2018 Business Case: and comments

This page refers to the Government’s eventual release in April 2018 of the summary of a business case for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and the many critical responses that have followed. Informed comments on the Business Case Summary and its implications are included below.

1.0 Business Case Summary for Relocation of Powerhouse
2.0 Comments on Business Case Summary, and lead up
3.0 Summary of news reports

Refer also to the related sequence of News Chronology (brief summaries below),  Letters to the Editor, and other files on this Powerhouse Museum Alliance website.


1.0 Business Case Summary for Relocation of Powerhouse

12 April, 2018
Following over 3 years of lobbying, and a summary report from a continuing Upper House Inquiry, a motion asking for the business case to be tabled within 14 days was passed in the Legislative Council on 12 April.  Read more
Various government departments had said they did not hold the relevant papers; to see their letters of denial: Read more

28 April, 2018
However the Government made its  final decision public on 28 April without complying with the motion above, except for issuing a 9-page ‘Final Business Case Summary’.
Craig Limkin, Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, advised: ‘Today the NSW Government announced that the Powerhouse Museum will completely relocate to stunning new premises in Parramatta… Additionally, the NSW Government has confirmed it plans to retain cultural spaces at Ultimo, including plans for a new design and fashion museum and a Broadway-style lyric theatre. See the  MAAS project website. Attached to the message were:
1) Media Release: Gladys Berejiklian, Don Harwin:
Gladys Berejiklian and Don Harwin med rel – Western Sydney becomes cultural powerhouse_
2)  Fact sheet: See Powerhouse factsheet

Further sessions in the Legislative Council, recorded in Hansard, include strong criticism of the substance of the Business Case Summary. It also appears that none of the three business cases prepared were shown to state cabinet as ministers made their decisions.

The Business Case for the Powerhouse Museum in Western Sydney Project was prepared between April and December 2017 by the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) within the Arts, Screen and Culture Division of the NSW Government’s Department of Planning and Environment’: Read more
The MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) Project is described here: Read more

The Business Case Summary was prepared by Infrastructure NSW, ‘the NSW Government’s independent infrastructure advisory agency’. Read more
The Introduction to the Summary says:
‘This document summarises the Final Business Case (the Business Case) for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse to Parramatta.
The Powerhouse Museum in Western Sydney Project (“the Project”) entails relocating the core functions of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) from Ultimo to the Riverbank site in Parramatta. It involves decommissioning the existing Museum and collection storage, and creating a new MAAS headquarters focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) exhibits and new collection storage facilities at Castle Hill.
The Government plans to retain cultural space at Ultimo. It is separately considering the options for the Ultimo site, including the establishment of a Creative Industries Precinct and a plan for a Design and Fashion museum and a Broadway-style lyric theatre. Further work is being undertaken to complete a Final Business Case for Ultimo, which will enable financial investment decisions about that site to be taken by Government. A separate summary document for Ultimo will be released once that work is complete.’

1,2,3 May, 2018
Hansard record of questions on Relocation of Powerhouse Museum
In the NSW Legislative Council on 1st 2nd and 3rd May, the summary business case of the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, presented the week before, was discussed, with challenging questions and comments put to Arts Minister Don Harwin by Walt Secord, David Shoebridge, Adam Searle, Robert Borsak, Penny Sharpe, Matthew Mason-Cox and others.
The Hansard record is on-line at the NSW Legislative Council, May 1,2,3 listed under Questions Without Notice: Powerhouse Museum Relocation (several sessions listed).
Open here: May 1: Read more   May 2: Read more  May 3: Read more

It is expected that further sessions will be held.


