Role: Advisory body to the Minister of the Interior to safeguard the Griffin plan and maintain high aesthetic and architectural standards worthy of a National Capital.
The Great Depression of 1929 - 1933 brought almost all construction to a halt in Canberra. By 1938 when a new albeit powerless advisory body was appointed, Canberra consisted of a handful of suburbs housing about 7,000 people, separated from each other by open paddocks and the flood plain of the Molonglo River. In the middle of this pastoral setting and in the Parliamentary Triangle was the provisional Parliament House, flanked by the East and West Block Offices for bureaucrats which faced lucerne flats and the willow-lined bed of the Molonglo River. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 was to demonstrate the development inadequacies of Canberra as a National Capital. The lack of facilities in Canberra led to the expansion of government departments in Melbourne and Sydney. The war effort was directed from these three cities with officials shuttling back and forth between them.
The first decade after the war was marked by shortages of materials and improvisation in Canberra with a number of cheap, temporary buildings being constructed to house public servants. Plans to transfer 7,000 public servants from Melbourne were abandoned. The National Capital Planning and Development Committee, lacking any executive power, found its views were increasingly ignored and decisions made without reference to it, including variations to the Griffin Plan. The government again dissatisfied with progress, established a Senate Select Committee in 1954 to inquire into Canberra's development. The Committee recommended major changes and an end to divided responsibility for the capital's design and construction with the establishment of a single Commission to plan, develop and construct the National Capital with adequate finance and a coordinated plan.