The Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta Debate, a news chronology: 2014 – now

For Inquiry into Museums and Galleries webpage: Read more
For the Inquiry Committee’s Final Report: Read more  and media release Read more
For informed research, analysis and opinions, see What the Experts Say: Read more
To read about Museum history and issues with a recent Heritage nomination, Read here.

For related letters to the editors of newspapers, see the PMA web site, ‘Letters to Editors’, here: Read more

1 June, 2020 – and beyond…
See  PMA’s Letters to the editor page, for examples of outrage and suggestions from people who recognise that the government and business leaders in Parramatta are only talking about economic development and construction, when they speak of increased employment opportunities in western Sydney resulting from moving the Powerhouse Museum. They have ignored the 6-year campaign for a more appropriate cultural facility in Parramatta, while retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. And there is clear evidence that the space in Parramatta is inappropriate for a state museum and appears more as an entertainment precinct. And – on 4 July, the government announced that the Powerhouse Museum would remain in Ultimo, with support for a facility in Parramatta!  For Letters page:  Read more

4 July, 2020
See PMA Facebook, below: The Powerhouse Museum Alliance celebrates!

Powerhouse Museum Alliance
After rallies in Ultimo on 18 June and 2 July, the announcement to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo was made on 4 July. Upper House Inquiry deputy chair David Shoebridge, and MP Jamie Parker, organised a hasty celebration on 4 July. For photos: see Powerhouse Museum Alliance Facebook page. Also on this site are posts from Parramatta groups who want to consider different options.

4 July: PMA Facebook

Read here: 
5 July at 15:45 ·
4th of July! Powerhouse version of Independence Day?
A group of very happy people came together to celebrate the just-announced decision to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. It was understood that much needs to be done to strongly re-establish it in Ultimo, and to make the best decisions for an appropriate cultural institution in Parramatta. But here, everyone – and the hundreds and hundreds of supporters who have been calling in from all over Australia – and the world – are all smiling!

4 July: PMA Facebook:
Read here:
5 July at 14:42
A rewarding celebration about the just-received news that the Powerhouse Museum would stay in Ultimo, and that Parramatta would have its own institution. Thank you, MPs David Shoebridge (who initiated the celebration) and Jamie Parker – and many supportive MPs – for your involvement in encouraging change.

30 June: PMA Facebook
Rally in Ultimo: ‘Media call for Powerhouse Museum’
Read here:   2 July at 10:05 ·
On 30 June, what was to be the last day for visiting the ‘heritage core’ of the Powerhouse Museum (now extended to late 2020) the Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a meeting with news media on the museum’s forecourt. A strong crowd of supporters, most with a long association with the museum, heard speakers Jennifer Sanders (former deputy director), Professor David Miller (an engineering specialist), Clive Lucas (restoration architect) and Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain. (See attached photos)
For all speeches at this rally site, as well as the Green Bans heritage rally in Parramatta, watch Channel 7 here:  Read more

18 June: PMA Facebook
‘Powerhouse Museum Alliance media call’
Read here:   18 June at 16:45 ·
The Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a media call on the forecourt of the Museum at 11am on Thursday 18 June. Many people wanted to attend but numbers had to be kept below 20 because of COVID-19 safety regulations. Speakers were Jennifer Sanders (PMAlliance), Suzette Meade (North Parramatta Residents Action Group) and Jamie Parker (Greens MP, Balmain) while others were available for interviewing. They discussed points that have been agreed over some years: leave the museum in Ultimo in its longstanding role in a cultural and educational precinct; provision of a site in Parramatta more appropriate for its own audiences; concerns for heritage buildings in both locations; concerns for the safety and management of the collection; apprehension about the inadequacy of the design plans for the ‘iconic’ new museum for collection-based exhibitions; observations that the program proposals for Parramatta are to do with entertainment and that it will not be a ‘museum’ as we know it; concerns about the exorbitant cost of relocation, especially at this time when so many communities need support. We look forward to responses from government!

7 July, 2020
‘Saving Powerhouse is welcome but big questions remain’
The Editorial Opinion in the Sydney Morning Herald summarises some of the continuing questions about the government’s welcome announcement, saying: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian deserves credit for keeping open the Ultimo branch of the Powerhouse, but now that the decision has been made, many questions about the future of the city’s museums remain. Instead of closing the museum and transferring it to a new facility in Parramatta, Ms Berejiklian, her Treasurer Dom Perrottet and newly returned Arts Minister Don Harwin announced on Saturday the Ultimo site would remain open and share its extensive collection between both sites. It certainly took guts for Ms Berejiklian to shelve the plan on which her government has already spent five years and $46 million in consultants’ fees. Some say the decline in the property market in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was the main reason for the change of heart because it would have been harder to sell the Ultimo site to developers to pay for the new building.
But it’s more likely that Ms Berejiklian has yielded to mounting popular opinion across the political spectrum against closing the much-loved complex, which includes the city’s former powerhouse and tram sheds and was converted to a museum as a Bicentennial project in 1988. That campaign picked up steam in recent weeks as the closure date loomed and problems inherent in the project became more obvious.
As a result of a call for papers by the ALP and the crossbenchers in the upper house of NSW Parliament, the public has learnt how much damage closing the Powerhouse would have caused to Sydney’s cultural landscape. The plan contemplated dispersing the unique science and technology collection – including steam trains, vintage race cars, planes and trams – to various specialist regional museums. It emerged that the new Parramatta site might not be able to accommodate about 15 of the largest and best exhibits. Since the new museum will take at least four years to build, Sydney would have been left without a science museum until 2024.
Last week, building unions placed a green ban on the Parramatta site because the design involves demolishing the heritage-listed Willow Grove and a row of houses at St Georges Terrace. The noise around the project was a continuing distraction for the government. Yet while the Herald fully supports the decision to change course, it is clear the Berejiklian government still has work to do to explain where it is heading. Read more  or: SMH Editorial 7 July

7 July, 2020
‘In Sydney’s west we know all about getting a good haircut, and the Powerhouse backflip fits the bill’
Andy Marks, Assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University, writes critically in the Sydney Morning Herald about the decision not to move the Powerhouse Museum: ‘We’re used to a good haircut in western Sydney. But the one our friends to the east just gave us is an absolute beauty. At the very moment the world is re-thinking its “ownership” of culture, history and artifice, inner Sydney deemed that western Sydney – the country’s fastest-growing and most culturally diverse region – could not be trusted as primary custodians of a bold new Powerhouse.’ [He appears not to acknowledge local opinions about alternatives that might focus on Parramatta!}
Read more  or: Andy Marks SMH 7 July

5 July, 2020
‘Powerhouse Ultimo wing tipped for fashion, design precinct’
Linda Morris and Caitlin Fitzsimmons report in The Sun-Herald  that: ‘The Berejiklian government has been looking to split the Powerhouse collection and its disciplines between Ultimo and Parramatta as part of a business case for a creative precinct at the museum’s inner-city location… A briefing document obtained by The Sun-Herald shows planning under way for the Powerhouse Fashion and Design Museum within a fashion and design precinct. Returned to their original industrial aesthetic, the renovated heritage halls of the Boiler House, Turbine Hall and Engine House would be used for ticketed and free contemporary exhibitions and public events. Next door, the Harwood Building was to be used as Fashion and Design Creative Industries Hub with offices, studios, workshops, fashion and design markets.’
However, ‘The document predates the government announcement to keep the Powerhouse Museum open at Ultimo. Its idea to isolate the museums into centres of excellence cuts across the idea of a multi-disciplinary collection. It is understood that the document could be the blueprint for a revamped Powerhouse at Ultimo.’
‘An upper house inquiry into the disputed project would not be abandoned despite the welcome announcement, Greens MP David Shoebridge said. “It’s a clear victory for the Powerhouse but there are many unanswered questions,” he said. “This is why the ongoing upper house inquiry continued to be essential.” … Museum consultant and opponent of the relocation Kylie Winkworth welcomed the change of heart but said the energies of campaigners to save the Powerhouse at Ultimo would be redirected if the museum’s very large objects were moved and proper funding was not given for the museum’s renewal. It’s not known if the emblematic objects of the steam age, including Locomotive No.1 will be kept at Powerhouse Ultimo.’
Read more  or: Linda M -Caitlin F – SMH5 July

5 July, 2020
‘Berejiklian’s Powerhouse backflip a crowd-pleaser for east and west’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian government’s stunning change of heart to keep the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is a crowd-pleaser. The museum at Ultimo lives another day to re-emerge as a centre for fashion and design, and so do its curators and conservators. Western Sydney gets its cultural trophy as the museum’s new headquarters and the museum’s chief executive Lisa Havilah is free to put her own signature on a modern museum a plus multi arts and culture venue.’  She adds: ‘Crucially, the decision potentially buys the government easier relations with the upper house crossbench. The Christian Democrats supported the relocation but the Greens, One Nation’s Mark Latham and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party were opposed. None more so than the Shooters’  Robert Borsak who stalked the case for relocation with all the patience and cunning of a big game hunter. It was the upper house, led by Borsak and Greens MP David Shoebridge and backed by Labor, that ordered the release of sensitive documents revealing plans to disperse the collection, and the blow-out in the construction timetable for the Parramatta Powerhouse.’
As well, ‘There are still worries about the flood design of the Parramatta Powerhouse and the fate of the two heritage buildings earmarked for demolition on the Parramatta riverside…A green ban could potentially drive up the cost of the museum if major construction companies decline to tender to sidestep a row with union workers.’ Read more  or: Linda M SMH 5 July

5 July, 2020
‘For once, the right decision has been made for the future of our wonderful city’
Former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, Leo Schofield, writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Make no mistake, the retention of the Powerhouse in Ultimo is a landmark moment in the cultural history of New South Wales. It is an occasion not for triumphalism but for quiet celebration that sanity and vision have won out over political opportunism. Equally welcome is the parallel decision to give the good people of western Sydney a cultural institution of their very own, one that reflects their remarkable history, their interests and their ambitions. For those of us who opposed the so-called “move” or “relocation”, it was never a question of either one of the other. Museums are about collections, and in the Powerhouse’s astonishing, eclectic holdings there are enough objects to fill two major museums and, in the future, half a dozen specialist satellite institutions.’
He recalls the work behind the project of developing the Powerhouse site in Ultimo: ‘Excitement about the project was universal. When the main museum officially opened in 1988, there followed a rush of donations, funded acquisitions and a tsunami of awestruck visitors… Now is the time for all of us to ensure this beloved 140-year-old institution, with its ineradicable memories, will make a magnificent comeback.’ Read more  or: Leo SMH 4 July

4-5 July, 2020
‘U-turn on Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum a win for common sense’
Henry Ergas, in the Weekend Australian, says: ‘The decision not to shut Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is a victory for common sense and for the preservation of Australia’s history. And although no promises have been made, so too is the state government’s announcement that it will examine if the funds that were to be spent on relocating the museum’s priceless artefacts can be used to renovate the Powerhouse’s current premises in Ultimo. An important feature of Sydney’s landscape since 1893, the museum houses one of the world’s finest collections of materials relevant to the applied arts and sciences in an outstanding building that was designed to meet the collection’s exacting needs… The decision to move that collection to Parramatta in Sydney’s west was never based on proper analysis…At no point was the goal being pursued coherently set out; the cost-benefit analysis was riddled with errors; and the successive plans were entirely inconsistent with the promises being made. The only certainties were that costs were consistently underestimated and likely patronage overstated. Far from preserving the collection’s integrity, the transfer would have compromised it, perhaps fatally…
All those who care about Australia’s cultural heritage can therefore breathe a sigh of relief… But more needs to be done. If the Powerhouse is to fulfil its potential, it must have substantially better governance than it has had in recent years. And the museum desperately needs funding to renew the display spaces and to strengthen its education and outreach capabilities.’
Read more  or: H Ergas -Aust 4-5 July

4 July, 2020
‘Premier to power up two museums’

on-line as: ‘Premier backflips over Powerhouse  move ‘
Anna Caldwell writes in the Daily Telegraph:  ‘Gladys Berejiklian has backflipped on an election promise to move the Powerhouse Museum from the CBD to Western Sydney, instead bowing to inner city pressure to fund two museums.’ Caldwell discusses issues of costing , audience access, employment and heritage. Read more  or: Anna C DT 4 July

4 July, 2020
‘Gladys Berejiklian’s monumental backflip on Powerhouse Museum’
Yoni Bashan writes in The Australian, writes: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has dumped plans to move Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to the city’s western suburbs, in a billion-dollar backflip on a key election promise as she scrambles to quell a backbench revolt following Don Harwin’s resurrection as arts minister. Despite years of defending the project as worthy of public spending, Ms Berejiklian will announce on Saturday that the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences will remain at its current site in inner-city Ultimo while a new “state of the art” facility will be planned for western Sydney.’ Bashan adds: ‘Senior members of Ms Berejiklian’s cabinet have been strident in their criticism. They have branded the project as wasteful and argued the funding would be better spent on infrastructure projects in regions that have suffered from drought and bushfires… The construction union joined the chorus of voices against the project this week, saying it would order contractors not to destroy the historic premises.’
‘The building’s design — it was to be raised on a “hyper-platform”, with a latticework design — has not escaped opprobrium either. It has been ridiculed and was described by the state opposition as a “monstrosity on stilts”. Local interest groups in the Parramatta area have also protested against the fact that its construction would have led to the demolition of two heritage-listed properties, Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.
The move was quickly interpreted by Coalition MPs as a significant capitulation to the NSW Labor opposition and crossbench parties, both of which have consistently attacked the $1.6bn relocation as a waste of money since it was mooted by the Baird government in 2014.’
Read more  or: Yoni B Aust 4 July

4 July, 2020
‘Powerhouse backflip as Ultimo site saved by Berejiklian government’

Alexandra Smith writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo has been thrown an extraordinary 11th-hour lifeline and will not close but instead operate across two sites, including one in western Sydney. Five years after the move was first announced by her predecessor, Gladys Berejiklian’s government will abandon plans to sell the Ultimo property and will now use the Parramatta site as a second Powerhouse location…But the government will now explore if some of the funds earmarked for relocation costs can be used on renovating the Ultimo site.
Documents released to NSW upper house showed negotiations have been under way since last year to find temporary homes for some of the museum’s very large objects as Sydney awaits the opening of the new Parramatta site…The government’s $1.17 billion plan to demolish two heritage buildings for the Parramatta museum also hit a setback, with unions threatening to block demolition work that damages the buildings. The Parramatta environment impact statement supported the demolition of the 19th-century Italianate villa Willow Grove, formerly a maternity hospital, and a row of terraces known as St George’s Terrace. But the building and construction union, CFMEU NSW, said green bans meant no work could be done to destroy the sites.’ Read more  or: 4 July A Smith SMH

4 July, 2020
‘Powerhouse museum: NSW Premier dumps plans to close Ultimo site’

The Guardian newspaper reports: ‘The New South Wales government has made a U-turn on its decision to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse museum, more than five years after the announcement was made… A joint statement from the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the state’s treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, on Saturday described the new Powerhouse at Parramatta as the “jewel-in-the-crown” for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. The existing museum at Ultimo would complement the new Parramatta centre, Perrottet said… The Parramatta lord mayor, Bob Dwyer, said he was pleased the government confirmed it was “still committed to delivering a world-class museum in Parramatta. The decision to retain the Powerhouse museum at Ultimo should not compromise the investment we were promised for an iconic cultural institution in western Sydney,” Dwyer said. Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the debate should have “never been about Sydney versus Parramatta”. “The passionate community campaign to save the Powerhouse speaks volumes to its special significance to Sydneysiders,” Greenwich said.’  Read more  or:  Guardian 4 July

4 July, 2020
Media release: ‘More Powerhouse for the people – NSW Government to retain Ultimo museum’
In a surprise decision late on July 4th, the NSW government has announced that the Powerhouse Museum will stay in Ultimo! A great result after nearly six years of campaigning on the part of many, many people and organisations. But it is still not clear what will happen in Parramatta.
A media release from NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, says: ‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo will continue to welcome visitors to its world renowned exhibits, with the NSW Government today announcing it will remain open and operate alongside the new state-of-the-art facility planned for Western Sydney…the decision would ensure Sydney had two world-class facilities and would provide a significant boost for the arts, tourism and employment sectors. “Sydney is a global city of more than five million people and this will allow us to provide an outstanding visitor experience in the areas of technology, science, engineering and design at two major locations,” Ms Berejiklian said.’ Read more  or:  Govt media release 4 July

3 July, 2020
‘Parramatta Powerhouse Museum: Council discusses EIS’
Joanne Vella reports in the Parramatta Advertiser that on 2 July: ‘A divided Parramatta Council chamber debated whether to have “one last showdown’’ with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian about saving heritage buildings to make way for the Powerhouse Museum while others believed it should “stop poking the bear’’ and welcome the “cultural icon’’. The council met on Thursday night to discuss its submission to the Environmental Impact Statement for the controversial Powerhouse project, which would see it relocate from Ultimo to the flood-prone banks of the Parramatta River.
The council has reaffirmed its support of the museum while retaining the heritage-listed Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace at Phillip St. A motion to delay the submission to the State Government until the council could hold a meeting with Premier Gladys Berejiklian was lost on Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer’s casting vote during an emotion-charged meeting.
“Let’s have one last showdown with the premier to explain why these buildings are so important not just for Parramatta, not just the city, but Australia,’’ Labor councillor Donna Davis said. “It’s one last chance.’’ She reminded her peers they had twice unanimously voted to retain Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace at previous meetings. But Liberal councillor Bill Tyrrell said the project, which is expected to create 3000 jobs, should proceed regardless of saving the historical gems.’… Labor’s Patricia Prociv  ‘slammed the Environmental Impact Statement for failing to address “one iota’’ of Parramatta’s history “and what it means to the people of western Sydney’’. “To get this building we’re going to lose our heritage and income from a parking station (the Riverbank carpark). We are losing more than we are getting. You cannot always put value on heritage.” Read more  or:  J Vella Parra Adv 3 July

3 July, 2020
‘Council warns of Parramatta Powerhouse safety risk’
in print as  ‘Council eyes redesign due to flood risk’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, on a meeting held by the City of Parramatta Council, following the continuing controversy about the suitability of the proposed design for the ‘new Powerhouse in Parramatta’, and their draft submission to the Environment Impact Statement for the museum. ‘City of Parramatta Council is proposing major design changes to the new Parramatta Powerhouse, warning of a safety risk to people gathered around the museum and on the riverfront during flash floods. Council officers also canvassed a name change for the museum, questioning its appropriateness given the institution will no longer occupy “a redundant power station in Ultimo” … Last night, Parramatta Council backed construction of the new Parramatta Powerhouse in a knife-edged vote last night that divided its elected councillors.
Lord mayor Bob Dwyer used his casting vote to defeat calls for council to urgently meet with the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to convince her to save two heritage buildings slated for demolition. Across the chamber, councillors agreed that the Italianate villa and former maternity hospital St George’s Terrace deserved protection. But a majority argued the city could ill afford to turn down the government’s $1.17 billion arts and culture investment at a time of economic decline and in the face of funding disparity in western Sydney… While the design had many positive elements, the council wanted the government to collaborate with it more closely. Heritage was not a “fundamental element of the design”, it said.
The EIS prepared for Infrastructure NSW has recommended the Parramatta Powerhouse proceed despite the loss of two heritage buildings, as the benefits of the culturally significant institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the community’s sense of place. A spokesperson for Infrastructure NSW said it would consider and respond to all submissions received during the public exhibition period’. Read more   or: Linda Morris 3 July

1 July, 2020
‘Parramatta eatery earmarked to make way for new Powerhouse’
Following the announcement on 30 June about the Green Ban on Parramatta heritage buildings slated to be demolished for the ‘New Powerhouse’, Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘One of western Sydney’s most famous restaurants has been earmarked for potential acquisition, joining two heritage buildings also slated to make way for the new Parramatta Powerhouse.’ ‘The owners of the El-Phoenician restaurant, which is at the heart of Parramatta’s Eat Street, have been advised their business is in line to be compulsorily acquired… The fine-dining Lebanese restaurant, an institution on Church Street for 20 years, would make way for a pedestrian laneway to the new Parramatta Powerhouse.
Ratepayers would be liable for costs of the pedestrian access, with the matter likely to be raised at an extraordinary meeting of Parramatta City Council on Thursday night… Parramatta City Council Labor councillor Donna Davis raised questions about the pedestrian bridge and adequacy of evacuation exits with the Powerhouse’s chief executive officer Lisa Havilah last month. The new museum will be built on a flood-prone site and Church Street is an important exit point in the event of an emergency. “The initial response I received was that consideration was being given to a walkway access along the neighbouring Meriton site,” Cr Davis said. “A week later when I made further inquiries to officers, I was advised that one of the options could be the El-Phoenician as it links directly from the Powerhouse to Church St.” ‘
Read more   or: Linda Morris SMH 2 July

1 July, 2020
‘Slap in the face’: Daughter of legendary aviator warns against Powerhouse move
Tim Barlass writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘The daughter of the famous aviator who made an epic flight from Sydney to Chile in a Catalina aircraft hanging in the Powerhouse Museum fears it will be irreparably damaged by the institution’s relocation. Gai Taylor, whose pilot father P. G. Taylor died in 1966, said the Catalina, part of Australia’s aviation history, should be protected. “I think it shows an incredible lack of appreciation, understanding and love of our aviation history,” she said…” The Herald revealed on Monday that many of the very large objects – including Locomotive No.1, race cars and trams – could be dispersed to temporary homes in regional museums when the Powerhouse is relocated to a riverside location in Parramatta. There are increasing concerns about the ability of the new museum to accommodate and protect exhibits… In 1961 Taylor presented the Catalina to the museum and in 1985 it was restored and hoisted 10 metres above the floor of the Boiler Hall to form a breathtaking centrepiece.’… ‘Dick Smith, whose round the world helicopter is in the Powerhouse, said he questioned the thinking behind the relocation. “The whole thing is a bit mysterious to me,” he said… Ian Debenham, former curator of transport at the Powerhouse, who oversaw the installation of the Catalina, said the relocation was “basically killing off the Powerhouse”. “The huge objects are just going to be a very costly logistics exercise in getting everything in and they won’t have any context when they are in there,” he said, and elaborated further on the potential risks.
Barlass also noted that: ‘About 100 people gathered outside the museum in Ultimo on Tuesday to protest against its demolition and relocation. The museum’s former deputy director Jennifer Sanders told the crowd the government needed to realise the Powerhouse belonged to the people of NSW. “We love this museum and it will not be moved. Bring it on.” University of NSW science historian Professor David Miller told the gathering the relocation “defies common sense”. “What is suggested to be done here is just ludicrous,” he said.’ Read more  or: Tim B SMH 1 July

1 July, 2020
‘Bodies in front of machinery’: Parramatta Powerhouse hit by boycott
(in print as) ‘Powerhouse move hit by union boycott’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The Berejiklian government’s $1.17 billion plan to demolish two heritage buildings to make way for the new Parramatta Powerhouse has received a setback with the building and construction union, CFMEU NSW, adding its support to the public campaign to save the properties. The union of Jack Mundey, the crusading leader credited with saving The Rocks from redevelopment during the 1970s, says it will block any demolition work that damages the two historic buildings. But the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, through a spokesperson said: “Powerhouse Parramatta project will proceed. One-third of NSW’s population is in western Sydney and they deserve to have an iconic cultural institution.”
…The Parramatta Powerhouse’s Environment Impact Statement, now in the final week of public consultation, supported the demolition of the 19th-century Italianate villa Willow Grove, formerly a maternity hospital, and a row of terraces known as St George’s Terrace.The EIS found that in the Parramatta CBD, Willow Grove is “one of its kind” while St George’s Terrace is the only remaining example of a terrace row in its architectural style and their loss would have a significant impact on the community’s connection with heritage. But the report prepared for Infrastructure NSW recommended the Parramatta Powerhouse proceed as the public benefits of western Sydney’s first major, world-class cultural institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the local community’s sense of place. The union’s secretary Darren Greenfield said the green bans meant no work could be done to destroy the sites. The North Parramatta Residents Action Group said the CFMEU’s green ban on Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace was a “tremendous win”.
“Parramatta deserves a genuine museum and continued cultural funding from the State Government – but it does not need to be at the expense of more of Australia’s heritage being destroyed,” spokeswoman Suzette Meade said.’ And ‘Graham Quint, the National Trust’s director of conservation, said Parramatta should have its own distinctive museum that was not founded on the loss of one of its beloved historic buildings and one of Sydney’s cherished museums.’ Read more   or: Linda Morris 1 July

1 July, 2020
‘Power up for a fight: Museum hit with green ban’
Joanne Vella writes in the Daily Telegraph: ‘A stoush over knocking down two of Parramatta’s heritage buildings to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum has escalated with the construction union placing a “green ban” on their demolition as activists threated to “put their bodies in front of machinery”. Read more

30 June, 2020
‘Sydney residents, union, vow to save heritage buildings from being bulldozed for Powerhouse Museum’
Michelle Brown writes for the ABC: ‘The construction union has weighed in to the campaign to save two heritage buildings slated for demolition to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta…. Darren Greenfield, Secretary of the CFMEU’s Construction Branch, has called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to save the properties… Suzette Meade from the North Parramatta Resident’s Action Group said people would stand firm with the union. “The Premier should be under no illusion that if a finger is laid on any of these buildings, the community of Parramatta and heritage lovers from all over New South Wales, will put themselves in front of machinery to save them.Read more  or: ABC 30 June

30 June, 2020
Rally in Ultimo: ‘Media call for Powerhouse Museum’
On what was to be the last day for visiting the ‘heritage core’ of the Powerhouse Museum (now extended to late 2020) the Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a meeting with news media on the museum’s forecourt.
A strong crowd of supporters, most with a long association with the museum, heard speakers Jennifer Sanders (former deputy director), Professor David Miller (an engineering specialist), Clive Lucas (restoration architect) and Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain.
For all speeches at both rally sites, watch Channel 7 here: Read more
Both rallies were recorded for TV news later in the day by: Channel 10 at 5pm; Channel 7 at 6pm; ABC 2 at 7pm.

