Memorial provides some guidance through bundle of EPBC Act material – but a clear majority of public comments received are against the $498m redevelopment project

We said earlier in the week that we were nearly at the stage of the War Memorial publishing its final preliminary documentation on the heritage and environmental impacts of its $498m redevelopment project. The documentation has now been published on the Memorial’s website. And is analysed here.

The Memorial agreed to publish submissions it received from the public on the project, unless the authors of a submission declined to give permission for publication. There were 167 submissions received and they are being published progressively on the Memorial’s site.

At the time of writing this post, we had been unable to find a Memorial tally of how many submissions were for the project and how many were against it (but, see below). So, we did our own quick skim of the 97 submissions published to date and came up with the rough figure of one-third for and two-thirds against.

We’ll refine this figure from closer reading and as further submissions are published. Certainly, the tally so far is nothing like the numbers used more than once by Memorial spruikers – that 80 per cent of Australians (or ‘four out of five’) favour the project. (See, for example, project director Hitches to Senate Estimates, 4 March 2020, page 148 of the Hansard.)

(Update a little later: Thanks to the Memorial, which points out

there’s a summary table of all 167 submissions at p. 186 of Attachment C Response to Public Submission. Of these submissions we classified 64 (38%) as generally supportive, 97 as not (58%) with the remained mixed or neutral. Note that even in supportive/not submissions there are many that like or dislike individual parts of the proposal and that detail is provided in Attachment C where applicable.)

So, less than 40 per cent in favour and nearly 60 per cent against. Meanwhile, here is the Memorial’s advice on how to read the documentation. It provides some help on navigating through the pile of material:

The public comments received between 3-31 July have helped lead to some 50 updates, clarifications or changes to the project documentation and supporting attachments. Although the core project proposal remains largely unchanged considerable work has been undertaken to reduce heritage impacts identified through this process. This is reflected in substantial design detail changes to the proposed New Anzac Hall, Glazed Link and the New Southern Entrance ‘Oculus’ elements in particular.

These changes are supported by more than 35 formal commitments relating to the project put forth by the Memorial to provide assurance to the community that it will continue to seek input and offer meaningful engagement throughout project design and delivery if all relevant approvals are granted …

We encourage those interested in the detail to read several key sections of the Final Preliminary Documentation:

  • Final Preliminary Documentation – (Section 5 Description of the Project)
    This section of the documentation provides a detailed description, along with key images, of the final plans put forward for consideration and approval to DAWE. For those who have made comments you will find the Memorial’s ‘Response to Public and DAWE Comments’ in Sections 5.3.3 (New Southern Entrance) and 5.4.4 (New Anzac Hall and Glazed Link) an especially useful summary of how the Memorial has responded to your feedback on these key design issues.
  • Attachment C – (Response to Public Submissions)
    This ‘Response to Public Submissions’ report provides a comprehensive, consolidated and considered response to public feedback received on the exhibited proposal in July 2020. It provides a summary of each key issue raised by the public and the Memorial’s response to each one, including relevant changes to its design or documentation or any commitments the Memorial has proposed as a result.

This report also contains the list of more than 35 commitments the Memorial is proposing, from creating an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group to advise on Indigenous matters relating to future galleries content to seeking advice from qualified landscape experts on how best to handle the impact of climate change on landscape design, to provide assurance to the community that it has, and will continue to, listen to community concerns and ideas.

  • Attachment E – (Need for the Project)
    The four papers making up this document provide more examples of why this project is necessary and, especially through E3 Gallery Master Plan, shows the key curatorial and exhibition design thinking on how it will use the new spaces to tell stories of contemporary service and sacrifice.
  • Attachments G  – (New Southern Entrance Design response) and H – (New Anzac Hall and Glazed Link Design Response)

These two attachments provide extensive details, drawings and renders showing some of the key changes made to the project and highlighted in Sections 5.3.3 (New Southern Entrance) and 5.4.4 (New Anzac Hall and Glazed Link) of the Final Preliminary Documentation.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment(DAWE), administering the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, has accepted the Memorial’s documents and they are now under consideration in accordance with the Act and relevant regulations. There could be 40 business days before DAWE makes a decision, and even that period could be extended by decision of the Minister.

Meanwhile, the separate parliamentary Public Works Committee inquiry is proceeding. There might be a report to the Parliament during the sitting periods this month (or November or December).

David Stephens

2 October 2020 updated


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One comment on “Memorial provides some guidance through bundle of EPBC Act material – but a clear majority of public comments received are against the $498m redevelopment project
  1. Leighton View says:

    Appreciate your insights on this otherwise overextended, expensive, often murky proposal …

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