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NSW gov’t to disband Office of Environment and Heritage

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage will be dismantled and its two principal functions absorbed by other departments, following the re-election of the NSW government in March.

The environmental protection and management functions of the office will be moved to an enlarged “Planning and Industry” department, while the heritage functions of the office will be moved to the arts portfolio.

Speaking to reporters on 2 April, premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “We’ve moved heritage into the arts, because heritage and the arts have a very strong focus.

“We’re also making sure that the environment takes increased prominence in the new government [with a] prominent place within planning.”

The office has existed in its current form since 2011, first under the Department of Premier and Cabinet and then under the Department of Planning and Environment from 2014.

It is responsible for the management and preservation of the state’s natural and built heritage. It provides expert and independent advice on heritage issues through the Heritage Council of NSW.

Penny Sharpe, acting leader of NSW Labor and shadow minister for environment and heritage, took to Twitter to criticize the decision.

“The premier said she would make the environment a priority,” she said. “Her actions today show that this was untrue.”

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said in a statement, “This shrinks the status of the Office of Environment and Heritage further and appears designed to reduce it to providing back-office functions enabling development.”

Following the election, Rob Stokes has become NSW’s new Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Matt Kean is the new minister of a combined energy and environment portfolio, while Don Harwin retains the arts portfolio.

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