30 June, 2020
Rally in Parramatta: ‘Parramatta heritage: Green Bans on demolition of heritage buildings’
At a rally in Parramatta with the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG), the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union) NSW , placed a Green Ban on the demolition of the Willow Grove and St Georges Terraces buildings, ‘earmarked for destruction by the NSW Government as part of their plans for the new Powerhouse Parramatta.’
“These Green Bans mean no work can be done to destroy these historically significant sites,” said Darren Greenfield, CFMEU NSW Secretary. “If the Berejiklian government wants work on the museum to proceed they need to sit down with the local community, listen to what they say and come up with a plan that preserves these buildings…The local community, through the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, has campaigned for years to save these two heritage buildings and they are supported by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and the Historic Houses Association. The CFMEU is proud to stand with the community in support of this important campaign. This is the first Green Ban the CFMEU has put in place since the recent passing of Jack Mundey who inspired a generation of unionists and community activists to fight for our shared built, cultural, and environmental heritage.”
CFMEU media release: CFMEU media
In the NPRAG media release, Suzette Meade, spokesperson for North Parramatta Residents Action Group, said:  “For four years the community has tried to reason with Premier Berejiklian…Over this time we’ve offered solutions but they have been ignored.  We will not stand by and watch as more local heritage is destroyed.”
NPRAG media release: NPRAG Media Release – Green Ban Willow Grove
For all speeches at both rally sites, watch Channel 7 here: Read more
Both rallies were recorded for TV news later in the day by: Channel 10 at 5pm; Channel 7 at 6pm; ABC 2 at 7pm.

29 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta makes economic sense’
in print as ‘Sydney’s shifted west, the Powerhouse should too’
In what is a controversial argument to most of those involved in the debate about the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, Andy Marks, assistant to Chair of Powerhouse Trustees and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Western Sydney, Barney Glover, writes in the Daily Telegraph about how ‘In 1951, the Catalina flew 13,600km from Sydney to Chile in an historic flight. Now, activists are stopping it moving 20km down the road from Ultimo to Parramatta.’… ‘With a nearly 32 metre wingspan, the Catalina is among the Powerhouse Museum’s most imposing exhibits. Aviator PG Taylor chose it for his pioneering 1951 flight from Sydney to Valparaiso, Chile… The Catalina’s next journey will be just 20 kilometres, from Ultimo to Parramatta. But it may as well be to the moon the way some critics have described the museum’s relocation: a “disaster”, “cultural vandalism”, “shameful”. He argues for the relocation of the museum as: ’At Parramatta, it will be an accessible collection for all to share; a collection that reflects greater Sydney’s shifting population,’ while ignoring many issues including responsibilities for a state institution, and the safety of collection items such as the Catalina. Read more  or: Andy Marks 30 June

30 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Parramatta will be bigger and better than before’
Professor Barney Glover provides an argument for the move of the Powerhouse Museum that defies the findings of over five years of well-researched facts, figures and questions about the rationale for the move, when Parramatta people wanted something else that reflected their own interests and histories, and everyone wants the Powerhouse itself to stay where it is. He appears ignorant of the fact that it should remain accessible as a state museum; the inappropriate spaces of the proposed new museum and the inadequate and non-transparent business cases and cost blowouts; and ignores the heritage issues in both locations. As the president of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (which has no museum experts on it), and as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, his Opinion piece appears to reflect his conflicts of interest and responsibility. Read more or: Barney Glover, SMH 30 June

29 June, 2020
‘Temporary reprieve’ for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum

Alec Smart writes in City Hub, that: ‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, which faces demolition and most of its exhibits put into storage for up to five years while NSW Govt build a smaller, milk-crate-shaped alternative in Parramatta, has been granted a temporary reprieve.
Due to close on 30 June, the demand for last-minute tickets has been so high that the two primary exhibition halls in the heritage core – Transport and Steam Revolution – remain open until the end of the year.’ … ‘A Save The Powerhouse spokesperson said, “It is certainly not a victory, but it’s encouraging, and buys valuable time – to allow even more people to put even more pressure on the ‘move’ advocates in Cabinet; to allow further vigorous debate in Parliament; to enable the pending second Parliamentary Inquiry to do its work; and hopefully, to finally uncover the murky, even corrupt dealings that many suspect underpin the ‘move’ folly.” The ‘second Parliamentary Inquiry’ refers to the cross-party Select Committee currently investigating the management of Powerhouse Museum, the financial reasons for its demolition and relocation of its artefacts, and disparities in NSW Govt funding for city and regional galleries and museums.’ Amongst other issues  he notes: ‘The newly released documents reveal that a feasibility study commissioned in March 2020 found at least 15 of the Powerhouse Museum’s largest objects were incapable of fitting in the new (as yet unbuilt) building’s goods lift for transportation up to their respective display spaces.’ Read more  or:  City Hub 29 June
Meanwhile, he cites a  Save The Powerhouse advocate saying: “Remember that the Government does NOT have approved Development Applications to permit demolishing heritage buildings at either Ultimo or at Parramatta, so it is important that we send as many submissions as possible objecting to the current Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the detested Parramatta project. “The closing date is 7 July [later extended to 21 July]. You are advised to start your submission with “I object to the Parramatta project…” so that it cannot be considered as just a ‘comment’.” The address for lodging a submission is:

29 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse collection to be ‘scattered’ across NSW, plans reveal’

Linda Morris and Carrie Fellner write in the Sydney Morning Herald, that  ‘Management of the Powerhouse Museum is proposing to lend steam trains, vintage race cars, planes and trams to regional museums across the state when its Ultimo site closes. Documents released by order of the NSW upper house show negotiations have been underway since last year to find temporary homes for some of the museum’s very large objects as Sydney awaits the opening of the new Parramatta Powerhouse.’
‘Locomotive No.1 could be moved to the NSW Rail Museum, in Thirlmere, from July 2021, according to an email sent last September by Julie Banks, the museum’s director of Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions. The Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus could take Sydney’s only known surviving horse-drawn trams and a Toastrack O-class tram, the most famous of all Sydney’s electric trams.’
‘[CEO] Ms Havilah said the Powerhouse regional program was about giving communities access to its incredible collection during what was an exciting phase for the institution. A final plan is expected to be announced by the end of the year.’
‘But the dispersal of the collection has prompted concern around standards for storage, display and management of these objects in regional museums and the risk of damage in transit. Among the critics of the new Powerhouse was former NSW Premier Bob Carr … “I can’t believe that there would be any other city in the world where a government would be dissolving a major museum collection built up and nurtured by its people over generations, to scatter and disperse its contents for all time,” he said. The museum’s former deputy director of collections, Jennifer Sanders, said the museum’s artefacts spoke of global industrial heritage. “These stories will be ripped apart by dispersing the museum’s Very Large Objects, imposing artefacts of our industrial heritage which embody people’s inventiveness, innovation, and creativity,” she said.
Ms Havilah said: “I can’t understand how anybody would criticise sharing our collection with our regional museums and galleries. The safety of the objects is always our top priority and any suggestion the program would disrupt the collection is an insult to the professionalism of our amazing staff….” Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in her capacity as NSW Arts Minister, and Ms Havilah did not respond to questions about the adequacy of the Parramatta facility on Sunday. They declined to address suggestions the plans appear to cater to entertainment, cafes and events over exhibitions.’ Read more or: SMH 29 June

28 June, 2020
‘Our history will be put in a storeroom’
Recording in the Daily Telegraph that ‘critics claim new Powerhouse can’t fit iconic exhibits,’ Elizabeth Fortescue identifies some of those important items, and asks where and how they can be shown safely, if at all, in the new building in Parramatta. The 1944 Catalina Flying Boat, a horse-drawn taxi-cab, and Steam Locomotive no1 are among many of concern. She sites chair of NSW Upper House inquiries, Robert Borsak, as saying: ‘…the Powerhouse at Parramatta will open with no permanent collection on display, and no on-site permanent storage. Powerhouse Parramatta will be a “fun palace” with a “strong tinge of commerciality”.’ And former deputy director of the Powerhouse, Jennifer Sanders says: ‘large exhibits that won’t fit in the Powerhouse Parramatta will be “farmed off”.’ Fortescue concludes: ‘Like many, Mr Borsak believes the move is “all about a grab for inner-city real estate” cash by the government”.’
Read More: Daily T Fortescue 28 June
Fortescue also announces, that according to Powerhouse CEO Lisa Havilah, instead of closing this coming Tuesday (June 30), as originally announced, the Museum’s Steam Revolution and Transport Halls will remain open until the end of this year: To book tickets: Read more

26-28 June, 2020
‘The Murder of the Powerhouse Museum’  (blog 26/6)
‘Silence won’t save the Powerhouse; speak up now’ (SMH 27-28/6)
Art critic John McDonald writes informatively and critically in the Sydney Morning Herald, and in a longer version in his personal blog, about the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. He writes:
‘It’s not a museum. This is not a matter of opinion, it’s not a slander being spread by critics of the project. The proposed building in Parramatta the NSW government would like us to see as the home of a ‘relocated’ Powerhouse Museum will be nothing more than an entertainment venue stuffed with cafes and reception areas. The simplest on-line definition of a museum is: “a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.” There is no storage facility in the plans for the new building, and no thought given to a permanent collection which is the very heart of the institution.’ Despite well-researched reasons for not moving the museum ‘None of this has struck a chord with Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who has declared the “move” of the Powerhouse Museum “non-negotiable”.’ He records how: ‘The entire project has been veiled in a cloak of secrecy. Volumes of expert reports have been ignored. The findings of comprehensive inquiries have been treated with disdain,’ and ‘The reasoning behind the projected “2 million” attendance is confirmation that the new Powerhouse is not intended to be a museum…The museum component has been reduced to a bare minimum, with savings made at the expense of facilities such as climate control which will severely limit loans and display options.’
McDonald then discusses some key objects and collections that may never be safely displayed again, if at all. Meanwhile: ‘Parramatta wanted an arts complex but the government, until recently, was committed to giving them a science museum. Now even that idea has been watered down into something closer to a recreation centre. The price Parramatta will pay for an unwanted, overgrown double milk crate, will be the destruction of the Victorian heritage buildings of Willow Grove and St. George’s Terrace. Instead of a building that enriches the cultural life of the city, residents will see the last remaining fragments of local heritage trashed – completing the task so spectacularly begun by the concrete behemoth of Westfield Shopping Centre.’ SMH report: Read more  or:  John McD 27-28 June ; for McDonald’s blog: Read more

26 June, 2020
‘’The proposed relocation … has become like a rotting carcass around the Coalition’s neck.’

(unpublished, so far…)
Robert Borsak, Chair of the Select Committee on the Government’s management of museums  in New South Wales, writes of his long experience in arguing in Parliament against the move of the Powerhouse Museum, his rationale for better spending of the money, and his hope for ‘a compact with NSW to reprioritise infrastructure investment to drive economic recovery across the whole state’. He says:
‘The proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has become like a rotting carcass around the Coalition’s neck.  A thought bubble for Western Sydney championed by former Arts Minister Don Harwin of Pearl Beach fame and now further decomposing in the hands of the new Arts Minister, the Premier. It has become emblematic of how this government does business – fake consultation backed by a dodgy business case that lines the pockets of their developer mates.  It simply doesn’t stack up, particularly in this dire economic climate…’
‘When I travel around NSW, I see communities struggling in the face of years of drought, the recent devastating bushfires and finally COVID 19… That’s why the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party met with the Government last month to propose a new way – a compact with NSW to reprioritise infrastructure investment to drive economic recovery across the whole state, not just Sydney.
The first step was to cancel wasteful projects like the Powerhouse Museum relocation and ANZ stadium upgrade and postpone the $15 billion Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link in favour of fast tracking regional infrastructure projects…’
‘Our compact and the dreams of many in regional NSW were flatly rejected in a frankly disappointing 15 minute audience.  The Premier and Deputy Premier refused point blank to budge – preferring the extravagant largesse of the Powerhouse to the real economic future of regional NSW…Our door remains open if the Government wants to work with us.  It’s time regional NSW received its fair share backed by a vision and long term commitment to drive growth and prosperity into the future.’  Read more: Robert Borsak 26 June  (see also: radio interview below)

21-25 June, 2020
Radio interviews: Radio 2GB

Over the last week, 2GB radio journalists Michael McLaren (Overnight: 12.00-4am; Wake Up: 4.00-5.30am Mon-Fri), and Ben Fordham  (Breakfast show, 5.30-9.00 Mon-Fri), have conducted a number of well-informed interviews with significant people, critical of the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Topics have covered the destruction of a significant state museum; inadequacy of the new design and program; danger to the collection; relative inaccessibility to audiences for a state museum; lack of concern for heritage buildings; and lack of considered alternatives for Parramatta, as well as the need to properly support and invest in the Ultimo site.
Apart from the interviews, many people were able to phone in with questions and comments.
29/6 McLaren, with John McDonald (art critic and columnist) all 15 minutes
25/6: Fordham, with Ray Hadley
25/6: McLaren, with Suzette Meade (North Parramatta Residents Action Group)
25/6: Fordham, ‘head to head’ with Geoff Lee (NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Acting Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors & Veterans, and the member for Parramatta)
24/6: McLaren, with Professor David Flint (legal academic):  PHM from 5.30 – 12.50 minutes
24/6: McLaren, with Kylie Winkworth (museum specialist): 12-19 minutes, and phone-in comments
23/6: McLaren, with Robert Borsak (chair of the Govt Inquiry into Museums and Galleries)
22/6: McLaren, with Leo Schofield (former trustee, Powerhouse Museum)

22 June, 2020
Referring to the EIS submissions, discussed below (‘You can help shape the future…’), the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) circulated to their wide constituency, information and recommendations for how to make their objections heard. They ‘have been strongly campaigning for the past four years for the Museum of NSW to be created in the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct instead of closing the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.’ In their document they  provide their rationale about their recommended alternative site. ‘This option has been provided to the government and would cost half of the current project being forced on Western Sydney.’ Read more

22 June, 2020
‘You can help shape the future of the new museum’

On its ‘New Powerhouse in Parramatta’ web page, Infrastructure NSW invites people to read the documents associated with the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) about the new building, make submissions with comments on document before it is accepted, and participate in webinair consultation sessions.
They say: ‘Powerhouse Parramatta is at an important stage of planning. You can help shape the future of the new museum’, the EIS for the Powerhouse in Parramatta is currently on public exhibition until 7 July 2020: Read more
The community webinars are planned for the following dates and times: you need to register to participate:
Saturday 27 June 2020 between 10:00am – 11:30am
Tuesday 30 June 2020 between 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Friday 3 July 2020 between 2:00pm – 3:30pm
But read the opposition: On the Museum’s Facebook page, advertising this opportunity, more than 140 strong and informed comments, all against the move, were posted in less than 24 hours: Read more
And read Kylie Winkworth’s assessment of the site and its unsuitability for this state museum: ‘The government is liquidating the assets of the Powerhouse Museum to build Carriageworks West, a multi-purpose, commercially-focussed arts and entertainment complex. The winning building design is determinedly not a museum. It is hopelessly impractical and cannot work as designed, even as an entertainment centre.’ Winkworth PHM Size does Matter June 2020 

21 June, 2020
The Powerhouse’s ‘Farcical move’
With the ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’ on exhibition on-line for public comment until 7 July, Greater Sydney Community  asks on its Facebook page: ‘please take the time to make a submission; either long or short is OK…To view the relevant files and plans: A ‘Quick Guide’ to assist making a submission is available courtesy Save Willow Grove coalition: (See two page simple guideline on how to do this ).’
They draw attention to recent newspaper articles (see PMA entries below also) condemning the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘It looks like a long winter for the government as public anger grows over the Premier’s decision to push ahead with the Powerhouse’s relocation to a flood-prone site at Parramatta. In the latest news, government papers indicate the opening date for ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’ has blown out to 2025, with unforeseen costs also hitting the budget.’ They cite Linda Morris slamming it ‘as an entertainment pleasure palace, sucking up increasing amounts of Treasury revenue and public goodwill’ rather than a museum:  , and Henry Ergus saying the demolition of historic buildings, and lack of storage space: ‘that failure is merely a symptom of a decision-making process that has been flawed from the outset:  They remind readers that the relocation is: ‘The subject of a second Parliamentary Inquiry that’s now underway  and that Chair, Robert Borsak describes the Powerhouse relocation, as ‘emblematic of how this government does business – fake consultation backed by a dodgy business case that lines the pockets of developers. In the meantime, planner Mike Brown describes the project as ‘a re-run of the Monty Python “dead parrot” sketch…and calls for ‘project delivery motivations to be ‘elevated from “what we can plausibly get away with” to “what is the most that we can achieve for Sydney”.’  For full Facebook page:   Read more

21 June, 2020
‘Government barges ahead with cultural destruction’
Leo Schofield, former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, writes in the Sun-Herald: ‘We are about to witness one of the most shameful acts of cultural vandalism in the history of this country. On June 30, the NSW government will shut down to the public the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, where it has existed as both a landmark and an attraction for 134 years, and gradually demolish it to make way for sale of the site to a preferred developer…This operation has, in my opinion, been deliberately and falsely described as a “relocation”. It is no such thing.’ After discussing in detail six years of public opposition including petitions and an inquiry whose report was rejected by government, and pursuit of other destructive projects, he says: ‘The government barged ahead anyway. Not even a pandemic has been able to deflect the Premier from this disastrous, profligate course of action. To the current government nothing is sacred, no beautiful sandstone buildings, no open spaces, nothing that can’t be swiftly monetised. …But these failures pale into insignificance beside the Powerhouse “relocation”, which is not only physically and environmentally disastrous but also culturally destructive.’…
‘Deaf to argument, blind to a need for fiscal sobriety and dumbly reciting her pro forma mantra, the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has declared the Parramatta move to be a project of state significance without giving a single good reason why it should jump the queue in front of social housing, schools, hospitals and regional cultural centres. We are now up to Business Case Four and have yet not sighted cogent description of the proposal or a plausible cost-benefit analysis that might justify the risible claim of 1 million visitors a year to Parramatta. …The chosen site in Parramatta is manifestly unsuitable. It is flood prone. There is no room for expansion as none is contemplated. When throughout the world, cultural institutions are expanding into satellite spaces, repurposing old buildings or creating new homes for expanding collections – we are shrinking them…’ Furthermore, ‘The public still has no idea of what is imagined for Ultimo or, for that matter, for Parramatta where the current chief executive – whose expertise is confined to the world of contemporary visual arts and who has no significant experience with museums – paints only the fuzziest picture of her vision. Which is perhaps why it is shaping up to be another Carriageworks…The inescapable fact is that apart from Berejiklian and the Mayor of Parramatta, there is little or no support for the scheme. There is however unequivocal enthusiasm for something in Parramatta that does not involve the obliteration of the Powerhouse in Ultimo.’ Read more   or: Leo S Sun-H 20 June   Listen also to interview with Leo Schofield on Radio 2GB 22 June:

21 June, 2020
Powerhouse push slammed as more “pleasure palace” than museum’
Linda Morris writes in the Sun-Herald: ‘On June 30 the curtain will come down on the Catalina flying bird, the largest suspended plane in any museum in the world, Australia’s best collection of working steam engines and the train destination board that stood for 76 years at Central Station. The heritage halls of the Powerhouse Museum are to shut, the museum’s purpose-built galleries housing the Locomotive No 1 and the Boulton and Watt steam engine to close 12 months later… To its opponents including former and current staff, heritage and museum experts and advocates, the new Powerhouse will not be a museum at all, more an entertainment pleasure palace sucking up increasing amounts of Treasury revenue and public goodwill… ‘
‘This week thousands of documents were released by parliamentary order of Upper House MLC’s David Shoebridge and Robert Borsak ahead of a fresh inquiry into the Powerhouse’s $1.17 billion relocation – the same select committee that urged the Powerhouse be kept in Ultimo and western Sydney be given its own institution. Together the documents show that in mission and practice, the Parramatta Powerhouse will be much different from the institution it replaces.’…‘Refinement continues even as the Environment Impact Statement this month controversially recommended the demolition of Parramatta’s heritage sites Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.  Missing from the 17 boxes of documents is the 2020 business plans developed by the Berejiklian government justifying the redevelopment of Ultimo and the building of the new Powerhouse. The architectural plans confirm the Powerhouse will open with no permanent collection display, no dedicated spaces for museum exhibitions and no on-site permanent storage for its vast collection. The collections team will be based at the museum’s Discovery Centre at Castle Hill which is to be expanded for the museum’s 500,000 collection items and it is where exhibitions will be built.’
Morris cites explanations from Museum CEO Lisa Havilah about the proposed flexible use of space, but notes that documents show that for design teams, ‘Already compromises have been made around the public floor space of the presentation spaces’, and inadequate climate control systems. And in Ultimo: ‘Staff giving the last tours are asking if it has to happen: why not leave Ultimo open until there is something built-in Parramatta? “Not one visitor has said they agree with the move,” says one. “In fact, overwhelmingly it is the opposite. The museum has provided visitors with beautiful, memorable experiences for literally generations, and the next generation will not have this family experience.” There have been tears from visitors and staff, they say: “All share a common mourning. The cold and unnecessary – and preventable – death of a perfectly healthy family member.” ‘ Read more or: Linda Morris Sun-H 21June -1

21 June, 2020
Parramatta Powerhouse opening delayed’
Linda Morris writes in the Sun-Herald: ‘Construction of the Parramatta Powerhouse is unlikely to finish before 2024, three years after the Ultimo building closes its doors, according to documents obtained by parliamentary order. The documents also disclose that the design team has been searching for ways to install Locomotive No 1 and other oversized steam engines and aircraft from its collection in the new museum. The Berejiklian government was forced to release thousands of documents this week around planning for the new Parramatta Powerhouse, the Ultimo creative precinct, and the fate of the museum’s very large objects. Upper House crossbenchers, including the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, united with Labor to enforce a call of papers ahead of new hearings into the $1.17 billion relocation project. The project’s timetable reveals the government is working towards ministerial approval for the new site by December, with a builder to be procured early next year and construction to wrap up sometime in 2024.’
Of considerable concern is: ‘A feasibility study commissioned in March confirmed at least 15 of the museum’s largest objects would not fit in the new building’s goods lift. This includes most of its steam engine collection, including NSW’s first train, railway carriages, its tram, helicopter, and the train indicator board that stood at Central Station directing passengers for 76 years…. Labor’s treasury spokesperson Walt Secord said the struggle to relocate the 26-tonne locomotive showed how farcical the business of moving the Powerhouse’s collection had become. “Documents show that it will cost almost a half-million dollars to simply lift the locomotive into the new Powerhouse. That is just crazy and shows that no due diligence was taken when they promised to relocate the locomotive…”.
A spokesperson for Infrastructure NSW would only say that “a timeframe for construction will be confirmed when planning approval is received and a building contractor is appointed”. One planning timetable shows the government factoring in delays this year around the cooperation of Parramatta City Council, a possible interim heritage order on the two historic sites scheduled for demolition at Parramatta, and community opposition around any fast-tracked demolition process. In March, Paris-based architects Moreau Kusunoki said concept designs for the Powerhouse, due in July and necessary before construction proceeds, were unlikely to be completed until late September. Read more    or: Linda Morris Sun-H 21 June-2

20-21 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum will run out of puff in Parramatta’
Elizabeth Farrelly writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, about the forthcoming loss of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and the impact on significant collection items – and audiences: ‘Steam. Twenty-five years ago, when the Powerhouse was at its height – which is to say, properly funded and energised – you could bowl in off Harris Street and watch something astonishing. Standing centimetres from the immense, hissing and chugging 1785 Boulton and Watt steam engine, you could watch its great piston slide, its beam-arm pivot and its levers swing, forcing the massive flywheel into 20 smooth and relentless revolutions a minute.’ And ‘There’s a further level of poetry in the fact that the 1988 adaptive re-use of the old Ultimo Tramway Power House, designed by government architect Lionel Glendenning for the Bicentenary, specially installed a reticulated steam system, run from the old boiler house, to drive the dozen or so steam machines in its collection. After 30 years of neo-Liberal penny-pinching, such government investment in just making the city a more vivid and interesting place looks just as astonishing as the machine itself. Like, governments do that? Not anymore, apparently. Now, after decades of funding starvation and curatorial reductions, the Powerhouse is scheduled to close at month’s end, just as everything else reopens and years before any kind of replacement… It’s called a “move”, this project to reinstate the Powerhouse on the flood-prone south bank of the Parramatta River. But that’s not really accurate. The only thing that will relocate intact is the name. Everything else – building, site and priceless collection – will be broken up, separated, decontextualised, diminished, disrespected and mothballed. Part of the collection will go to Parramatta, but since every space in the new building is designed to double as an event space, the chance for any permanent display is slim.’
Farrelly concludes: ‘Despite ongoing public opposition and against the findings of at least one parliamentary inquiry, the Premier has reaffirmed her determination to proceed with the billion-dollar Powerhouse project. For that money, she could build Parramatta a proper museum on the Cumberland Hospital site, reinstate the demolished Moore Park stadium as parkland and revivify the Powerhouse. She heads a government whose only pride, it seems, is economic management. Why, then, waste taxpayer money downgrading priceless public assets? Oh for a little less hot air, a little more steam. The Powerhouse Environmental Impact Statement is open for public submissions until July 7.’ Read more   or: SMH 20 June EF

20-21 June, 2020
Unusual suspect behind act of cultural vandalism’
Writing in The Weekend Australian, economist Henry Ergas strongly criticises the NSW Liberal government’s persistence in moving the Powerhouse Museum, saying: ‘Ten days from now, when the bulk of the Powerhouse Museum is closed down, one of the greatest acts of cultural vandalism in Australian history will be committed not by the lunatic left but by a Liberal government. Twelve months later, the remaining parts of the museum will also be shuttered, bringing to an end a presence in the Sydney district of Ultimo that began in 1893. In theory, the closure is merely part of a shift to a new museum in Parramatta. However, ever since the Baird government announced the move in 2014, the Coalition has repeatedly failed to explain its underlying rationale.’
He discusses the significance of the buildings in Ultimo, the destruction of the collection’s integrity, the inability to address the future of the museum’s large objects, lack of future adequate storage and danger in transporting objects, the risibility of the cost-benefit analysis, and the inadequacy of the proposed site and program. Ergas says: ‘With those analyses comprehensively discredited, the government has fallen back on touting the number of jobs it claims the project will create. But far from justifying its plans, the fact that a great deal of work is involved in demolishing an outstanding building and constructing one that is not fit for purpose simply highlights the project’s folly. Of course, none of that has deterred the project’s proponents, including the Powerhouse’s handpicked board. They have, instead, descended into meaningless rhetoric, with the board claiming, in its latest submission to a Legislative Council inquiry, that the new museum, which is intended to champion the achievements of science and technology, will be a “hyper-platform” whose “social and cultural amplifiers … set a new benchmark in culturally diverse programming”.
Meanwhile, the museum’s purpose has been dramatically diluted. In 1961, it centred on exhibiting objects related to “the industrial advance of civilisation”. That objective, essentially unchanged for decades, informed the design of the current building. Now, however, the board describes the new project’s purpose as being to provide a structure that “will transcend scale to exist simultaneously as both intimate and iconic”, while exhibiting “the current state of place making through the themes of cultural anchors, resilience, disruption, identity and equity . But unending verbiage cannot disguise the fact that the museum element in the project is being downgraded as greater and greater weight is placed on what is little more than a retail and entertainment complex.’ But he also does not suggest the current museum should stay as it is: ‘As well as better governance, it clearly needs some refurbishing and an expanded budget for outreach and education. At most, however, that would involve outlays of $150m over three to five years — which pales into insignificance compared with the $1.2bn to $1.5bn the move to Parramatta could easily cost.’ Ergas argues that projects that ‘link this country’s past, present and future in a way that should be at the heart of Liberal values. Those are the values that lead Liberals to utterly reject the far left’s cultural vandals, who are intent on “cancelling” our heritage. And they are the values voters can and should expect the government of Gladys Berejiklian to uphold. It is not too late for that government to reverse a decision that shreds those values entirely. As the Powerhouse’s closure fast approaches, it needs to think carefully about which side it wants to be on.’  Read more   or: Unusual suspect – The Aust-20 June

