Former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu has been appointed as the Chair of the Australian Heritage Council, which will see him assess a range of development applications that have remained stagnant for over a decade.

A former architect and current Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects, Baillieu was the Premier of Victoria from December 2010 until March 2013. Since retiring from politics, he has pursued a range of academic positions within the industry, and was recently among 150 Australians that called upon the Federal Government to save a number of declining records within the National Archives.

Baillieu will fill the role formerly held by Dr David Kemp , a former Environment Minister within the Howard Government, whose second term as Chair expires this year.

The Heritage Council acts as the Federal Government’s main adviser regarding heritage matters, assessing places and dwellings that have received nominations for both national and Commonwealth heritage lists. Baillieu’s appointment will potentially see a range of sites, backlogged and given time extensions over a number of years, in an attempt to alleviate the workload currently resting with the council.

Nearly 50 sites are currently awaiting assessment and/or awaiting a confirmation of status, including certain areas within the Blue Mountains that were nominated in 2005, the West MacDonnell National Park that nominated in 2007, as well as the site of refugee and immigration detention centre Christmas Island, which was nominated back in 2009.

Wilderness Society Policy and Strategy Manager Tim Beshara says the backlogging has left many of these places at risk of being destroyed, referencing the Aboriginal rock shelters in the Pilbara region being destroyed by Rio Tinto in May last year as one of these sites.

“With a properly functioning and resourced heritage framework the Juukan Gorge disaster simply wouldn’t have happened,” he says in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

“But with an enormous backlog of clearly important sites awaiting assessment, and no financial support given to communities to develop and put forward nominations, it’s hard to see how other such disasters aren’t inevitable.”

The Heritage Council has made further appointments to coincide with Baillieu leading the council, including Environment Minister Sussan Ley as Solicitor and Trawlwoolway (Palawa) woman Leah Cameron, University of New South Wales Pro Vice-Chancellor Helen Lochhead, National Native Title Council Chief Executive and Gunditjmara Djabwurrung man Jamie Lowe and conservation authority Elizabeth Vines to filling four seats on the council made vacant in March this year. These appointments ensure the council has filled all of its seven seats, with two other members remaining in their positions until 2023.

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