The City of Greater Geraldton has asked the Australian War Memorial to take over running HMAS Sydney II site after a backlash over the council’s proposed toilet block.
Former governor-general Michael Jeffery has lent his voice to the dissent, claiming the design would desecrate the sacred site.
It comes after similar complaints the council’s $400,000 proposal was a “cookie cutter” toilet design and a shameful “tin dunny” that would not suit a place of commemoration.
Maj-Gen. Jeffery, who feels so strongly about the issue he wrote to Premier Mark McGowan, urged the local council to approve a more expensive design supported by the council’s advisory committee.
“In my view it would be a total travesty to the memory of the HMAS Sydney II crew and to their families if the beautiful and sacred Geraldton memorial, dedicated to those lost, was desecrated through the construction of a cheap and entirely inappropriate toilet facility in the near vicinity,” Maj-Gen. Jeffery said.
But the council claims it cannot afford the more expensive design.
It said that design would cost $1.2 million to build and $4000 a week to maintain.
Mayor Shane Van Styn wrote to AWM director Brendan Nelson yesterday to request that the organisation assume management and financial responsibility for the project.
“Having the Australian War Memorial manage the toilet project and the entire site would ensure the memorial is developed in accordance with the sensitivities associated with a war memorial and guarantee its financial future,” he said.
He explained council’s recent cost cutting, including reducing childcare services and removing 20 playgrounds it did not have the money to maintain safely.
“I imagine that to you $400,000 seems like a small amount, but I can assure you to a regional council this represents a significant further investment in the memorial,” Mr Van Styn wrote.
He complained about Dr Nelson’s recent claim that the council’s proposal was a “cookie cutter” design, claiming the comment was “very offensive”.
Responding to a question, Mr Van Styn dismissed an offer from Rotary to raise money to build the more expensive design, claiming it would take too long.