritage issues.
The legislation connects the protection and management of Aboriginal heritage more directly with planning and land use development approval procedures and requires an Aboriginal Heritage Management Plan to be prepared at the planning stage for high-impact projects. The Minister may require a Management Plan or one may be prepared voluntarily.
For projects that do not require a Management Plan, the legislation also provides for Permits or External Regulatory Approvals.
Except for in the case of registered or found Aboriginal heritage, exemptions will be provided for minor development activities and the construction of certain buildings in specified circumstances.
The legislation requires Permits for specified activities, for example scientific research on an Aboriginal site or the removal of an Aboriginal object from the State. The Aboriginal Heritage Council will be the decision maker for applications for such Permits.
The development of the new legislation has been overseen by the Aboriginal Affairs Committee of Cabinet and a high-level steering committee with advice from a Government Reference Group and has followed extensive consultation with stakeholders and the community.
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