2.0 Comments on Business Case Summary, and lead up

24 May 2018:
‘The Powerhouse ‘Move’ – what next?’
Tom Lockley summarises issues of the government’s lack of research and consultation, poor budgeting, undemocratic choice of site and type of venue in Parramatta, and the many reasons for keeping the museum in Ultimo. He provides this as background for those who may attend Inquiry hearings on 28 May and 1 June. See: 24 May -What next – TL

22 May 2018
‘Does Sydney need a new theatre on the Powerhouse Museum site?’
Debbie Rudder comments on the current plan which ‘would see a substantial portion of Ultimo Powerhouse become a venue for musical theatre and the whole Harwood Building knocked down to make way for a block of flats.’ As well as arguing for the significance of the existing buildings and their museum functions, she lists the many operating (and closed) city theatres and questions the need for another, on this site. See:  Sydney theatres DR May 2018

May 18, 2018
International Museum’s Day: a day of mourning for the Powerhouse Museum
In a statement from the Powerhouse Museum Alliance (PMA), Kylie Winkworth, Jennifer Sanders and Lindsay Sharp identify 18 May, International Museum’s Day in 2018 as a day of mourning for the Powerhouse Museum (PHM). PMA ‘asks the community to visit the Powerhouse before the government flogs the museum to developers’.
They refer to many issues associated with the recent Business Case Summary, and also reports on a statement issued by the International Council of Museums on the independence of museums, which is ‘pertinent to powerless position of the Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences …The government is stripping the PHM’s land, assets and facilities from the hands of the trustees, and depriving them of the control and direction of the museum.’ At the same time it confirms that the PMA ‘has consistently supported the development of an iconic new museum in Parramatta, based on transparent community consultations’, and reminds us that ‘The Powerhouse Museum has suffered more than a decade of devastating budget cuts …TThe Powerhouse Museum must remain open, and in full control of its historic site at Ultimo, its home since 1893.’ PMA statement IMDay 18 May 2018

16 May, 2018
Lindsay Sharp: ‘Analysis of the Summary Business Case’
Dr Lindsay Sharp, for the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, analyses the Summary Business Case, saying:  The costs are wildly understated; the comparative scale of the project is significantly over stated; the basis for calculation of benefits is unproven and the process does not meet Treasury guidelines. The risks and access to the MAAS collections are unacceptable. The justification for the ‘move’ is untenable. There are far better options available utilising Government owned land. Read more: Analysis of Summary, LS 16 May

5 May, 2018
Tom Lockley: ‘Questions for the government regarding the Powerhouse museum move’. Tom Lockley, from the Pyrmont History Group and Powerhouse Museum interest group, traces decisions and developments along the way and lists a number of key questions, focussing on inadequate consultation, representation, and feedback, as well as lack of evidence and relaistic costing. TL- Qs for Govt 5 May 2018

3 May, 2018
John McDonald: ‘… not an act of cultural justice, it’s a piece of cultural imbecility. It’s vandalism disguised as largesse.’
In commenting on recent developments in the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum, art critic John McDonald says it is ‘increasingly important to speak out against the authoritarian tendencies at work in this state.’ … ‘The people of Parramatta are not even in the picture. They will get a second-hand science museum built on a floodplain when they may have expected a major arts venue. Meanwhile in Ultimo a site currently devoted to a public institution will be carved up and sold off to private developers, who will cram in as many apartments and retail outlets as possible. Public good is being brazenly traded for private profit.’ 3 May John McD

3 May, 2018
Berejiklian Government embarrassed by Major Error in Business Case Summary for Powerhouse Museum move
In a press release, Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for the Arts, exposes an error in the government’s Business Case Summary. ‘NSW Arts Minster Don Harwin, who has faced repeated questions without notice in the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council admitted today (May 3) after further questioning that the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) discount rate was 7 and not 6.88 as published on the weekend.’ … ‘In response, Mr Harwin said Infrastructure NSW had corrected the error this morning and it was a “typo”. Secord 3 May

28 April, 2018
Powerhouse Museum Alliance Press Release:
  ‘Premier announces “decisions” for museum at Parramatta and Ultimo’ See:  PMA press release 27 April 2018 

24 April, 2018
Garry Horvai: letter to Robert Borsak, chair of Upper House Inquiry
Horvai draws attention to a Daily Telegraph claim to have access to a secret report from 2014: ‘The article comprehensively trashes the museum with the declared aim of “Wresting a prized museum from the inner city elite for the battlers of Western Sydney…”’ See: GH to Borsak 24 April

