Track 6: INTEGRATING OLD AND NEW – BUILDINGS, DISTRICTS, and LANDSCAPES / Volet 6: Intégrer l’ancien et le nouveau – Immeubles, quartiers et paysages

Strategic Conservation Management of Redundant Government-owned Heritage Assets

Saturday, October 14
10:45 AM - 12:15 PM

Managing government-owned heritage assets means that our work to ensure the appropriate management and conservation of public heritage assets is work that benefits the community directly. However, the question of conserving redundant structures can be a difficult balance. How do we chose what can and should benefit from public investment when the items no longer serve their intended public function, and particularly when its use is fundamental to its significance?
The Regional Railway Network in New South Wales, Australia includes an asset register of hundreds of items of historic railway infrastructure, a large majority of which are still functional and service the public. The portfolio also includes a number of redundant built heritage assets. The focus of our study was the management of twenty-one redundant timber railway bridges. These items are significant to the State due to their contribution to the regional railway narrative. However, their conservation management is problematic on several levels, including physical constraints, conservation requirements, financial, accessibility, remoteness and limited potential for future uses or interpretation. The solution lay in applying a pragmatic approach towards appropriate degrees of conservation, scaling the assets against a range of management “attributes” – criteria relating to both heritage and operational factors – to determine better and worse candidates for conservation. We developed a traffic-light sensitivity analysis tailored specifically to the conservation management of timber underbridges from an asset and facilities management perspective.
For instance, one of the heritage attributes we assessed each asset against was its interpretive value. This criterion asks “Can we apply heritage interpretation to this asset in order to increase awareness of its significance”? Alternatively, one of the operational criteria we applied was in regards to its Future Use Viability - "Will this bridge be able to be used again, either for its original use, or if not, are there any other alternative uses?"
In summary of our analysis, our study determined that structures within or in close proximity to townships and generally with a high public profile are the best candidates for undertaking conservation works, with opportunities for potential alternate uses in future. At the other end of the spectrum, the poorest candidates for conservation are those items in remote locations in very poor condition with little potential for adaptive reuse. This approach, while perhaps at odds with traditional conservation decision-making, allows for the wise investment in the conservation of certain historic public assets, which have the best potential for a long-term future.

Learning Objectives:

Eleanor T. Banaag

Heritage Advisor
Extent Heritage Pty Ltd

Eleanor has over 10 years’ experience in heritage management, impact assessment, built heritage and materials conservation work. She completed a Bachelor of Ancient History from Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) and then her Masters of Heritage Conservation from the University of Sydney, Australia. She now works as a Heritage Advisor in Sydney Australia with Extent Heritage Pty Ltd, a private heritage consulting firm, providing heritage advice on range of projects including assessment of residential redevelopments, urban centre renewal projects, conservation management plans, movable heritage audits and most recently, strategic asset management of government heritage asset portfolios.

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