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12 March 1991 - Current

Page 356
26 February 1998
                          GEOGRAPHIC PLACE NAMES BILL
                                 Second reading

  Mrs TEHAN (Minister for Conservation and Land Management) -- I move:
  That this bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this  bill is to make provision for the naming  of places and the
registration of place names and to amend the  Survey  Co-ordination Act 1958 and
the Local Government Act 1989.
Geographic  place names serve  two  major purposes. The  primary purpose is  the
practical need to identify localities and features and to communicate direction.

Place names also express tangibly the human activity of  investing the landscape
with meaning and memory.  Victoria's  place  names have been derived from a wide
range of sources. Many names were influenced by the culture and nationalities of
early  white  explorers, surveyors  and  administrators  and  many  reflect  the
extensive use of Aboriginal place names.
The administration  of place names in Victoria up to  the Second  World War  was
carried  out under various  land acts. A  comprehensive  postwar mapping program
identified  the need to coordinate and standardise the drawing and publishing of
official maps and plans and the naming of places.
The Survey  Co-ordination (Place Names) Amendment Act passed in 1965 established
the Place Names Committee to perform this role. Three  decades later significant
changes in  land information mapping and geographic place names have removed the
need for a centralised assignment of names.

The state is mapped and the focus is now on meeting  the needs of users of  land
information  and  organisations  with  a  role in  the  naming  of places.  Land
information is an integral part of  Victoria's social and economic  fabric. This
bill is  part of  a wider initiative by government to reform  data holdings  and
services across the state.
Customer-focused integrated land information is a key goal. The government's aim
is  to  provide  up-to-date  land information  that  is  easily  accessible  and
affordable through  a variety of  user-friendly electronic services. In 1995 the
government commissioned a review of the place names function.  Analysis revealed
considerable  duplication and overlap between the Place Names  Committee,  local
government and other public authorities.
The review  recommended that the process  should be streamlined by delegating to
municipal councils or administering bodies the responsibility for naming places.

Only  the naming  of  places  of special  character  was recommended  to  remain
centrally determined. It  was  further  recommended  that principles guiding the
naming  of  places  be redeveloped consistent with  national  and  international
practice and widely disseminated  throughout  the  community.  The  review  also
focused  on the evolving  requirements  of the  users  and beneficiaries of  the
register of place names.
Contemporary  emergency service organisations using sophisticated communications
technology now require real-time data which is accurate,  up  to  date  and more
complete than ever  before.  Other community services and dispatch organisations
are  vitally  interested in  the  clear  definition of  boundaries  of places or
localities for administration and planning purposes.
The  state  digital map base on which emergency service  response  is  based  is
widely recognised as a stable and high quality database.

However there is a need for appropriate legislative authority to ensure that all
current information relevant  to  the  map  base  held  by any public or private
agency is provided as quickly as possible. In view  of the unquestionable public
benefit involved it is  critical to ensure  the prompt notification of  changes,
especially for such things as road and street names, new subdivisions and suburb
Historical and community groups also have high expectations  of easier access to
place names  information.  There is also a growing interest and awareness of the
importance of indigenous names in Australia's cultural heritage.
I turn now to the bill. The  bill defines 'place' as any place or  building that
can  form  part of administrative localities,  landscape  features  and  service
infrastructure, and introduces three essential changes in the naming of 

Page 357
places. Firstly, the bill provides for guidelines which will allow local government authorities and other bodies to select and assign place names. These guidelines will be made by the Governor in Council and will provide a mechanism for a system of notification and central registration of new place names. This will ensure that all changes are notified to the state digital map base as quickly as possible. Under the guidelines there will be a clearer power for the minister to name places that are of a special character or significance. The new procedures for notification and registration will also be used to compile additional information essential for emergency service dispatch. Examples include major infrastructure developments, changed traffic conditions and entrances and exits to major venues. Secondly, the bill provides for the establishment of a position of Registrar of Geographic Names with responsibility for policy development, collection and registration of approved names and management of the database of geographic place names. Thirdly, the bill replaces the previous standing committee with an advisory panel with wide-ranging expertise to advise on the naming of places of special character. This is designed to ensure a more flexible process capable of providing the depth of technical knowledge and policy advice required on matters. Members of the panel will be drawn from the fields of mapping/geography; land information data management and service provision; local government; Aboriginal culture and language; orthography and linguistics; and, heritage and history. The panel will be convened as required to comment and advise on the naming of places or features which cross local or regional boundaries, have special character or which have an affiliation for a wider group of Victorians. These measures return control of place and feature naming to local communities and provide pro-active services to users and beneficiaries of the register of geographic places names. The reforms emphasise the role of local government authorities as critical providers of data. It is important that there is greater awareness of the significance of widely known current place names at the local level. This is the point at which additions to critical land information take place (including locality and feature names, street naming and addressing, and subdivision creation). The new procedures will significantly assist the regular updating of the register of geographic place names and the state digital map base. Land information collated with the assistance of local government authorities will provide a vital service to emergency services and other community organisations. The changes will ensure that procedures for altering or applying new locality or feature names are simpler and easier to use, reflect community preferences and concentrate resources on the provision of improved community information. I commend the bill to the house. Debate adjourned on motion of Ms GARBUTT (Bundoora). Debate adjourned until Thursday, 12 March.