Stephens, David: National Capital Authority misses its own deadline to release consultation report on War Memorial Main Works

David Stephens*

‘National Capital Authority misses its own deadline to release consultation report on War Memorial Main Works’, Honest History, 2 November 2021 updated

Update 7 November 2021: Ian Bushnell in The Riot Act summarises the state of (delayed) play

Includes input from Honest History’s David Stephens in the post below.

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For many weeks, these words have appeared on the National Capital Authority website page about the public consultation on the Main Works for the Australian War Memorial project: ‘We are reviewing all submissions and expect to release a public consultation report by the end of October‘ (emphasis added). It’s two days into November and now the website has these words:

Update 2 November 2021

The NCA continues to review information and ideas contained in 587 submissions made in response to the works approval applications for the three projects in the redevelopment package for the Australian War Memorial. The completion of the consultation report is taking longer than first anticipated.

As the planning agency, the NCA is interested in how the designs do or do not meet provisions within the National Capital Plan (NCP). Provisions in the NCP seek to ensure that Canberra and the Territory are planned to and developed in accordance with their national significance.

What’s the background to this? Memorial Director Matt Anderson said at Estimates (entry for 28 October updated) that the report was expected ‘this year’, not by the end of last month. Perhaps the NCA gave the Memorial a discreet heads-up.

After Estimates, Honest History questioned NCA Chief Executive Sally Barnes about the issue and was told, if the NCA can’t deliver by the end of October, watch our website to see what is going on (see the previous link). And the website changed today, as noted above.

Why the delay? Here are three possible reasons in order of likelihood (most likely first):

  • the NCA has found it needs more time to spin its report, especially how to make something of the proportion of submissions in favour of the Main Works when it tried to ignore the proportion (99 per cent) of submissions to the Early Works consultation that were against the project;
  • the NCA has asked the Memorial to make some changes to the plans – possibly something minor like the quality of the paints to be used or even something more important like making the Glazed Link less of a fire hazard – on the latter, see the important submission from Professor James Weirick, paras 87-88; [Update 7 November 2021: ‘[T]he Memorial said the NCA had not raised any issues with the Memorial to date or requested any changes to the current proposal’.]
  • the NCA is making a strong stand on something bigger, like the Memorial’s cavalier treatment of the requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for Heritage Management Plans. The Memorial’s most recent fancy dancing on this can be found in Senate Estimates in June this year (page 134 of the Hansard). The key issue is whether and how the Memorial can manipulate the updating of the Plan to allow for the destruction of Anzac Hall, when the 2011 Plan and the draft 2019 Plan both had Anzac Hall as a key component of the Memorial’s contribution to national heritage.

The first dot point above is reasonably significant, given the NCA’s remark about compatibility with the National Capital Plan. While there were 587 submissions on the Main Works, by our count just 76 of the 413 published submissions compared the works with the Plan – and we reckon 42 of these were against the works. (We have done a comprehensive Excel analysis of the published submissions.)

* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website and has been convener of the Heritage Guardians group, opposed to the Memorial development. There are some photographs below of the current state of the Memorial and more here. Photographs supplied.

East of Bean Building, 7 November 2021

East of Bean Building, 7 November 2021

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