30 June 2021

Trees come down as work starts on War Memorial expansion

| Ian Bushnell
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Fencing and hoarding around exterior of Australian War Memorial

Fencing and hoarding is erected at the Australian War Memorial as early works in the expansion project get underway. Photo: Fiona Scott.

The Australian War Memorial has not wasted any time starting its early works program for the $500 million expansion of the national institution.

Barriers and fencing have been erected around the site and workers have begun cutting down 140 trees that are slated for removal, including mature eucalypts.

The award-winning Anzac Hall will be demolished and the site excavated to accommodate a bigger building which will be able to add contemporary conflicts and missions to its galleries, and house large war artifacts such as planes and helicopters.

The works cleared the final hurdle on 7 June when the National Capital Authority (NCA) gave the all clear, apart from requiring the War Memorial to plant 250 trees as part of the full landscape plan which will form part of the Public Realm works application to be submitted to the NCA in 2022.

All but three of the 601 submissions to the NCA consultation opposed the development, and the decision ignited a furious response from organisations such as the Australian Institute of Architects, the ACT National Trust and the Heritage Guardians.

The NCA was accused of not doing its job to safeguard the heritage values of the national capital, and that its decision set a dangerous precedent. The project was also labelled a waste of money and unnecessary.

But the project has bipartisan support, with the Greens the only party condemning the development.

On Sunday, 20 June, the Greens led a candlelit rally at the War Memorial in protest at the development approval, the impending loss of trees, and the destruction of Anzac Hall.

Traffic cones and barricades at site of work on road at Australian War Memorial

Tree felling is underway at the Australian War Memorial as part of its $500 million expansion. Photo: Fiona Scott.

Both the NCA and the War Memorial defended their consultation processes.

The NCA said it could only rule on certain planning matters, not whether the project was worthy or not, and War Memorial director Matt Anderson said the Memorial had consulted widely among Australians, who had generally been in favour of the proposal, and not just with ACT organisations and residents.

With the early works going ahead, the decade-long project will now proceed as planned, apart from conditions that may be placed on further stages.

Critics said separating the early works from the later stages in effect paved the way for a fait accomplis on the project.

But the War Memorial said the NCA approval was a welcome milestone, and it looked forward to further community consultation through the NCA process for the major works designs to be released in the coming months.

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Ian Lindgren1:57 pm 01 Jul 21

Critics that state it was always a “fait accomplis” that the NCA would approve the early works need to learn how to read and understand public consultation. The project has been approved.

The NCA was not asked to approve the project, or consider its heritage value etc. It was asked to consider the early works against the National Capital Plan. If you wanted to stop it; you had your chance last year during the parliamentary work committee consultation. Gripes about that in the the over 600 submissions meant that less that 20 were in scope of the NCA’s considerations.

I appreciate your efforts but I feel you are yelling in to the wind here. The opponents don’t care about the facts.

Ian Lindgren1:22 pm 02 Jul 21

Thanks Chewy! I can’t help myself. It’s like whinging that it’s not hot in the middle of winter. Not a sole ever seems to want to discuss the facts; they are just interested in negativity. But I always appreciate your very sensible comments.

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