Department of Environment says $500 million War Memorial development is ‘controlled action’ under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Honest History (and others) have been following the approval processes for the War Memorial’s $500m. expansion program. We noted that the Memorial had made a Referral to the Department of the Environment and we argued that the War Memorial proposal should be subject to rigorous assessment by the Department as a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. A controlled action is where the Minister decides that a project is likely to have significant impacts on Commonwealth or National Heritage values.

The Department decided just before Christmas that the proposal was indeed a controlled action and relevant paperwork is on the Department’s website (Reference Number 2019/8574). The proposal will be assessed on the basis of ‘preliminary documentation’, defined in the Department’s guidance material as ‘referral form and any other relevant material identified by the minister as being necessary to adequately assess a proposed action’.

The controlled action could have been assessed through an environmental impact statement, public environment report, or public inquiry (other options under the Act). None of these is happening.

There will be further opportunity for public comment, however, once the Department and the Memorial have completed an iterative process which enables the Memorial to augment its preliminary documentation. This process may include the Department putting to the Memorial questions raised about or gaps disclosed in the Memorial’s original referral. These questions may have been raised by submissions provided to the Department on the Referral. These submissions came from the Australian Institute of Architects, Medical Association for Prevention of War, and Heritage Guardians, among others.

When this further opportunity for public comment occurs depends on how long the iterative process takes. There will be a notification on the Department’s website. (The environment function, including heritage, is moving to the new Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment or DAWE.)

Update 24 February 2020: It is understood that the Memorial will have its submission with the now DAWE by end February and that the submission, including consultation report, will appear on the DAWE site shortly thereafter.

20 January 2020 updated

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