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Cultural Landscapes Index of Cultural Heritage issues


Regional aspects

Assessing and measuring the current situation

Management responses

Future directions


Related issues

Related case studies


Cultural landscapes are an aggregation of places, features, objects, archival material, memories and perceptions of social and contemporary significance. The World Heritage Convention defines cultural landscapes as the 'combined works of nature and of man', demonstrating the evolution of human society in conjunction with environmental constraints and opportunities and illustrating successive social, economic, and cultural forces.

The whole of Tasmania can be considered a cultural landscape produced by Aborigines. European settlers imposed their cultural landscapes upon this Aboriginal environment. People continue to express and act upon a great attachment to particular cultural landscapes. Individuals and communities attach meanings to places, which are sometimes intensely powerful sources of identity. How to recognise and express social values in heritage assessments and conservation practice continues to be an important question for professionals and agencies. The heritage industry continues to explore means of identifying and drawing upon social and landscape values.

Cultural landscapes fall into three main categories (as defined by the World Heritage Convention):

  1. Landscapes that are designed and created intentionally by humans, embracing garden and park land constructed for aesthetic reasons. They are often associated with monumental buildings and ensembles. An example would be City Park, Launceston, or St. David's Park, Hobart.
  2. Landscapes that have evolved organically. From an initial social, economic, administrative, or religious impetus, a landscape of this type develops into its current form by association with, and in response to, the natural environment. The process of evolution is reflected in both form and component features. There are two sub-categories of this type of landscape:
    • fossil or relic landscapes, where the evolutionary process finished some time in the past, either abruptly or over a period of time, but the distinguishing features of the landscape are still visible. An example would be Plunkett Point, Coal Mines Historic Site.
    • continuing landscapes, which retain an active role in contemporary society that is closely associated with a traditional way of life. The evolutionary process through which the landscape is defined is still in progress, with significant material evidence of this formation process apparent. An example could include a pastoral property on the east coast of Tasmania.
  3. Landscapes that are associated with powerful religious, artistic, or cultural movements, even though actual material evidence may be insignificant or even missing altogether. An example could include a Pleistocene Aboriginal landscape on Tasmania's southwest coast.

Regional aspects

On the basis of all three criteria set out by the World Heritage Convention (see Background), the whole of Tasmania can be considered a cultural landscape produced by the Aborigines. For instance, the State's pattern of forests and open plains was partly formed by thousands of years of 'firestick farming' by Aborigines who burned the vegetation to facilitate hunting (Jones 1969). This firing helped to remove most of the dominant vegetation, replacing it with fire-adapted eucalypts, now so typical of the bush. European settlers imposed their cultural landscapes upon this environment, clearing the land for farming, planting exotic vegetation and introducing livestock. Unique landscapes resulted, such as the orchards of the Huon, the grazing properties of the northern Midlands, with their hawthorn hedges, and the High Country huts and log fences of the sheep and cattle farmers.

An important attribute of cultural heritage landscapes is that they are not usually mutually exclusive, but superimposed, one on top of the other. This means that decisions made about one landscape will impact on other landscapes. For instance, in Tasmania's south-west there are overlapping cultural landscapes pertaining to pre-European Aboriginal habitation, the Macquarie Harbour penal station, the forests of pioneer piners, Tasmania's late nineteenth century mining boom, the Hydro-Electric Commission's dam building, and a crucible of the green movement and the campaign to save the Franklin River. Clearly, there are likely to be conflicting interests in managing such diverse landscapes.

Assessing and measuring the current situation


In this SoE Report, a simple integrated system for collecting and analysing data to produce key indicators of the condition and pressure (threat and rarity) of Tasmania's cultural heritage is presented. The system is part of a strategic process for the identification and assessment of cultural heritage protection priorities. A description of the 'work-in-progress' with respect to the principles and development requirements for this strategic process is available: Understanding and Defining Heritage Assets.

Undertaking an assessment of Tasmania's entire stock of cultural heritage would be a daunting, but necessary task. However, the system is designed to assess and provide a score for individual aspects of cultural heritage as it becomes necessary. The scores outlined in this report are predictive, providing indicators for recovery, which in turn, will facilitate a more accurate rating.

