The Weatherill Government’s marquee project to commemorate the centenary of Anzac was initially rejected by former Governor Real-Admiral Kevin Scarce, InDaily can reveal.
Scarce was the incumbent at Government House when Labor first approached him with a plan to annex around 40 metres of the eastern lawn of his North Terrace residence to create an Anzac Centenery Memorial Garden Walk, which would wend from the existing memorial down Kintore Avenue to the Torrens Parade Ground.
But the retired naval officer and head of Maritime Systems at the Defence Materiel Organisation, who now oversees the Government’s nuclear fuel cycle royal commission, has told InDaily he didn’t receive the plan warmly.
“I’m firmly supportive of creating the walk (but) I was concerned that there weren’t a lot of other alternatives examined,” he said.
“The first approach seemed to be to rip down the (Government House) wall and what I was asking for was an evaluation of all the options of creating the walk.”
He essentially sent authorities back to the drawing board, demanding a range of alternative proposals be drafted, including one that left his wall standing and built over Kintore Avenue instead.
“(I asked) ‘Are there other options in relation to (building on) the road?’” he said.
The most recent version of the plan, announced just before the Centenery of Anzac but not due for completion until next year, leaves Kintore Avenue open to traffic, and still rips down the existing eastern wall of Government House; however only 10 metres of the plush gardens and lawns will be annexed for the walkway.
Asked if he favoured the compromise, Scarce said: “I think it has progressed since I had a look.”
“It was a 40-metre option to start with … that was progressively reduced,” he said.
“I’m assuming they’ve had a decent look at the options, and that’s the one the current Governor (Scarce’s former Lieutenant Governor Hieu Van Le) is comfortable with.”
Scarce acknowledged he “wouldn’t have been happy with (only) one option”.
“No question, I encouraged them to look at options,” he said.
“In my life I‘ve never just accepted an option, I’d always look at a range of options – that informs better decisions.”
Some in the veterans’ community have previously expressed frustration that the memorial was not completed in time to commemorate this year’s Anzac centenary, but it’s not clear to what extent the Governor’s reservations delayed the project.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith did not respond to questions about negotiations with the former Governor, his office instead sending a statement enthusing about the project, with “detailed design” work now completed.
When the compromised design was unveiled in April, more than a year after the project was initially pledged, current Governor Hieu Van Le admitted there had also been protracted negotiations with his office.
“Given the historical significance of this project, I have accepted the proposal to excise land from the eastern perimeter of Government House, on the understanding that the design will ensure that there are no unreasonable impacts on the security, privacy, heritage and functionality of Government House,” he said at the time.
However, it’s understood no gubernatorial permission is required, as the land’s use can only be altered by amending an act of parliament, the Government House Domain Dedication Act.
But Scarce insisted: “At all stages in this process, the Governor’s advice was sought.”
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