Minister's Stonework Program

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Picture of Trish Ball
Trish Ball Director Heritage, Environment and Planning 0455 058 773

The NSW State Government owns over 800 heritage significant sandstone buildings. As well as being culturally significant these are operational assets including schools, hospitals and court houses, which contribute to the civic life and pride of the community. The Minister’s Stonework Program (MSP) is a Government Funded Program (GFP), established in 1991 to resource and coordinate the specialised catch-up maintenance these buildings require to sustain and extend their service.

Administered and managed by Heritage Environment and Planning (HEP) NSW Public Works, on behalf of the Government Architect, the Program assists agencies in managing their stone heritage assets, which is not their core business or expertise. The MSP provides a state-wide prioritised strategic approach with the key objective to provide long term cost effective solutions rather than repetitive and costly ‘quick fixes’.

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State of Stone: Celebrating the Minister's Stonework Program

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State of Stone

State of Stone – Celebrating the Minister's Stonework Program, is a visual publication celebrating the many achievements and accolades of the program, the people who have driven and contributed to this important heritage initiative, and the outcomes it has delivered for NSW.

The book serves as a source of information and inspiration to those interested in the continued care and protection of sandstone-built heritage in NSW.

Download the book

HEP achieves this objective by:

  • Coordinating a Condition Audit Program to minimise exponential escalation in cost, public safety risk and impacts to heritage significance.
  • Ensuring heritage legislation compliance is addressed as required under the NSW Heritage Act (1977) and the ICOMOS Burra Charter, the nationally accepted and adopted principles for heritage conservation practice.
  • Undertaking stonework conservation research and testing to achieve best practice conservation industry standards.
  • Increasing industry and agency expertise through workshops, tours and technical guidelines.
  • Preparing agency portfolio assessments to develop state-wide prioritised maintenance strategies and establish agency partnership funding.
  • Collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of government and private sector architects, historians, engineers, materials conservators, and traditional tradespeople to ensure diagnosis of issues and proposed solutions are well informed, considered, and achievable to result in a high standard of built work.
  • Delivering built work through Heritage Stoneworks (HSW) ensuring the fostering of traditional trades development including apprenticeships and career.
  • Pathways so that a sustainable, skilled workforce for maintaining government owned stone heritage assets is available.
  • Advocating on behalf of the state’s heritage assets for a stockpile of suitable stone to match MSP forecast needs across the state.
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MSP - National Art School coat of arms

Strategic asset management

The Minister’s Stonework Program (MSP) provides a coordinated approach to back log or catch-up maintenance of significant State government heritage assets with stone in their construction.

MSP conducts condition inspections to enable the prioritisation of conservation works based on condition, public safety risk and heritage significance.

The objective is to provide state government agencies with a state-wide or asset class perspective of external catch-up maintenance works to meet NSW Government Asset Management Policy for the NSW Public Sector (TPP19-07, October 2019).

MSP asset strategy documents aim to:

  • fulfil reporting requirements under the TPP19-07 guideline.
  • provide cost estimates for agencies to seek funding.
  • prioritise works according to risk, condition, and significance.
  • outline an ongoing program of works to achieve good practice asset management objectives,
  • provide an avenue for co-funding external conservation construction phase works under the Ministers Stonework Program.

Condition Audit Program

Sandstone building fa├žade elements such as high gable copings, overhanging cornices and string courses are vulnerable to deterioration caused by environmental factors including coastal salt laden air, rain and wind erosion. Poor maintenance practices such as faulty rainwater goods and repointing mortar joints in cement rich mixes accelerate masonry deterioration.

The Minister’s Stonework Program (MSP) provides a strategic approach to address catch-up maintenance to state owned heritage stone buildings and is administered by NSW Public Works, Department of Regional NSW. Managing public safety is a priority for the MSP and the annual Condition Audit Program carries out inspections of external facades to assess the condition of the stonework and remove the immediate risk of falling stone, often located over playgrounds, entrances, and public spaces. The Condition Audit Program is fully funded by the MSP and precedes repairs. The condition audits are carried out by an experienced multidisciplinary team which consists of heritage architects, stonemasons, structural engineers and heritage roofing specialists.

A condition audit report is then prepared that outlines the current condition of the building, outstanding maintenance, safety and structural risks and the location of any defective or loose building fabric.

Architectural and structural drawings and specifications, informed by the detailed fabric inspection at the condition audit, document proposed external conservation work against current construction and heritage standards.

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Condition Audit Program Key facts

  • MSP has undertaken approximately 150 condition audits in the past 30 years
  • MSP external conservation works follow on from condition audits in many instances.
  • The largest volume of unsafe stone removed from a public building in a single Condition Audit was over 700kg.
  • At 85m, the Sydney Central Railway Clocktower has been the highest Condition Audit undertaken to date.