Home > Pioneer Settlement heritage listing recommendation: Q and A’s
Pioneer Settlement heritage listing recommendation: Q and A’s

Pioneer Settlement heritage listing recommendation: Q and A’s

What is the recommendation?

What is the recommendation?

Heritage Victoria has recommended that Pioneer Settlement and specified objects associated with the Settlement be included on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Heritage Victoria has assessed the Pioneer Settlement in response to a nomination by one or more persons unknown to Council.

The area impacted by the registration is the whole of the Pioneer Settlement. In addition, 12 items are proposed to be registered as being integral to the Pioneer Settlement:

  1. Log buggy
  2. Small John Fowler Steam Traction Engine
  3. Red Gum log
  4. Road Steam Roller
  5. Large Marshall Portable Engine 20HP
  6. Large John Fowler Steam Ploughing Engine, “Black Bess”
  7. Cobb & Co Coach, Concord Coach Replica
  8. Dennis Fire Engine
  9. Wool Barge Vega
  10. D3 Steam Locomotive
  11. National Powerhouse Diesel Engine
  12. “Kaiser” Panorama Stereoscopic Theatre / Kaiser Panorama and glass slides

Officers from Heritage Victoria have advised that it may nominate additional items over time.

What was the assessment process for the recommendation?

What was the assessment process for the recommendation?

A series of eight criteria were used to assess the Pioneer Settlement to ascertain State Level Significance.

The Executive Director of Heritage Victoria deemed that three of the eight criteria were met. The three criteria listed as being satisfied for inclusion in the Victoria Heritage Register are:

  • Criterion A – Importance to the course or pattern of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D – Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion H – Special association with the life or works of a person or group of persons of importance in Victoria’s history.

Why is Council objecting to the recommendation?

Why is Council objecting to the recommendation?

At an Unscheduled Council Meeting on 1 June, Council resolved to object to the Heritage Victoria recommendation that the Pioneer Settlement be included on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The Council report and its attachments can be viewed at: https://www.swanhill.vic.gov.au/meeting/

There are a number of reasons Council resolved to object to the recommendation:

State heritage significance

Pioneer Settlement is an important and significant asset to the Swan Hill community and broader tourism industry. We congratulate all who established the Settlement, over 60 years ago and currently the Friends of Pioneer Settlement, who contribute significant funds and help operate the settlement today.

While it is a valuable asset and we recognise Pioneer Settlements local significance, primarily Council and its independent Heritage Architect believe Pioneer Settlement fails the tests to be of state significance. A series of eight criteria is used to determine significance and not one is considered to have been met.

Impact on day-to-day operations

Heritage listing will require an added level of bureaucracy imposed on the Pioneer Settlement, impacting its day-to-day operations and ability to carry out long term planning of this important and valued tourist attraction.

Of further concern is the impact of staff and volunteers to be able to maintain and improve buildings and assets while being required to seek approval.

From an operational perspective, the Pioneer Settlement currently relies heavily on volunteers to deliver the tourism experience and meet visitor’s expectations. Additional pressure on paid staff to meet Heritage Victoria principles/requirements will further reduce the ability to assist volunteers.

The flow on is that the Swan Hill residents and ratepayers who make up the volunteers will no longer have the final say over decisions related to buildings and objects onsite at Pioneer Settlement.

After almost 60 years, future developments and changes will be at the approval of Heritage Victoria Officers based in Melbourne.

The Friends of the Pioneer Settlement (volunteer association) has indicated it does not agree with the proposed registration and fears it will become a further barrier to current and future volunteers.

Financial impact on modest budgets

It’s estimated heritage registration will add significant operational and upfront costs to the Pioneer Settlement.

Heritage listing will bring an added financial requirement to the budget for changes that are not considered “like for like” across the more than 50 buildings onsite at the Pioneer Settlement.

This will apply added financial pressure to the Pioneer Settlement operations and therefore an increase of ratepayers’ contribution to the Pioneer Settlement’s bottom line.

As outlined in the Council report, permits range from $296 for works under $10,000 and go up to $17,018 for works up to $30,000,000.

Permits or exemptions will will also be needed for buildings requiring regular updates or changes – such as the front reception building, Heartbeat of the Murray amphitheatre, Paragon Café and Lower Murray Inn.

This will mean added financial pressure to the Pioneer Settlement operations and with it, an increase of ratepayers’ contribution to the Pioneer Settlement’s bottom line.

Ability to grow visitation

Council currently subsidises the operation of the Pioneer Settlement by around $800,000 per year to keep it open. Council is actively trying to reduce this cost by increasing visitation.

