Reaction to War Memorial’s bizarre ‘early works application’ to National Capital Authority: premature demolition, a massacre of mature trees, and a bloody big hole

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


Earlier coverage of the campaign against the War Memorial project.


Honest History and Heritage Guardians drew attention to the Memorial’s early works application. We said:

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.

Since then, there has been:

Costigan: When Canberra city needs every piece of biodiversity and green infrastructure to deal with the coming climate crisis, how on earth did anyone at the War Memorial think it was okay to let the bulldozers loose on so many trees. In the end this could be 100 or more trees that will go.

Stephens quoted by Bushnell: There’s still an air of arrogance and inevitability coming from the Memorial. The Memorial has always relied on the Anzac cloak to shield it from the sort of accountability other public institutions are used to. The Memorial is [also] very good at every approval stage [at] producing a mountain of documents inadequately indexed and hellishly difficult for the average person to find their way through.

Mitchell (from our subscription copy of the Canberra Times):

AWM tree threat

I wonder how many of us in Canberra, let alone the rest of the country, are fully aware of what is soon to occur at the top of Anzac Parade.

The Australian War Memorial is now seeking approval from the National Capital Authority for the removal of every eucalyptus tree you can currently see in front of the memorial (yes, all of them); as well as many others to the east and north of the site, over 60 trees all up.

If the NCA folds, and grants approval for this massacre, it will be accompanied by the “quick march” demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall and the parade ground, both to be replaced later on by something “bigger and better”. Will this be allowed to go ahead?

I fear the NCA will join the ranks of those who have accepted the development as a fait accompli since the Prime Minister first announced his support, and the government’s $500 million funding for it, over two years ago. Maybe a grand “fly over” could be arranged for when the bulldozers start to celebrate the removal of a once exceptional building now “not fit for purpose”? Or perhaps we, the concerned, could simply place a ribbon around a doomed tree as a symbol of future remembrance for what this site once was; a uniquely Australian, unpretentious and dignified memorial.

Update 28 March 2021: Nick Fuller in Canberra Weekly quotes Heritage Guardians, the Memorial and National Capital Authority. Notable is this from an NCA spokesperson: ‘The current [early works application] application under consideration by the NCA does not prejudice the NCA’s consideration of any future works approval applications’. It is difficult to see how the NCA’s knowing it has given approval to the demolition of Anzac Hall, a massive excavation, and the chopping down of dozens of trees – and being reminded by the Memorial that it has given such approvals – cannot influence its consideration of future major works approvals applications coming from the Memorial. On the other hand, the NCA gave approval in 2019 to new car parking at the Memorial, on the basis that ‘[t]he extension of the carpark is an independent structure, not physically connected to the larger redevelopment project and is therefore able to be considered as a separate project. The extension of the carpark does not prejudice the NCA’s consideration of future works approvals associated with the redevelopment of the AWM.’ 

Update 24 March 2021: David Stephens on ABC Radio Canberra (mark 1.17.00).

Update 25 March 2021: Canberra Times story from Kathryn Lewis (pdf from our subscription).

David Stephens, Convener, Heritage Guardians

23 March 2021 updated

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