Chief Minister Andrew Barr has defended a government legal challenge over the demolition of Northbourne Avenue's public housing, warning heritage advocates he will use every necessary power to knock down the 1960s precinct.
On Friday, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal will take up a fight from the National Trust ACT branch over its legal authority to object to the government's planned demolition.
Part of the dispute is understood to relate to an error in the date submissions were required to be received in response to the heritage protection decision.
In a separate development, respected Australian architect Ken Woolley said the Barr government was failing to protect Canberra's architectural history after deliberately letting the Dickson Towers, Owen Flats, pair houses, three-storey flats and maisonettes fall into disrepair over decades.
Despite its recognised heritage status, broad disagreement exists over the housing designed by Sydney Ancher for the National Capital Development Commission.
The ACT Heritage Council has given protection to about 40 per cent of the precinct, while the National Trust wants all of the buildings and landscaping protected as the planned entry way to Canberra.
For his part, Mr Barr believes just one building on either side of the road should be kept as a representative sample, along with sufficient documentation of the site.
"We are determined to get an outcome here," he said on Thursday.
"We will utilise every avenue available to us. The idea that it can just remain as it is, forever, frozen in time is, in my view, crazy."
A September 2014 report commissioned by the Land Development Agency found renovation of the buildings to modern standards, likely for private ownership, could be achieved. It said a heritage listed precinct would be valued at $15.1 million.
If redeveloped in keeping with the government's master plan for high density in the area including 1100 dwellings, the land would be worth about $70 million. The redevelopment plan was deemed the most feasible option, despite experts previously offering plans for re-use and heritage protection.
Mr Barr called on heritage advocates to acknowledge broad community support for the demolitions and characterised the dispute as "arguments at the margins".
"In the end, I am not going to let this get bogged down for years and years and years. There is going to be movement ... my hope is a compromise can be reached," he said.
A longtime advocate, Mr Woolley said the post-war international modernist-style homes designed by Sydney Ancher could come to be appreciated and loved like Sydney and Melbourne's once maligned inner city terraces and workers' cottages.
He said combining units to make larger living spaces and restoring stylish features would make the buildings commercially attractive.
"You can see they went through a period of hard wear during their time as social housing. It looks to the observer, I think, that very little has been done about them for the last 15 or 20 years," he said.
"I wouldn't have worked on it if I didn't believe they would be attractive if retained."
"Now Northbourne is seen as a grand commercial and residential avenue leading into Canberra. We worked out just how much you could retain and restore in order to make it viable with new development. I think it would be a real loss to Canberra."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.