They also want to see plans for the Kingston Arts Precinct “fundamentally rethought”, describing “a complete lack of respect” for historic buildings in a scathing assessment of the current proposal.
Nine experts, concerned that heritage is seen as a problem rather than an opportunity, have raised these and other issues in letters to members of the three major parties contesting next month’s territory election.
The signatories include former ACT Heritage Council chairs Duncan Marshall, Eric Martin, Michael Pearson and Peter Freeman.
Writing to Labor’s Mick Gentleman, Liberal Nicole Lawder and the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury, they lament a lack of resources dedicated to preserving heritage in the ACT.
“All indications suggest there are substantial delays in and constraints on key tasks which impact planning, development and community engagement,” the group of heritage experts says in its letter.
This is perhaps unsurprising, according to the group, when an ACT Heritage Strategy that was said to be forthcoming in 2016 has never appeared.
Such a document is needed to confront arguably the biggest challenge in this area, they say, which involves resetting community, industry and government views on heritage.
“The ACT community is relatively wealthy and educated, yet there continues to be an impoverished dialogue about the value of our heritage, its conservation and sympathetic integration within a modern society,” the group writes.
“There appears to be a continuing lack of awareness and knowledge about heritage, what it means to register heritage places and their management into the future.
“There is a lingering and powerful view that heritage is a problem, not an opportunity, and that heritage is for the elite few rather than the broad community.”
The experts encourage the winner of the October 17 poll to right some of these perceived wrongs through “place-specific initiatives”, offering their views on some controversial projects.
These works are part of the early stages in a wider plan to create the so-called Acton Waterfront precinct, where the incumbent government has flagged a mix of housing, parks and public spaces.
In their letter, the heritage experts say the plans for West Basin are “not sympathetic to the heritage values of Lake Burley Griffin”.
“Filling in part of the lake to facilitate adjacent commercial development will have clear impacts on the lake and the development will impact important views associated with West Basin,” the letter says.
“While approval for the reclamation has been given, it is within the power of the ACT government to halt the project and reopen consideration of options which are fully respectful of the lake and its values.”
The experts also take aim at plans for the $750 million Kingston Arts Precinct, which will see the area around the ACT heritage-listed Kingston Powerhouse transformed.
“While this development has undergone numerous planning studies over many years that have respected its heritage values, the current proposed design shows a complete lack of respect for the historic buildings, particularly through over-development of the site,” the group says in the letter.
“The proposal should be fundamentally rethought and a fully sympathetic development implemented.”