Politicians ignore experts and the public to rubber-stamp ANZAC Hall demolition

The rubber-stamp of approval from federal parliament’s Public Works Committee for the Australian War Memorial redevelopment, while unsurprising, completely ignores the overwhelming opposition expressed during the inquiry process.

The Committee report has failed to heed extensive evidence outlining serious concerns about the project and its adverse heritage impact presented by members of the community, experts and the Government’s own advisers. 

The dissenting report, however, does recognise this and proposes “… the Government should consult further on this issue and consider alternative approaches that do not involve the complete demolition of the existing Anzac Hall.”

Australian Institute of Architects Past National President and #handsoffAnzacHall campaign spokesperson Clare Cousins said the Australian Government Public Works Committee’s final report, released today, continued the contempt for proper process that has been shown from the start of the project.

The recommendation to proceed with the $498 million-plus development, paves the way for the award-winning ANZAC Hall, to be demolished leaving only the National Capital Authority’s assessment as the final approval gateway.“Since this half-a-billion-dollar development was announced, it has been dogged by failures of process. Throughout, the views of citizens, members of the veteran community, architects heritage experts and departmental officials have been summarily dismissed. 

“This final committee report reveals the government is intent on pushing ahead with this development, regardless of the opposition, the cost and the unanimous expert advice that the project, including the demolition of ANZAC Hall, will irrevocably damage the heritage values of the AWM.

“We note there is a dissenting report from the Committee which proposes to save ANZAC Hall. But it seems the Government is hell-bent on ignoring all advice about this building, doesn’t care about the memories and stories contained within this building, and simply wants it pulled down no matter the cost. The redevelopment process and consultation is a sham.”

The dissenting report proposes “… the Government should consult further on this issue and consider alternative approaches that do not involve the complete demolition of the existing Anzac Hall.”

The Public Works Committee was required to report on the stated purpose for the project and its suitability. It also sought to explore the need and cost-effectiveness of the proposal, and the future revenues it could generate.

Four out of five of the submissions received by the committee opposed or raised concerns about the development and since the announcement of the project in 2018, there has been widespread sadness and anger at the planned demolition of Anzac Hall and the ongoing failures of process.

“The Australian Government and the Australian War Memorial are ignoring expert advice, including from its own advisory body the Australian Heritage Council. 

The Government’s own heritage expert report confirmed the adverse impact ANZAC Hall’s demolition will have on the nationally significant site.

“The Institute will continue to oppose this development and the lack of process that has enabled it to proceed so far. The National Capital Authority has the power to reject the development on environment and planning grounds. It has pledged to consult over the project.

“As architects, we are passionate about preserving Australia’s heritage and honouring our national history, nowhere more so than the extraordinary service and sacrifice of the servicemen and women. Destroying Anzac Hall – an investment of effort, culture, and family memories for all Australians – is a waste and mark of disrespect.

“We will not be silenced on the proposed demolition of ANZAC Hall,” Ms Cousins said. “How could we stay silent when we know without doubt that this unpopular and inappropriate development will negatively impact one of our nation’s most significant monuments. 

“We look forward to the National Capital Authority promised consultation and the opportunity it provides to right the evident wrongs in the approval process to date. We will continue to advocate for the project to be rethought and for ANZAC Hall to be saved from demolition.”

See more at https://wp.architecture.com.au/anzachall/