Labor MP David Smith is blaming federal government funding cuts to the National Capital Authority for "disappointing" and "frustrating" processes behind the controversial $500 million Australian War Memorial expansion.
The federal member for Bean is on the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories which will hold a scheduled biannual hearing on Thursday on the NCA, the body which last week approved the expansion despite widespread community opposition. He is expecting a robust discussion about the planned works during the hearing in Federal Parliament.
The project to redevelop the War Memorial includes demolition of the 20-year-old Anzac Hall and the destruction of hundreds of trees, although more native trees will be replanted.
"I think it's disappointing," David Smith told The Canberra Times. "There's a lot of frustration about the way this has occurred.
"It's certainly not helped the National Capital Authority's reputation."
There's concern about a lack of consultation and accountability with the approval process, considering the overwhelming majority of public submissions received by the NCA about the project were against the upgrade as presented.
"There's a lot of frustration that despite a couple of processes, we obviously had the public works process and then we've had the National Capital Authority's processes, that many of those voices don't feel like they're being heard," Mr Smith said.
"I think one of the concerns which is a reasonable concern is that, if you're going to ask for submissions, then you need to be able to re-engage with those submissions."
But he said the NCA had a "limited remit in this space," saying the Authority has been hamstrung by the federal government over process and ongoing funding.
"I think the frustrating thing is there were opportunities for the (federal) government to think about different approaches," Mr Smith said.
"That's part of the issue that we need to actually rethink the way the National Capital Authority works, and possibly look at the resources that they have to actually engage in this space too. They've suffered staff cuts over the last decade as well."
The office of the Assistant Minister for Territories Nola Marino has been approached for comment. The Canberra Times also approached the NCA.
The Member for Bean said it was difficult to reconcile the spending on the War Memorial while the National Archives was pleading for money to continue its job preserving Australian historical artefacts.
"It's hard to see half a billion going into a project here when there were viable options that could have saved at least half that amount," he said.
"And then at the same time realising how much history is withering on the vine at the National Archives, and you know the pressures that so many of our other vital cultural institutions are under in terms of their staffing.
"I think, in the face of such diverse an opinion, really it's incumbent on the government to think about whether there was a different approach."
Early works are expected to commence at the War Memorial by the end of the month.
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