The criteria for condition and rarity have been adapted from the Categories of Threatened Species set out in the federal government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A simple score for threat was taken from the Report of the Cultural Heritage Advisory Group (2000).

It is important to remember that the purpose of 'scoring' cultural landscapes is to assist in prioritising the need for active engagement in protecting particular landscapes and physical expressions related to other key heritage aspects (see other issue reports within this chapter). Scoring of landscapes, or indeed any other key elements of cultural heritage, does not replace existing listing and management regimes.

To help demonstrate the application of the scoring system a case study is included within this issue report that looks at the cultural landscape of the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station.

Assessing landscape condition

The condition of cultural landscapes ranges from those that are lost, existing in myth only (like Atlantis) to those with numerous surviving features, objects or related documentation. Some are living landscapes, but their usage has altered them considerably, while others are largely unchanged. Sometimes, like the landscape of Pompeii, a fossil landscape has been unusually well preserved.

For the purpose of ranking cultural landscapes, where structural evidence is functional and conserved in consideration of their heritage value, often with a management plan in place, a fairly high rating is accorded. Entally House or Port Arthur would be examples of high rating landscapes. However, given the importance of people's ongoing association with some landscapes, those that are still used for their original purpose but are continuing to evolve receive the highest rating. Apple orchards and related infrastructure and developments of the Huon Valley represent such an evolving landscape. The land is still used for apple growing but the methods of apple growing have changed markedly over time. For instance, trees are now espaliered to facilitate apple picking.

It is important to remember that the purpose of 'scoring' cultural landscapes is to assist in prioritising the need for active engagement in protecting particular landscapes and physical expressions related to other key heritage aspects (see other issue reports within this chapter). Scoring of landscapes, or indeed any other key elements of cultural heritage, does not replace existing listing and management regimes. The method for ranking cultural landscape condition is detailed as follows.

Ranking cultural landscape condition





Lost, existing in myth only (e.g. Atlantis).



Lost, but there are surviving references to the landscape, such as documents, images, or even objects. For example, the pre-colonial Aboriginal landscapes of the Midlands are largely lost but there are surviving secondary images, such as the paintings by Glover.



There is evidence of cultural practice which shaped the landscape but it is residual, perhaps in the vegetation or in the altered shape of the land (e.g. Aboriginal Tasmania, prior to European colonisation).



There is more tangible evidence of cultural practice, perhaps a field system or sub-strata footings (e.g. Macquarie Harbour Penal Station).



There are significant structural remains such as street alignments, intact facades, jetties, wharves, extensive evidence of original land use (for example, the hedgerows of the mid north, and the Maria Island penal station and industrial complex).



The surviving structures are functional but not used for original purpose (e.g. east coast sheep grazing areas converted to vineyards).



The buildings are functional and conserved for their heritage value. Such landscapes score a higher rating than functional landscapes as their management explicitly promotes their heritage value (e.g. Port Arthur, and Entally House and grounds).



The landscape is still used for its original purpose but has been considerably changed by evolving cultural, social, and economic practices (e.g. the Huon).



The landscape is used as before, changing little. The original, objects, documentation, etc are still in situ. For example, the big pastoral estates around Longford are in many cases still in the hands of the original families.



The cultural landscape is largely as it always was either because it is intact, being exceptionally well preserved, or because the usage is completely unchanged. Generally, historic walking tracks provide examples of unchanged usage. For example, Federation Peak, was first climbed in 1949 and the same or similar routes can still be followed to get there. In terms of its original usage for adventure and recreation it is exceptionally well preserved.


Source: Cultural Heritage Advisory Group for SoE Report

Assessing cultural landscape pressure

The main pressure on cultural heritage is development without due regard to cultural heritage values. Development that may affect cultural heritage values may include: land clearance, demolition of buildings, subdivisions, unsympathetic additions, restorations or renovations. Theft and vandalism are other forms of danger to heritage assets. Pressure on intangible heritage is brought about by changes in lifestyle and demographics, and a lack of opportunity to pursue and transmit traditions. Lack of storage space, frequently resulting in the destruction of records, is another source of pressure, as well as new technology and a concomitant redundancy of old technology.