19 June, 2020
Inquiry submissions on line: Select Committee on the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in NSW
Following the extensive first Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in NSW, which produced an exemplary report that was ignored by the NSW government, a second inquiry was established as a  ‘Select Committee on the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales’ on 27 February 2020. While we wait to hear when the first hearings of this Inquiry may take place, the committee’s website has posted 139 submissions so far, and it is understood that more will be added. Of these, only two so far are in favour of the move: unbelievably, the trustees of the Powerhouse Museum  No87 (MAAS Trustees), and perhaps believably , the Western Sydney Business Chamber No80 (Borger). See all submissions so far here: Read more

18 June, 2020
Powerhouse Museum Alliance: Media callout

The Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a media callout on the forecourt of the Powerhouse Museum at 11am on 18 June. Many people wanted to attend but numbers had to be kept below 20 because of COVID-19 safety regulations. Speakers were Jennifer Sanders (PMAlliance), Suzette Meade (North Parramatta Residents group) and Jamie Parker (Greens MP, Balmain) with others available for interview. They discussed points that have been agreed over some years: leave the museum in Ultimo in its longstanding role in a cultural and educational precinct; provision of a site in Parramatta more appropriate for its own audiences; concerns for heritage buildings in both locations; concerns for the safety and management of the collection, particularly significant engineering items; apprehension about the inadequacy of the design plans for the ‘iconic’ new museum for collection-based exhibitions; observations that the program proposals for Parramatta are to do with entertainment and that it will not be a ‘museum’ as we know it; concerns about the exorbitant cost of relocation, especially at this time when so many communities need support. See attached for information about speakers and other contacts, and key points  provided by Jennifer Sanders.
Read more: PMA Media Event 18 June 2020

18 June, 2020
Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party: Compact with NSW government
Robert Borsak, leader of SFF party and chair of the Legislative Council Inquiry into Museums, posted information about his recent discussions with the NSW government, announcing that: ‘that SFF have offered to work with the NSW Government to help the State recover from the economic damage and hardship caused by the drought, bushfires, and COVID-19… The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) requires a detailed compact to be agreed with the NSW Government in return for parliamentary support in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council to ensure supply and passage of key policy reforms. This compact is based on the following key priorities:
• Immediate introduction of increased Parliamentary accountability measures;
• Immediate audit and reprioritisation of NSW infrastructure programs to incorporate key job creating investments in regional infrastructure; and
• New policy initiatives to help drive economic recovery in regional NSW.
Among several suggestions for key projects and initiatives that need support, he also insisted that: ‘As a gesture of goodwill in these difficult times, the Government must immediately announce the cancellation of the Powerhouse Museum relocation project,’ and that ‘This compact seeks the immediate audit of all infrastructure projects by Infrastructure NSW and other priorities to realign funding with a new vision to drive the State’s economic recovery. This will include … ‘Immediate announcement of the cancellation of the Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta and other wasteful projects that will be identified through the infrastructure audit.’ Read more  and also  Read more

18 June, 2020
‘Shooters in secret talks with NSW Coalition over legislative support’
Yoni Bashan writes in The Australian with the surprise news that: ‘The Berejiklian government has entered secret negotiations with the NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to form an alliance to will give the Coalition more numbers in the upper house and allow more legislation to be made into law…NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, will meet with SFF MPs on Thursday (18 June) to continue negotiating a compact drawn up by the conservative crossbench party. A spokesman for Mr Perrottet confirmed negotiations were continuing and said the NSW government was “always willing to talk to other parties and MPs to ensure the best outcome for the people of NSW”. SFF leader Robert Borsak told The Australian he was approached by Mr Perrottet last month and asked about mending the fractious relationship. According to Mr Borsak, who has voiced his dissatisfaction with the government on numerous occasions, Mr Perrottet asked for a list of projects and requests the government could address as a show of good faith.’ With reference to the economy, infrastructure spending and parliamentary accountability, ‘The SFF states throughout the document that its concerns are largely focused on regional and rural NSW…The compact calls for the ­immediate cancellation of the Powerhouse Museum relocation and “other wasteful projects” that can have their funding redirected to regional infrastructure. It names dam projects, hospitals, ambulance stations and funding for roads as priorities…Mr Borsak said he could never guarantee his party’s co-operation with the government on all issues, but that delivery of priority projects would soften ­existing tensions and ensure a more collaborative approach…The SFF holds five seats in parliament: three in the lower house and two in the upper house. The government relies on crossbench support to move bills through the upper house.’ Read more  or Australian 18 June

18 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum: message of support’
Art critic John McDonald writes in his newsletter that ‘Against my own inclinations I’m at home writing this newsletter when I’d prefer to be at a rally in support of the Powerhouse Museum. The only reason I’m not in Harris Street is a promise to avoid large groups of people while the coronavirus is still active. This is, of course, one of the reasons why the NSW Government is aiming to fast-track the shut down and demolition of the museum – to take advantage of the lingering restrictions on public assembly and people’s natural sense of caution. It’s the latest disgusting tactic in an affair which will remain as an indelible blot on Australia’s cultural landscape. … I’m still staggered at the thought that the state government intend to wilfully destroy a major public asset at a cost of well in excess of a billion dollars ($2 billion would be closer to the mark) – at a time when the virus lockdown has made a mess of the economy. The clincher is that nobody apart from the Premier and few croneys actually WANTS this to happen.
The plan now is to begin to close down the museum at the end of the month and start clearing out the collection. As the new venue is not intended to open until 2025 this will mean four years in which the Powerhouse collection is inaccessible to the public. A large percentage of staff will lose their jobs at a time of economic insecurity, while those that remain will be unable to work on exhibitions and displays – and all because of the government’s desire to thwart legitimate protests.
The final indignity is that the proposed new building in Parramatta will have only 25% of the exhibition space of the current museum, which means the vast bulk of the Powerhouse’s priceless collection will never be seen – and will most probably sold off to help pay for the government’s vandalism. Nothing will compensate for the demolition of Willow Grove, one of the last remaining pieces of Victorian architecture in Parramatta, which will be another casualty of this wildly insensitive scheme. There are a thousand good reasons why this project should not proceed and the government has turned a deaf ear to all of them… The destruction of the Powerhouse museum is a major scandal, and the Opposition should be fighting tooth and nail to raise awareness and prevent this disaster. At this stage there’s no longer any time to waste.’ Read more  or John McD 18 June

16 June, 2020
‘What we need is a more powerful house’
Writing for The Fifth Estate, urban planning and design expert Mike Brown says: ‘The idea of a new cultural facility for Parramatta is good. Stocking that facility with the Powerhouse collection just looks dumb. News of the post-pandemic economic fallout is steadily replacing the news of the pandemic itself.’ After discussions about cutbacks in the scope and programs of cultural institutions such as the National Library, the Australian Museum in Sydney and student enrolments in universities, he adds: ‘The NSW Greater Sydney Commission has moved to develop post-pandemic urban policy recommendations for government that focus particularly on the growth of long-term sustainable high-value jobs centred on its “three cities” urban structure.’ …‘At a more local level, the NSW premier’s post-pandemic policy position …to shelve the stadium refurbishment passed with little comment. However her commitment to recommence the pre-pandemic Powerhouse relocation project – MAAS, Museum of Applied Arts and Science – was met with public outcry… The original and now revived project was not reviled because Parramatta didn’t need more cultural infrastructure – it certainly does – but because the Powerhouse made sense and was loved in its current location. Attracting favourable public sentiment wasn’t helped when project incongruities were left unexplained. The cost and risk of exhibit relocation was reportedly exorbitant, as was the risk of damage to valuable ungainly yet fragile exhibits. Was the whole enterprise just about flogging government assets?  Where is the detailed business case? Is the Powerhouse relocation the only realistic post-pandemic option here? Well, it’s all a matter of perspective; of vision, ambition and legacy.’ He concludes: ‘There is considerable conceptual distance between a reaffirmed decision to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta and the construction of facilities that contribute to Parramatta’s appeal and Australia’s role as a regional leader. Yet viewed against these larger backdrops the current relocation decision looks more like a sleazy real estate deal than a genuine attempt to build a stronger outward-looking Sydney… Henceforth, project delivery motivations must be elevated from “what we can plausibly get away with” to “what is the most that we can achieve for Sydney”.’ Read more  or:  FifthEstate 16 June

 16 June, 2020:
‘… these questions still remain’
In its Facebook and email messages, the well-supported community group Save the Powerhouse writes: ‘In just 15 days’ time, the Berejiklian Government seems set to carry out its threat to close forever the mighty Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and the Powerhouse Museum Alliance has issued a statement that speaks for all of us: ”The Berejiklian Government has the Powerhouse Museum on death row… Australia’s best exhibitions of planes, trains, working steam engines, science and applied arts – our history – will be dismantled. These collections will never be seen together again. The Museum’s site will be sold to developers”. They remind us that ‘The Powerhouse Museum and its collections belong to the people of NSW, not the Premier …(yet) the Berejiklian Government is spending $1.5 billion to ‘move’ (=destroy!)  the Museum 23kms west to Parramatta. But they are NOT building a museum.” This was confirmed by “Parra Milkcrate” architects Moreau Kusunoki & Genton in a recent video entitled “Powerhouse PRECINCT (NOT MUSEUM!) in Parramatta.” For video: Read more
Save the Powerhouse identifies some critical issues in the proposed ‘new museum’ including lack of adequate exhibition and storage space,  justification of costs, and loss of jobs, and asks ‘How the construction of a multi-purpose centre in Parramatta equates to the destruction of an internationally renowned museum?’
And: ‘The eagerly-awaited 2020 Parliamentary Inquiry may yet produce some answers, and don’t forget that the June 30 closure date of the Ultimo museum is just another step along the way, NOT the end. There is still time and room to halt this shameful, pointless project – and we will. Write to your MP, the Premier and her Ministers to make your voice heard!’
Read more: Save the Powerhouse 16 June

15 June, 2020
‘Protecting jobs: PSA and Powerhouse in the IRC’
Following the announcement of imminent job losses at the Powerhouse Museum, the Public Service Association, an organisation committed to both providing job opportunities and protecting those that are under threat, writes: ‘As you would be aware the PSA lodged a dispute with the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) in relation to the pending closure of the Heritage Core part of the Powerhouse Museum. The basis of the dispute is the PSA’s view that management have not properly consulted with the PSA over the first stage Museum closure impact on employees’ jobs. The PSA estimates up to 120 employees will have their work impacted by the first stage closure’ and points out that: ‘Under s.65 of the Crown Employees (Public service Conditions of Employment) Award 2009 the employer is obliged to consult with the union on change that significantly impacts on employees.’ The PSA identifies a number of specific requests and says: ‘To date the PSA have been advised that a proposed Change Management Plan for discussion is yet to be signed by the Minister. As a result of the matter being before the IRC on 11 June the parties are to meet on 17 June and report back to the IRC on 19 June.’ Read more or: PSA 15 June


15 June, 2020
‘Costing dispute throws Powerhouse-Riverside Theatre deal in doubt’
in print as: ‘Costs stoush in Powerhouse, theatre deal’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The financial deal underpinning the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum could be in doubt with Parramatta City Council and the Berejiklian government in dispute over the costs to expand the nearby Riverside Theatres. Parramatta Council’s chief executive Brett Newman last week disclosed plans to build a performing arts centre across the river from the Parramatta Powerhouse came with no guarantee of government funding. The admission surprised councillors who had expected the government’s arts agency, Create NSW, to contribute to the theatre redevelopment under an agreement to create a cultural precinct along the river. Some councillors now want government to return the $100 million that had been set aside for the theatre renovations on its behalf out of the proceeds from its 2017 sale of the new Powerhouse Museum site. Under the Heads of Agreement signed in July 2017, council can trigger an official dispute by issuing written notice to government. If a resolution cannot be reached between the mayor and department secretary the matter goes to the relevant minister and eventually the courts. Construction of the Parramatta Powerhouse site can proceed only with an approved development application free of legal challenge and with full control over the land.’
Morris traces how the ‘Tensions between the parties date to 2017 when Parramatta Council received $140 million from the government for the parcel of riverfront land’, as well as options for the council’s 20-year arts and culture plan, including the theatre development and which parties are responsible for annual operating expenses once the theatre complex opens. ‘Some councillors want the $100 million returned to council in cash so it can renovate the theatre complex itself. They are also bristling because any expenditure of the $40 million cultural fund, including help for arts companies struggling to reestablish themselves after the lockdown, requires the consent of the arts minister…A source close to government but not authorised to speak said Parramatta had been the beneficiary of significant state investment in infrastructure including the Parramatta Light Rail, WestConnex, the Powerhouse Museum itself and Western Sydney Stadium. Any additional government contribution to Riverside would be difficult given the extraordinary impact on the state’s budget of drought, summer fires, and COVID-19, they said.’ Read more or: Costs stoush 15 June

14 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse in jobs dispute with 95 out’
Linda Morris, in the Sun Herald, announces that: ‘Management of the Powerhouse Museum has been taken to the Industrial Relations Commission in a dispute over the loss of up to 95 jobs prompted by the closure of the museum’s heritage halls. The Public Service Association alleges the Ultimo museum’s early closure, from June 30, is being carried out without proper consultation of affected staff… The PSA and Professional Officers’ Association notified the Industrial Relations Commission of a dispute on June 4, with an initial hearing convened last Thursday. They estimate 95 people will lose work, while hundreds of others face significant uncertainty following the Berejiklian government’s decision to begin mothballing the museum from June 30 – years before the opening of the new Parramatta museum.
With the Parramatta Powerhouse yet to be approved, Public Service Association assistant secretary Troy Wright said there was no reason to close the Ultimo museum unless it was to stymie opposition to a deeply unpopular project as happened with Allianz Stadium. The move comes as an internal email, headed Powerhouse Consultant budget, reported ‘‘costs to date of $45m up to the end of 2019’’. … Labor’s treasury spokesman Walter Secord said the consultants’ budget was equal to that for a new Sydney primary school. …Infrastructure NSW denied the Powerhouse Museum had spent $46 million on consultants, saying $18 million had been allocated to the museum’s relocation to Parramatta up until June 2019. This had included costs associated with the Parramatta business case, the running of the International Design Competition, and relocation logistics. This figure does not capture the full costs of the Parramatta Powerhouse’s Environment Impact Statement and planning for the redevelopment of Ultimo due this calendar year, nor the winning architect’s multi-million dollar fee.
The Powerhouse employed casual staff for a range of purposes, including supporting various exhibitions, a museum spokesperson said. Where appropriate, the Powerhouse may offer work to casual staff to relocate or digitise the collection. Neither project would likely sustain staff for a hibernation period lasting five years, Mr Wright said.’ Read more  or PHM jobs dispute 14 June

13/14 June 2020
‘Parramatta should be our jewel but we’ve trashed its treasures’
In print as: ‘Parramatta could be a jewel but we trash its treasure’s
Elizabeth Farrelly writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Sydneysiders should treasure Parramatta. With her good bones, fine history and central locus, Parramatta should be a place like no other, a vivid and particular entwinement of nature and culture…Instead, we’ve largely treated her as our cesspool, chucking our dirtiest air and most cavalier attitudes her way. Now, there’s a chance to reconsider. Back when the colony was new, with a blow-in population too ignorant to grow food at Sydney Cove and too arrogant to fish from it like the locals, Parramatta saved us …Even now, Parramatta’s core plan-diagram is sweet as a nut. … Parramatta has everything a good city needs – except good government…But COVID demands we rethink…It suggests we reinstate localism, returning texture and engagement to our lives.’
Farrelly discusses types of transport, cities that are also neighbourhoods and other factors, especially: ‘It would start by taking heritage seriously, ditching a listing process that, says Councillor Donna Davis, “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”. Actually giving a damn… Transport for NSW would no longer be able, as it did on the night of May 19, to rush in under cover of darkness and demolish one of Australia’s oldest surviving pubs. The Royal Oak Hotel was built by First Fleeter William Tunks and his convict wife in 1813.’…’Secret, too, is all detail as to the precise light rail route and infrastructure. … Already, demolition is under way – on Church Street but also on the light rail’s track across the beautiful and richly endowed Cumberland Hospital heritage precinct.’
And, after citing more concerns for overdevelopment in heritage areas, she says: ‘Then there’s the Powerhouse move, which breaks apart a priceless industrial-era collection then parachutes bits of it into a billion-dollar building on a flood-prone site, destroying the lovely, Italianate Willow Grove villa and an entire heritage terrace on the way. For half the money you could adaptively re-use the glorious hospital precinct as a museum of NSW, deploying some of the state’s oldest buildings to tell its remarkable stories, from the original custodians on. It’s not too late for Parramatta to resist the slide into a mediocrity of soulless towers. Never too late to pursue your truest, most interesting self.’ Read more  or: Farrelly 13-14 June

12 June, 2020
‘NSW Government takes a wrecking ball to heritage’
In her CultureHeist blog, Judith White summarises recent issues to do with the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, and the urgency of appealing to politicians to cancel the proposal.  She writes: ‘The heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, Sydney, is no longer open to the public. On 30 June the NSW Government will close it for good and begin tearing the institution apart. The threatened area of the award-winning building includes the turbine hall, the engine house that is home to priceless relics of the steam-age Industrial Revolution (including the 1785 Boulton & Watt beam engine, the oldest steam engine in existence), and the boiler hall with its space, flight and transport installations… However, beginning on 1 July the Government intends to disperse the collection so that demolition can begin to make way for real estate developers who will reap huge profits from the Ultimo site.’
‘…The decision to proceed flies in the face of growing public opposition. 98.6% of people surveyed by the National Trust in May are overwhelmingly against the Government’s plan, saying that the Powerhouse and its entire collection should stay in Ultimo. The Government is also acting in defiance of last year’s report from the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and of damning evidence it heard from expert witnesses. Opponents have now deluged a fresh Upper House Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects …The bulk of submissions to the Upper House Inquiry are overwhelmingly against the plan…None of the objectors wishes to see Western Sydney deprived of cultural facilities. On the contrary, they want a more appropriate new museum built there – something that could be achieved at less than half the cost.’
As well, she observes that: ‘What the Government proposes to install at Parramatta is not a museum at all. It’s an entertainment centre. Leading museum and heritage expert Kylie Winkworth, a former Powerhouse trustee, has exposed multiple flaws in the design brief for the new building. She reveals that Parramatta will have only 25% of the Ultimo museum standard exhibition spaces, that it will have multiple entrances (a staffing and security nightmare), huge glass walls and open entrances (an air conditioning nightmare), no floors capable of supporting the large items from the collection, no conservation facilities, no adequate loading dock, a much reduced library and no secure working place for staff…It is, says Winkworth, a fantasy that “completely ignores the basic principles of museum planning”. And then, of course, there’s the well-documented risk of flooding from the Parramatta River – a disaster waiting to happen.
In Parliament meanwhile the Legislative Council faces an uphill battle to secure the release of the documents about the Powerhouse that it demanded a month ago. ..Supporters of the museum are urging people to write to both Premier Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to insist that the Powerhouse at Ultimo must remain open with its collection intact. With the “heritage core” of the museum about to be demolished, it’s an urgent request. The vandals are at the doors. Read more  or: Judith White 12 June

12 June, 2020
‘The white elephants of NSW’

In the Pearls and Irritations newsletter, Alex Mitchell writes critically of wasteful government spending on unnecessary projects, saying that: ‘Recent economic policy in NSW requires the nimbleness of musical chairs. …As a result, billions of dollars have been wasted on projects that don’t stack up.’ He discusses spending on such as prisons, a desalination plant and football stadiums, where ‘public money has been squandered on projects of dubious or uncertain value…The new rationale for lavish spend is jobs, jobs, jobs. But on every major infrastructure project to date, costs have blown out without any commensurate increase in jobs: light rail, WestConnex, the Powerhouse project. How many more jobs at either of these projects? None. There are less jobs than before. An efficient public service would be able to intervene to limit the overspend. But the public service has been emasculated by the mania for getting costs off the books, i.e. reducing staff and getting rid of valuable experience…It is conservatively estimated that 3,000 public service jobs have been lost in the current financial year. The result of the purge is that staff are so terrified of losing their own jobs that no one is giving independent advice…We now have a Department of Planning that has become the tool of Coalition politics, and an “Independent” [sic] Planning Commission that rubber-stamps Government-preferred projects.’
‘With the budget in tatters as a result of the bushfires and COVID-19, the NSW Government has now announced a $3 billion “acceleration fund” for what Premier Berejiklian calls “shovel-ready” projects. But the choice of projects makes no sense at all. Why abandon the ANZ Stadium rebuild, but go ahead with the demolition of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and put up a completely unsuitable new building in Parramatta? It’s the wrong building for the Western Sydney city; it can’t house the museum’s collection; and it’s already known that the costs will blow out to at least $1.6 billion. All the new Keynesian spend will going into the pockets, ahem, balance sheets, of private developers and big building companies. If jobs are the priority, create them in the public sector – more health workers, more teachers, more fire fighters etc etc. You wouldn’t trust this lot to build your garden shed, let alone State significant infrastructure. NSW politicians are fond of saying “Money doesn’t grow on trees” and they’re right. Except when the money is ours.’ Read more  or: Alex Mitchell 12 June

11 June, 2020
‘… mystery … the Premier’s stubborn desire to destroy the Powerhouse Museum ‘

John McDonald writes in his regular arts newsletter: ‘There is no greater mystery in New South Wales than the Premier’s stubborn desire to destroy the Powerhouse Museum. Even after the COVID-19 lockdown which has drained billions from the public purse – and will continue to do so for months, perhaps years – Gladys still wants to bulldoze a much acclaimed museum, demolish one of the last remaining heritage buildings in Parramatta, and erect an expensive new structure that would not even pretend to act as a replacement for what is lost. Furthermore it’s a project that nobody seems to want – nobody that is, except the Premier; Chair of the Western Sydney branch of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, and Liberal MP, Geoff Lee.’
He asks who benefits, how can the government justify the expense and exactly what kind of jobs will be created, and concludes: ‘If and when the new building is finished Parramatta will have a gigantic white elephant that has zero possibility of drawing long-term audiences and covering costs. To achieve this excellent result the government will have irretrievably vandalised a major Australian museum and wiped out another precious piece of heritage in a city already disfigured…’. Read more: John McDonald 11 June

10 June, 2020
‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum project powers on to next phase’
In The Australian, Ashleigh Wilson writes: ‘The Powerhouse Museum is steaming ahead with its relocation to western Sydney with the release of key planning documents underpinning the detail of the ambitious project. Ten days after the NSW government renewed its support for the proposed Powerhouse Parramatta, the museum has released a state significant development application and environmental impact statement for public comment until July 7, marking a milestone for a project that has divided cultural circles for the past two years. Powerhouse director Lisa Havilah said the development was moving into its “next phase” before construction begins at Parramatta River…The Berejiklian government recently considered scrapping the Powerhouse move … after revelations the COVID-19 pandemic would cost the state up to $20bn in lost revenue. The Premier decided to cancel its ANZ Stadium upgrade while proceeding with the Powerhouse’s move to Parramatta, citing more than 1000 jobs to be created in western Sydney. Moving the 141-year-old institution from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta has attracted opposition from some high-profile Sydney arts figures, as well as inside the Coalition partyroom and the Berejiklian cabinet itself…But the project is set to become a reality with the backing of Gladys Berejiklian, who took over the arts portfolio in April following the resignation of Don Harwin.’ Read more  or  Sydney’s PHM project powers on

10 June, 2020
EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for Powerhouse to Parramatta now on line
The EIS for thePowerhouse Precinct at Parramatta’ is now on exhibition, on-line, for just 28 days until 7 July. Prepared by Ethos Urban on behalf of Infrastructure NSW,  ‘This submission to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) comprises an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a State Significant Development Application under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).’
It considers environmental and heritage matters, social and economic aspects, and (despite continuing opposition from the broader public platform) recommends the proposal to move the museum to the selected site and into the selected architectural design. The EIS could be effectively the Development Application for the project. In the link supplied here, under Attachments and Resources on the Powerhouse Parramatta page go to EIS (37). Click the down arrow for the documents and plans.  Read more  or for the specific document : Read more

9 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Parramatta’: Finalists now on line
Designs, architects statements and jury comments for the five finalists for the proposed museum in Parramatta, have now been made accessible on the MAAS website. You can find them here: Read more

7 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse shortlisters go on public display’
on line as ‘Powerhouse finalists revealed’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald (and reveals images on line), about how: ‘Sydney has received its first look at rival designs for Parramatta Powerhouse, showing modern interpretations of its new riverside home’ and that ‘The designs, along with design statements and jury feedback, are expected to be unveiled in an online exhibition next week.’
She reminds us that: ‘Architectural firms Moreau Kusunoki and Genton were selected as winners of the international design competition in December with their latticed steel structure of two towers. The seven-member international jury judged theirs to be a delicate and elegant design that would create a landmark cultural destination. The jury’s decision was unanimous…But it controversially necessitates demolition of the 1886 Italianate villa known as Willow Grove as well as a row of seven terraces known as St George’s Terrace.’
Providing images and descriptions of ‘rival designs’, she says: ‘The shortlisted design plans for the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum have been kept under wraps until now despite pressure from Australian Institute of Architects and the organiser of the taxpayer-funded International Design Competition, Malcolm Reading…A draft report prepared for Infrastructure NSW has recommended the development proceed despite finding the two historic buildings that are to be demolished were “one of a kind” in the Parramatta CBD and their loss would have a significant impact on the community’s connection with heritage. But the public benefits of western Sydney’s first major, world-class cultural institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the local community’s sense of place.’ Read more  or:  7 June, Linda Morris SMH

