Historic buildings and monuments are the most visible aspects of our cultural heritage as unlike some pre-historic items of heritage, oral histories or cultural landscapes, they are relatively permanent. Masonry is an architecturally favourable building material for buildings and monuments not only because it is visually aesthetic, but because of its high structural stability and potential to last over a long period of time. The role the environment plays in influencing the longevity of historic sites is an important one and must be considered if we value the sites that have become recognised by Commonwealth and non-government authorities as significant and worth protecting.
One such environmental pressure is rising watertables and associated salt emergence. Over the past two years, the city of Wagga Wagga has been in the media spotlight due to its ¥coming out' with regard to urban salinity. The warning signs are plentiful. Trees are dying without apparent cause, many sporting fields are deemed unusable, roads and pavements are in need of continual rehabilitation, iron water-mains are corroding and houses are experiencing incessant dampness. The effects of rising groundwater and salt decay on the city's historic sites has up until now been seriously neglected.
The research presented in this dissertation involved three levels of investigation. A mailout questionnaire was sent to the shire councils in the southern Riverina of New South Wales to elicit information as to the perceived threat of urban salinity in the shire. The outcomes of the survey were then compared with the magnitude of urban salinity as determined by geophysical investigations with Department of Land and Water Conservation salinity staff. The results have confirmed suspicions that there is a general lack of awareness of the potential effects of salinity on the historic sites in the region.
The second stage of research involved the individual assessment of all Commonwealth and non-government heritage listed sites in Wagga Wagga as to the extent to which they are affected by salinity processes. Field investigations have found that the heritage listed sites in Wagga Wagga are not currently at risk of damage from urban salinisation due to their location outside the region of a high watertable.
Also considered is the representativeness of the current heritage listed sites in Wagga Wagga. Whilst those sites currently listed under heritage registers are not showing symptoms of salinity damage, Wagga Wagga's heritage inventory is in need of updating and many 1920s and 1930s sites deserving of heritage protection are indeed located in the area of Wagga Wagga most affected by a rising watertable and associated salt attack.