Heritage values have over the past fifty years been largely defined by the experts and the enthusiasts. Although there have been public campaigns in regard to single issues such as the bushland of Hunters Hill in Sydney or the Belle Vue Hotel in Brisbane, the inclusion of places on heritage “registers”, at least in Queensland, has been based on the work of the enthusiasts at the National Trust and remains the ongoing responsibility of heritage experts, particularly the State Heritage Council. The heritage listings based on the categories of scientific, aesthetic and historic values form the backbone of our heritage lists. There is however, a fourth category of heritage value, social value, which is only now being explored.
The written works of those raising issues of heritage social values over the last ten years speak of people’s places and the inclusion of local people in the selection of heritage places and in the understanding of their underlying values. A number of methodologies have been proposed. The Comprehensive Regional Assessments conducted for the Regional Forest Agreements provided the vehicle for some of the first broadscale assessments of heritage social values. One of the difficulties experienced by all current methodologies is the difficulty in obtaining responses from a sufficiently large sample of the community. The results of a mail-out survey were tested against eight other heritage studies undertaken in the study area over the previous twenty-five years.
The study area was the Shire of Esk. The shire is located about an hours drive from Brisbane and is largely based on rural industries with large allotment dormitory housing in the southern part of the Shire.
The need to encourage the development of alternative industries to replace
all or part of a community’s dependence on the timber industry saw a number
of possibilities being proposed. One of these was heritage tourism. The possibility
of conflict in the development of a heritage tourism industry has been raised
by a number of authors. The mail-out survey was also used to test the community’s
attitudes towards both tourism in general and two nominated heritage tourism
The results highlighted the differences within the population of the study area. Although those of long standing in the community were able to identify more places of potential heritage value, it was the recently arrived residents who most valued them. The list of possible heritage places compiled from the survey returns was compared to the previous studies conducted in the Shire. The list produced by the mail-out survey contained significant differences to the previous studies. The survey produced a broad range of nominations over all but one of the twelve categories. The proportion of places nominated in each category was significantly different to the “official lists” of the State heritage Register and the Register of the National Estate and to the other previous studies. Places relating to town based industry and commerce were significantly reduced whilst the nominations for the now closed railway, the timber industry, parks and recreation and sites along the Brisbane River were much higher.
The use of the mail-out survey provided additional nominations for places of heritage value not included in previous surveys. However, it also failed to identify a number of significant places of heritage value that had been identified by previous studies. It is suggested that the mail-out survey is a worthwhile supplement to the existing methodologies and provides greater certainty of the results.
The results of attitudinal testing against the two project proposals were in line with the other results obtained from the survey and provides the Esk Shire Council with some confidence in proceeding with the projects. Again the greatest support for these projects came from those who had lived in the shire less than five years.