5 June, 2020
‘How Sydney was spared a giant upside down hairdryer on the skyline after rejecting architect’s plans for a new museum’
In the Daily Mail, Levi Parsons and Daniel Piotrowski publish long-awaited photographs of four of the alternative designs considered for the proposed Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. They also write: ‘Political observers were beginning to suspect the ambitious Parramatta Powerhouse move would be shelved as Australia falls into a recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week Premier Gladys Berejiklian pulled the pin on the $800 million rebuild of ANZ Stadium – at least until the coronavirus crisis is resolved. But she remains determined to go ahead with the Powerhouse move, hailing it as a major job creator at a time of economic downturn.’ Read more  or: 5 June Daily Mail

3 June, 2020
‘Berejiklian government’s push to freeze public servant wages blocked

Related to the issue of the costs of the stadium at Olympic Park, and the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, Alexandra Smith reports in The Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘The Berejiklian government is heading for a showdown with public sector workers in the Industrial Relations Commission after its push to freeze wages was blocked. Conservative crossbenchers joined Labor yesterday to stop the government’s proposed wage freeze for hundreds of thousands of public servants, including nurses and paramedics. ..The defeat in the upper house will force the government to the TRC tomorrow.’ Read more

2 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Move to go ahead, saved from COVID’s axe’

In Arts Hub, Gina Fairley writes: ‘Parramatta Lord Mayor makes plea: “Don’t turn your back on us”, while the National Trust is disappointed as Powerhouse Museum relocation comes under scrutiny and NSW Premier scrambles for cash for COVID stimulus fund.’
‘In one way this story could be told as arts conquering sports. This past weekend (31 May), NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian struck a line through the $810 million refurbishment of Stadium Australia at Olympic Park, while confirming that the build and relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta would go ahead. Berejiklian election promises were split in their delivery. The decision came as her government announced a new $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund to be used for smaller, shovel-ready projects that would create jobs, and is said will ‘touch every corner of the state’. The Stadium project was axed to fuel this fund. The Powerhouse Museum relocation – like Lazarus who will not sleep – remains on the table.’
Fairley continues with statements from supporters including Premier Berejiklian, City of Parramatta Lord Mayor, Bob Dwyer and City of Parramatta CEO Brett Newman. But she also documents opposition from such as Graham Quint, National Trust’s Director, Conservation, who said of their recent survey: ‘‘The overwhelming response to the survey we conducted was that people want the Powerhouse Museum and its collection to remain where it is’, and also notes that following the resignation of Arts Minister Don Harwin in April, ‘Labor’s Jodi McKay and Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord made a charge in Parliament, again demanding the plug on the project be pulled, claiming it ‘has always been a property deal for the Berejiklian Government’ while ‘Just a couple of weeks earlier (23 March), a further Upper House Select Committee had been announced – the Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales.’
In this precarious economic time: ‘The state government, through Create NSW, announced support via a $50 million relief fund. Many would argue it is not enough when the cost of the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation is mooted at $1.1 billion.In this territory of tensions and see-saw politics, it is hard to truly see the clear light of day. While Parramatta Lord Mayor’s pleas were heard and Berejilklian has marched forward with the project this week, it’s far from a fait accompli.’ Read more or: Arts Hub 2 June

2 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum: The Community Speaks
National Trust (NSW) Survey Reveals Overwhelming Vote to Stay at Ultimo’

In a media release, the National Trust NSW provides a report on its recently-conducted survey about the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo: ‘to quantify and qualify the significance of the museum in its current location at Ultimo, its built, social and cultural heritage, and the significance of its collection to the people of New South Wales.’ From 1320 responses to its survey, “The overwhelming response to the survey we conducted was that people want the Powerhouse Museum and its collection to remain where it is,” said Graham Quint, National Trust (NSW)’s Director, Conservation. “People from all postcodes across Sydney, throughout New South Wales and around the world participated and shared their views with us. The responses indicated that the Powerhouse is such a socially significant place, a fine example of built heritage in its own right and contains an extraordinary collection that tells the story of innovation, technological development, progress and advancement in Australia.” And he also advised: “The National Trust (NSW) was so dismayed to read over the weekend that the NSW Premier, in considering the relocation project for the Powerhouse, decided to proceed. We have more than 1,300 people who took the time to share their thoughts on how important this place is to them and they did this in the grips of a global pandemic as they watch the social and economic ramifications of this crisis unfold,” Graham Quint said. “It is that important to people.” ‘
‘As a result of the survey, the National Trust (NSW) has made a submission to the Heritage Council of New South Wales to consider placing the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and its permanent collection on the State Heritage Register.’ Read more   or:  National Trust NSW 2 June

31 May, 2020
Powerhouse Museum: opening and closing
The MAAS website announces, following the closure of public spaces due to COVID-19,  that: ‘We are excited to be welcoming you back to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre. Free timed-entry tickets and physical distancing are among the measures we’re implementing in line with the NSW Government’s health guidelines to keep visitors safe during COVID-19.  The 22nd Biennale of Sydney … will open from 1 June 2020. The Boulton and Watt Engine, Locomotive No. 1, the Strasburg Clock and the Touring Hall will also be open to visitors.’ ‘From 25 July – 11 October 2020, you can explore the new exhibition Maton: Australia’s Guitar, ‘ However, anticipating the proposed move of the Museum, it adds: ‘From 1 June 2020, the heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum will be closed, and the Museum will be offering bookable curator talks and small group sessions exploring the Powerhouse’s Transport, Steam Revolution and Space Galleries before the final closure of the heritage core on 30 June 2020. This program will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes experience of the Powerhouse collection.’  Read more

31 May, 2020
‘Powerhouse ‘Move’ reconfirmation is not the end’

Save the Powerhouse Facebook group writes: ‘The overnight news that “Premier Gladys Berejiklian will keep her pledge to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta”
( is undeniably disappointing but, realistically, not unexpected. And it certainly does not signal the end of the community’s five year battle to save the Ultimo Powerhouse and give Parramatta the new cultural facility it wants and deserves In the past weeks, rumours have been rife about intra-Cabinet discord over the whole project, especially the estimated $2 billion (and rising!) costs…Whatever happens next, one thing is certain. This battle is not over and the movement to save the Powerhouse – this campaign, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, politicians, journalists and many dedicated individuals, will fight on until it is won. We know that Gladys is already struggling to control a rebellious Cabinet. How much longer can she hold out on the Powerhouse? Even if she has not listened to the public voice to date, could this be the last straw that finally breaks her?’ Save the Powerhouse makes suggestions about how to keep fighting, here: 31 May Save the Powerhouse

31 May, 2020
‘NSW government dumps Olympic stadium redevelopment as Covid-19 restrictions set to ease. Plans to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta will still go ahead’

The Guardian also reports on the NSW government’s decision to go ahead with the expensive, unwanted relocation: Read more  or: The Guardian 31 May

31 May, 2020
‘$3 billion boost creates $100 billion infrastructure and jobs pipeline’

In a media release, ‘The NSW Government has announced a new $3 billion acceleration fund to go towards job-creating projects, increasing the government’s infrastructure pipeline to a guaranteed $100 billion. The new $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund will be used for smaller, shovel-ready projects touching every corner of the state, injecting up to an extra 20 thousand jobs back into the NSW workforce.’
However, while: ‘The government will no longer proceed with the refurbishment of Stadium Australia, redirecting around $800 million towards the new fund for job-creating infrastructure projects’, ‘The promised Parramatta Powerhouse museum will still be delivered through the infrastructure pipeline. This project alone will create more than 1100 construction jobs in Western Sydney, 2400 indirect jobs, and keep hundreds employed once it opens. The government is also looking at options to support the arts community at Ultimo.’
Read more:
NSW Govt media release 31 May

31 May, 2020
‘NSW Premier pulls the plug on stadium refurb but will keep Powerhouse move’
in print as ‘Stadium plan axed to restart economy’
Michael Koziol announces in The Sun-Herald that ‘The Berejiklian government has dumped its controversial plan to redevelop ANZ Stadium and will redirect the $800 million saving to a new $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund for “shovel-ready” projects to reboot the state’s shattered economy.’ However, ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian will keep her pledge to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, saying the project will create 1100 construction jobs in western Sydney, despite some ministers arguing for the relocation to be abandoned…Ms Berejiklian said the new $3 billion fund would increase the state’s total infrastructure pipeline to $100 billion and inject up to 20,000 extra jobs into the state’s workforce. The government did not provide examples of projects to be funded by the new $3 billion fund… The rebuild of Allianz Stadium at Moore Park is already underway and remains ongoing.’ The decision, taken by the Premier and her core leadership group, wards off internal division over what projects to jettison given budget constraints created by the pandemic. Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee, who holds the seat of Parramatta, had vigorously lobbied to keep the Powerhouse Museum move, which is now projected to cost up to $1.1 billion. In negotiating with crossbenchers over the proposed public sector pay freeze last week, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the stadium redevelopment and Powerhouse move were being reviewed.
Senior Liberals said there was agreement it had to be one or the other. But even after a $3 billion saving from the wage freeze and $810 million from abandoning the stadium refurbishment, they were well short of the $20 billion that could be wiped from the state’s coffers by the pandemic. “That’s $4 billion down, $16 billion to go,” one senior Liberal said.’
Read more  or: Sun Herald 31 May

31 May, 2020
‘Old stadium, new jobs: Premier dumps ANZ stadium but stands firm on Powerhouse’
Phil Rothfield reports in The Sunday Telegraph, that: ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has abandoned the promised $810 million rebuild of Sydney’s Olympic stadium at Homebush, a victim of the state’s COVID-19 financial disaster. Instead the NSW government has announced a new $3 billion fund for job-creating projects…The promised $1.1 billion Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta will still be delivered, however ANZ stadium will remain untouched.’  It is claimed that ‘The Powerhouse Museum relocation will create more than 1100 construction jobs in Western Sydney, 2400 indirect jobs and keep hundreds employed once it opens.’
Read More:  D Telegraph 31 May
(But PMA notes that the government’s employment emphasis is on construction development with no acknowledgement of the wider issues associated with relocating a long-established state museum, or of side-lining local preferences.) 

31 May, 2020
The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre will reopen free of charge from 1 June.
We are excited to be welcoming you back to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre. Free timed-entry tickets and physical distancing are among the measures we’re implementing in line with the NSW Government’s health guidelines to keep visitors safe during COVID-19. .. From 1 June 2020, the heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum will be closed, and the Museum will be offering bookable curator talks and small group sessions exploring the Powerhouse’s Transport, Steam Revolution and Space Galleries before the final closure of the heritage core on 30 June 2020. This program will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes experience of the Powerhouse collection. Read more  or: 31 May PHM reopen

29 May, 2020
‘Huge budget hit puts stadium and Powerhouse plans in doubt’
on line 28 May as: ‘Future unclear for Powerhouse Museum and stadium upgrade’
Lisa Visentin writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The controversial Powerhouse Museum relocation and the planned upgrade of ANZ Stadium are both under a cloud, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet telling key crossbenchers the projects are being reviewed. It comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian refused to guarantee the projects would proceed as planned, as she defended the government’s proposal to freeze public sector wages for 12 months. “I’m not going to comment on any of those things, suffice to say the one tool governments have to keep jobs going is infrastructure,” Ms Berejiklian said on Thursday.’ And ‘Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Robert Borsak said Mr Perrottet described the Powerhouse move and the ANZ stadium upgrade as being “under review” during a meeting with the party’s five MPs on Thursday morning.’…’ Greens MP David Shoebridge said he also raised the issue of the Powerhouse move when he discussed the wage freeze with Mr Perrottet…Mr Shoebridge declined to reveal the specifics of the conversation but said: “It would be fair to say it (the Powerhouse relocation) doesn’t appear to be the Treasurer’s pet project.”’ Read more  or: SMH Visentin 29 May

28 May, 2020
‘Western Sydney Outraged if Powerhouse Museum and ANZ Stadium Projects are Abandoned.’
In a media release, Business and community groups today urged the Premier not to break her promises to the people of Western Sydney to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta and to redevelop ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park as media reports grow about Cabinet moves to dump these ‘shovel-ready’ projects as an austerity measure. The Western Sydney Business Chamber and the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue joined forces to remind the Premier that she promised these projects to the people of the West during the last election.’ Read more   (see May 28) or: 28 May, Parramatta media release

28 May, 2020
NSW Treasurer confirms that the Powerhouse project is under review

Channel 10 News featured a short interview with Inquiry chair, Robert Borsak, who stated that Treasurer Dominic Perrottet had confirmed that the Powerhouse project is ‘under review.
Save the Powerhouse Facebook says: ‘What’s more, the Premier is refusing to confirm that the project – and the ANZ stadium rebuild –  will go ahead. Meanwhile the Government has published a second list of 24 projects to be “fast-tracked” with the aim of stimulating the post-pandemic economy. The Powerhouse IS NOT ON THE LIST.’ (Tranche 1 Projects: & Tranche 2 Projects

28 May, 2020
‘Two of the NSW government’s most controversial Western Sydney projects could be delayed or scrapped to save $2 billion’
Channel 7 News followed up their previous report of 27 May with further interviews that included revealing that relocating the Powerhouse Museum and upgrading the ANZ Stadium are now in doubt. Reporter Alex Hart’s Interviews included the Premier, Treasurer, Greens member David Shoebridge, Opposition leader Jody McKay and Western Sydney’s David Borger, as well as members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance. It was noted that ‘Today an agitated Premier refused 8 times to confirm that the work will go ahead,’ and that they were advised that an official announcement about the state of the projects and the wage freeze should be made before the budget in November. Read more

27 May, 2020
‘400,000 state government workers hit with pay freeze’

During debate on the controversial issue of freezing 400,000 public sector wages as a result of the corona virus, it has been suggested that the Powerhouse move could even be scrapped.  Channel 7 News reported on interviews with the Premier and Treasurer, as well as those in opposition to the move.  Text included: “The govt could also scrap several major projects. The hit to the budget from this crisis will be huge and freezing public sector wages is just the start of the effort to improve the budget bottom line. Scrapping expensive, unpopular infrastructure projects is now being considered, among them the $1B plus relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the city to Parramatta. Also the $810M upgrade of ANZ stadium. The Treasurer today pointedly refused to commit to either of those projects. It’s safe to say at the moment they are not guaranteed to go ahead but that no decision has been finalised. Ultimately it will be up to the cabinet to decide their fate.’ See news here:  (Go to 2 minutes in …) Read more

31 May, 2020
The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre will reopen free of charge from 1 June.
The MAAS website announces: ‘We are excited to be welcoming you back to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre. Free timed-entry tickets and physical distancing are among the measures we’re implementing in line with the NSW Government’s health guidelines to keep visitors safe during COVID-19. .. From 1 June 2020, the heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum will be closed, and the Museum will be offering bookable curator talks and small group sessions exploring the Powerhouse’s Transport, Steam Revolution and Space Galleries before the final closure of the heritage core on 30 June 2020. This program will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes experience of the Powerhouse collection.’  Read more  or: 31 May PHM reopen

27 May, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum reopening left a mystery’
As museums and galleries start admitting audiences again, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes that: ‘Delays to the reopening of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo have sparked concerns that the NSW government intends to use health considerations linked to COVID-19 to prematurely close the institution to the public. While the Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Contemporary Art are reopening their doors in June in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, the museum remains closed with no date yet set for its reopening.’ ‘The museum’s heritage buildings, including the Turbine Hall with its suspended aircraft, had been scheduled to close on June 30 under plans to relocate the museum to Parramatta. The Wran Building with its entrance, theatrettes, and Touring Hall housing the Locomotive No 1 and Boulton & Watt Steam Engine – the latter regarded as one of the most significant technological artefacts to have ever reached Australia – was to have followed in 12 months.’
‘Greens MP David Shoebridge said he feared the government was attempting to refuse the people of NSW the chance to farewell the Powerhouse Museum”… “No doubt they realise the moment would be used to build opportunities to protest the government’s plans,” said Mr Shoebridge, the inquiry’s deputy chairman. “This is one of the worst examples of hiding a deeply unpopular government decision under the cover of a COVID-19 emergency response. I believe the Powerhouse will not go quietly into the night.”
Meanwhile, ‘The Environment Impact Statement for Parramatta Powerhouse still to be exhibited. Premature closure would leave the government vulnerable to protests that it was pre-empting the consultation process.’ Read more  or:  Linda M SMH 28 May

27 May, 2020
Pay freeze: and possibly scrap some major projects?

Alex Hart, political reporter on Seven News, reports on the NSW government’s proposal to freeze public sector wages, where more than 400,000 state government workers have been hit with a pay freeze blamed on the coronavirus. Among numerous rejections of the idea, he also reported strong opposition from leaders including Jodi McKay and David Shoebridge, and observed: ‘The govt could also scrap several major projects. The hit to the budget from this crisis will be huge and freezing public sector wages is just the start of the effort to improve the budget bottom line. Scrapping expensive, unpopular infrastructure projects is now being considered, among them the $1B plus relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the city to Parramatta. Also the $810M upgrade of ANZ stadium.The Treasurer today pointedly refused to commit to either of those projects. It’s safe to say at the moment they are not guaranteed to go ahead but that no decision has been finalised. Ultimately it will be up to the cabinet to decide their fate.’ For TV interview: Read more

22 May, 2020
‘Don Harwin becomes cactus’

Alex Mitchell, former Sydney Sun-Herald State Political  Editor,  documents in ‘Pearls and Irritations’,  the career of ex-Arts Minister Don Harwin, saying: ‘In the halcyon days of the NSW Liberal Party’s ascendancy, Don Harwin was a fast-rising star. Then he hit a wall and fell from being one of State’s most powerful Liberal Ministers to the lowly status of an unloved backbencher. How and why?’ Among a number of examples, Mitchell says: ‘Above all, he made the demolition of the Powerhouse his pet project, despite a mass of evidence that the cost would rise to $1.6 or $2 billion, and that the move would mean splitting the prized collection…Hanging over the project has been the stench of secret property deals at both the Ultimo site and Parramatta. Last November one of his recent board appointees, Dexus CEO Darren Steinberg, had to resign over a conflict of interest in relation to Ultimo.’ And ‘A damning Upper House inquiry into museums and galleries, lasting two-and-a-half years, gathered reams of evidence from professionals that the Powerhouse project was unviable. When the inquiry’s meticulous report was published in February 2019, Harwin waited until after the Government was re-elected before contemptuously dismissing all its recommendations… At the same time, Gladys Berejiklian’s departure lounge is filling with alarming speed.’
Read more  or: Alex Mitchell 22 May

20 May, 2020
‘New Powerhouse in Parramatta: webinar follow up’

Following the recent on-line webinair consultation about the proposed new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, Infrastructure NSW sent out a notice saying: ‘…We appreciate the feedback and insights shared during the session which have been considered in our preparation of the State Significant Development Application (SSDA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).’ They note that ‘this session is expected to contribute to: the EIS which is currently being finalised as part of the SSDA for the new museum, and that  ‘An EIS outlines potential environmental impacts and what measures will be put in place to minimise them.’ They advise that the draft EIS will be exhibited (on their website) in full once finalised and that the community will be invited to provide feedback.
Key themes in the webinair presentation were: ‘Heritage impacts – particularly Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace ; The museum location – particularly other locations considered; The building design – particularly other designs considered ; The name of the new museum; The functionality and flexibility of the museum spaces; The creative residences – particularly how they will be managed; The timing of consultation – particularly during COVID-19.’ For report see Infrastructure NSW website: Read more  As well, they supplied answers to a number of further questions on notice. See also: New Powerhouse in Parramatta – Community webinar April 23

18 May, 2020
‘Museum showdown on Macquarie Street’

Judith White, writing in Culture Heist, says: ‘Today, Monday 18 May, is International Museum Day – so it’s ironic that some museum supporters and professionals in NSW will spend the day in yet another effort to protect cultural institutions from the predations of the government which has statutory responsibility for their care. They will be making submissions, which close today, to a fresh Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council to examine “Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in NSW”.’  She provided a  perceptive summary of how ‘the Upper House of State Parliament passed a motion obliging the Government to table a raft of hitherto secret documents relating to the Powerhouse plan also known as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) project.’
And further, White notes that: ‘According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the body responsible for International Museum Day, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Traditionally, in line with this objective, Australian governments have funded public galleries and museums for the cultural benefit of the population. In recent years, following neoliberal precepts, they have pressured institutions to move towards self-funding through commercial activities – entertainment programs, corporate venue hire and the sale of merchandise. A reasonable level of commercial operations can help support museums, but they cannot be allowed to replace or undermine their core function. That function is to build and care for collections of life-enhancing objects of beauty or historical interest, and make them accessible to everyone.’ Read more  or  Culture Heist – JW – 18 May

14 May, 2020
‘MAAS suspends payments to long-term casuals’
The Public Service Association has circulated information saying: ‘The PSA has been made aware that approximately 143 MAAS employees have had casual support payments ceased. While cafes and restaurants start opening, this decision effectively sends 143 employees to Centrelink. … All long-term casuals who have been employed in a systematic regular fashion should be found other duties, and if none can be found, placed on special leave and paid as normal.’ ‘The PSA is currently in discussions with MAAS surrounding a commitment to continue the employment of long term casuals. Unless we can gain that commitment ASAP, we will seek the assistance of the Industrial Relations Commission.’
In addition, PSA advises that, working with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), ‘The Keep Our Icons Alive  campaign is calling on the Berejiklian NSW Government to increase funding for our state’s most treasured venues.’ The intent is to ‘highlight the plight of our affected members in the state’s most iconic institutions. These include Taronga Zoo, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory, Sydney Living Museums and the Sydney Opera House.’  This includes boosting the PSA Keep our Icons Alive video on social media.
Read more   or  PSA campaign 14 May

14 May, 2020
‘New Powerhouse Museum report approves loss of heritage buildings’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, comments on information provided in the draft report prepared for Infrastructure NSW (see 13 May, below), saying:  ‘Two historic buildings to be demolished to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum were “one of a kind” in the Parramatta CBD and their loss would have a significant impact on the community’s connection with heritage, it has been found. But a draft report prepared for Infrastructure NSW has recommended the development proceed as the public benefits of western Sydney’s first major, world-class cultural institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the local community’s sense of place …The loss of the 19th-century Italianate villa Willowgrove and a row of terraces known as St George’s Terrace are listed among the negative social and economic impacts by the Environment Impact Statement into the $1.1 billion relocation of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, known as the Powerhouse Museum. The 2.5-hectare riverside site was also likely to have high social and spiritual significance to the local Aboriginal community and its flood-prone position warranted an early warning flooding system, including alarms and alerts to clear the public from the museum’s undercroft during big downpours.’…
‘The draft EIS and associated reports briefly went online on Wednesday morning due to a technical error, before they were recalled..Suzette Meade of the North Parramatta Action Group said: “It’s highly suspicious the EIS was notified as on exhibition this morning and then pulled hours later – it’s just more alarm bells ringing for the community on the disastrous project.” Labor’s shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said there was no better time than in the wake of the COVID economic crisis to scrap the museum’s move from Ultimo to Parramatta.”Five years and the shovel hasn’t hit the ground and the only people to get work out of this is desk top consultants.” ’ Read more   or  14 May LMorris

13 May, 2020
‘NSW legislative Council: request for release of documents – motion agreed!’
As part of the lead-up to the second Inquiry into the management of Museums and Galleries, Chair of committee the Hon. Robert BORSAK, introduced a motion requesting release of current documents relating to the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The motion was strongly supported by The Hon. WALT SECORD as Labor’s Shadow treasurer and shadow arts minister; DAVID SHOEBRIDGE, from The Greens, and deputy-chair; The Hon. MARK LATHAM  from One Nation; Ms CATE FAEHRMANN from The Greens; and agreed to by Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES, representing the government.
Borsak moved – successfully: ‘That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 28 days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents, created since 12 April 2018, in the possession, custody or control of the Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts, the Premier, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Create NSW, the Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Staff Agency, Infrastructure NSW or the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment:
(a) any 2019 revised business case or cost benefit analysis relating to the Museum of
Applied Arts and Sciences [MAAS] project;
(b) all documents relating to the MAAS project capital and recurrent costs, exhibition
concepts, and commercial and income-generating opportunities;
(c) all documents relating to any visitor studies, planning costs, and architectural,
museological, geotechnical, engineering, heritage and flood risk studies conducted
or the MAAS project;
(d) all documents relating to the Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta International Design
(e) all documents relating to the Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct;
(f) all documents relating to the transfer and storage of large and very large objects for
the MAAS project;
(g) all documents relating to the proposed heritage listing of the Powerhouse museum; and
(h) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as aresult of this order of the House.’
Borsak said: ‘I am calling on these papers because we are now over five years into this fiasco.’ He, and other members (above), itemised a number of concerns about the purpose of the move, the future of the collection, the inadequacy of the design plans, the reality of attracting audiences, the costs that could be better spent in other ways, the future of the Ultimo site and other options for Parramatta and NSW. He added: ‘The $2 billion being spent on the vanity project could go a long way towards managing and funding irreplaceable heritage collections located all over regional and rural New South Wales. The money would go even further if it were spent on bushfire recovery or drought assistance. Why does this Government want to destroy our history for a few hectares on the harbour? The $2 billion Liberal-Nationals vanity project might seem like pocket change for the Government, but that money could be far better spent supporting regional and rural museums throughout the State. The project demands accountability and transparency from this Government, but we are getting none. So now we call on our standing orders and the power of this House to provide us with what the Government will not provide us.’ The motion was passed. For full transcript: Read more
… or 
13 May Hansard – request for PHM documents

13 May 2020
‘Powerhouse Parramatta: Draft Environmental Impact Statement’

The Department of Planning, Industry and Development maintains a site for the development of the proposed new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, on its NSW Planning Portal for updating timelines for major projects, with relevant attached documents. For portal: Read more
For the Powerhouse project, these files include SEARS documents (Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements) for State Significant Development. On 13 May, 2020, it was announced in an email that ‘The Department is writing to inform you that the exhibition period for the Powerhouse Parramatta  SSD-10416   EXH-2839  has commenced.’ and that ‘You can make a submission on the project by visiting the Major Projects Website.’
It appears that what was meant by ‘exhibition’ were the online documents associated with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), including Appendix B: Architectural plans and design report. However, these files were subsequently deleted and the Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘The draft EIS and associated reports briefly went online on Wednesday morning due to a technical error, before they were recalled. A spokesperson for the Department of Planning said the EIS did not include important material including key plans, reports and consultation work and it would be exhibited in full once finalised.’ (See 14 May, above, or Read more )

