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Proposed planning changes threaten conservation areas and the environment in NSW

The NSW Department of Planning put on public exhibition its Green Paper “A New Planning System for NSW” in July this year just prior to all local councils in NSW going into caretaker mode before the council elections.

It is a 92 page document proposing very extensive changes to planning laws and the DA approval process in NSW. Most controls and laws protecting the environment and heritage that have been put in place over the last 30 years with expert advice and extensive community consultation, are proposed to be either repealed or abandoned.

Unfortunately there has been little or no media coverage about the multitude of changes proposed in the Green Paper that has the potential to negatively affect all citizens of NSW.
Comments on the Green Paper closed on 14 September 2012. The NSW Government plans to have a draft White Paper released for public feedback by the end of the 2012.
Below is the Society’s media release and the submission that the Society made to the NSW Government identifying its concerns about the proposals in the Green Paper.
Media release 5 Sept 2012 – Community and heritage disregarded in A New Planning System for NSW

Walter Burley Griffin Society Inc’s submission to the NSW Government on A New Planning System for NSW Green Paper

You may wish to contact/email your local state parliamentarian to also express concerns. The Better Planning Network was formed by concerned community groups, including the Walter Burley Griffin Society Inc. in August 2012.

You can read more and register your concerns at their website (see below)

Canberra centenary celebrations Thursday 15 August to Saturday 17 August 2013

On the centenary of Walter Burley Griffin’s arrival in Australia, the Walter Burley Griffin Society is celebrating the Griffins’ Canberra as part of the Canberra 100 program of events. Walter Burley Griffin first arrived in Australia in August 1913 after winning the international competition for the design of Australia’s national capital the year before.

The Society’s celebrations will include:

  • Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture 2013, Thursday 15 August, 6pm
  • The Griffins’ Canberra: 100 years symposium, Friday 16 August
  • Bus tour of the Griffins’ Canberra, Saturday 17 August

See the Events webpage for further information.

Canberra centenary celebrations Thursday 15 August to Saturday 17 August 2013 |

Marion Mahony (1871–1961), photograph courtesy Art Institute of Chicago

Heritage Guided Tours of the Capitol Theatre, Melbourne

Guided tours of the magnificent theatre interior, designed by the Griffins in 1922, are conducted on the third Friday of March, May, June, July, August, September, October and November on a continuous basis from 10am until 3.00pm (last tour start time).

Trained volunteer guides tell visitors of the history of the Theatre, the changes that have been made over 80 years and show them through the foyers and the auditorium. There is a short audiovisual presentation on the screen at the end of the tour. A gold coin donation, per person, would be appreciated.

No bookings are required for groups under five persons; over five it would be best to contact Kay Kinder, the Booking Officer at RMIT on
(03) 9925-1773 to make a booking so extra guides can be in attendance.

2012 - 100 years since the Griffins won the Australian National Capital Competition

On 23 May 1912, the Australian Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley announced that the winner of the Australian National Capital Competition was entry 29, the entry by Mr Walter Burley Griffin, architect and landscape artist, Steinway Hall, Chicago, Illinois.

On that day at the official announcement, Mr O’Malley stated “What we wanted was the best the world can give us and we have got it”.1

For further information about the Griffins’ winning entry:
1 Canberra 1912: Plans and Planners of the Australian Capital Competition, John W. Reps, Melbourne University Press 1997, p100.

2012 - 100 years since the Griffins won the Australian National Capital Competition |

Detail from ‘Section A–B Northerly Side of Water Axis: Black Mountain to Lake Park’ showing the central railway station and cathedral. Illustration by Marion Mahony Griffin, 1911. National Archives of Australia: A710 42

PUBLIC MEETING Save The Lake Shore - Stop these unnecessary memorials! Wednesday 23 March 2011, 7.30pm Albert Hall, Canberra

This public meeting with a panel of eminent speakers has been called by the Lake War Memorials Forum, a group of concerned organisations including the Walter Burley Griffin Society’s Canberra Chapter.

Operating behind closed doors and indifferent to overwhelming public opposition, a group called the Memorials Development Committee has been allocated land on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin to construct two unsightly, unnecessary monoliths which have been rejected by many veterans. The existing Australian War Memorial provides a fitting monument to those who served in the two world wars.