To assess pressure, a score for both threat and rarity is needed, as either can be an indication that action is required.

In general, it is the rarity of a cultural heritage item that will concern decision makers. Rarity is one of the criteria for entry onto the Tasmanian Heritage Register (Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995, Part 4). However, being commonplace may not mean that a cultural heritage asset is immune from pressure. Post World War II architecture is an example. Since it is ubiquitous and considered ugly by many, a significant number of buildings have been destroyed. Numerical strength might be an indication for action. Ironically, the numerical strength of such assets in the present could be perceived as a trigger for action now to ensure their conservation in the future.

Threat factor




Immediate threat

Heritage value is likely to decrease substantially in four years.


Short-term threat

Heritage value is likely to decrease substantially in four to ten years.


Medium-term threat

Heritage value is likely to decrease substantially in ten to twenty years.


Long-term threat

Heritage value is likely to decrease substantially in twenty years to fifty years.


No present threat

Heritage value is likely to decrease substantially in fifty years or more.


Source: Cultural Heritage Advisory Group for the SoE Report

Rarity is in essence a comparative analysis. Factors for rarity parallel those developed above, but are based on comparative numbers of known examples.

Rarity Factor





No examples of this type of heritage asset survive.



No examples of this type of heritage asset survive; however, there are equivalent heritage assets.



No examples of this type of heritage asset exist; however, there are complimentary heritage assets.


Non-managed critically scarce

The number of heritage assets is critically scarce. There is a critical danger that they could disappear, because they are not professionally managed.


Non-managed Scarce

The number of heritage assets is scarce and they are not professionally managed.


Managed critically scarce

The number of heritage assets is critically scarce, but they are professionally managed.


Managed scarce

The number of heritage assets is scarce, but they are professionally managed.


Non-managed numerous

There are numerous heritage assets, but they are not professionally managed.


Managed numerous

There are numerous, professionally managed examples of this type of heritage asset.


Source: Cultural Heritage Advisory Group for the SoE Report

Case Study: condition and pressure assessment of the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station cultural landscape

Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was a site of secondary punishment established in 1822 on Tasmania's west coast. It was one of a number of coercive regimes set up in south-east Australia according to the recommendations of the Bigge report of 1819. The station was abandoned in November 1833 and the remaining convict population transferred to the new penal station at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula.

Although the main settlement at Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was located on Sarah Island, the station itself encompassed a wide area. The site makes a major contribution to our understanding of society and culture.

The cultural landscape of this station is a result of the interaction between the inhabitants of the penal colony and the unfamiliar environment in which they were placed. It is invested, not only with the meanings they gave it, but those of subsequent generations. Unlike the prior occupants and owners of the land-the Aboriginal people, whose meanings and economic usage of the land were determined by it-the colonists tried to impose an economy and system of values derived from Britain linked to the development of capitalism and industrialisation.

As a result of this exploitation, the landscape underwent more rapid changes than at any other time in its history. Some of these changes-building, farming, land reclamation, quarrying, and mining-are still evident, others less so. In particular, although timber was cut for boat building, and to clear land for farming, most of the area is now covered with regrowth. The introduction of new species and the economic exploitation of existing plants, animals, and habitats also had a considerable impact on local flora and fauna. There are still European roses and hawthorn growing in the area.


The tangible evidence of cultural practice, the loss of Huon pine, the creation of farm land, and the existence of sub-strata footing with some ruins gives the Station landscape a score of between 28% and 32%. Since it is in a World Heritage Area and managed by the Department of Parks, Tourism, Heritage and Arts (DPTHA) the score belongs at the higher end of this range: Score: 31 to 32%.


The active management of the Station landscape within the World Heritage Area indicates a low threat to it. What threat there is arises from visitors and, to a minor extent, from conflicting interests between environmental and heritage values. The site's condition is not likely to decrease substantially in the foreseeable future although some degradation could occur. As one of only three penal stations in Tasmania, and by far the most extensive penal station landscape in Australia, it is critically scarce but not dangerously so because it is professionally managed.