14 May, 2020
‘Trainwreck at Carriageworks
Carriageworks and the Powerhouse: failures of government policy’

Judith White well summarises the many issues being discussed about arts funding, saying: ‘The collapse of Sydney arts and entertainment centre Carriageworks has sent tremors through the besieged arts sector; but it also shows up the deep flaws in the NSW Government’s cultural policy, and is fuelling demands to halt its disastrous $1.5 billion plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum ‘… ‘When the old railway workshops at Eveleigh were repurposed into an arts centre in 2007, under the Labor Government of Premier Morris Iemma, it seemed a great idea: an inner-west venue that could attract big local audiences to an exciting program of festivals, exhibitions and performances, as well as becoming home to resident arts companies and making additional income from markets and corporate hire. But it required substantial public funding to be sustainable, and that was never guaranteed. State Coalition governments from 2011 onwards have been unwilling to provide support for such an eclectic, innovative program. In 2018 grants totalled only a quarter of the centre’s revenue.’
White includes comments from a number of experienced people, and concludes that: ‘A rescue plan for Carriageworks would require both funding commitment and the appointment of a suitably qualified board. … Berejiklian remains committed to the Powerhouse plan with a stubbornness inexplicable unless there is a secret deal with developers. Rumours are now swirling that the Ultimo site has already been sold. The Government’s asset sales mania bodes ill for Carriageworks, which has only a short-term tenancy on the big Eveleigh site. And it lends added urgency to a fresh examination of the Powerhouse issue by State Parliament’s Upper House committee, which is taking submissions up until 17 May.’
Read more  or  14 May J White – Cultureheist

9 May, 2020
‘Carriageworks and other threatened arts venues: PMA applauds expressions of support’
Following recent news reports, letters to editors and community petitions, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance (PMA) advises its wide constituency that ‘We are extremely concerned that Carriageworks Ltd has gone into voluntary administration. We applaud the many expressions of support from the arts and cultural industries, members of the media and concerned citizens, with the aim of securing funding to establishing Carriageworks Ltd on a more sound financial footing.  Knowing that this could be the first of many similar circumstances, we also commend the State Opposition’s call for an emergency Arts package to support the industry’s workers while events involving audience attendances are banned. The PMA strongly endorses the vital role that Carriageworks has played since its inception in 2007 – and will hopefully continue to play – in the cultural life of the city and State, alongside other significant, and equally threatened, arts institutions.
With reference to the Opera House, PMA member Kylie Winkworth adds: ‘The importance of Carriageworks for the small companies is that they are incubator of the next generation of musicians, singers, dancers, composers and cross media artists. These artists and small companies do need more support because rents are so high in Sydney, it is difficult for the small companies presenting new work to stay afloat, and they carry more risk. It would be a huge risk and loss if Carriageworks lost its artistic independence and was subsumed by the SOH. The two organisations have different roles. The SOH is already trying to operate like a municipal art centre; they don’t need any more encouragement to move into that space. They have a huge and controversial building program and already struggle to balance their obligations to manage a World Heritage listed site, which is Australia’s No 1 tourism attraction, and run a performing art centre. No other premier performing arts centre in the world is managing municipal off shoots with a big program of commercial events including a farmers market.’
See also, below, opinion pieces in the Sydney Morning Herald:
7 May, 2020: ‘Prowling, empire-building Opera House must leave Carriageworks to create its own art’, by Kim Williams, a former chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust, and a supporter of the Sydney Chamber Opera, a resident company at Carriageworks.
Read more  or: SMH Opinion 7 May
10 May, 2020: ‘As young artists watch their dreams vanish, our cultural democracy is in peril’, by Lyndon Terracini, artistic director of Opera Australia. Read more or: Sun Herald, 10 May

7 May, 2020
‘Our income vanished’: Australia’s galleries and museums buckle in Covid-19 storm
Elissa Blake writes in The Guardian that ‘Carriageworks is only the first major casualty in what arts leaders say will be a string of closures without ‘enormous action’…The organisation had its income projections for the current financial year trashed as the coronavirus crisis unfurled, with big-ticket events cancelled or suspended. The decision to enter into administration was sealed when the New South Wales government – which currently does not have an arts minister after the recent resignation of Don Harwin – declined to guarantee future funding. Rumours are swirling about a possible takeover of the venue by the Sydney Opera House.’
Esther Anatolitis, executive director of the National Association of Visual Arts, points out: ‘But Carriageworks’ exposure to commercial headwinds is no greater than many others in the sector… The Covid-19 shutdown has come hard on the heels of cuts to Australia Council funding and a summer of bushfires that had an impact on gallery attendance and operations, most notably in Canberra… Regional galleries have been hard hit by drought, fire and the resulting loss of tourist traffic. “There’s barely been time to recover from that and now we have a global pandemic for which there is no treatment and no vaccine” ‘
Blake also reports on interviews directors of the Museum of Contemporary Arts, and the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, and the Art Gallery of South Australia, who are dealing with loss of revenue, apart from government funding.
Among many comments on the on-line site, one says: ‘It’s a bit rich for the director of the MCA to say how important it is to keep art galleries and museums afloat when it was her advocacy as Baird’s ‘cultural ambassador to western Sydney’ that led to the decision to ‘move’ the Powerhouse Museum. Moving the Powerhouse was the obvious pick she said, based on no knowledge of the museum and its collection, and without considering any other more equitable and affordable options, let alone actually asking the communities of Parramatta and western Sydney if they wanted the Powerhouse. Only the property development industry wants the Powerhouse moved. As it is, Parramatta is not even getting an actual museum, it’s another version of Carriageworks. The real museum is closed and its collections will disappear into storage.’ Read more    or:  Guardian 7 May

6 May, 2020
‘Sydney Opera House may take over Carriageworks as calls for state bailout grow’
Stephanie Convery, in The Guardian, writes that: ‘The Sydney Opera House has been approached to consult on the long-term viability of multi-arts precinct Carriageworks as reports emerge that the Berejiklian government is considering a proposal for the famous landmark’s trust to take over Carriageworks’ operations…. In a statement, an Opera House spokesperson said the trust “has been approached by the government to consult on the long-term sustainability of Carriageworks as an important cultural venue, particularly at this most difficult time”.’ But, she adds: ‘…there have been widespread calls for the bailout to come from the NSW government itself, as pressure grows on state and federal governments to do more to assist the arts sector in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic,’ and cites comments from Labor’s Walt Secord, the shadow arts minister for NSW, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, and Greens MP Cate Faehrmann. Read more  or: Guardian 6 May

5 May, 2020
“NSW government considers Sydney Opera House takeover of Carriageworks’,
in print as ‘Opera House poised to take over arts venue’
Linda Morris and Kylar Loussikian, in the Sydney Morning Herald, follow up the announcement of Carriageworks going into voluntary administration, with a report that ‘Sources close to discussions with the Opera House told The Sydney Morning Herald that a push to hand the venue to the Opera House Trust was under way before administrators were called.’
They continue: ‘In a statement issued on Monday night, Carriageworks said it had no choice but to call in administrators after restrictions on public gatherings had resulted in an “irreparable loss of income”. In April, Carriageworks froze spending and stood down half its core staff. Chief executive Blair French said he hoped the facility would be able to reopen to artists and the community once the state recovered from the effects of the pandemic.
Were Carriageworks’ corporate entity dissolved, the government would be free to appoint a new body to take over the lease via an open competitive tender process. The Opera House is regarded by senior arts bureaucrats as best placed to create a viable public program appealing to Carriagework’s traditional patrons’ However, ‘A source with knowledge of Carriageworks described the move as “a Sydney power play”. Carriageworks, the source said, had shifted cultural focus away from the harbour to communities and artists in a way that an organisation like the Opera House never could. “Sadly arts and culture for some people is about control and power and having the biggest voice.” ‘ Read more or: SMH Opera House-Carriageworks 5 May

6 May, 2020
‘NSW must protect its crucial arts institutions’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald follows up the news that Carriageworks arts centre had gone into administration saying this highlights ‘the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on arts and culture. Everything from international shows at the Opera House to gigs in local pubs and from art galleries to craft markets have been cancelled as part of social-distancing. For culture lovers, who on some counts are more numerous than footy fans, the cancellation of this year’s arts programs adds to the pain of self-isolation. They have to get their fix online and while the arts community is showing its creativity by finding ways to reach an audience, it’s surely not quite the same…The collapse of Carriageworks raises the distinct likelihood that some treasured institutions will not survive the next few months’ and that ‘Governments, especially at the federal level, must think hard about how the arts and culture sector will emerge from this crisis.’
It also notes that: ‘The NSW government announced a welcome but fairly small $6.35 million relief package for the sector, which included tax relief for venues such as Carriageworks. Clearly, for Carriageworks it was not enough. The Australia Council has promised a $5 million national resilience fund for the arts.’ But significantly, it also reports that ‘Some are calling for NSW to drop grand plans, such as moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and to use the money for grassroots programs that will create more employment in the short-term. For a start, NSW should appoint a new arts minister to replace Don Harwin. There is still huge uncertainty about the road ahead but one thing is clear: Sydney will lose its soul without a vibrant arts community.’ Read more   or: SMH Editorial 6 May 2020

6 May, 2020
‘Scrap the Powerhouse plan and use the $1.5 billion to save Carriageworks’
Clover Moore, Lord mayor of Sydney, asks: ‘What is it about Australians that leads us to chronically undervalue our arts and culture? It has not always been so, but in recent decades, we have seen diminishing funding, dwindling federal and state support, a slackening of interest among our decision makers, and a sense almost of apathy about one of the most vital sectors of our society and economy. It’s beyond time the state and federal governments ended their abandonment of artists, performers and those administering the arts organisations…Arts and cultural activities are worth $110 billion a year in Australia and in Sydney, they underpin our tourism and hospitality sectors.. But the arts can never be reduced to mere economic facts. There is the unquantifiable but very real role of the creative sector in defining us, in critiquing society and celebrating it…The City of Sydney has been working for many years to support and strengthen our creative sector – … This year we had budgeted $4.8 million for grants programs to support cultural and creative organisations. In light of the disproportionate impact of the crisis on artists and creatives, we have increased that figure to $8.3 million and may raise it further still. We are also honouring all existing grants, regardless of whether the recipient can deliver their intended program.
Governments can find the money to support the arts – but they have to want to. The NSW government has committed $1.5 billion to the incredibly unpopular and shortsighted plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum. That is money that could be better spent supporting Carriageworks and other organisations that are so vital to us all. It is crucial such institutions are supported through this period – to ensure they survive and are ready to house the performances, shows and exhibitions that will fill us with light and help interpret the world we find ourselves in when we’re able to move past the coronavirus.’
Read more  or:  Clover Moore, 6 May

6 May, 2020
Petitions: ‘
Save Carriageworks, scrap the Powerhouse move’
Jamie Parker, Greens member for Balmain, is one of many people and organisations seeking a review of the costs of moving the Powerhouse Museum, while other organisations close. For his petition he says ‘Carriageworks has gone into voluntary administration and It’s future is in doubt unless the government steps in. We can’t let one of our most iconic institutions slip away during this pandemic, especially when the government still wants to waste over $1.5 billion moving the Powerhouse Museum! We demand that the Premier scrap this wasteful and pointless relocation and spend the $1.5 billion saving our arts and creative industries – starting with Carriageworks.’ Sign the petition >>

 5 May, 2020
‘Secord calls for emergency arts rescue package’
In a media release, ‘NSW Labor today accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian of ignoring the arts and entertainment sectors in her various COVID packages – putting thousands of jobs at risk. This followed the announcement last night (May 4) that Carriageworks has become the first major arts company to be forced to call in administrators –after the State Government refused to provide assistance.’ While comparing arts support programs in other states, Shadow arts minister, Walt Secord said: ‘“Carriageworks is the tip of the iceberg; there are so many other arts groups and organisations as well as individuals who are in absolute strife and at risk of going the same way…Sadly, the arts were the first hit and they will be the last to recover. They also do not have large cash reserves to fall back on.”
‘Mr Secord said he was “disgusted” by the State Government’s priorities, pointing to their decision to waste $1.5 billion on the Powerhouse Museum move from Ultimo to Parramatta. “They can spend $1.5 billion forcing the move of the Powerhouse Museum, but they refuse to artists and arts organisations survive this crisis.” Artists and arts workers have been severely impacted by restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic, but the contract nature of their work means that they have fallen through the cracks of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program.’ Read more: Labor media 5 May

4-5  May, 2020
‘Carriageworks shunted into voluntary administration’

Kylar Loussikian and Linda Morris announce, in the Sydney Morning Herald, that ‘Carriageworks, the cultural centre based in the historic Eveleigh rail yards, has become Sydney’s first major arts company to call in administrators as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc across the industry… Sources close to discussions said the decision to put Carriageworks, the largest contemporary multi-arts centre in the country, into administration was made after it became clear the NSW government would not guarantee regular grant funding due in July.’
‘In a statement, Carriageworks said the sudden cancellation or postponement of six months of activities due to restrictions on public gatherings had resulted in an “irreparable loss of income”. Chief executive Blair French said he hoped Carriageworks would be able to reopen to artists and the community once the state recovered from the effects of the pandemic.’
‘The decision will bolster calls for an immediate, targeted stimulus from federal and state governments to allow struggling arts companies to survive the pandemic.’ Esther Anatolitis, executive director of the National Association of the Visual Arts, said: ‘”Australia’s leading economists have sounded the alarm on the risks to the nation of allowing the arts industry to collapse. I implore governments to take their calls seriously – as well as the united calls of the entire industry. Public investment in companies like Carriageworks enriches all of our lives. To ensure our post-COVID-19 future is bright, there’s no time to be lost in strengthening that investment.” ‘ Read more  or:  Carriageworks closure – 4 May 2020

1 May, 2020
Inquiry submission: from 3 May to 17 May – 14 more days!
‘Extension of submission closing date: Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales’
The Select Committee for this second Legislative Council Inquiry has advised by email that:
‘The original closing date for written submissions to this inquiry was 3 May 2020. Thank you to those who have already made a submission. In light of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, the submission closing date has now been extended to 17 May 2020.’
See the committee website here, for terms of reference, timeline and procedure for submissions:

24 April, 2020
‘Full Steam Behind: Tragedy as Museum Powers Down’

Henry Ergas writes in The Australian, that current decisions being made about relocating the Powerhouse Museum mean that: ‘A wonderful link to this country’s origins are about to be lost.’ As ANZAC day approaches, he reflects on some of the important events associated with Australia’s cultural identity, and regrets that many significant objects in the collection ‘are likely to be consigned to dusty warehouses, rarely exhibited and even more rarely seen. Nor will they be the only victims of the Berejiklian government’s determination to close Sydney’s historic Powerhouse Museum, sell its valuable site and transfer its remains to a far smaller building in Parramatta.’ He writes that gone also, will be the unique Steam Room, the space needed to properly exhibit the museum’s holdings, and the ‘150 years of Australia’s heritage, with its unbroken link connecting today’s Powerhouse to the great International Exhibition of 1879, which heralded Sydney’s emergence as a global city and spawned an integrated cluster of cultural and educational institutions in the area of Sydney that is now Ultimo.’
However, he says that: ‘Properly reinvigorated, it could be a landmark rivalling Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum, showcasing its treasures not merely in Sydney but on the national and international stage. To allow its building to be destroyed, its collection effectively disbanded and its connection to Ultimo severed would therefore be an appalling waste. Yet even worse than that, it would be the surest sign that we no longer value the culture that helped make this a country worth fighting for… Closed for the lockdown, the Powerhouse may have seen its last Anzac Day. When the exhibits are dismantled, the steam turned off and the doors permanently shut, a fragment of Australia will be lost forever.’  Read more  or Read more

20 April, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum now Berejiklian Dead Cat Project’
Robert Borsak, chair of the first Legislative Council Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and also the second Inquiry which has submissions due on 3 May, ( Read more for submission process), sent out a media release, saying:
‘Just when we thought that the opportune resignation of the Arts Minister, Don Harwin, may have resulted in some sanity being brought into the Powerhouse project, it only gets worse. Now the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, is taking over as Arts Minister. Given the disaster that has hit our community with the Covid-19 virus, the cost to the economy and the Arts community in NSW, one would think that perhaps sanity would prevail, and the government dump this vanity project? But no, it seems not.
Questions are being asked at every level, all over the state about why $1.5 billion should be spent moving the Powerhouse museum to a risky location, with a poorly designed “milk crate on stilts” that will not even have a ground floor exhibition space or underground parking, when better alternatives have been discussed for years.
“The Premier now as the Arts Minister can front the Upper House Select Committee into the Powerhouse move and explain the inadequate nomination to the State Heritage Register at the Ultimo site, the demolition of heritage buildings at Parramatta, the faulty consultation process that exploits the current inability to hold public meetings and much, much more. The scandal that has plagued this project from its very beginning, that has helped hound an arrogant Don Harwin out of office, will now be placed gently like a dead rotting cat around the neck of the Premier. Can she survive its stink? The money can and should be used better elsewhere in the NSW economy. Vanity has no place in a post Covid-19 world, especially vanity money spent in Sydney, when the bush is screaming for help and support,” Mr Borsak said.’
Read more: BORSAK MR 200420 IPowerhouse Vanity Project

17 April, 2020
‘Good news for our Powerhouse’
Jamie Parker, MP for Balmain, asks for people to sign a new petition to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. He says: ‘If there is a silver lining from this pandemic, it could be in our Powerhouse Museum. Earlier this week the NSW Treasurer refused to answer when asked if the Powerhouse move would go ahead. This is the first strong signal that the government might finally back away from this wasteful and pointless relocation.’
Sign the petition to save the Powerhouse Museum.
‘The coronavirus has cost NSW around $10 billion and shifted priorities across our state. Moving the Powerhouse Museum is expected to cost a whopping $1 billion and deliver a measly cost-benefit ratio of just 1:02. You don’t need an economics degree to know that this move isn’t worth it. That is because the relocation of the Powerhouse has always been about a property deal for the government’s developer mates, not improving and investing in Sydney’s cultural institutions. It’s simple: NSW can’t afford to do sweetheart deals for developers during this pandemic.’
Read more: J Parker 17 April

16, 17 April, 2020
‘A House of cards in $10b hit’
On 16 April, Anna Caldwell reports in the Daily Telegraph, about how: ‘The NSW Treasurer refused to answer when quizzed in a party room meeting if the Powerhouse Museum move would proceed as the state battles a $10 billion virus dent in the coffers’. Dominic Perrottet ‘said the government was committed to bringing forward “shovel ready” infrastructure projects to keep the state’s economy moving, but skirted around re-committing to the Powerhouse relocation in its current terms. ‘…’Upper House Liberal Matthew Mason-Cox asked about the Powerhouse at yesterday’s meeting. The Daily Telegraph confirmed the exchange with three participants in the meeting, who agreed Mt Perrottet did not answer the question.’  Read more: Daily T 16 April
‘Got to go for Growth’
And on 17 April, Caldwell followed up, writing ‘While we may be in for an economic storm, the only way we will get through it will be by letting the private sector be free to innovate by a state government that gets it. Planning Minister Rob Stokes has been particularly adept  this month in slashing red tape to support economic activity.’ After many examples associated with such as small food and grocery businesses, she notes that many ‘major state developments like the Narrabri gas project and the Star Pyrmont tower, are still waiting in the wings.’ ‘The Government is united on the idea that development and building infrastructure will chart the state’s path back to economic prosperity, but there is debate at the most senior levels of the Berejilian team about which projects should go ahead. …Premier Berejiklian yesterday dismissed any idea that the Powerhouse museum or ANZ Stadium would be abandoned, but she has not stemmed the push back in her own cabinet that the investment in those big commitments should be diverted to more pressing projects that may drive more economic activity.’  Read more: Daily T April 17

17 April, 2020
‘Have we had the last laugh on Don Harwin?’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald writes: ‘…It’s a little ironic – like Al Capone being done for tax evasion – that a Minister who has presided over the ongoing scandal of ‘relocating’ (ie. destroying) the Powerhouse Museum, has been pinged for breaking a public health and safety order. The Powerhouse saga is such a travesty it should have brought down everyone associated with the scheme.
To recap briefly: The move is completely unnecessary; It will destroy museum visitation; Parramatta doesn’t want it, having originally asked the government for better arts facilities, not a tricked-up science museum; It will be wildly expensive, with no change fom $1.5 billion, and counting.
The entire process has been shrouded in secrecy, with the Minister leading the way in arrogant disregard of expert opinion and public opposition. The only compelling reason anybody has suggested is that the NSW government is eager to sell the Powerhouse site to its pals, the developers.  With the recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown expected to cost many billions it would be sheer madness to proceed with the Powerhouse project – but the government is still not prepared to face reality, even as another inquiry gets underway.
To be fair to Don Harwin, the Powerhouse is the nasty stain on his record, although regional galleries may argue they could have done better under his reign. .. Don Harwin gave the impression that he had a genuine enthusiasm for the arts, and was responsive to many appeals for support. The Powerhouse debacle showed the other side of his character as a ruthless political operative.’ Read more: JMcD 17 April

15 April, 2020
‘Harwin saw state become a construction powerhouse’
Writing on-line for The Australian, Matthew Westwood documents the achievements of former Arts Minister, Don Harwin, and also some of the controversies he aroused. ‘Don Harwin’s fall from grace as a minister in NSW’s Berejiklian government was as humiliatingly tabloid as they come. … among other things, he was leader of the government in the Legislative Council — but The Daily Telegraph zeroed in on his arts role and the implication of privilege while the rest are doing it tough.
And it was the arts that Harwin clearly loved. Even his detractors concede that his enjoyment and commitment were genuine.’
After listing many of the major arts development projects Harwin supported [many of which have been criticised for under budgeting, lack of consultation and transparency in planning], Westwood says: ‘By far the biggest of the state’s cultural projects is the new Powerhouse Museum, which the government intends moving from its present location at Ultimo in Sydney to a purpose-made building in Parramatta. … Opponents say the government, and in particular Harwin, has stubbornly resisted calls for a more responsible outcome for the Powerhouse’s existing home in Ultimo and its collections of historically significant industrial, scientific and design objects. The new Parramatta building, designed by Paris-based firm Moreau Kusunoki Architects, puts the museum on “stilts” because the riverside site is prone to flooding. Labor leader Jodi McKay has called for the plan to be scrapped and, as revealed by The Australian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has urged his cabinet colleagues to abandon it.
An upper house inquiry last year rejected the Parramatta move and condemned the “staggering” lack of detail, analysis and evidence to support the costly plans. The government’s response, signed by Harwin, asserted its intention to proceed, full steam ahead. That was an unsatisfactory answer for inquiry chairman Robert Borsak, who last month launched a second inquiry, determined to bring greater transparency to the government’s plans.
With Harwin’s removal, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has taken over the arts portfolio. The obligations will be relatively few during the lockdown and perhaps a door has been left ajar for Harwin’s return. In his absence, the Premier could do worse than approve financial assistance for the state’s arts sector. While the cultural building works continue during the COVID-19 crisis, companies large and small are struggling to survive. Read more or here: M Westwood 15 April

15 April, 2020
‘Have your say on proposed development projects’
The two groups, Friends of Ultimo and Save the Powerhouse, summarise current opportunities to speak out, at a time when face-to-face meetings are impossible. They say, on Facebook, ‘The NSW Government is visibly using the current lockdown to attempt to push through controversial developments when the community has less power to oppose them. As well as listing opportunities to speak about 1) Harbourside shopping development, and 3) Pyrmont Peninsula place strategy (which includes building on the Powerhouse site), they advise:
–  …you can direct your submission to the Impending Upper House Inquiry on “the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales” at  and/or take their survey (Survey Monkey) at Submissions and survey close on 03 May 2020.
– You can also comment by taking a “SwipeEngage” online survey  and/or by emailing your submission to  before Monday 20 April 2020.
Read more:
Have your say 16 April    [See also related news reports below]

13 April, 2020
‘Downfall of a NSW Minister and the future for the arts’
In her CultureHeist newsletter, Judith White summarises the background of Don Harwin’s tenure as Arts Minister, and his forced resignation. She discusses his relationships with the corporate sector and his colleagues in Parliament as well as opposition to some of his preferred arts projects. Among other issues, she says: ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin’s resignation on 10 April has sparked renewed calls for Premier Gladys Berejiklian government to abandon his cherished $1.5 billion, developer-driven plan to demolish the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and relocate to a flood-prone site at Parramatta. But with Berejiklian herself taking over the arts portfolio for now, it will take a mighty upheaval to halt the destructive plan.’… ‘Not only has the Berejiklian government ignored the plight of arts workers; since the COVID crisis began it has ploughed on with its Powerhouse project. Infrastructure NSW has been running a “consultation” process that museum supporters describe as fake – a box-ticking exercise. She cites museum consultant Kylie Winkworth as writing of a webinar sessions in early April, that: “not one person spoke in favour of the move. The PHM’s CEO [Lisa Havilah, a Harwin appointee] outlined the facilities for conferences, performances, immersive digital experiences, events and functions, cafés, 40 apartments, a dormitory for schools, and some exhibition space… There was no mention of any museum until someone asked. Oops, that was revealing.” ’
‘But meanwhile a new door has opened’ says, White. ‘On 23 March came the announcement of a further Upper House Select Committee on the issue, under the cumbersome title: “Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales”… The inquiry will also look at the issue of long-term funding of museums and galleries, including the damage done by the spending cuts known as “efficiency dividends”. Submissions by individuals or organisations can be made HERE, where there is also the option to complete a straightforward online questionnaire. Both submissions and questionnaire are open until 3 May.’ Read more   or here: Culture Heist HW 13 April

