National Capital Authority consultation on ‘early works’ associated with War Memorial $498m project: dozens of trees to be cut down; premature demolition of Anzac Hall; massive excavation at Memorial entrance

Have your say with the National Capital Authority on the Memorial’s ‘early works application’. You don’t need to live in Canberra. Arguments below.

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Update 30 March 2021: Tone Wheeler writes in Architecture and Design about the Disneyfied ‘newseum’ coming to Campbell, ACT

Update 29 March 2021: Katina Curtis in Nine Newspapers on implications of the project for how the Memorial is used plus commentary from opponents of the project and the process

Update 26 March 2021: More on the Great Memorial Tree Massacre

Update 24 March 2021: David Stephens in Michael West Media on the dodgy process that has marked this project

Update 23 March 2021: Media reaction to the story below

Earlier coverage of the campaign against the War Memorial project

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It is important that this ‘early works’ application to the National Capital Authority be vigorously opposed. It includes the demolition of Anzac Hall, one of the most controversial aspects of the whole Memorial project. It also provides for the removal of most of the mature eucalyptus trees in the grounds of the Memorial, including all the trees in front of the main building and flanking the Parade Ground. Finally, the application calls for ‘bulk excavation’ of a large area around the entrance of the Memorial. This includes demolition of the Parade Ground.

The NCA’s approval of these three components, under the subterfuge of ‘early works’, would make the Authority’s consideration of the rest of the project (due in May or June) virtually redundant. The die will have been cast irrevocably.

Accordingly, this is a further stage in the community campaign against the unnecessary and inappropriate $498m extensions to the Australian War Memorial. You can find full details of the ‘early works’ application here. The ‘early works’ include demolition, excavation, services relocation, temporary hoarding and tree removal. It is only when you go to this page that you find mention of the demolition of Anzac Hall, and that mention is buried nine paragraphs down.

The above link also takes you to a set of pdfs providing further details. The key pdfs are Planning Report (search within it for ‘Early Works Package’), Preliminary Arboriculture Assessment, and Southern Entrance. It is only when you get into these pdfs that you find further details on Anzac Hall (though not much, even here), tree chopping and excavation.

Arguments you might consider using

  • The demolition of Anzac Hall is inseparable from the project as a whole – indeed the project depends upon it happening – and it should be considered as part of the total package, not sneaked through as an ‘early work’. The destruction of Anzac Hall has been one of the most controversial aspects of the whole project and it should be considered alongside the rest of the project.
  • The Preliminary Arboriculture Assessment pdf shows at least 65 trees at the Memorial as ‘likely to be removed’, most of them in ‘good’ or ‘very good’ condition. The list includes some massive eucalypts at the front of the Memorial. These trees were assessed this year. There were also trees assessed in 2019 and it is unclear how many additional trees would go as a result of that assessment. Whether the total number is 65 or more, perhaps much more, this is wanton vandalism on a scale which would change the look of the Memorial for decades to come. It cannot possibly be considered an ‘early work’.
  • The proposed ‘early works’ also include a massive excavation south of the existing Southern Entrance and across the Parade Ground. The map at page 7 of the Southern Entrance pdf reveals the extent of this excavation (within the dotted blue line). An excavation of this magnitude would fundamentally change the look of the Memorial and cannot possibly be considered an ‘early work’.
  • Designating as ‘early works’ the demolition of Anzac Hall, the destruction of dozens of trees, and the massive excavation, is an abuse of process, a travesty, and an insult to the NCA and to the Parliament that established it. These ‘early works’ will cause permanent damage to the Heritage-listed Memorial and its surrounds.
  • The Memorial is encouraging the NCA to indulge in ‘salami slicing’, approving ‘early works’ of such importance that it will be impossible for the NCA not to approve the whole project when the time comes. (More on salami slicing: ‘Some slices of salami are thicker than others: being played for mugs‘.)
  • The NCA should defer consideration of these ‘early works’ until it has received Works Approval applications from the Memorial for the rest of the project. It could then consider all components of the project as a single package.

What next?

So, please get your response in to the NCA by 30 April. Again, email and postal details are on the NCA page here.

It is still possible to register as a Key Stakeholder with the NCA. Details and a link are on this NCA page. While you do not have to register, doing so will ensure you can have a say on the approval process for the project as a whole. (You will go onto the NCA’s mailing list.) This will be the final approval stage and will probably occur in May or June.

As we said in our previous email, it will be extremely difficult to stop the project but Heritage Guardians still believes there is a point to continuing the battle. High profile opposition will be noted by history. This is an unworthy project that has been advanced by dubious processes.

Any questions?

If you have any questions please email me or phone 0413867972.

David Stephens

Convener, Heritage Guardians

21 March 2021 updated

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