Bundaberg veterans concerned about $19m redevelopment of Anzac Park

A children's aquatic park and an outdoor amphitheatre will be a part of the $19 million dollar redevelopment of Anzac Park in Bundaberg, but a group of veterans fears the attractions will overshadow the memories of those lost.

Key points:Anzac Park in Bundaberg will undergo a $19 million redevelopment to 'activate the CBD' Local veterans fear the spirit of Anzac will be lost in the upgradesBundaberg Regional Council says it does not intend to alter the Anzac legacy 

The veterans want Council's plans for Anzac park reconsidered. 

Bundaberg's Max Francis is fourth-generation military who joined the navy when he was 16 and served Australia for more than 20 years with multiple deployments to the Middle East.

"Many families in Australia, from father to son it's passed down that they are builders or butchers. Our family were predominately military," Mr Francis said.

"There's a part of me that feels like my dad and my grandad are looking over my shoulder saying, 'You've got to stop this'."

Young navy officer standing in front of a tank.
Mr Francis specialised in marine engineering and travelled all over the world with the Navy. (Supplied: Max Francis)

Mr Francis said he could not see the history of Anzac reflected in the redeveloped park.

"I'm not against development, development in this town means jobs."

"But the purpose of the park now seems to be to attract more people to the central business district in Bundaberg.

"There was no real detail or no importance placed on creating a memorial and you lose the nostalgia that is Anzac Park."

Drawings of new Anzac Park development showing park and trees, and open ampitheatre.
Bundaberg Regional Council released new plans for the redevelopment of Anzac Park at the start of 2020. (Supplied: Bundaberg Regional Council)

One of many

Mr Francis said he was not the only digger upset by the proposed plans.

"There's like an undercurrent that is flowing through the veteran community at the moment," he said.

"The veterans are realising there has been a change of plans, and there is concern."

A previous upgrade plan for Anzac Park was released from Bundaberg Regional Council in 2010, which Mr Francis said was a more honourable tribute to local veterans.

Drawings from 2010 of the proposed development for Bundaberg's Anzac Park.
Mr Francis says many of the features paying tribute to veterans in the 2010 plans have been removed in the latest proposal. (Supplied: Max Francis)

But after a decade and no further progress, the new plan was unveiled to the veteran community at the beginning of last year.

This prompted the Bundaberg RSL, the Royal Australian Air Force Association, and Bundaberg District Women Veterans Group to make a submission to council expressing their dissatisfaction with the redevelopment.

The groups have said they will meet with council this month to discuss their concerns.

Sun setting behind trees in the background, black stone obelisk with ANZAC: deeds not words inscribed.
A number of local veteran associations have concerns about the changes to Anzac Park. (ABC Wide Bay: Scott Lamond)

'Protect and enhance the Anzac Legacy'

The Bundaberg Regional Council said it had previously consulted with the RSL in 2018 before releasing the new redevelopment plans.

"The proposed upgrade does not seek to alter this intent but to protect and enhance the Anzac legacy while ensuring this riverside precinct is utilised to its full potential by the community year-round," a council spokesperson wrote in a statement.

The Council has listed a wet and dry play space, a cultural hub overlooking the river, outdoor event space and stage, and improved access to the riverside walkway as the new development features.

"When complete, this area will continue to be known as Anzac Park and will incorporate many elements which will facilitate future commemorations in addition to activating the CBD," it said.

"Now that Federal Government funding has been secured, Council is looking forward to sharing more detailed designs of the memorial and community functions of this space in the near future."

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Modern outdoor stage with a biker rider along footpath.
Council says the project focuses on creating an active space adjacent to the CBD on the banks of the Burnett River.(Supplied: Bundaberg Regional Council )

 Fears the ball is rolling

In October the federal government secured $5 million dollars in funding for the redevelopment.

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said "the riverside redevelopment tied in with plans to de-main Bundaberg's Quay Street."

Mr Francis said he was concerned the funding meant it was too late for the redevelopment to be stopped.

"There's a feeling that this project has gained a momentum, and if we don't speak now we may lose our chance to incorporate memorial aspects to the gardens and the park here."

Rows of war medals lined up on table and some being held by a man.
Mr Fancis says his great grandfather served in the Boer War in WW1, his grandfather served in Egypt in WW2, and his father served for 40 years in the Navy and the Department of Defence. (ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Posted 1 Nov 20211 Nov 2021Mon 1 Nov 2021 at 8:40pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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