12 April, 2020
‘Calls to scrap new Powerhouse Museum after Arts Minister resigns’
Linda Morris, with Andrew Taylor in the Sydney Morning Herald, documents how ‘The Bereijklian government has been urged to abandon the new Parramatta Powerhouse Museum following the departure of the project’s leading advocate, the former Arts Minister Don Harwin. Opponents doubled down on their criticism of the $1 billion relocation project with the arts sector calling on the NSW Premier to instead give urgent priority to immediate heart-starter measures to revive the state’s cultural life.’ Despite expressions of support from Museum of Contemporary Arts chair, Simon Mordant, ‘Greens MP and deputy chair of the Upper House Inquiry into the Powerhouse project, David Shoebridge, said it was now time for the government to “admit its mistake, step back, and save this iconic institution”.’ And Executive director of the National Association of Visual Arts, Esther Anatolitis, asked ‘…if it still made sense to “relocate a world heritage 26-ton locomotive plus the rest of the museum’s important collection, when we could instead imagine a cultural institution that’s truly of and by western Sydney?”. “COVID-19 austerity aside, the new minister will need to assess this decision carefully,” she said.’
Read more  or: Calls to scrap new Powerhouse Museum – LM 12 April

12 April, 2020
‘At snoopy Pearl Beach, locals are asking: who dobbed in Don?’ Lisa Visentin and Jordan Baker, in the Sydney Morning Herald, attempt to trace the source of information for Arts Minister Don Harwin’s travel to the country: ‘Was it a local? His Labor rivals? Or his factional enemies? Questions are intensifying over who betrayed Don Harwin.’ Read more
‘Factional hit’: Blame game grips Liberals over minister’s downfall’
Lisa Visentin and Jordan Baker also investigate the background to Harwin’s resignation, suggesting, among other suggestions: ‘Liberal insiders say fallen state government minister Don Harwin was betrayed by his own party colleagues in a “factional hit” designed to destabilise Premier Gladys Berejiklian.’ Read more   See also: SMH Harwin 12 April

11 April, 2020
‘Top priorities for NSW’s next minister for the arts’
Executive Director of NAVA (National Association of Visual Arts),  Esther Anatolitis, writes: ‘Following the resignation of the New South Wales arts minister due to his infringements of COVID19 public health laws, NAVA outlines the key priorities facing the incoming minister. “There’s never been a more critical time to be NSW’s minister for the arts – nor a more impactful one,” said Anatolitis. “There is so much good work to be done right now, so I very much look forward to welcoming NSW’s new arts minister. After a number of critical examples of funding impacts, including cuts to funding from the Australia Council, she adds: “Another priority will be the Powerhouse Museum. Does it still make sense to devote a billion of the state’s dollars to the relocation of a world heritage 26-ton locomotive plus the rest of the museum’s important collection, when we could instead imagine a cultural institution that’s truly of and by Western Sydney? COVID19 austerity aside, the new minister will need to assess this decision carefully…”. Read more  or: Top priorities for NSW’s next minister for the arts – NAVA

11 April, 2020
‘Now is the time to save the Powerhouse and $1.5 billion’

In the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, [and aware of costs associated with the earlier NSW bushfires], Greens MPs David Shoebridge and Cate Faehrmann announce in a media release that: ‘With NSW in the grip of a pandemic that looks set to wipe out the state’s arts and entertainment industries without significant government support, along with the threat of a state-wide public sector wage freeze, proceeding with the controversial Powerhouse move now is a criminal waste of money.’
Shoebridge said: ‘“In the middle of a terrible pandemic this is not the time to flush $1.5 billion down the river on a controversial project with so few public benefits. These funds can and must be redirected to where they are needed right now, to refurbishing the existing Powerhouse, saving the arts and paying people’s wages.” And Faehrmann said: ‘The creative industries in NSW now have a completely different set of priorities to what it did when this budget was brought down. The Powerhouse move must be the first on the chopping block and the $1.5 billion saved should go straight towards keeping our creative industries afloat through a combination of wage subsidies and grants.’ Read more: The Greens 11 April

11 April, 2020
In a media release, Labor leader, Jody McKay, and Shadow treasurer and arts minister Walt Secord, write: ‘Last night (April 10), Mr Harwin resigned after police issued him with a $1000 fine for breaching public health orders involving his Pearl Beach holiday home. This will require the Premier to appoint a new Arts Minister. Ms Berejiklian should also take the opportunity to “ditch” the costly Powerhouse Museum plan.’ McKay says “The Powerhouse Museum has always been a property deal for the Berejiklian Government. We would rather see the $1.5 billion re-directed to other priorities.” And Secord adds: “…in these extreme economic circumstances with tens of thousands unemployed, it was hard for the Premier to justify the Powerhouse Museum splurge.” Read: Labor Media release 11 April

10 April, 2020
…and Arts Minister Don Harwin resigns!
Late on Good Friday, 10 April, 2020, Don Harwin announced his resignation, providing both reasons and apologies for his actions. See: Harwin’s resignation statement 10 April
Again, the event hit headlines everywhere. See for example:
Anna Caldwell reports (in print as: Beach Blues: Out on his Arts’, ‘Don and Dusted’  and ‘Don’s party has crashed’) that ‘Embattled NSW MP Don Harwin has offered his resignation as Arts Minister to Premier Gladys Berejiklian for staying at his Central Coast holiday house and breaching coronavirus restrictions.’ Read more
11 April,  Sydney Morning Herald: ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin quits after holiday house scandal’
Alexandra Smith and Lisa Visentin also announce Harwin’s resignation, and his apology, as well as Premier Berekjiklian’s regrets, and speculation of his successor as Minister. Read more
10-11 April, The Australian: ‘Arts Minister quits in holiday house scandal’
Yoni Bashan reports about how ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin, who was fined $1000 for allegedly breaching a public health order set by his own government, resigned from cabinet on Friday, days after being photographed at his holiday house on the NSW central coast.’ He adds: ‘Several cabinet ministers told the Weekend Australian on Friday night Mt Harwin had acted recklessly by meeting with senior colleagues while, unbeknown to them, hosting a newly arrived guest at his property from the UK…’. Read here: The Australian Harwin Quits 10-11 April

 9-10 April, 2020
Scandal as Arts Minister Don Harwin flouts lock-down bans on non-essential travel
As the Easter holiday approached, and people everywhere obeyed current government rules about non-essential travel during the coronavirus crisis, and pleas for
Sydneysiders to stay out of regional NSW,  the Daily Telegraph discovered that Arts Minister Harwin (and advocate for relocation of the Powerhouse Museum) had moved to his holiday house at Pearl Beach with a visitor who was later identified as ‘self-isolating’ after returning from London. Dozens of news outlets across the country reported on Harwin’s situation; the Premier ordered him back; the police fined him $1000; and he apologised – but many of his colleagues criticised his selfishness and some across all political parties, and newspapers, demanded he be sacked. See below,
Photographs of Harwin in some of the reports: Harwin – news pics 9-10 April
Anna Caldwell in the Daily Telegraph: Read more   or: Harwin’s hideaway – DT 9 April
Lisa Visentin in the Sydney Morning Herald:  Read more or: Harwin’s apology SMH 9 April
Riley Stuart at ABC:  Read more or: Harwin ABC 9 April
A list of dozens of responses in news media around NSW and Australia: Harwin’s list 9-10 April

9 April, 2020: Parramatta webinair: invitation for consultation feedback, by survey:
Following the announcement on 24 March (see earlier report below), where the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) expressed concern that: ‘Yesterday Sydneysiders found in their letterbox a postcard from the NSW Government telling them that due to COVID-19 there would be no public consultation regarding the hotly contested relocation of the Powerhouse Museum’, the organisers of the alternative ‘webinair consultation’ process,  sent this email to participants:
From: Powerhouse Parramatta <>
Thank you for attending this weeks’ webinar about the new Powerhouse in                          Parramatta. The presentation is available to download on the InfrastructureNSW          website  museum-in-parramatta. We appreciate you taking the time to attend the event and sharing your feedback on the project. We also encourage you to share feedback on our online survey, available here:
Next week we will provide responses to all questions that were raised during the webinar and taken on notice.  As discussed during the event, we will be hosting a second webinar for the community to find out more about the project.
This session will be 23 April, 1pm – 3pm. To RSVP, please reply via email.’

8 April, 2020
‘Fake museum consultations under cover of Covid-19’
In CityHub, Kylie Winkworth  draws attention to the inadequate consultancy process associated with the recent ‘webonair’ event about the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, writing: ‘Years of crippling drought, devastating fires, and a pandemic with no end in sight. Any one of these disasters should give the NSW Government pause to review its unpopular, destructive and absurdly expensive scheme to demolish the Powerhouse Museum (PHM), and build something half the size at Parramatta. The government says it’s ‘the new Powerhouse’. To the rest of us, this is the building resembling two abandoned milk crates on the banks of the Parramatta River. Whatever it is, it’s not the real Powerhouse, and it’s not a museum. Read more  or: City Hub – KW – 9 April

6 April, 2020
‘Ticking the Consultation Box for the PHM’s `move’ to Parramatta’
Jennifer Sanders and Kylie Winkworth, from The Powerhouse Museum Alliance, write that the Alliance ‘rejects the faux consultations on the Parramatta museum, now underway by Infrastructure NSW, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. It is not community engagement when you are only consulting on decisions that have already been made.  That is called ‘ticking the box’. The government has made all the decisions on the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) and the Parramatta development, without regard to community opinion. Now it needs to show it has consulted.’
‘From Premier Mike Baird’s thought bubble in November 2014, the NSW Government has never considered any other options for a new museum in Parramatta, nor listened to community or expert views. The base case has always been that the Powerhouse Museum will be sold and demolished.  This is what has driven the government’s plans from day 1. And this is why the people of Parramatta will never be allowed a genuine say on a new museum, where it goes, and what it is about.’
‘… The `move’ of the Powerhouse is a front for a monstrous property play at the expense of NSW taxpayers and generations of donors to the Powerhouse Museum.  Communities have never been asked about keeping the PHM in Ultimo. The NSW Government does not have community consent for the closure and demolition of the Powerhouse Museum, and the eviction of its collections from their purpose designed buildings and state of the art facilities at Ultimo. Another round of faux consultations will not give this toxic project legitimacy.’ Read here: PMA Statement on Consultation 7 April 2020

3 April (and 4, 8, 10 April), 2020
Cuts in Australia Council arts funding 2021-2024
In an announcement with listed recipients, ‘The Australia Council has today announced that 144 arts organisations will receive a share of $31.7M per annum in funding offered through the revised Four Year Funding for Organisations program. CEO Adrian Collette AM said the new measures, delivered within the Council’s existing budget, were essential during this critical period when the cultural and creative sectors are experiencing immediate and enormous challenges due to the impact of COVID-19.’ Read more
However, this involved many serious cuts to funding for organisations, resulting in the following examples of concerns.
4 April, 2020
In ARTS SECTOR REELING AFTER LATEST AUSTRALIA COUNCIL ANNOUNCEMENT, Clive Paget, from Limelight magazine, says: ‘While new funding has been allocated for some, all companies will face cuts of 30 percent over the next 12 months.’ Read more
8 April, 2020
Esther Anatolitis, CEO of NAVA (National Assn of Visual Arts, which missed out on funding), says in The Guardian, ‘Australia’s arts have been hardest hit by coronavirus. So why aren’t they getting support?’ Read more   or: Coronavirus and arts – Guardian 8 April
10 April, 2020

Angad Roy, in ‘Boomers vs Millennials: arts funding dropped, hits young artists over high-brow establishment’, in Michael West Media, refers also to: ‘In NSW, the Berejiklian government continues to remain obstinate on its plans to spend $1.5 billion relocating part of the Powerhouse Museum to a flooded site in Parramatta. Museums Consultant Kylie Winkworth suggested that 10% of the Powerhouse relocation costs would fund 15 new regional institutions, yet the governments continue to pursue its development plans instead of supporting the broader arts sector.’ Read here: Boomers vs Millennials – arts funding

31 March, 2020
‘Pyrmont planning strategy released’
newsletter comments: ‘The NSW government has released details of a strategy for the planning of the Pyrmont peninsula, pressing ahead with a community consultation process despite the COVID-19 outbreak,’ where, ‘In a statement, planning minister Rob Stokes said, “The planning system is keeping people in jobs, unlocking investment opportunities and keeping the economy moving through this unprecedented crisis.’ But the report also points out that ‘The Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy is the result of a controversial review by the Greater Sydney Commission of the planning framework for the area, which was initiated by the state government in the wake of a planning department recommendation that the proposed Star Casino hotel tower be refused planning permission. When the review was published in October 2019, it was criticized by the City of Sydney for its speed and for its intervention in the local planning system.’ “Feedback from the community and businesses will play a crucial role in setting the vision for this important precinct so we’ve moved consultation online to make it easier for everyone to share their ideas safely from home,” said Stokes.
See the NSW government announcement here.
On 2 April, Save the Powerhouse and Friends of Ultimo, on Facebook, criticise the government’s procedure for the inadequacy of on-line consultation, and for the elimination of issues such as the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the planning project, in particular, where it says:  “…We’re not aiming to canvass your views on issues that have already been subject to consultation or that are subject to other processes, such as a new or developed Sydney Fish Market or the Powerhouse Museum relocation.”
Read more: Save the Powerhouse-Friends of Ultimo

25 March, 2020
‘Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales – Invitation to make a submission’
The Hon Robert Borsak MLC, Committee Chair of the first, and now second, Inquiry to be made into the Government’s management of museums and cultural projects, sent out an invitation to all interested people, saying:
‘A NSW Legislative Council Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales. The terms of reference for the inquiry, information guides and media release are attached for your information. On behalf of the committee, I would like to invite you to make a submission to the inquiry. The closing date for submissions is Sunday 3 May 2020.’ Also available is an on-line questionnaire: ‘Responses to the questionnaire may be used in the committee’s final report.’
For the full message, with all necessary information about making submissions to the Inquiry, and responding to the questionnaire, Read more here: Borsak – invitation to submit to 2nd InquiryFactsheet – Making a submission  ;  TOR – Museums and cultural projects in New South Wales

24 March, 2020
‘Sydneysiders shocked as Premier uses COVID-19 to bypass public consultation on the contested Powerhouse Museum Relocation’
The North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) issued a media release, expressing concern that: ‘Yesterday Sydneysiders found in their letterbox a postcard from the NSW Government telling them that due to COVID-19 there would be no public consultation regarding the hotly contested relocation of the Powerhouse Museum … With the Premier just recently ignoring the community calls for the project; which plans to demolish Parramatta’s much loved heritage to be halted, this is just another slap in the face.’ [Refer: announcement of consultation on 19 February, below]
NPRAG Spokesperson, Suzette Meade said “ MAAS is forging ahead asking the community – whilst in the  middle of extreme uncertainty about their jobs, keeping their home and just staying alive during a worldwide pandemic – to scan a QR code or call them about a museum project, it is disgusting.”
“Public meetings are an essential part of any development process.  If the government cannot hold these due to a public health crisis, then they need to immediately suspend this until the public is able to meet. The country is in a crisis. We are in lockdown!  Does the Premier seriously expect the people of Sydney to discuss spending $1.5 billion dollars to unnecessarily relocate a museum while people are losing their lives? The Premier’s decision to go ahead with the Powerhouse Museum project while the country is being confronted by a pandemic, is totally irresponsible, inappropriate and incredibly insensitive.”
Read more: NPrag Media Release 25032020

23 March, 2020
The NSW Legislative Council announced that: ‘A new Upper House inquiry will shine a spotlight on the NSW Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum – in particular, the rationale for its proposed relocation from Ultimo to Parramatta. The inquiry will also consider the adequacy of the NSW Government’s support for museum and cultural initiatives more broadly. A select committee has been established to conduct the inquiry, chaired by the Hon Robert Borsak MLC. Mr Borsak chaired the previous inquiry into the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, which ended in February 2019, prior to the 2019 state election.’ After providing more details, it continues: ‘The committee is receiving submissions until 3 May 2020. Alternatively, interested individuals are invited to submit their comments by completing an online questionnaire, open until the same date. Public hearings will be held in the coming months. For information about the inquiry, including the committee membership and the terms of reference, please visit the Select Committee’s website. For media release and submission guidelines, Read more  or here: Second Inquiry – submissions and questionnaire

18 March, 2020
‘Arts budgets in the age of catastrophe’

Judith White writes on her cultureheist website, that ‘In the panic over the coronavirus, arts organisations are pleading for support as performances and festivals are cancelled, museums and galleries close and whole areas of the country are threatened with lockdown … Brace, instead, for greater shocks to come. There’s a Federal Budget due on 12 May and State budgets in May and June. Faced with the final disappearance of the surplus that never was, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg will be looking to cut spending wherever he can get away with it – and for Coalition governments, the arts are always first in line for the chop. Nowhere is this more so than in NSW, where Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has already warned that his June budget will be “horrible”. If the Berejiklian government had any vision or integrity it would take the dual climate and health emergencies as the opportunity to halt its ill-conceived “cultural infrastructure” plans, much criticised by eminent arts professionals, and redirect the money to sustaining the sector through the crisis.’
As part of this issue, she says: ‘There have always been better ways to use the $1.5 billion estimated cost of dismantling the historic Powerhouse Museum and relocating part of it to Parramatta, to a site repeatedly flooded as it was in the torrential rains of early February. Following that catastrophe a Sydney Morning Herald readers’ panel came down 85% in favour of abandoning the relocation. Perrottet and Premier Berejiklian will not be taking such an eminently sane course. In sticking to their Sydney-centric, pro-developer plans they paint themselves, as Perrottet did in the press on 28 February, as “championing progress against a throng of nominal progressives all standing athwart the city yelling ‘stop’.” This has enraged those who followed the previous parliament’s Inquiry into Museums and Galleries which probed the extreme secrecy surrounding the project and aired the many well-informed objections to it.’ After discussion about recent ‘… heated exchanges on Macquarie Street’, White continues: ‘The government remains obdurate, and that means questions remain about what secret deals have been done over the Ultimo site of the present museum. Late last year Darren Steinberg, chief executive of property developer group Dexus, resigned from the MAAS Trust which oversees the Powerhouse, citing conflict of interest over the potential acquisition of the Ultimo site. He had been on the board for less than a year – one of Arts Minister Don Harwin’s appointments. You have to wonder what has been going on.’ She reminds us that ‘Museums consultant Kylie Winkworth points out that an architect-designed regional museum could be built for $10-$15 million, so that 10% of the Powerhouse relocation costs would fund 15 new regional institutions, giving heart to local communities,’ and concludes that ‘The remaining funds should go to supporting the arts through the present crisis and beyond, restoring some of the spending cuts that have devastated organisations large and small.’
Read more  or here: Judith White – Arts budgets in the age of catastrophe

March, 2020
The world-wide CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) and its effect
The World Health Organisation has identified the Coronavirus, COVID-19, as a pandemic, becoming a serious threat to Australia by March 2020, with prospects of many months and even years before a solution is found. Sweeping across the globe, spread at first from local cities and communities overseas by travellers and then multiplying in numbers in new locations, it has caused the greatest social and economic disruption anyone can recall or imagine.
Repercussions in Australia? In efforts to reduce contagion, for example: individuals have to stay at home and ‘self-isolate’; thousands of businesses and education institutions have closed; tens of thousands of jobs lost; beaches, parks and other public places out of bounds; events reliant on crowds and audiences cancelled. Museums, galleries, theatres and sports venues are also closed, with events such as exhibitions, conferences and meetings held on line.
In NSW, with promises of substantial government financial compensation from the state and federal budgets, following on from the costs that still have to be met from bushfires early in the year, questions are continually asked about the NSW government’s rationale for persisting with expensive projects such as the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. (See also, Letters to the Editor).

9 March 2020
‘Conflict of interest seemed to be a recent development’
In recently-obtained minutes of the MAAS Trust’s board meetings, Kylar Loussikian and Samantha Hutchinson, in their CBD report in the Sydney Morning Herald, uncover issues to do with government appointments of people to such Boards who have real or potential conflicts of interest. They ask: ‘Then there’s the question of what to do with the lucrative plot of land left over once the Powerhouse – officially the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences – moves. As CBD revealed in December, Dexus chief executive Darren Steinberg unexpectedly quit the museum’s board in August due to a “possible conflict” over the land’s sale. Cynics, of course, suggest the decision to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta had as much to do with unlocking its inner-city digs for apartment and commercial development as it did with bringing a valuable cultural institution to Sydney’s west.’
CBD draws attention to issues raised in Trust minutes including ‘ “[MAAS chief executive] Lisa Havilah updated Trust on the Creative Industries Precinct Business Case, the masterplan being developed and the proposed market sounding for the site”, the minutes of the July 10 Meeting, attended by Steinberg read,” …and … “Trust requested a full briefing of the draft master plan and market sounding from Annette Pitman, Create NSW”.’ Read more   or here: 9 March CBD

8 March, 2020
‘Why Parramatta won’t have a new ‘Powerhouse’ Museum’
A detailed summary on Save the Powerhouse group’s Facebook page notes: ‘For 5 years Save the Powerhouse has said that Parramatta deserves the Museum of its choice. Whatever structure the Parramatta community finally gets on its riverside flood plain, it won’t be the “New Powerhouse” museum – NOR EVEN A REAL MUSEUM – that the Government is desperately promoting. Why? THE ORIGINAL POWERHOUSE WAS CREATED AND CUSTOMISED FOR ULTIMO through the Sulman Prize-winning transformation of the former Ultimo Power Station by visionary architect Lionel Glendenning, so it cannot be transplanted anywhere else.’
The report considers issues including: FAR TOO SMALL, NOT A GENUINE MUSEUM and COST, and concludes: ‘For a fraction of this sum Parramattans could have had the museum they wanted, AND IT COULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETED BY NOW!’
For the full report: Read more   or here: 8 March Save the Powerhouse Summary

7-8 March, 2020
The Readers’ Panel – the Powerhouse Museum?

The weekly panel in the Sydney Morning Herald which documents feedback from readers on current issues, asked: ‘Should the $1.5 billion relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta be abandoned and the money put into regional communities?’
The graph shows that 85% recommended abandoning the relocation. See the figures here: 7-8 March SMH readers opinion

6 March, 2020
‘Hollywood historian to assess a rich heritage’
In their CBD column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Kylar Loussikian and Samantha Hutchinson ask: ‘How does one manage to bungle every angle of an astonishingly-expensive purpose-built new art precinct to be built smack bang in the centre of Greater Western Sydney? Just ask Arts Minister Don Harwin and his bureaucrats, who have managed to not only infuriate residents near the Powerhouse Museum’s current Pyrmont site but also those near its new home on the flood-prone banks of the Parramatta River…Cynics fear the museum’s current inner-city digs will soon make way for major commercial and residential developments.’
‘As CBD reported late last year, Dexus chief executive Darren Steinberg made a quiet exit from the MAAS Trust, which runs the museum, after it became clear the property giant had some interest in acquiring the site. He had been appointed less than a year earlier.
Now the Heritage Council is assessing what parts of the current museum site should be added to the state’s heritage register. The more of the site that ends up on that register, the more difficult (and expensive) it will be for development on the property…In January, a report to the government recommended nothing be added to the heritage register because renovations conducted in 1988 for the museum’s opening had trashed the original [1899] building.’
‘But this column can now report a curious new addition to the five-member Heritage Council, one which has yet to be announced or made public in any way. Harwin’s former chief-of-staff Brian Lindsay was added to the panel on February 6…“Mr Lindsay, as an historian, brings this particular expertise to the Council,” a spokesman said when we inquired on Thursday. Lindsay is, to be fair, a historian … at the very least of Hollywood films. His 2016 tome, Category Fraud, investigates how some actors and directors have gamed the, err, Academy Awards… Lindsay, meanwhile, was last year appointed to chair the State Archives board “representing the history profession”. He arrived just in time to oversee another of Harwin’s projects — inexplicably merging the Historic Houses Trust (now known as Sydney Living Museums) into the State Archives.’ Read more   or here: 6 March CBD comments

6 March, 2020
‘Think with your brains, not your bottom’
As one of 10 comments about the corona virus, NRL campaign anniversaries, cemetery land management, recent welcome regional rainfall and other issues, Ray Hadley asks:
6: The decision by former Premier Mike Baird to move the Powerhouse Museum out to Parramatta is fraught with danger. Firstly, while the government is rightly crying poor given the recent battles with fire and flood, it’s hard to justify the $1.5 billion spend. Then you have the problem of historic buildings being knocked over to accommodate a building housing historic items (I struggle to understand that concept) and the fact that the museum would be adjacent to the upper reaches of the Parramatta River which means, as we have seen recently, flooding becomes a problem. Knock it on the head, Premier. Read here:  6 March Hadley

4 March, 2020
‘Plans for high towers dwarfing Sydney’s Central station spark concerns’
Associated with concerns about over-development in the city (including redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum site), Matt O’Sullivan writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Plans to allow for buildings up to 206 metres high at the southern end of Sydney’s CBD, including a 39-storey tower planned for tech giant Atlassian, have stoked fears that they will dwarf the landmark Central railway station and lead to “adverse visual impacts”. An area named the western gateway is the first stage of a massive redevelopment of the 24-hectare Central precinct, which extends from the railway station to Cleveland Street.
While the redevelopment of the precinct has received substantial support, the proposal to permit towers up to 206 metres high has raised concerns that the sandstone train station will be “overwhelmed” by the new high rises nearby.
The National Trust said the increase in the allowable building heights was “totally out of context with the surrounding area”, pointing out that Central Station’s clock tower is 75 metres tall and “even the nearby UTS tower is only 120 metres”. “No amount of design guidelines, setbacks or urban design provisions can negate such height,” it said in a submission to the Department of Planning. “There are only nine towers over 200 metres in height in Sydney, and certainly none of these are located in this area.”
The rezoning at Central is part of the biggest shake-up of planning controls in the core of the CBD in more than four decades. It will also allow for towers higher than 300 metres near Circular Quay, Town Hall and Barangaroo, which is significantly above the cap of 235 metres at present.
The Heritage Council argues that the significant increase in the maximum building heights at the western gateway is not in keeping with the character of the area, and will result in “adverse visual impacts” on Central station. It wants the planned building heights to be reduced. Read more  or: 5 March Central – SMH

