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know them by what they do …

Dear Beagle Editor, Your readers might be interested in the our latest media release regarding cultural heritage and the role that the community plays (and can play) in overseeing its management. know them by what they do …

While not everyone feels a connection with their cultural heritage, the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) believes that for many in our community, celebrating heritage contributes to the development & strengthening of a sense of identity, place & belonging, while developing a better understanding of our history & where we come from.

With that in mind, the BVSRRA welcomes the announcement of the joint initiative by the NSW government & Bega Valley Shire Council of the ‘Heritage Near Me’ program to help residents & visitors to the Bega Valley celebrate & enjoy Heritage Week, commencing on September 2nd, with the announcement proclaiming that it is …

“an opportunity for locals to protect, share and celebrate our unique cultural, natural and built heritage”.

The BVSRRA believes that while many residents of the Bega Valley have a deep & abiding connection with its heritage, many others would have little real appreciation of that heritage. So, anything that can assist residents & visitors gain a better appreciation of our heritage should be welcomed, in particular as that greater awareness will more than likely create a stronger voice in favour of protecting & conserving that heritage.

At the same time, the BVSRRA believes that many in our community would not have a full appreciation of the more than 300 heritage items, 14 heritage conservation areas & three aboriginal places of heritage significance that currently represent a significant part of that heritage, or where to discover such information.

While Museums & Libraries are an important source of information, the BVSRRA believes that best place to identify what items, conservation areas & aboriginal places of significance go to make up our heritage is to view the comprehensive list recognised under the Bega Valley Local Environmental Plan 2013.

Even more surprising to many residents will be to learn that the mechanisms for protecting local heritage items are quite flimsy, with council being the ‘designated authority’ responsible for their protection.

Regrettably, as some recent high profile examples have shown, council cannot always be relied upon to meet its obligations in that regard, & it has only been the strident voice of the community that has acted to prevent the destruction of iconic heritage assets.

Many will remember the community outrage that erupted at the beginning of last year when council resolved, without any prior public consultation, to relocate the Dr Evershed Memorial Clock Tower in Bega, allegedly to make way for a set of traffic lights, the need for which has never been established, but which many in the community believe was secretly intended to promote nearby commercial development interests.

At the time, the BVSRRA wrote to NSW Heritage detailing the rich heritage value of the Memorial to the community, while the then Mayor, Michael Britten, who had proposed the move, spoke publicly about “removing the clock mechanism” from the Clock Tower & installing it in “another structure”; a proposal that many in the community believed would be an act of desecration.

Obviously shocked by the scale of the public opposition to its proposal from all quarters of the community, council backed down & the proposal was dropped, although it is worth reminding the community that the original motion proposing the relocation was never rescinded by council.

More recently, amid accusations that councillors had been deliberately misled by council bureaucrats, a major dispute between supporters of the Wyndham community & council erupted over council’s refusal to reinstate the timber trusses forming part of the heritage listed Pretty Point Bridge as part of an upgrade of the bridge.

While the Wyndham community & its supporters from all parts of the shire remain determined to ensure that council meets its obligations to protect this significant heritage structure, the situation remains unresolved.

The BVSRRA believes that the above very public disputes demonstrate that the best way to protect the cultural heritage of our community is for residents to become more aware of what actually constitutes that heritage, so that, regrettably, if & when council demonstrates a readiness to walk back from its responsibility to the community, public opinion will be easier to arouse in order to defend that heritage.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association