12 March 1991 - Current
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 boundaries. 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
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.