4 March, 2020
‘NSW Premier’s deputy John Barilaro in bitter feud over Powerhouse Museum’
Yoni Bashan writes in The Australian, about how: ‘In a sign of escalating tensions within the Coalition over competing city and rural priorities, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has begun vigorously campaigning for cabinet colleagues to drop their commitment to the $1.5bn relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the inner city to western Parramatta, saying the funding needs to be reallocated to struggling regional communities.’ …
‘Last week, Mr Barilaro was queried about the Powerhouse Museum by Ms McKay during question time. He provided a lengthy reply about rural and regional communities in distress — but he stopped short of denouncing the project. Instead, he endorsed it. “It is a fair question, a question about priorities,” he said. “If I thought that regional and rural NSW was missing out because we did not have the ability to support our regions, then of course I would have concerns.”  However, Barilaro then spoke privately with Opposition Leader Jodi McKay – and others –  in the lift ‘once question time had finished.’
‘Several government sources said they agreed that the Powerhouse Museum project was a thorn in the government’s side. But they were more concerned by Mr Barilaro’s indiscreet conversation with the Labor leader, and why he would provide her with ready ammunition against the government. “If he wants to have an argument about it, take it to cabinet,” one source said.
McKay is reported as saying:  ‘ “We have a government … that is privatising assets that belong to all of NSW, to fund those questionable projects in Sydney, and to pay for cost blowouts in Sydney.” The museum relocation was signed off by former NSW premier Mike Baird as an election commitment in 2015, a decision made after the museum submitted a business case requesting funding. “The current premises were designed for 19th and 20th-¬century collections and have constrained the museum’s capacity to move with the times,” government documents state.’ Read more   or here:  Australian 4 March 2020

4 March, 2020
Budget summary, proposed expenditure, Minister for the Arts  (including Powerhouse)
Portfolio Committee No. 1, Premier and Finance, examined the proposed expenditure for the various portfolio areas for Minister Don Harwin, including The Arts. On pages 4-11 of the Hansard transcript, questions were asked about the move of the Powerhouse Museum. These included potential display of all designs; involvement of the MAAS Trust; assessment of flood risks; access for audiences during floods; stages of design development;  consideration of heritage buildings; role of staff in Create NSW. To see full transcript:  Read more   And to read the extract about the Powerhouse Museum and Create NSW, read: 4 March Budget extract

4 March, 2020
‘CEO flummoxed over new Powerhouse access’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook reports on questions and answers in the Legislative Assembly Budget Estimates hearing on 3 March, and the news reports that followed. They say:  ‘…The flooding issue was a dominant theme at yesterday’s Legislative Assembly Budget Estimates hearing when Shoebridge, new Committee Chair Robert Borsak and Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord, pressed Arts Minister Don Harwin, Powerhouse CEO Lisa Havilah and other Government officials for more details about the planned “New Powerhouse” at Parramatta. While the Minister gave his customary uninformative (slippery?) performance, Havilah was visibly more hesitant. Having asserted confidently that the MAAS Trust had “signed off” on the selected winning design for the new museum she conceded that it would necessarily be built at or above the “one in a hundred years flood level ‘ of 7.5 m above ground level. “Will it be on stilts?” Secord wondered. She added that “not all objects will be above the flood level – PARTS WILL BE ON A LEVEL THAT WOULD FLOOD.” Secord’s question “How does the public access a building so far above ground level? Lifts, escalators – or what?” appeared to fluster Havilah. Scratching her head, she launched a flurry of vague remarks about the planned creation of a “civic link” with public access “via elevation from the river side.” … Shoebridge wanted to know:
(1) if the Minister and panel were aware of the historical severity of floods at Parramatta – he was assured that “a flood impact assessment will be prepared.”- and
(2) the proposed completion date for the New Museum – Havilah revealed that the date is “not yet known” because the project (now at stage 3) has not yet reached the “procurement” stage, to select a builder, Only after that, she said, can a project completion date be decided…So long for the promised 2023 opening!’
For a full account of the day’s proceedings please check the Legislative Council Hansard transcript for March 3: To see transcript:  Read more   And to read the extract about the Powerhouse Museum and Create NSW, read: 4 March Budget extract

1 March, 2020
‘Rival Parramatta Powerhouse Museum Designs remain under wraps’
Following considerable criticism of both the arguably inappropriate design of the ‘new museum’, and the demolition of heritage buildings, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, announces that ‘The peak body of architects [Australian Institute of Architects] has called for the release of all shortlisted design plans for the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum, saying it would be in the interests of public and professional transparency. The organiser of the taxpayer-funded International Design Competition, Malcolm Reading, has also supported the exhibition of the shortlisted plans to demonstrate the relative merits of the winning design and protect the integrity of the competition process.
The runners up in the competition remain under wraps almost 10 weeks after the International Design Competition jury judged that the standout design for the riverfront site came from the partnership of French architecture practice Moreau Kusunoki and Melbourne-based practice Genton. Mr Reading said it is customary for the designs of all architect teams to be displayed as part of an online gallery at the same time as the winning design is announced…’
‘ A spokesperson for Arts Minister Don Harwin said the government looked forward to sharing the shortlisted designs with the public “in the near future”… The NSW president of the Australian Institute of Architects, Kathlyn Loseby, said before the institute endorsed the competition process, it was assured each proposal would be exhibited and the institute would be briefed. It was essential to ensure proper transparency of the taxpayer-funded competition process for the sake of both public and professional confidence, Ms Loseby said. It was preferable that any physical exhibition should take place in Parramatta. Mr Reading pointed to a page link showing that the government committed to the designs’ release by the end of 2019.
At least two other short-listed designs retained one heritage building, but how the six architecture teams resolved heritage issues and arrived at their concepts on the constrained flood-prone site remains unknown. All teams signed up to confidentiality clauses as part of competition terms.’ Read more   or here: Rival Designs under wraps

28 February, 2020
‘Parramatta: Powerhouse Museum relocation inquiry’
Joanne Vella writes in the Parramatta Advertiser that: ‘A fresh inquiry into the State Government’s $1.5 billion relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has polarised the community.
The Greens and Labor have backed the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Party motion to launch the inquiry. Greens MP David Shoebridge said the inquiry was made more urgent after the recent floods at the proposed new $645 million Powerhouse site. “We need to ensure the safety of the Powerhouse’s priceless collection and it really does beggar belief that the government is proposing to place it beside a river on a flood plain,’’ he said. “We will also be passing a close eye over the proposed budget given the billion dollar cost overruns that almost every infrastructure project has faced under the Coalition.”
Mr Shoebridge said the community’s campaign was also a key reason for maintaining scrutiny. “There is a compelling case for Parramatta to have its own world class cultural institution that responds to its unique history from First Nations, to invasion and colonisation and the vibrant surge of migrants in the post war period,” Mr Shoebridge said. Opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord described the design as a “monstrosity on stilts’’. The design also spells the demolition of heritage-listed Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace at Phillip St. North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group welcomed the inquiry particularly about the demolition of 1870s Italianate villa Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. “NPRAG is very pleased to hear further scrutiny into the Powerhouse Museum debacle is starting soon,’’ spokeswoman Suzette Meade said.’ Read more: 28 Feb P Adv. Relocation Inquiry

27 February, 2020
‘Fresh inquiry into Powerhouse Museum’
Hard on the heels of all recent reports, Linda Morris , in the Sydney Morning Herald, advises: that: ‘A fresh parliamentary inquiry has been launched into the Berejiklian government’s $1.5 billion plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, as well as disparities in funding support for city and regional galleries and museums. The future of the museum and its priceless collection will be scrutinised by the same select upper house committee which urged last year that the museum’s relocation to Parramatta be abandoned and western Sydney be given its own world-class institution.
The wide-ranging inquiry will investigate the vision behind the move, governance of the project, including the effectiveness and adequacy of planning, the business case, design briefs, project management, public reporting, costs and cultural and demographic justifications. Greens MP David Shoebridge said special focus would be given to the consequences of floods after the carpark on the riverfront site was on February 10 turned into a swimming pool during the one-in-a-10-year flood event. Terms of reference also include the heritage status of the site at Ultimo and Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace, historic buildings at Parramatta slated for demolition per the winning designs by Moreau Kusunoki and Genton. The motion to hold an inquiry was backed by Greens and Labor, and was carried on voices in the upper house without there being a vote.’ Read more or here: 27 Feb Fresh Inquiry

27 February, 2020
‘Plans made for Sydney to get its own Victoria and Albert Museum’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘The former NSW Land Titles building would house a museum for the decorative arts under plans advanced by a government review to revamp the historic sandstone ribbon of Macquarie Street’, saying that documents show that: ‘The idea for Sydney’s answer to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was raised by former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull with the director of the Powerhouse Museum last year.’
Turnbull and former Prime Minister Paul Keating have been working on a new ‘vision’ for Macquarie St and The Domain since late November 2018… “It is anticipated that the NSW government will respond to the review later this year,” the spokesperson said. ‘If such a museum was supported by NSW Cabinet and managed by the Powerhouse Museum, its collection would need to be split between the new CBD museum and the Parramatta Powerhouse, now in the detailed design phase …”Early discussions involve a proposed cultural precinct at the end of Macquarie St including a decorative arts museum,” according to Trust minutes obtained under freedom of information laws.  “Any work on this will require a business case to the NSW government, which will consider timeframes and budget.”
The Powerhouse Museum is expected to maintain a fashion and design gallery at Ultimo after it relocates to Parramatta in 2023. A second business case looking at Ultimo’s redevelopment is close to finalisation. Chairman of the Trust, Barney Glover, said on Wednesday the museum remained committed to the Powerhouse Museum having a major presence in Sydney and Parramatta.
The proposal comes as notice was given to list the Powerhouse Museum’s engine house and turbine hall, second boiler house, office building and switch hall for heritage listing,’ which ‘ “… does not even mention in the assessment criteria the Powerhouse Museum, its Sulman award-winning adaption, and elegant Wran building, the tram depot for which the power station was built, the in situ gantry cranes and relics, and collection items directly related to the functions of the site; its cultural significance as the major landmark of the 1988 bicentenary, nor the well demonstrated social value of the museum for the people of NSW,” she said.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Robert Borsak flagged in NSW’s Upper House the reopening of a parliamentary inquiry into the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation – its vision, governance, risks to the collection, issues of flooding, heritage status and its future presence in Ultimo. Labor and the Greens say they will back Mr Borsak’s motion.’
Morris notes: ‘In 2017, architects McGregor Coxall completed a masterplan to “unlock a hidden gem and create new linkages between Hyde Park, the Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the CBD, tying the site into the wider ‘cultural ribbon’ that spans the Sydney CBD”. The plans show a pedestrian plaza at the rear of Sydney Hospital, with new government office space and a refurbished Land Titles office.
Like the V & A Museum, the priceless Powerhouse collection ranges across architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, theatre and performance. Were Sydney to get its own standalone Powerhouse decorative arts museum, Parramatta’s museum would likely focus on science, technology, and engineering and maths.’ Read more   or here: SMH 27 Feb

26 February, 2020
Questions in Parliament: Robbie & Wendy show dominate NSW Parliament – Powerhouse and Harwin interview’
Walt Secord, Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts, distributed documentation of a confrontation in Parliament, where Adam Searle, Leader of the Opposition, Penny Sharpe, Deputy Opposition Leader, and himself, Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts, interrogate Don Harwin as Minister for the Arts, about the government’s approval to demolish heritage buildings in Parramatta to develop a site for the proposed relocated Powerhouse Museum. Searle asks: ‘My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Arts Minister. Given the Minister’s 10 April 2019 comments on ABC Radio where he told broadcasters Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer when asked if heritage property Willow Grove would be demolished to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum that “No, we have not said that at all”, will he now admit that he misled the local community, the media and the people of this State?’ Penny Sharpe asked: ‘How does the Minister explain the disparity between his 18 April 2019 statement that Willow Grove will not be demolished and his 19 February 2020 statement that it was “an accurate answer at that particular point in time”?’ And Secord, after being asked to rephrase his question several times, persists in asking: ‘Would the Minister elucidate his answer in regard to the Willow Grove retention? Is it the Parramatta Council, the Premier or the Minister who fibbed to the community?’ The question appeared to remain unresolved. Read more: 25 Feb 2020 NSW Parliament

25 February, 2020
‘Intent to consider listing Ultimo Tramways Power House on the State Heritage Register’, and invitation for submissions
Writing as a Delegate of the Heritage Council of NSW, Tim Smith, Director Operations, Heritage NSW, in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, sent out a message to interested people and organisations, saying: ‘I am writing to advise that the Heritage Council of NSW resolved, at its meeting of 12 February 2020, to give notice of its intention to consider listing Ultimo Tramways Power House on the State Heritage Register in acknowledgement of its heritage significance to the people of New South Wales. This advice is in accordance with section 33(1)(a) of the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW).  Any members of the community, owners, managers, organisations or other interested parties are invited to make a written submission regarding the proposed listing and significance of Ultimo Tramways Power House. Submissions should be posted or emailed to the Heritage Council of NSW at the following address during the public submission period commencing on 26 February 2020 and closing on 24 March 2020 (to  and see links below for address).’
However, it has been pointed out by others who have advocated over many years for heritage listing, that the ‘nomination that does not even mention in the assessment criteria the Powerhouse Museum, its Sulman award winning adaption and elegant Wran building, the tram depot for which the power station was built, the in situ gantry cranes and relics, and collection items directly related to the functions of the site, its cultural significance as the major landmark of the 1988 bicentenary, nor the well demonstrated social value of the museum for the people of NSW.’ For nomination document: Read more  and letter here: Ultimo Tramways Power House

Strong criticisms of 2020 Nomination for State Heritage Listing:
For those wanting to make submissions supporting the nomination for heritage listing, it should be pointed out that many who know the Powerhouse Museum well  find the revised nomination deeply flawed, poorly researched, and an exercise in understating the significance of the site, even the partial elements under consideration. The PMA will provide further advice on errors, omissions and mistakes, with a list of points people may wish to include in their response.
As well as the comments made at the time, (see 1 March, below), see also some of those submitted for review, before 24 March, 2020: Read here for some submissions made to review the inadequacies of the nomination.
1 March, 2020
‘Shonky State Heritage Register nomination must be rejected.’
A member of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance exposes critical issues with the nomination as it exists, saying ‘The Heritage Council has advertised a nomination for State Heritage Listing for the Ultimo Tramways Power House for the State Heritage Register. This shonky nomination grotesquely misrepresents the significance of this site and must be rejected. This is a nomination for a place which doesn’t exist. The nomination is deeply flawed, poorly researched and ignores the history of the site from Ultimo Power Station to Powerhouse Museum. The developer-friendly curtilage on which the nomination is based cuts the Powerhouse Museum in half. It is inexplicable that the Heritage Council has put this grossly distorted, factually incorrect nomination on exhibition to be considered. This substandard nomination ignores the last 40 years of the site’s rebirth as the Powerhouse Museum.‘

 1 March, 2020
Save the Powerhouse Facebook posted an extended critique of the proposed listing (see full entry, with explanatory plan here:  Save the Powerhouse- Heritage Listing a Hoax
It said that: ‘The Heritage Council of NSW (an “independent statutory body” in the Department of Premier and Cabinet!) … resolved, at its meeting of 12 February 2020, to give notice of its intention to consider listing Ultimo Tramways Power House on the State Heritage Register in acknowledgement of its heritage significance to the people of New South Wales.” The letter (sent to a local group) goes on to explain that the former “Ultimo Tramways Power House” (Station) is potentially of State significance historically for being the first large state-owned electricity generating station in NSW“ – completely true.
But what does this fictitious title “Ultimo Tramways Power House” that the Heritage Council has dreamed up actually refer to? Museum specialists who have analysed available information … fear that it is designed to mask the intention, not overtly stated, TO LIST ONLY THE EXTERIOR SHELL (without interiors) of the original Power Station building, not the “Museum“ as we know and understand it. A further puzzle is the fact that this part of the Museum (ie former Power Station + contents) was already locally heritage-listed years ago by the City of Sydney. So this proposal would effectively “delist” the Museum.
If you are confused by all this, so are we! A sick joke by our warped NSW Government? Another blatant attempt to stack the odds in the Government’s favour? Or merely one more example of such blundering ignorance that it cannot even get the right name for the institution it aims to place on the heritage list?
One thing that the Heritage Council’s letter makes clear is that we now have the opportunity to protest strongly against this travesty of a proposal, and demand that the Powerhouse Museum in its entirety (ie including the Sulman-price-winning Wran building and the Harwood Building) must be placed on the State Heritage list.’
25 March, 2020: Read here for some submissions made to review the inadequacies of the nomination.

February 28, 2020
‘Sydney’s seven deadly sins of development? No, I call it a symphony’
Dominic Perrottet, NSW Treasurer, provides a controversial critical response in the Sydney Morning Herald,  to Elizabeth Farrelly’s article [below] about the Seven Deadly Sins of city over-development, and lack of concern for heritage and environment. He says: ‘Truth is, I relish reading Farrelly’s Saturday columns, partly for their passion, purpose and prose, but mostly because I disagree with just about every word. Like some kind of inverted compass, they help to affirm my political bearings, in a back-to-front sort of way. There is one thing we do have in common: we both love Sydney. A lot. Where we diverge is in our vision for the kind of city we want Sydney to be. Hers, it seems to me, is terminally pedestrian – a Sydney returned to some romanticised mid-century heyday, a lightly bustling outpost with none of that nasty urban sprawl (working sprawlers be damned) or diabolical economic ambition. It’s a vision I find confusing, sad and out of touch with what 99 per cent of Sydneysiders know as reality.’ He provides his rationale for development, and adds: ‘So our government is getting on with it.  We’re building infrastructure – roads, rail, schools and hospitals, museums, stadiums – as if our children’s lives and livelihoods depend on it, because they do. We are putting an end to the wasteful squandering of our city’s talents, and investing to get centrepieces such as Circular Quay up to world-class scratch…But it also means the people proposing new developments need to get real, and design buildings that respect and augment Sydney’s unsurpassed beauty, not monuments to ego that trample all over it. This is a vital part of the balancing act we must perform: embracing the new, while preserving the heritage we love…If we get it right, Sydney’s global future will be a richly textured masterpiece: old and new, loud and soft, fast and slow, cities and suburbs, jobs and culture, industry and open space, utility and beauty – all in harmony for the greater good of our people. Sinful? No. Symphonic.’ Read more  or here: 28 Feb Perrottet

22/23 February, 2020
‘Sydney and the Seven Deadly Sins of City-Making’
Elizabeth Farrelly, in the Sydney Morning Herald, discusses the idea that : ’It’s often said that we get the cities we deserve. This implies that cities have a resonance that is not only emotional and aesthetic but also moral. And because our cities shape us, as much as we shape them, these fascinating habitable artefacts easily amplify our virtues – and our vices. Further, because in recent decades our cities have been so strongly shaped by neo-liberalism, and because neo-liberalism needs us to be our worst possible selves – the vices overwhelmingly dominate virtues. Therefore let us ask: what are the Seven Deadly Sins of City Planning?’
She reminds us that ‘Traditionally, the Seven Deadly Sins are as follows: sloth, wrath, gluttony, envy, lust, avarice and pride’, and traces a number of recent government projects that demonstrated these ‘sins’. Among them, she cites the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum as an example of ‘Lust’, ‘Gluttony’ and ‘Sloth’.
‘Lust? Lust may sound improbable as a city-making ingredient but, at least at a metaphorical level, drives the habitual prostitution of our public lands, institutions and buildings to private corporations. Consider Barangaroo, pimping out hectares of the last remaining public inner-city waterfront for the private profit of Crown Casino, or the Bays Precinct or the Powerhouse, scandalously destroying a venerable public institution so the site can be privately redeveloped.
Gluttony is everywhere. On medieval definitions, gluttony is not just over-eating but dwelling overmuch in earthly thoughts. It drives our disdain for heritage, where refusal to transcend the mundane or recognise the critical importance of narrative in our shared lives allows the wanton destruction of treasured ancient fabric. In the new-Powerhouse destruction of Parramatta’s pretty Italianate villa Willow Grove, in the vast, ultra-shiny proposals for the Bays Precinct, Parramatta Road, Marrickville and Haberfield, the richly storeyed nature of our city is repeatedly trashed by planning tsars with little imagination and less courage.
And so to sloth. Again, you might think this plays no part in cities but, again, it’s everywhere. Sloth, or laziness, drives our government’s refusal properly to define contractual relationships – as in the new light rail, where even the Auditor-General recognised “inadequate planning and tight timeframes” increased costs by half a billion dollars and decreased benefits by a billion. Such sloth – evident too in the stadium redevelopments, and the Powerhouse move, where contracts were let before a business case was even developed – is a form of bad parenting that subjects public amenity to developer whim.’ Read more

Summer, 2019
‘The Powerhouse Museum:  Significance, Consequences, Opportunities; reviewing a museum’s history as a unique cultural asset in its state capital’
Jennifer Sanders, associated with the Powerhouse Museum as curator and Deputy Director from 1978, and a longstanding member of AMaGA and ICOM Australia, published an article in the Australian Museums and Galleries Association magazine, Vol 28/1, Summer 2020. She makes a strong argument for the Museum’s continuing location as a state museum in the centre of Sydney, while also advocating a regional cultural centre in Parramatta, saying: ‘The Museum’s building — its historic fabric and contemporary architecture, and its Ultimo location — together with its diverse collections, are intrinsic to the overarching narrative that forms the Powerhouse Museum. The Powerhouse Museum is born of the Industrial Revolution.  It is unique for the synergy between the Museum’s extraordinary collection and the magnificent spaces of the 1899 Ultimo Power House, one of Australia’s earliest and most imposing industrial buildings, and the contemporary architecture of 1988 that is the Powerhouse Museum today. The Museum has proven to be a well-purposed, award-winning museum with impressive flexibility, character and ambience. The Powerhouse encompasses a long history of distinctive cultural events inscribed in the heart of the city’s history.’
Sanders points out that: ‘A NSW Parliamentary Upper House Inquiry has for some years been examining many of these issues, and public submissions from people from across NSW, Australia and the world about various options that would retain the purpose-built Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and not see a major public building torn down. Despite all submissions carefully arguing a contrary case, the NSW Government is continuing with its $1.5bn-plus plan to ‘move’ the Museum to Parramatta…’.  She notes that ‘The historical overview in fact reveals why so many people and donors, who have always known the Powerhouse Museum and its distinctive technological history as an integral part of Sydney’s cultural infrastructure, became so astonished when the proposal arose to move the institution right out of the city and away from its long term partner-museums (notably the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Sydney’s historic houses today forming Sydney Living Museums). This collection of historic public institutions with linked histories in the civic heart of a city forms a cluster that distinguishes the most vibrant capitals world-wide.’
She adds that: ‘For many of the Museum’s staff, the last few years have been very difficult and disheartening… Yet the redevelopment project describes a museum embarking on the ‘the largest cultural infrastructure project currently being undertaken in Australia’. Dozens of Powerhouse Museum alumni, and nine Directors emeriti, have raised reasoned and well-documented objections to the current plan, highlighting the project’s disruptive logic for what it is — in effect, the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum as a Sydney asset, arguing that a completely different cultural asset at Parramatta will be the outcome. It should be said that all defenders of the Powerhouse Museum’s retention support the case for a major facility at Parramatta — but believe that Parramatta’s own civic leaders and community should have been consulted about the best case for their cultural needs in the heart of a western-Sydney centre. The Powerhouse would be an ideal civic partner — along with other Sydney museums — to ensure that the state’s collections can be regularly shared with western Sydney citizens and form the basis of ongoing educational displays and exhibitions, as the greater Parramatta area deserves.’
Of the Parramatta site, she says: ‘It will have less exhibition space, with fewer Museum objects on display. It will have less on-site access to the varied Powerhouse collections — to be stored off-site and dispersed around NSW — that is, if sufficiently safe, secure and accessible locations can be identified and negotiated. The Powerhouse collection will never again be presented as an integrated and powerful statement of Australia’s cultural heritage, and our place in the world.’ Read more: J Sanders MaG 2020

19 February, 2020
Expression of Interest: New Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta Community Reference Group’
The MAAS website advertises: ‘The Powerhouse is inviting members of the community to work with us during the design and planning of the new Powerhouse through the establishment of a Community Reference Group. The Community Reference group will represent a diverse range of local community organisations, the business community, schools, youth, cultural organisations, and/or neighbouring residents who have an interest in the project.’ It says: ‘If you are interested in becoming a member of the Community Reference Group, please provide a written submission of up to 500 words…’ (and identifies questions to respond to).
‘Expressions of interest will be received by 4 March 2020. The Powerhouse will then select the most appropriate respondents, with a short interview undertaken if required, and thank all those who expressed an interest. The first meeting will be held in March 2020 and selected members must be available to attend this meeting. In order to participate, you (or a representative from your organisation or community group) will be required to attend each meeting (to be held every six weeks, or at key project milestones). The meeting location will be provided upon appointment.’ For full information and contact details: Read more  or here: MAAS Community engagement Feb 2020
See also 24 March, for expressed concern from NPRAG for cancellation of public meetings: NPrag Media Release 25032020

18 February, 2020
‘Powerhouse design brief asked architects to consider historic demolition’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, notes that: ‘The Stage 2 design brief, released to the public on Monday and prepared by Create NSW, did not push for the retention of the 1886 Italianate villa known as Willow Grove, and instead urged designers to consider its removal “should it be required”.’ Instead, she writes: ‘Architects were encouraged to consider the demolition of a historic Victorian building in order to make way for Parramatta’s new Powerhouse Museum, despite the NSW Premier’s assurance in 2019 that efforts would be made to try and save local heritage. …The International Jury was unanimous in its decision on the chosen concept, designed by Moreau Kusunoki. The winning architects did not opt to retain Willow Grove and a row of Victorian terraces, known as St. George’s Terrace, nearby.’
‘ “The documents show that Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her government never intended to protect Willow Grove – and engaged in a cruel hoax on the community,” Labor’s Walt Secord said. But a spokeswoman for the Premier denied Mr Secord’s claims and said …that all finalists were asked to consider heritage aspects and be “sympathetic to the local heritage site”. “The design brief also allowed for the removal of the heritage buildings, should it be required. The submitted concept designs made clear that it is not possible to deliver on the design ambitions of the brief and deliver city connectivity while retaining Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.”’
‘The broad principles of the brief, prepared on behalf of Create NSW, show much attention was paid to the museum’s integration into the cultural fabric of Parramatta, and its orientation to the riverfront. Planners referred to the museum as being “fine grain” in its structure, meaning it would be made up of multiple smaller elements rather than one large block. According to the plans, there will be multiple entries, with no single front door, multiple places to stop, soft edges and no harsh lights. It will be open until late in the night and have intimate retail offerings, while also being a working precinct. A minimum 18,000 square metres of exhibition and public spaces was specified, configured across six column-free exhibition spaces. Three of these were commissioned without museum standard environmental controls.’
Read more  or here: SMH Linda M 18 Feb