  • Score for threat factor 1.1
  • Score for rarity factor 1.6

Understanding management responses appropriate for heritage assets

Responding to conditions and pressures affecting heritage assets is typically a two-fold activity, involving first assessment and then management of heritage. A second stage is proposed that will supplement our understanding of the condition and pressures of surviving heritage items, through the investigation of the capability of agencies and individuals to respond to emerging heritage issues. This action will facilitate a ranking of management expectations among heritage professionals, and ultimately lead to the establishment of baseline options for management. The proposed approach is described in: Management Responses for Heritage Assets.

Management responses

There has been some progress in the management of cultural landscapes since the previous SoE Report. Key initiatives include the following.

  • The Tasmanian Heritage Council, established under the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995, is championing a broad cultural landscape investigation, for the purpose of identifying significant areas and establishing appropriate regulatory controls.
  • A review of the Tasmanian Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 has recently been announced and a review committee has been established and its terms of reference defined. These terms of reference include specific reference to consideration to cultural landscapes (item 6).
  • A new strategic and systematic process for the integrated identification and assessment of cultural heritage condition, pressure, and protection priorities-including cultural landscapes-is currently being developed by the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania. An Australian Research Council linkage grant has been awarded to the project to trial the methodology of the new system in an assessment of the Willow Court historic precinct (an 18ha site of Australia's longest continually operating mental institution).

In contrast to the above, there are still areas where progress has been lacking, as indicated below.

  • Cultural landscapes currently have little or no recognition through legislation. However, the recently announced review of the Tasmanian Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 may improve this situation.
  • Detailed and reliable baseline information that would allow the assessment of the condition of Tasmania's cultural heritage and progress in our efforts to protect this heritage is still not available.
  • There is currently no legislative requirement for provisions for landscape and heritage precinct protection within planning schemes. Although there has been an increase in broader heritage area protection through controls on use and development in surrounding areas within planning schemes, there are still many (32% of 41 currently active schemes) that lack such controls.
  • There is also a lack of adequate legislation for Aboriginal heritage.

Future directions

The strategic and systematic system presented in this report is a work in progress and can be built on if adopted as a strategic policy initiative.

Adoption of a strategic and systematic process for management of heritage should enfranchise the community in managing their heritage. It should achieve this overarching goal of heritage management by fostering an accountable, transparent, accessible, and ultimately broad-based heritage management environment. It would provide a way in which the community and planners are able to help achieve the goals outlined in Tasmania Together.

Areas in which progress may be made in the future with particular respect for cultural landscapes and streetscapes include the following.

  • A review of the Heritage Areas section of the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 so that it can be used to protect broader areas such as streetscapes and precincts.
  • Legislative amendments to provide for cultural landscape and heritage precinct protection within planning schemes.
  • Legislative amendments provide statutory power to control the design of new structures within those cultural landscape/heritage precincts.
  • Legislative amendments provide statutory power to assess the effect of development adjacent to a heritage listed place on that place.
  • The use of the Burra Charter in developing a heritage tourism experience across landscapes.

A brief discussion on the future directions and management responses associated with the integrated assessment of the cultural heritage of the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station is presented in the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station Case Study.

Tasmania Together and the RMPS

Relevant Tasmania Together goals and standards for 'Cultural Heritage' are listed in the linked file. The Tasmania Together Progress Board reported on progress toward targets for benchmarks set (Tasmania Together Progress Board 2003). Indicators, targets and baseline data are available in the latest Progress Report June 2003. Further information, including progress report updates, is available from Tasmania Together.

Involvement of the community, and the fair and orderly use of resources are also fundamental principles of the RMPS. The RMPS objectives have been developed to advance the principles of sustainable development.



Chapter Title

Recommendation Title

Cultural heritage

Strategic Cultural Heritage Management

Cultural Landscapes and Streetscapes

Related issues

Cultural Heritage

Heritage Places and Features

Heritage Objects

Archival Material


Social and Contemporary Significance

Planning Scheme Provisions

Related case studies

Macquarie Harbour Penal Station

Aboriginal Sites on the South-West Coast

Coal Mines, Tasman Penisula

The Tasmanian Natural Gas Project

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