6 November 2021

NCA delays decision on War Memorial redevelopment works

| Ian Bushnell
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Australian War Memorial

A recent picture of early works underway at the Australian War Memorial. Photo: Honest History.

A decision on the Australian War Memorial’s Works Application for the core of its controversial $500 million redevelopment project has been delayed.

The National Capital Authority had expected to release its Consultation Report by the end of October but now says it is taking longer to complete than first anticipated.

“The NCA continues to review information and ideas contained in 587 submissions made in response to the works approval applications for the three projects in the redevelopment package for the Australian War Memorial,” it posted on its website.

Memorial Director Matt Anderson told Senate Estimates on 27 October that the AWM was hopeful of a decision “this year”.

He said that the majority of the Main Works submissions had been positive.

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But Heritage Guardians convenor David Stephens said many of these supportive submissions were one-line entries that did not address the National Capital Plan, the key document the NCA says it is referencing.

“As the planning agency, the NCA is interested in how the designs do or do not meet provisions within the National Capital Plan (NCP),” it said on its website.

Mr Stephens said of the 587 submissions, just 76 of the 413 published submissions compared the works with the Plan and 42 of these were against the works.

Anzac Hall

A view of the new Anzac Hall, glazed link and main building. Image: AWM.

He said the NCA may need more time to emphasise the proportion of submissions in favour of the Main Works when it tried to ignore the overwhelming number (99 per cent) of submissions to the Early Works consultation against the project.

It may also be that it has asked the Memorial to make some changes to the plans regarding the finish or the potential of the Glazed Link to be a fire hazard, based on a submission from UNSW’s Professor James Weirick.

But the Memorial said the NCA had not raised any issues with the Memorial to date or requested any changes to the current proposal.

Mr Stephens speculated the NCA could also be making a stand on something bigger, such as heritage issues.

The three components of the Main Works are the new Southern Entrance, Bean Building Extension, and the new Anzac Hall and Glazed Link.

The Early Works approved in June have been underway for some months.

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The Memorial’s Executive Project Director Wayne Hitches told Estimates that the next phase of consultation would involve the public realm submission to do with the landscaping, and the Memorial was hoping to get that through the EPBC process and then to the NCA next year, with those realm works not starting until 2023-24.

The Auditor-General has been expected to review the redevelopment project, but the Memorial has not heard whether it will proceed.

The Memorial says the 10-year redevelopment will allow it greater room to tell the stories of more contemporary conflicts and missions, but the project has been attacked as extravagant, unnecessary and a trashing of the institution’s heritage values.

A Memorial spokesperson said the demolition of Anzac Hall was completed in October 2021, and the remaining civil, services and excavation early works will be mostly complete by the end of the second quarter of 2022.

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A Greek tragedy played out before our own eyes. Production cost $500,000,000-Thank you NCA – FARCE!

Stephen Saunders9:29 pm 07 Nov 21

Well put, Peter Stanley. NCA can always find some impressive technicality in the legislation and National Capital Plan to ensure that the rubber stamp ignores what ordinary voters want.

What on earth are you on about?

The proposal is clearly in line with the NCP which it has consistently been assessed against through the process. Most of the opposition to this haven’t even attempted to relate this back to consistency with the NCP, rather focusing on meaningless aesthetic or political arguments.

And as for what “ordinary voters” want, the government went to the last election with this as part of their platform. They won.

It’s pretty funny seeing people attempt to twist this issue simply because they personally don’t like what’s being proposed.

Peter Stanley3:35 pm 07 Nov 21

A delay in the NCA’s process? That’s odd. Don’t they know that you can get rubber stamps from Officeworks while-you-wait?

“I’ve got a good idea. We need something bigger in the name of a good cause – let’s knock down an award winning relatively new building/cut down all the trees in the way/build out to the boundary.” We can see examples of this sort of insensitivity everywhere nowadays but who would have expected this level of it, such poor design, and disrespect for national heritage at the Australian War Memorial. Goodbye to a once beautiful and well designed site.

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