6 April, 2018
Nicholas Pappas AM, former Trustee and President of the Powerhouse Museum, writes on behalf of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance to all Liberal and National MPs., saying ‘The Berejiklian government is making a dreadful mistake in dismantling the Powerhouse Museum. Good governments build on the museum legacy of previous generations, expanding museum opportunities for the whole community.’ See Letter to  all Liberal and National Mps:  NP-Letter to Libs and Nats MPs – 06-04-2018 (2) and to all Labor MPs: NP-Letter to Labor MPs – 06-04-2018

6 April, 2018
Grace Cochrane AM, writes to all NSW Members of Parliament, providing reasons for adding their voices to seeking a better decision: GC Letter to all MPs 6 April 18

2 April, 2018
Letter to Education Minister Rob Stokes from former curator
Follows up the Minister’s ‘challenge to the STEM orthodoxy’ in relation to the Powerhouse Museum, and ‘addresses the potential loss of the Powerhouse Museum, the ideal cultural institution to address in its exhibitions and programs and in its current location at Ultimo – themes relating to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.’ Letter to Stokes 2 April


3.0 Summary of news reports

For more detail see our News Chronology and related  Letters to the Editor.

23 May, 2018
‘Glad the Impaler’s demolition plans’
In Altmedia, Kylie Winkworth summarises the current situation where ‘ Premier Berejiklian is pushing ahead with the government’s world first museum demolition plan. … The government has spent three years and five months trying to justify Mike Baird’s captain’s pick to send the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.’  She identifies issues, evidence and other options, concluding ‘The community’s best hope to save the Powerhouse is to visit the museum, write to MPs and the premier, and think carefully about voting for the mob that’s promising museum demolition at the next election.’ Read more 

10 May, 2018
‘Government scraps plan to buy Powerhouse’s Parramatta neighbour’
Carolyn Cummins, with Linda Morris in The Sydney Morning Herald report that: ‘The NSW government has ceased talks to buy a Parramatta office tower as part of its controversial plans to move the Powerhouse Museum to western Sydney. … it is understood it does not need as much space at Parramatta. Read more  or SMH 10 May Parra tower

8 May, 2018
Granville MP Julia Finn slams Powerhouse Museum’s Parramatta move as ‘lame 70s throwback’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, cited Granville state Labor MP Julia Finn, who had berated the State Government’s decision to relocate a portion of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta and add a domed planetarium. Read more  and 8 May P Advertiser

7 May, 2018
Alex Greenwich: ‘Powerhouse Games’
In his regular newsletter, Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, said that in Parliament where ‘the government continued to praise its decision to ‘relocate’ the Powerhouse to Parramatta … I spoke of my concern at its attempt to pit western Sydney against the inner city and east … I am worried that the final decision is really an excuse to maximise private development on the existing Powerhouse site. My comments in Parliament are HERE. I’ve asked questions in Parliament to find out if any undertakings have been given to developers over the land, HERE.’

3 May, 2018
Berejiklian Government embarrassed by Major Error in Business Case Summary for Powerhouse Museum move
In a press release, Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for the Arts, exposes an error in the government’s Business Case Summary.  Secord 3 May

3 May, 2018
John McDonald: ‘… not an act of cultural justice, it’s a piece of cultural imbecility. It’s vandalism disguised as largesse.’
In commenting on recent developments in the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum, art critic John McDonald says it is ‘increasingly important to speak out against the authoritarian tendencies at work in this state.’ … ‘Public good is being brazenly traded for private profit.’ 3 May John McD

 2 May, 2018
Kylie Winkworth: ‘Museum demolition; these are two words that don’t belong together’…
Only in Sydney could the property of a major state museum be seen as a development opportunity.’ Read more  or for longer version: 1 May 2018 Winkworth – long

1 May, 2018
Judith White: ‘NSW Government defies Parliament: Powerhouse to be vandalised’ 
in her Culture Heist blog: Read more
Grant Goldman, in his Breakfast show on Radio 2SM, broadcast White’s summary: for audio and text Read more 

May, 2018
Save the Powerhouse Facebook: a continuing record
This Ultimo-based community group with a wide-reaching following continues to document events and opinions associated with the controversial decision to move the museum, and leave remnants only in Ultimo. Read more 

30 April, 2018
‘RACISM, elitism and vandalism — politicians come out swinging over the latest Powerhouse Museum development.’
Maryanne Taouk, in The Parramatta Advertiser: Read more: 30 April Parra Advertiser

