Canberrans will come to appreciate redevelopment works at the Australian War Memorial over time, Director Matt Anderson said on Wednesday following the final stage of approval for works being given by the National Capital Authority (NCA).
The NCA on Wednesday confirmed that it had approved three packages of work following a public consultation, green-lighting a project that was first announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2018.
The approval followed community consultation between July 31 and September 10, which found 73 per cent of 587 submissions supported the works.
However, 59 per cent of the 112 submissions from ACT residents opposed the redevelopment.
Mr Anderson said he thought Canberrans' personal connection with the memorial was behind this strong opposition.
"I think the Australian War Memorial is is part of Canberra's psyche," Mr Anderson said.
"And I think that's why they are very passionate about the memorial, as am I, and I think that's just been reflected in the submissions."
He said the memorial was not only part of Canberra's landscape, but a place frequented by Canberrans.
President of the Reid Residents Association Marianne Albury-Colless said members of the group had been concerned by the redevelopment works' threat to the site's heritage.
Works such as the new entrance and Glazed Link at the back of the building would cause major changes, Ms Albury-Colless, who previously worked at the memorial in the education section, said.
"It will make the building, the original building, look very, very different, and I don't think that has ... ever fully been explained to Canberrans."
Ms Albury-Colless also took issue with the consultation process, which she called a "very guided or corralled process" which took away from the "totality of what's going to change" by seeking submissions on the three stages of work separately.
Mr Anderson said he thought Canberrans would be convinced of the changes to the memorial in time.
"I think, as people start seeing the development effectively come up out of the ground, there will be a growing sense of expectation, and hopefully, excitement about what's going to be built and what the stories that are going to be told within it," he said.
Ms Albury-Colless said this could be the case, but it would come at a cost.
"I think that some of the proposed displays will be incredibly popular, but that is probably at the loss of ... the ethos, the principles that lie behind what the memorial is meant to stand for."
The redevelopment will allow for more modern conflicts to be commemorated, Mr Anderson said: "The development is necessary because it gives us the space that we need to tell the story of current veterans."
Ms Albury-Colless recognised the significance of commemorating the lives lost, but expressed concerns about the militarisation of history.
"I think there is definitely room to tell these stories, but not at the cost of of destroying what really is the founding principles of the War Memorial," she said.
The $500 million bill for the redevelopment has been another point of contention.
"I would say that's a question for government, I just know that they should be assured that that every cent will be spent wisely," Mr Anderson said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: