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Heritage role

A central function of Property NSW is the care, management and interpretation of the significant natural and cultural heritage resources that exist within our jurisdiction. The Rocks, in particular, is considered to be the most significant heritage precinct relating to European settlement in Australia.

Items of heritage significance in our precincts include:

  • existing and potential archaeological sites 
  • landscapes 
  • buildings
  • engineering structures 
  • monuments
  • movable heritage.

When a site is identified as being of heritage significance or has archaeological potential, proposals may require application under the NSW Heritage Act 1977, additional to other statutory approvals and permits.

The NSW Minister for Planning and Environment has delegated to Property NSW certain functions of the NSW Heritage Act. These delegations enable us to assess applications for minor works, which fall within its jurisdiction.

There are various forms of approval required under the NSW Heritage Act for proposals to carry out activities to an item listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR).

If the works are minor they may be exempt from approval under section 60 of the Act. Such works are outlined within the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval published by the NSW Heritage Branch (formerly Heritage Office), NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Property NSW staff are able to assist in determining which type of approval may be required.

Heritage and Conservation Register

Special Character of The Rocks Precinct

The Rocks is the place of first contact between British settlers and Indigenous Australians. It is a rich and diverse townscape that evidenced over two centuries of European impact in Australia and the South Pacific. Such extensive history interconnected with the Cardigal domain, the convict struggle, mass migration from the old world, merchant wealth and poverty.

The Rocks is located next to Sydney Harbour, presenting a stark contrast between the old quarter and the high-rise CBD of Australia’s global city.

The architecture and layout of The Rocks provides a unique sensory experience. The precinct boasts narrow laneways, streets which curve around rocky outcrops and quaint buildings and the exposed ruins of archaeological sites.

The Rocks was a seedbed for the Green Bans Movement of the 1970s and 80s. It has fostered and encouraged the evolution of the professional heritage conservation movement, a movement for which Australia is now globally renowned.

View the Special Character of The Rocks Precinct: Resource Material for more information.