29 April, 2018
‘Costs of moving Powerhouse to western Sydney to top $1 billion’
Linda Morris, in The Sun-Herald, discusses the decision to move the Powerhouse museum…Read more   or  Sun Herald 29 April 2018-1 , and Read more  or  Sun Herald 29 April 2018 -2

29 April, 2018
‘Moving Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum: apartments for old site’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian’; Read more: The Australian 29 April 2018

28 April, 2018
‘Full steam ahead, at $645 million’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald  Read more  or  SMH 28 April, 2018

28 April, 2018
‘Parramatta to get some star Power: Relocated museum rivals global icons’
Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph: Read more  oDaily T 28 April 2018

28 April, 2018
Premier’s announcement: ‘MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) Project update’
Craig Limkin advised: ‘Today the NSW Government announced that the Powerhouse Museum will completely relocate to stunning new premises in Parramatta… the NSW Government has confirmed it plans to retain cultural spaces at Ultimo… See: the  MAAS project website. Attached to the message are:
1) Media Release: Gladys Berejiklian, Don Harwin
Gladys Berejiklian and Don Harwin med rel – Western Sydney becomes cultural powerhouse_
2)  Fact sheet: See Powerhouse factsheet

27 April, 2018
The Premier’s announcement on Twitter causes comment
Dozens of correspondents from many locations responded, disagreeing with the rationale for the proposal, commenting on the motives behind the decision and the reality of access.   https://twitter.com/GladysB/status/990054598789365760

27 April, 2018
‘Interview with David Shoebridge’
On Breakfast radio, ABC702, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck follow up reports that expected documents about the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum were not made available to the Legislative Council as had been required. Read more ] Hear interview (from 1:00:54 to 1:09:23) at:  Read more 

 27 April, 2018
Museum to move despite ‘missing business case’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian: Read more:  The Australian 27 April 2018

27 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse Museum move despite missing business case’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, provides some contradictory opinions from Parramatta about the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. Read more  or see: Parra Advertiser 27 April 2018

 27 April, 2018
‘Contemptuous’ Powerhouse business case remains shrouded in secrecy
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris and Lisa Visentin report :  Read more 

27 April 2018
‘Parra has the power’: the Powerhouse Museum is on its way to Parramatta.
In The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell:’Daily Tele 27 April 2018
Editorial: ‘More power to the West’
With what has become an increasingly shaky rationale, the editorial in The Daily Telegraph: DailyT edit 27 April 2018

 26 April, 2018
Job advertised: Parramatta
 City Council: Project Manager – Cultural Infrastructure (TEMPORARY)
Before the Premier officially announced that the Powerhouse Museum would definitely move to Parramatta (See Media Release above, 28 April), the Parramatta City Council advertised this position. Read more 

 26 April, 2018
‘NSW government fails to produce Powerhouse Museum business case’
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, Read more 

 26 April, 2018
‘Western Sydney urges government to stand ground on Powerhouse Museum’ 
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarises reports of a current push from Western Sydney: Read more or see: SMH April 25 2018

 26 April, 2018
Elizabeth Fortescue, arts writer for The Daily Telegraph, says on her personal Facebook page: ‘…It could all be fixed so easily. I would leave the Powerhouse in its admirably central location. And I would give Western Sydney the facility it deserves…’  Read more (26 April)

 26 April, 2018
‘Cranking up power’ 
(on-line as ‘Sydney’s top business and education influencers get political over Powerhouse Museum move’)
Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph, advises that ‘A powerful group of ­Sydney’s biggest influencers in business and education has fired off a strongly worded letter to… Luke Foley …and… Premier Gladys Berejiklian: Read moreDaily T 26 April 2018-1  and from David Borger: Daily Tele 26 April-2

25 April, 2018
‘Great gallery divide’
In the Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell argues controversially that ‘Sydney’s great cultural divide has been laid bare by new data that reveals how the Powerhouse Museum is the centre of the inner city elite’. Read more: DailyT 25 April 2018

 25 April, 2018
‘Art Gallery’s Sydney Modern adds trees, open space and softens look to address critics’
Julie Power, in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarises issues raised in the 291 submissions… about the development of a new Sydney Modern wing at the Art Gallery of NSW, and … identifies similarities in the process of developing a business case with that of the Powerhouse Museum. Read more