As noted by independent Heritage Architect Ivar Nelson, the Pioneer Settlement has continued to grow and adapt to a changing tourism market, and the need to continue to do this remains.

Heritage registration will hinder the ability to reinvent and significantly change the Pioneer Settlement needed to meet visitor requirements and expectations.

There has been a shift among visitors in what they want to see and do at museums – it is more about the visitor experience, rather than viewing static objects.

Tourism research also indicates that state heritage registration will not drive tourism to the Pioneer Settlement, and is unlikely to create further visitation to compensate for additional costs.

Threat to future funding

Heritage listing will affect the ability to confidently apply for future grant funding through tourism streams, as the majority of projects will require heritage approval.

For example, the $450,000 State Government funding for a new Heartbeat of the Murray Laser Light Show includes adding fixtures to buildings on the walk to and from the amphitheatre – plus additional smoke machines, snow machines and lights.

Heritage listing will require the project to have a pre-permit application meeting and extensive approval process with Heritage Victoria – delaying the project, and requiring extra staff time and resources.

Heritage Victoria has funding opportunities for urgent conservation works only – to a maximum of $200,000. No operational funding is available.

Loss of Pioneer Settlement from local control

As previously stated, heritage listing will mean that after almost 60 years, future developments and changes will be at the approval of Heritage Victoria Officers based in Melbourne.

This means Swan Hill residents and ratepayers, who make up the Pioneer Settlement’s volunteers, will no longer have the final say over decisions related to its buildings and onsite objects.

Who did Council consult before resolving to object?

Who did Council consult before resolving to object?

Council has consulted with a heritage architect, legal representatives, key stakeholders, Friends of the Pioneer Settlement and officers from Heritage Victoria.

Won’t heritage listing ensure the integrity and protection of the Pioneer Settlement remains?

Won’t heritage listing ensure the integrity and protection of the Pioneer Settlement remains?

Council sought the advice of independent and very well-respected Heritage Architect Ivar Nelson. Mr Nelson provided his assessment of the Pioneer Settlement against the eight criteria of Heritage Victoria and concluded that while Pioneer Settlement has some redeeming features and merit, it is not of State significance in terms of heritage values.

He also notes that the Pioneer Settlement has continued to grow and adapt to a changing tourism market and the need to continue to do that remains.

The Pioneer Settlement has had to adapt and alter how it operates since 1974 when the number of visitors commenced decline while at the same time the community continued to donate and add to the assets and liabilities at the Settlement.

Has progress on Our Place stopped while the recommendation goes through the consultation process?

Has progress on Our Place stopped while the recommendation goes through the consultation process?

No interim order has been placed on the Pioneer Settlement while the recommendation for heritage listing undergoes consultation before a final decision is made by Heritage Victoria.

This means plans for the Our Place project are currently ongoing. Council is in the process of reviewing the documents associated with the final design for Our Place.

What does it mean for Our Place if heritage listing of the Pioneer Settlement goes ahead?

What does it mean for Our Place if heritage listing of the Pioneer Settlement goes ahead?

Council has been advised that if the Pioneer Settlement is heritage listed, the Our Place project will still be able to proceed, in line with heritage requirements. These include ensuring the building design is taken through the Heritage Victoria process and relevant approvals are received. These approvals will be in accordance with Heritage Victoria’s overarching principles as determined in the Burra Charter: the Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013. ICOMOS stands for International Council on Monuments and Sites.

Once built, Our Place will be subject to the implications of heritage listing.

Will Council continue to support the Pioneer Settlement if it is heritage listed? Will the site close?

Will Council continue to support the Pioneer Settlement if it is heritage listed? Will the site close?

Council has been supporting the Pioneer Settlement since it took ownership of the site in 1994, there are no plans to close the Pioneer Settlement.

The risk associated with registering the Pioneer Settlement and objects will be Council’s inability to comply with the legislation in terms of maintenance of many items. Council will have to revise how it operates the Pioneer Settlement and its ability to drive increased visitation to help reduce the shortfall Council currently funds.

In addition, the ability of the Settlement to reinvent itself and accommodate significant change to meet visitor needs and expectations will be limited by needing the approval of Heritage Victoria Officers or the Heritage Council.

What happens next?

What happens next?

Council will put in its submission objecting to the recommendation of heritage listing before the due date of 22 June. Council will make this submission available to the community on its website www.swanhill.vic.gov.au

Council will also be requesting a Registration hearing as part of its objection to the recommendation. As per the Heritage Council: Registration hearings are public processes that allow interested people to present their views on whether or not a place or object is to be included in the Victorian Heritage Register.

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