A former director of the Australian War Memorial has urged that any planned changes at the site, including the removal of trees to build a temporary car park ahead of a much larger re-development, must adopt a "hasten slowly" approach with the "widest possible community consultation".
Retired Major General Steve Gower, a qualified engineer and Vietnam veteran who served as director from 1996 to 2012, expressed his dismay at learning that as many as 80 mature gum trees would be felled at the site to make way for a temporary car park.
A consultation report on the so-called "early works" will be made public soon which will outline a preliminary plan to remove the trees and excavate alongside Poppy's Cafe and create multi-level parking for 123 cars, mostly for staff involved in the subsequent major construction phase.
The most significant redevelopment for the war memorial since 1941 is planned over a nine-year period and will more than double the current exhibition spaces to accommodate prospective new exhibits, including an F-111 aircraft, under a huge glass atrium-style roof.
The federal government has pledged $498 million to the memorial's redevelopment.
However, even the so-called "site establishment" and "early works" has already raised concerns, with Major General Steve Gower sharing the views of local residents that the removal of trees from the site will have a significant impact on how the building visually "sits and settles gracefully" within the landscape.
"I think it's disgraceful and cavalier to remove so many trees and disturb the site this way without proper heritage and environmental considerations," he said.
"Not just the building itself but the setting in which it sits is of national significance. Any change to the surrounds of the building and its woodland setting will that have a major visual impact."
He is also concerned that the memorial has held just a single three-hour community consultation, back in July, and urged that no trees be removed or excavation begun until a much broader consultation is held.
Opposition to the full redevelopment is growing, with prominent architects and eminent Australians expressing their concern over the price tag and the lack of transparency around the process.
A letter sent to a local resident, Bethan Taylor, from the current director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, said that there were 43 mature trees which would "definitely" need to be removed to make way for the temporary car park, with another 37 "to be considered" for removal.
Dr Nelson's letter also says that the area would be returned to "its native landscape state at the completion of construction of redevelopment in 2027".
Ms Taylor said that the removal of so many trees was contrary to the advice she received at the consultation.
"We were told at the meeting that around 10 trees would have to go," Ms Taylor said.
"Now we've learned from Brendan Nelson that as many as eight times that number of trees might go. This so-called community consultation is just a box-ticking exercise."