The Walter Burley Griffin Society is concerned about the adverse impacts on Griffin’s land axis and the design and vistas of his National Capital plan.

Further information:

PUBLIC MEETING Save The Lake Shore - Stop these unnecessary memorials! Wednesday 23 March 2011, 7.30pm Albert Hall, Canberra |

Photo montage Karina Lee, reproduced with permission of the Lake War Memorial Forum

Prominent Australians Oppose Memorial media-information session Wednesday 2 February 2011, 11:00 am to 11:30 am

A media-information session and website launch will be held at St John’s Church hall, Constitution Ave., Reid.

A group of prominent Australians has announced its opposition to a proposed new memorial to World Wars I and II on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

Despite strong public protest when this project was first announced, work has apparently continued behind closed doors, with citizens’ views being either ignored or not sought.
The Lake War Memorials Forum has been established to give all Australians the chance to express their views.

All media and members of the public are warmly invited to attend.

For further information

Grandiose war monuments are a flawed proposal for Canberra 9 November 2010

The proposed WWI and WWII Memorials, that would stand as 20 metre towers, are a grandiose scale that if built would be detrimental to the recreational foreshore parklands, and impede the Griffin vista towards Mt Ainslie. This vista creates appreciation of the natural form of the mountain, as intended by Griffin and the open nature of the Vistas in both north and south directions.

The Land Axis and clear vista are fundamental, enduring elements of the 1912 winning design for the National Capital. The memorials would break the length of the Land Axis and narrow the width of Griffin’s ‘Parkway’ (Anzac Parade). Moreover the Lake foreshore is a horizontal, flat landscape that would be upset by the pronounced vertical towers.

Griffin envisaged that the city would develop around his parkway, using the lakeside gardens as a promenade between cultural and recreational facilities. He never wanted it to be overburdened by the memory of war.

On any sunny weekend a great many people and groups, including tourists, can be seen all over the terraces enjoying picnics, games, walking, cycling and sports. The ambience is conducive to these activities. One enjoys unhindered vistas to iconic buildings, structures, mountains and the passing scene on land and water. The towers and other structures of the war memorials would create an altogether different and much less enjoyable ambience and outlook, practically monopolising the site.

The presumption of a military theme displacing recreational, cultural and other national symbolic themes and achievements is unacceptable.

The Australian War Memorial at the foot of Mt Ainslie is perhaps the most memorable Vista in Canberra because it has a human scale, engages our emotions, and engages us with the dramatic natural form of the mountain. The building at the foot of the Mountain speaks honestly and nobly.

There is a great difference between memorialising the realities of war and monumentalising them. The siting and excessive size of the proposed monuments would diminish the Land Axis, Mt Ainslie and the Australian War Memorial.

The Walter Burley Griffin Society reaffirms its opposition to these memorials at the Rond Terraces near the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin.

Designing for Canberra National Archives of Australia Speakers Corner 14 November 2010, Canberra

This occasion was a fascinating discussion with the award-winning architect of Australia’s Parliament House, Aldo Giurgola and colleagues Hal Guida and Pamille Berg, about the challenges and opportunities of integrating the design of Australia’s Parliament House with Walter Burley Griffin’s original vision for the national capital.

The three architectural colleagues provided a wealth of candid reflection on their planning of Parliament House.

Romaldo Giurgola listed order, simplicity, human relationships, humanity, symbolism and the natural environment as objectives. He aimed for the health and wellbeing of the people and not Texas-style ‘vibrancy’ and above all not ad hoc planning. He abhors ‘conversations’ that never end, instead of genuine community engagement based on leadership vision, public interest criteria and model demonstration. This long term visionary and design approach has given way in Canberra to timid government reaction to developers.

He believes Canberra has reached a critical point where urban planning has become ad hoc and default. To keep its character alive, Canberra must take a knowledgeable, intelligent, regional and community wellbeing approach.

While all three panelists spoke frequently about Griffin’s fundamental and lasting influence on their work, the moderator Tony Powell studiously tried to marginalise and misrepresent Griffin.
Romaldo Giurgola continues to be an active member of the Walter Burley Griffin Society.

Designing for Canberra – notes by Brett Odgers.pdf