21 March 2017

Deadline to register concerns over CSIRO HQ demolition looms

| Shane West
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Questions need to be answered regarding the proposed demolition of Canberra’s iconic CSIRO HQ building on Limestone Ave – and we only have a week to make submissions to the NCA!

Please protest about the impending demolition of the Historic CSIRO HQ building and the NCA’s policies and procedures by signing this online petition.


The NCA deemed at a meeting held on the 17th of October 2016 with the Proponents, the Doma Group (who had only recently purchased the site) that a separate application for demolition of all buildings on the site was acceptable and did not require Public Notification. This was however before the Heritage study (released in December) and environmental studies were sought, as required under the Development Control Plan. The subsequent Heritage study quite rightly stated in fact that Buildings 1 and 2 were of Significant Heritage Value.

The maintenance of the Scientific and Architectural Heritage of the McConnel, Smith and Johnson (MSJ) designed Landmark CSIRO HQ was part of the original concept plan in 2016 submitted by the leaseholders at the time, the Abacus Group. The repurposing of the CSIRO HQ building was a sensible option.

The subsequent separate demolition works approval granted to the new owners is a significant departure and a breach of the conditions laid out in the original DCP.

The unnecessary waste stream of the demolition with loss of embodied energy by demolishing a building that the Heritage study has shown to have Significant Heritage Value shows that NCA has made a poor decision issuing a Works Approval for its demolition. It is also an incredibly poor sustainability option supported and approved by the NCA.

Having worked in Germany and developed a Government-backed report on sustainable building techniques in 2010, many buildings that were rebuilt quickly following World War II have been upgraded by utilising insulation and render to the external skin and new triple glazed windows fitted. Even though these buildings were built with inferior materials they were considered heritage items and the economics of demolition unsustainable. Why would this not be so here in Canberra with such a well-built iconic structure and why would the NCA consider that they do not need public notification for demolition?

Given the NCA’s stated vision “To advance the National Capital as a valued and respected place for all Australians by ensuring it is planned, managed and promoted consistent with its enduring national significance”, the demolition of this building is at odds with its purpose as it is now supporting the suggestion to now degrade our Scientia heritage by demolishing this building. The old and the new should and can co-exist with any new concept plan.

There had not been adequate feedback to the question raised at the time of the DCP draft. Has the potential for maintaining the current Crown lease permit of building usage for – use of premises for Scientific Research Establishment and any other ancillary purpose thereto … been explored? I do not think so. The community is now more concerned about long term employment options and with education as the ACT’s biggest export earner and opportunities such as CSL making a $1 billion profit last year, pathology labs, iTechnology, biotech facilities, renewable technologies or other research options should have been considered by the NCA instead of rushing to fuel a short-term residential investor market.

Ponzi activities have been recognised by other smart planning jurisdictions such as Vancouver, that increasing exclusive investments is not beneficial for affordable housing and is excluding large sections of our young people out of the housing market.

The NCA’s governance arrangements and business planning processes need to be reviewed and better analysis of affordable housing and employment options to enhance industry; education and science research is desperately in need of support. Conversely, the NCA needs to let developers go through the correct protocol of meeting and abiding by community consultation and the NCA should now be cognisant of the negative benefits associated with investor-driven capital in the residential market. The capital gains growth afforded by taxable offsets and foreign capital has definitely driven prices to unachievable levels for younger Australians and a reversal is required.

Any proposed, concept plan for this site must consider first if there is a suitable tenancy for the current Crown lease as a scientific establishment. I believe there is. Secondly, the Leaseholder should be inclusive of the local community, not an exclusive gated community. Community access to Campbell High and parkland needs to be assured, bike pathways and the preservation of the native grassland, Golden Sun Moth and Sun Ray daisy habitats that have been proven to be on the site must be preserved as with the unique Limestone Boulder outcrops.

Smart planning would have already highlighted theses site issues. The Commonwealth Department of Finance has already emphasised the traffic issues and the 457 apartments plus heath club proposed will need to be halved if allowed to go ahead at all. Consider the traffic impact on an already clogged intersection between Ainslie Ave and Limestone Ave.

The NCA should work with the ACT Government in providing a walking guided pathway that allows a defined trail for community access from Ainslie Ave to the top of Mt Ainslie so all can benefit. The endangered species signs that have been taken down since the CSIRO’s departure need re-implementing and an education and care campaign for this unique environment should be a condition of the development.

Any change of the Crown lease arrangement to residential leasehold should have an affordable housing caveat that at least 10% of the housing must be allocated to a ballot that is affordable for essential workers on low incomes set a level of $60,000 per annum to allow for fair community access.

The first stage is to protest about the impending demolition of the Historic CSIRO HQ building and the NCA’s policies and procedures – as there was no public notification and only one week now to make a submission to the NCA, please consider signing the online petition before the 27th of March.

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The heritage value of that site won’t be preserved if the buildings are kept and the surrounding grassland built on. You might as well wreck the lot. It’s very sad – and watch out Mt Ainslie, there will be another few hundred people pounding their way up the path following the development …

Paul Costigan2:16 pm 22 Mar 17

First to be clear – I am no friend of the NCA and have had serious questions over it operations and decisions.

But – that said when it comes to this building, the CSIRO in Campbell – it was sold off and there was not much noise at the time. The CSIRO was moving out – so its scientific use was no longer required.

As for consultations, I am aware that there has already been some and I watch a presentation online about what was being planned and many of the questions raised were answered at the time; of course developers always answer the question but what they could be something else. But I did hear that they know about allow access to continue across the back of the site to the school etc. There was traffic in and out of the site before – so that is not a winning argument.

You called it an ‘iconic’ building – would like to hear how /why that label is justified. Just looked up The Institute of Architect lists – it is not on their register.

And where are you coming from on this matter – if you are Dr Shane West from the ANU – be good if you had declared that – and if this is more about the re-use of buildings and the need to not continue the dumping of materials that could be re-used – then that needs to be taken up with the ACT Government as they seem not to show much interest in such processes.

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