Certain activities and works are exempt from approval under the Heritage Act 1977 for heritage items listed on the State Heritage Register or subject to an Interim Heritage Order. The activities and works must have little to no impact on the item's heritage significance and support its management.
These new standard exemptions apply from 1 December 2020. Therefore, some works will be exempt from approval without notification to Heritage NSW.
Steps for using Standard Exemptions
Working through the steps below can help you to:
- decide if your activities/works can be done under Standard Exemptions and
- comply with standard exemption requirements.
Step 1: Check the listing
Search the online heritage database to confirm the item is listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR) or subject to an Interim Heritage Order (IHO). The online database entry can also contain important information about your heritage item.
Step 2: Check if exemptions apply
Before commencing activities/works you must self-assess whether your activities/works can be done under an exemption.
Proposed activities/works may be exempt from approval if they fit the description of:
- one or more of the Standard Exemptions.
- any applicable site-specific exemptions for the item - you can find these on the online heritage database entry for your item.
If the proposed activities/works would not comply with the Standard Exemptions or site-specific exemptions, approval under the Heritage Act 1977 is required. See the Approval Pathway Decision Tree to determine the most appropriate pathway for you to obtain approval.
Step 3: Engage suitably qualified and experienced professionals
Anything done under exemptions must be carried out by people with knowledge, skills and experience appropriate to the activities/works. Some exemptions require suitably qualified and experienced heritage professional advice/work.
To assist landholders/owners and managers of heritage items, Heritage NSW has two directories available. A Directory of Heritage Professionals and Consultants, and a Products and Services Directory of firms providing supplies and services
Step 4: Record Keeping
It is essential that a person working under Standard Exemptions keeps a record of the decisions they made in their self-assessment, and the activities/works undertaken (‘a record of use of exemptions’).
When using an item's site-specific exemptions, you should comply with documentation requirements listed in the schedule of site-specific exemptions.
A record of the use of exemptions should include (at a minimum):
- a reference to the item’s statement of heritage significance
- a detailed description of the proposed activities/works and how this changes the existing fabric/item
- an assessment of whether the activities/works impact the item’s heritage significance (following the Statements of Heritage Impact guidelines)
- details of any advice received from a suitably qualified and experienced professional
- other relevant records e.g. plans, copies of heritage advice received and before and after photos as attachments.
A template record form is available as a guide.
Unexpected issues and finds
If during your activities/works under an exemption, you discover an issue or find significant fabric such as relics you should stop and evaluate:
- whether you can address the issue within the defined activities/works, relevant standards and conditions of the exemption. If you are not able to, you will need to seek approval, and
- whether you need new/additional professional advice or expertise.
You should document all issues and unexpected finds, your decisions and any advice you got which informed those decisions. Include this information in your Standard Exemption Record of Use.
Schedule of Standard Exemptions
The Minister responsible for heritage granted standard exemptions published in the NSW Government Gazette (see page 6) on 13 November 2020.
There are helpful guides for you to refer to when carrying out activities/works on a heritage item. These are listed under each exemption and the following guidelines will be useful for most activities/works:
- The Burra Charter (The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance) 2013
- Minimum Standards of Maintenance & Repair
- Standard Exemptions - Guidance
- Standard Exemptions - Frequently Asked Questions
- Standard Exemptions - fact sheet
- Significance and Significant Fabric - fact sheet
- Assessing Historical Importance (A)
- Assessing Historical Association (B)
- Assessing Significance of Historical Archaeological Sites & Relics
- Principles of conservation work on heritage places
- How to carry out works to heritage sites and buildings
- Church buildings: guidelines to their care and conversation