18 April, 2018
Editorial: ‘Museum move makes sense’
and ‘Powerhouse Museum move: Labor’s backflip is a sellout to inner-city’s privileged interests’; Anna Caldwell, in The Daily TelegraphRead More18 April Daily T Anna C

18 April, 2018
‘Renovation nightmare ‘
(on line as: ‘Secret 2014 report warned NSW government the Powerhouse Museum needed a major overhaul’): Anna Caldwell, The Daily Telegraph18 April Daily T Anna C report
[The Powerhouse Museum Alliance advises that much of the cited information is inaccurate; that reduced administrative funding has affected all institutions; and that this would have been one of a number of reports leading to the then director’s proposal for development on-site and which was approved in 2014, and then overturned by Premier Baird.]

17 April, 2018
‘Museum move cost to be tabled’
Andrew Clennell reports in The Australian: ‘ …Next week, the full business case for the controversial move, put at various times as high as $1 billion, will be available to the NSW upper house after government MP Matthew Mason-Cox crossed the floor and voted for a “call for papers” to release the documents.’ Read more

16 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse stoush adds more fuel to cultural fire’
Andy Marks, in the Sydney Morning Herald:  Read more

 14 April, 2018
Editorial: ‘NSW government: good at big ideas, not the follow-through’
In its Editorial on 14 April, the Sydney Morning Herald considers a number of current development projects – including that of the Powerhouse Museum: Read more

14 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse: Labor still wants to keep museum near CBD’
In the Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell reports: ‘A 30,000-piece fashion and creative industries art collection will remain at Ultimo under the state government’s plans to shift the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.’ Read more14 April, Daily T Anna C

 13 April, 2018
Media Release from Luke Foley, Leader of Opposition: ‘Labor withdraws bipartisan support’
‘… Labor will propose a multi-purpose performance and cultural exhibition space at the Parramatta site – and increased funding for arts and cultural activity, ongoing programs and infrastructure across Western Sydney.’  Read more  and 180413 FOLEY powerhouse

13 April, 2018
‘Rogue MP angers Libs as Labor backflips’
Sydney Morning Herald, on-line as two stories by Alexandra Smith, with Lisa Visentin; see ‘Foley reveals Powerhouse policy as government is left red-faced’Read more  and ‘Rogue Liberal MP crosses the floor, forcing release of documents’ Read more 

 12 April, 2018
See also: Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily  Read more 

 12 April, 2018
‘Motion passed in NSW Legislative Council to release business papers for proposed Museum move’
Greens MP David Shoebridge successfully moved that documents be tabled.
See: Hansard April 12 2018

 13 April, 2018
Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta floodplain is ‘crazy’ and ‘risks loss of life’, flood expert warns
(ABC News with Michaela Boland and Alison Branley) Read more 

 12 April, 2018
Jill Wran ‘crushed’ by plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald reports: ‘The widow of the former NSW Premier Neville Wran has made a rare intervention in state politics to criticise plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to Parramatta.’ Read more 

 11 April, 2018
‘Perverse culture of secrecy’: Liberal MP slams Powerhouse decision
Alexandra Smith, (Sydney Morning Herald) announces: ‘Outspoken NSW Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox says the state government has developed a “perverse culture of secrecy” … the government has said it will withhold the business case for three months after the final decision is made’ Read more 

 11 April, 2018
Powerhouse plan needs a rethink
Matthew Mason-Cox, a Liberal member of the NSW Legislative Council, writes in an opinion piece the Sydney Morning Herald, that ‘Sadly, poor implementation is becoming the curse of the NSW government’.

11 April, 2018
‘Power play for Parramatta’
Addie Morton, in Altmedia, records that ‘Community outrage continues to grow … Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain [says] “This proposal was always a real estate deal rather than any type of cultural decision,” Read more 

10 April, 2018
Frantic battle under way to save the Powerhouse
(Linda Morris, Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Frenzied last-minute lobbying is under way to save the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo as the NSW cabinet is poised to ratify plans to build a dedicated science and innovation museum in Parramatta.: Read more