17 February, 2020
Powerhouse Precinct Parramatta
International design competition: Stage 2 Design Brief
A Stage 2 Design Brief has been issued, following the announcement of the French company Moreau Kusunoki as Lead Design Architect, working with Australia’s Genton as Local Design Architect, to develop the plans for the proposed relocated Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.
Public concerns continue to be expressed for the excessive cost of the unnecessary project, the inappropriateness of the spaces, the location on a flood-prone area, the demolition of heritage buildings, the lack of consultation with local people about their preferences for a local museum and gallery – and the strong opposition to removing the state Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo with no current advice about the future of that site.
The extensive Brief includes: ‘We envisage the Powerhouse Parramatta as a hyper-platform, a building with limitless potential which continuously evolves. The built form treads lightly on the site, creating a porous ground plane…’ And ‘A new curatorial strategy will focus on integrated and immersive programs that promote interaction and inspire and connect people of all ages and backgrounds.’
But the Brief also raises new issues. Some public responses include:
– ‘Concern for the 25% smaller space for exhibitions, not all with environmental controls’
– ‘Concern for the potential triviality of an emphasis on ‘iconic objects’, ‘immersive experiences’, a constantly changing rolling program, grand art commissions, and extravagant screen-based content.’
– ‘Inadequate attention to providing well-informed stories expressing the significance of the broad collection across science and technology, decorative arts and design and social history’, for reference, research and appreciation.’
-‘Little understanding of the time needed to plan a range of exhibitions with a vastly reduced professional staff.’ (See the record of exhibitions 1988-2018 here. )
Some public comments made to the PMAlliance sum up:
‘It is clear that the government never intended to create a museum as it is commonly understood. What they are doing is a big commercial development with some exhibition galleries attached that are far inferior and just a fraction of the size of the PHM … Class A asset stripping. What a con.’
‘They have no interest in the collection or in doing properly curated exhibitions. That is why there is not one person with museum experience at any level of the project structure, nor in the senior management, nor the neutered MAAS Trust, nor on the design competition jury.’
‘In the Stage 2 design brief they ask for the building to have a 100 year life…These people have had an irony bypass. Trashing the PHM after just 32 years.’
‘Sorry, that’s a multi-purpose arts facility with a small museum on top, NOT the Powerhouse Museum. Save the REAL Museum in Ultimo!’
To see the Design Brief: Read more  with attachments: Read more

12 February, 2020
‘The Site of the Future $645 Million Powerhouse Museum Copped Lots of Flooding Over the Weekend’
Sarah Ward, in Concrete Playground, asks: ‘Wild weather saw the Parramatta site inundated with floodwaters — what does this mean for its future?’ and reports: ‘As rain bucketed down on the city over the past weekend, it caused the Parramatta River to flood. In the process, it also inundated the Powerhouse Museum’s new site with water. As City of Parramatta Councillor Donna Davis has documented on Twitter, that led to a submerged carpark right where the relocated museum is set to stand. Obviously, that doesn’t bode all that well for an institution that’ll be filled with valuable artefacts.’ She continues: ‘Since 2017, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance — a body opposed to the move, advocating for the museum to stay at its current Ultimo location instead — has noted that the Parramatta spot is on a floodplain and susceptible to both river flooding and overland flash flooding. Its findings stem from council papers, plans and submissions, which place the riverside site in an area within the one-in-20 and one-in-100-year flood zones. That means that the odds that a flood will happen in any given year are as high as one in 20.’ Furthermore: ‘Since 2017, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance — a body opposed to the move, advocating for the museum to stay at its current Ultimo location instead — has noted that the Parramatta spot is on a floodplain and susceptible to both river flooding and overland flash flooding. Its findings stem from council papers, plans and submissions, which place the riverside site in an area within the one-in-20 and one-in-100-year flood zones. That means that the odds that a flood will happen in any given year are as high as one in 20.’
Read more  or here 12 Feb Concrete playground

 10 February, 2020
‘Labor calls on Premier to abandon Powerhouse relocation’
In a press statement, Labor Leader, Jodi McKay, ‘has renewed calls for the $1.5 billion Powerhouse Museum relocation to Parramatta to be abandoned, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s chosen site is flooded due to heavy rains spilling in to the Parramatta River.’ And ‘Labor Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord has described the Parramatta design as a “monstrosity on stilts”.’ ‘Ms McKay concluded saying: “Rather than going through the ridiculous expense of moving museum exhibits across Sydney, Labor believes Parramatta deserves its own new arts and cultural precinct. We would save Willow Grove and honour the treasure that it is”.’
Read more: 10 Feb Jodi McKay

10 February, 2020
‘Parramatta Powerhouse site flooded’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘The site of the new Powerhouse Museum has been inundated with floodwaters from the swollen Parramatta River, underlining the vulnerability of the $1 billion project to flood. The ground floor of the four-level car park and the grassy riverfront was partially submerged in an area where the museum is to stand.’ Despite reassurances provided to her about the design of the proposed new building to deal with flooding, Morris also notes: ‘In a letter to the upper house inquiry into the museum’s relocation from Ultimo to Parramatta, river hydrologist Dr John Macintosh said the decision to locate the museum on this site would result in visitors being exposed to “unacceptable flood hazard” and “potentially expose the collections to damage or destruction if the site was inundated with floodwaters”.  And: ‘Parramatta City councillor Donna Davis said the flooding was not unexpected. “This is a site where frequent flooding is common and that will always experience the fastest flowing and deepest water,” she said. “Why would you house items of international and cultural significance on a site that is at such a high risk of flooding?” ‘
Read more or here 10 Feb SMH parra flood

7 February, 2020
Museum billing ‘will allow steamrolling of objections’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, documents the implications of how:  ‘The new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta has been declared a state-significant project in what opponents say gives the Berejiklian government license to override community or council objections to bulldozing of historic buildings on site…. The designation of state significance bypasses Parramatta Council’s development controls and comes as Labor steps up opposition to the billion-dollar project in the wake of the state’s ‘‘black summer’’, proposing the taxpayers’ contribution of $645 million be diverted to bushfire recovery… Infrastructure NSW deemed the project to be of state significance in a letter dated January 13 requesting the Department of Planning start assessment. Its application specifies demolition of the existing fourlevel Riverbank car park, Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. Built in the 1870s, Willow Grove is an example of a Victorian Italianate two-storey villa and once served as a maternity hospital. Along with St George’s Terrace, it is a locally listed heritage item.’
‘Opposition spokesman for the arts and treasury, Walt Secord, predicted the views of the local council, locals and community groups would be subverted by the development process as they were for WestConnex when, he said, the views of the community had been ‘‘steamrolled’’. ‘‘Because the Berejiklian government does not have the community on board, it will ram the Powerhouse Museum through the approvals process,’’ the shadow treasurer said.’
Lisa Havilah, the museum’s chief executive officer, also confirmed there would be no traditional planetarium in the new museum. Instead, a largescale contemporary, immersive screen space would present science and astronomy programs…‘‘We are trying to create a space for the future that is flexible, immersive and will continue to present great frontend technology programs for young people.’’ ‘
‘Museum consultant Kylie Winkworth said planning for the Parramatta facility had been secretive, compared to Museum of London’s open process of community involvement when it proposed shifting to the abandoned Smithfield market. In NSW, the public had had no say in the site selection assessment and on the museum’s themes and content, she said. The public had yet to see the shortlisted competition designs, let alone voice a preference… was not so much a museum for the people but a statement of architecture, with the museum’s collection deemed unimportant. ‘‘It is much cheaper to deliver with empty spaces than to develop an actual museum with proper exhibitions,’’ she said. Read more  or here: 7 Feb Linda Morris SMH

30 January, 2020
‘Lisa Havilah’s ambitious plans for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum’
In the February issue of the Australian Financial Review’s arts magazine, Jane Albert documents the career path of Lisa Havilah, chief executive of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, and interviews her about her plans and visions for the relocated museum. ‘For an arts administrator, getting one’s hands on the reins of any state-backed arts institution is a plum job. Being put in charge of one that’s on the cusp of a top-to-toe transformation is especially attractive. Certainly the NSW state government, with a weather eye on the voters of western Sydney, is keen to tout the new Powerhouse as being its largest cultural investment since the Sydney Opera House.
Running the Powerhouse is also a controversy-prone job. Uprooting the museum has angered some powerful and influential figures…’. ‘Indeed the move, first mooted in 2014, caused so much anger that a NSW Upper House inquiry recommended the existing Powerhouse be revitalised and a new institution built in Parramatta. Nevertheless, the current NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Arts Minister Don Harwin and his close ally Havilah are ploughing ahead towards an opening date of 2023.’ As well as discussing plans for the museum spaces and programs, comparisons are made with previous working relationships and  her art gallery, rather than museum, experience and expectations. Read more or here: AFR Mag Feb 2020 Havilah
or: 30 Jan AFR Havilah

30 January, 2020
‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian rejects questions about Parramatta’s heritage’
Joanne Vella, in the Parramatta Advertiser, records that: ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian deflected questions about saving a heritage-listed Parramatta building despite talks to students about Parramatta’s rich history. Read more: 

29 January, 2020
‘Taking out the Trash while NSW Burns‘
Museum expert Kylie Winkworth writes for City Hub/Alt Media, about the impact of unprecedented bushfires where ‘Repairing the impacts of the fires and drought will take years, even decades… The government’s spending priorities need to change; or so one would think.  But while people were distracted by the bushfire crisis, the hazardous air quality, and the seeming death of nature itself, the government got to work, taking out the trash for its most extravagant and toxic project. In mid-January it pressed on with the next stage of the demolition of the Powerhouse Museum, setting in motion the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Parramatta museum.’
‘It was left to community activist Suzette Meade to winkle out of the government that the new museum will be built on the rubble of St George’s Terrace and Willow Grove. Only last February the Premier promised to retain these listed heritage buildings, at least for the duration of the election campaign. If the government had any qualms about the contradiction of building a museum on a heritage crime scene it wasn’t letting on. There was no mention of these heritage losses in the media releases. It seems that Parramatta’s big new cultural landmark requires the sacrifice of its authentic places, culture and heritage.’ …
‘And as for the fate of the real Powerhouse Museum, it is already being written out of history and barely rates a mention in the EIS letter. Even so, the hidden purpose of the faux museum Architecture project at Parramatta is to provide cover for the demolition of the PHM, and the appropriation of its land and assets for property development. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Act is not listed in the section covering the statutory framework… The Trustees are not mentioned as agents or stakeholders in the project, they are already disempowered and irrelevant. Nor are the museum’s donors, members, volunteers, former trustees and Life Fellows identified as stakeholders. The people who have done most to create the Powerhouse Museum and its collections are written off,  like the museum itself… All this a double cultural tragedy for NSW and Parramatta. There is the missed opportunity for a new museum about Parramatta’s remarkable history and contemporary cultures. And there’s the demolition of the real Powerhouse Museum, Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences which has been in Ultimo since 1893. Read more   or here: 29 Jan 2020, KW CityHub

13 January 2020
‘Request for Environmental Assessment Requirements, for new Powerhouse in Parramatta’
On its Major Projects Planning Portal, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment opened a page for the construction of the New Powerhouse at Parramatta. It includes a range of design plans showing proposed elevations, site maps and layouts.
A timeline identifies points in the process of development, the current status starting point being a heading ‘Prepare SEARs’. It is possible to register interest in this page for access to updates. For the Portal, Read more   or here  Read more
But what is the SEARs Request?
Attached to the planning portal is a letter from Michael Oliver (director of Planning for ETHOS Urban, a ‘national urban solutions company)’, to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, written ‘on behalf of  Infrastructure NSW, the proponent for the proposed the development of the New Powerhouse’. The letter is a ‘Request for Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEAR)’ document, for the New Powerhouse at 30B Phillip Street, Parramatta’, which is needed ‘for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed development.’
Attached to the letter is a substantial supporting document
which ‘provides an overview of the proposed development, sets out the statutory context, and identifies the key likely environmental and planning issues associated with the proposal. This request is accompanied by concept plans prepared by [successful architects] Moreau Kusunoki with Genton which illustrate the proposed development.’ For letter and attached document: Read more or here: New Powerhouse- Request for SEARs

Responses to the Ethos letter and document:
22 January, 2020
Kylie Winkworth raises issues with the letter and its attached document:
‘The EIS request for the new museum at Parramatta has quietly gone up on the Dept of Planning website. This must be stage 2 of the ‘taking out the trash’ project. The letter/briefing paper has been prepared by a firm called Ethos. Apparently.
For the first time there are cross sections of the Parramatta museum showing a few planes and helicopters in a trophy hall but otherwise it is a museum in name only, with no vision, no compelling concept or rationale and nothing to say about the content. It is a brutal, overbearing building. The larger building is set so far forward on the site it leaves just a few metres for a vestigial river walk. One artist rendering from the north looking across the river shows a bridge across the river connecting to what they have called Civic Link, located on the site of the demolished Willow Grove. It will be a massive wind tunnel. The bridge will not actually be built as part of the project, although it was in the original brief. The cost of this, if it is feasible, will be pushed onto Parramatta City Council. So the Civic Link has no destination, it just dumps people on the narrowest bit of the riverbank.
MAAS is barely mentioned in the letter. Its Act is not listed in 6.6 covering the statutory framework. The Trustees are not mentioned as agents or stakeholders; nor are the museum’s donors, members, volunteers, former trustees and Life Fellows identified under 9.0 community and other stakeholder engagement. It is clear the actual Powerhouse is being stolen and downsized to a regional arts centre.
It is very concerning that the government is forging ahead despite the bushfires, the grinding drought in regional NSW and the consequent cost, and the need for more cultural and tourism investment in regional communities. The letter is dated 13 Jan. It would seem our letters to all Liberal and National Party MPs calling for a re-think have had no effect.
It is concerning that the contact person noted on p. 2 of the letter is Tom Kennedy who managed the demolition of the Sydney Football Stadium. That does not bode well for the longevity of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace, set for certain demolition.
Half the PHM will be closed by June so things are getting to the pointy end. There is very concerning news on the move of the collection. They intend to move the 1855 No1 Loco and its carriages to the rail museum at Thirlmere. This museum was under direct attack by the Green Wattle fire and had to close for some weeks in December:  Read more
I understand at least one carriage was moved out of the museum. It is incredible that the trustees would agree to move the museum’s most significant item of rail heritage, the foundation object for the history of railways in Australia, to an under-resourced museum at risk of bushfire when it is safe and so well displayed in a purpose designed, climate controlled museum environment at Ultimo. The money wasted putting this priceless object in harm’s way would be better spent restoring the Zig Zag Railway, damaged by fires in December. Read more   I am afraid the government’s fearless recovery leader Mr Barilaro just doesn’t get it.

 25 January, 2020
Tom Lockley responded to the Ethos letter, about erroneous ‘facts’:
‘I submit that this letter should not be accepted by your department because there is a fundamental error of fact in the first line, where Ethos Urban refers to Infrastructure NSW as the proponent for the proposed the development of the New Powerhouse at 30B Phillip Street, Parramatta. The facts are that Infrastructure NSW only called for the urgent investigation of the idea of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta in the State Infrastructure Strategy Update (November)  2014. The project was announced by the then Premier on 26 November 2014 and thus the Government was the proponent of the ‘move’ idea.
No investigation of the merits of the idea was ever done by any competent authority, no investigation of alternatives was ever made, there was no prior consultation with stakeholders (even with the Trustees of the Museum) so no professional organisation such as Infrastructure NSW could possibly be the proponent.
Infrastructure NSW made the position clear in its Business Case Summary, released on April 18 2018. It is the agent of the government, ordered to carry out the project. ‘The Business Case takes as its starting point the Government’s decision to locate the Powerhouse Museum on the Riverbank site in Parramatta’ (page 2).
Ethos Urban’s letter should be withdrawn and replaced by an accurate letter making it clear that the sole proponent of this project is the Government itself.’

23 and 25 January, 2020
Save the Powerhouse Facebook raises
concerns over “New Powerhouse” Development approval timeline (
Writing of the Ethos document associated with the SEARs request, Save the Powerhouse notes: ‘The document is very long, and adds nothing to what we already knew, while failing to address any of the questions that still hang over the “move” project … Nonetheless, a few points stand out, most obviously:
– With three cosily associated departments involved, this is a blatant case of Government “marking its own homework”, virtually guaranteeing a favourable environmental assessment statement.
– The “pro-movers’ have always had problems with naming this project. Since the move was announced in early 2015, the proposed museum has been called variously the “Parramatta Powerhouse”, the “Parramatta (cultural) precinct”, the “new MAAS museum”, etc… And now it becomes simply the “New Powerhouse”, ambitiously promoted as the future jewel in Parramatta’s cultural crown, but with no indication of its location in the title, which won’t be helpful to potential visitors.
In any case, as has often been observed the real Powerhouse museum in Ultimo took its name from the old power station that was adapted to house it. There is no disused power station at Parramatta.
– We learn that one of the “Alternatives considered” was “Do nothing”, which would result in cancelling the “move” while “the existing museum at Ultimo would continue to operate “WITH INFRASTRUCTURE REACHING THE END OF ITS USEFUL LIFE”. “This approach was not supported as IT WOULD RESULT IN SIGNIFICANT EXPENDITURE FOR LOW BENEFIT.” According to expert analysis, both these statements are untrue…
As we are still hearing rumours that some Cabinet Ministers are increasingly worried about this huge and escalating cost, we urge them to speak out now and earn the eternal respect of thousands of community members in Ultimo who want the real Powerhouse to stay where it belongs and in Parramatta, where they have rejected the idea of a “second-hand”, cut-down Powerhouse, because they want their own museum to REFLECT LOCAL HISTORY AND CULTURAL VALUES… Please SIGN and SHARE our PETITION asking the NSW Government to donate the $1.5 billion to bushfire and drought relief.

22 January, 2020
‘Jodi McKay calls on Berejiklian government to keep promise to Parramatta and save Willow Grove’
In a press release: ‘NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has demanded the Berejiklian Government consult with the people of Parramatta over its controversial and increasingly troubled $1.5 billion Powerhouse Museum relocation – ensuring the beloved heritage building Willow Grove is saved and incorporated into a future Parramatta arts and cultural facility.
On a visit to Willow Grove today, joined by Shadow Minister for Heritage Kate Washington and Federal Labor Parramatta MP Julie Owens, Ms McKay accused the Premier of breaking a promise to the people of Parramatta [February 2019]. Instead, in mid-December, with NSW distracted by devastating bushfires, her Government approved a bizarre, heritage-destroying design that was described by Labor as a “monstrosity on stilts”.
“The people of Parramatta weren’t consulted – and even worse, they were lied to.” Ms McKay noted the Government was preparing to knock over another local icon, the Royal Oak Hotel established in 1813, which has long been cherished by Parramatta Eels fans after a big game. She said Labor supported bestowing a brilliant arts and cultural facility upon Parramatta that respects heritage.  “There are so many new buildings going up these days, and people in Parramatta know we need to balance that with a sensitivity to the rich history that makes this area so special,” Ms McKay said.  Ms Washington added: “You don’t celebrate history by destroying history. The awful irony of bulldozing irreplaceable heritage buildings to make way for a new museum seems to have been lost on Gladys Berejiklian and her Government.”
Read more:  22 Jan Jody McKay

January, 2020
Visiting the Powerhouse Museum 2020-2021′
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) website provides a brief schedule for the proposed closure of the museum. It says: ‘The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo will remain open to the community until June 2021 with a staged closure commencing from July 2020… From July 2020 to June 2021, the community will be able to access the Museum via the Harris Street entrance when the Goods Line entrance is closed. The Museum’s program of temporary exhibitions, education programs, Lab digital workshops, Members’ Lounge and its café and store will continue to operate until June 2021. The Museum’s permanent exhibitions will close in June 2020. Following 2021, a targeted community and regional program will allow the Museum to continue to engage with the people of NSW.’
As well, amid speculation of sale to developers and various proposals from Arts Minister Don Harwin, it says: ‘The Government has previously announced the Business Case would be expanded to include an arts and cultural space in Ultimo so that it could consider the best possible use of the space at Ultimo. A masterplan will be developed for Ultimo followed by a rigorous Business Case process. When this is finalised an announcement will be made by Government.’ In the meantime, it is understood that packing of the collection is taking place, and that controversial plans for moving precious large items such as the No 1 Locomotive and others, are being made. Read more  or here, [with corrections to earlier relocation history]: Powerhouse closure dates 2020-2021

January, 2020
A new decade, with new priorities? Australia in bush-fire crisis
Across Australia, the New Year opened during weeks of news documenting devastating bushfires raging across rural land, forests and towns, and city outskirts, particularly in the coastal areas of NSW, Victoria and South Australia, as well as in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, while spreading smoke for thousands of kilometres in all directions, from the ACT to New Zealand. Hundreds of homes and properties were lost, with farm stock, native animals and crops destroyed and thousands of hectares burned out, often in national parks. Notable was the generosity of thousands of volunteers who joined those in the Fire Services, working to points of exhaustion, and some brave firefighters died along with those who sadly lost their lives in trying to save their homes. Mass evacuations took place in some locations, sometimes by naval ships or local boats.
Immediately, communities everywhere, from well-known public figures to ordinary folk at home and at work, joined funds to raise millions of dollars to support those who were suffering such losses. Questions were asked of governments regarding what should now be identified as necessary changes of priorities in government expenditure in these circumstances, as well as about the effects of climate change, and the best precautions for the future.
Every newspaper in Australia, and  those in many other countries maintained constant headline updates, including on this Google bushfire update link: Read more

24 December, 2019
Historic Houses Association of Australia: ‘Willow Grove statement’
Tim Duddy, Chair, Historic Houses Association of Australia, writes:  ‘Hidden within the Business Plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta the State Government proposed to demolish heritage buildings, Willow Grove and St Georges Terrace. Sadly, this veiled threat to much loved heritage is now being realised, despite pre and post state election reassurances, with the news that Premier Gladys Berejiklian has reversed her decision to preserve Willow Grove… Multiple sources and leaked government documents show Ms Berejiklian has opted to demolish the 1870s built Italianate villa at Phillip St Parramatta as people enter their Christmas breaks in the hope of avoiding scrutiny. This is a disgrace…
In unison with the National Trust of Australia, The Royal Australian Historical Society, the North Parramatta Residents Action Group and the Parramatta and wider community, the Historic Houses Association of Australia opposes the destruction of these significant Parramatta heritage sites and insists on their restoration and integration in any future developments. A Parramatta Council spokesman stated it had previously written to the state government requesting the heritage significance of Willow Grove and St Georges Terrace was considered in the Powerhouse Museum’s development process… Demolishing Willow Grove would mean that Parramatta and the nation have lost yet another link to their important historical past.’
Read more or here: HHA 24 Dec

23 December, 2019
‘Scrap Powerhouse move, use money for fires: NSW Labor’
Lisa Visentin, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports that the NSW Labor opposition leader, Jodi McKay, ‘has urged the Premier to abandon plans for the $1 billion-plus relocation of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and redirect the funds to the bushfire crisis and longer-term drought management and fire resilience…Parramatta deserves a cultural facility, but this could be delivered at a fraction of the price while respecting local heritage.’ However,  ‘NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has previously defended the organisation’s level of resourcing,’ [despite weeks of reports of exhausted fire service staff and volunteers and hundreds of destroyed properties, and the positive example of Fitzsimmons himself]. Visentin also notes that ‘A revised business case is due to be presented to cabinet in 2020 for a creative industries precinct at Ultimo when the museum vacates the site.’ Read here:  23 Dec SMH  and here: 23 Dec SMH 2

21-22 December, 2019
‘Merry Christmas Sydney, love Gladys’
On line as ‘Gladys Berejiklian’s Christmas gift to Sydney will disappoint’
Elizabeth Farrelly writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘This year Gladys’ gift to Sydney comes baubled in pretentious design and ribboned in hyperbole. Beneath the wrapping through, is yet another exorbitant, wasteful and widely-opposed knockdown-rebuild bringing a net loss to its capacity. I’m not talking stadia, nor even light rail. I’m talking Powerhouse Museum.’ Of the “house of cards” or “milk-crate” look of the accepted architectural design for the Parramatta Powerhouse, she says: ‘To me it looks like what you do when you don’t know what you are doing,’ saying Arts Minister Harwin’s ‘clue, in calling it “iconic”…says it all. Built bluster.’ ‘But,’ she continues, ‘the new building is only part of this iceberg-of-many-parts. In Parramatta, it will demolish some of the dwindling A-grade listed heritage, …In Ultimo it destroys the elegant adaptive re-use that is the 1988 Bicentenary Powerhouse and the massive saw-tooth tram sheds that house its priceless collection.’ The 19th century engine house will remain as a yet unidentified “cultural presence”.
After tracing the history of the Museum since 1879, its long relationship to the Ultimo science, technological and education [and design] precinct, and the recent Goods Line walkway access, she mentions significant aspects of the collection, including costly and difficult-to-relocate steam engines and aeroplanes. Regarding the 2017-2019 NSW parliamentary inquiry, she writes: ‘it lambasted the government for undue haste’, and the eventual business case as ‘inadequate, failing to comply with Treasury’s guidelines.’
‘So who supports the move? Apart from David Borger, who heads the Western Sydney Business Chamber and was parachuted onto the Powerhouse board by the Berejiklianistas late last year, the locals don’t’, and ‘The North Parramatta Residents Action Group is vocally opposed, in particular to the demolitions.’… ‘The Parramatta Cultural Plan, built on 18 months intensive consultation, noted Parramatta wanted an art gallery. They also wanted Parramatta to develop “its own unique cultural identity drawn from the history of the area”.  …The new Powerhouse does none of that. It’s an overblown cuckoo in the nest, demolishing local history and equally disrespecting the history of inner Sydney for an institution wholly disassociated from its new richly historic site, locality and city.’
Farrelly concludes: ‘A far better, cheaper, solution would be to keep and upgrade the existing Powerhouse… Build a site-specific Parramatta Contemporary or hugely overdue Parramatta Museum…They won’t do this. Why not? Could it relate possibly to the parallel proposal to flog the Ultimo site for two or more inner-city resi-towers? For that is Gladys’ real Christmas present to Sydney.’ Read more   or here:  21 Dec EF SMH

20 December, 2019
‘Swords crossed as biggest cultural project since the Opera House takes shape’
Matthew Westwood, in The Australian,  writes that ‘Designs released this week for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta … have not dampened the anger in some quarters over the contentious development.’ He notes details of two tower buildings, a ‘vast indoor-outdoor exhibition area’, exhibition spaces and  ‘creative residences’ and identifies the rationale for a ‘hyper-platform’, also described as ‘a monstrosity on stilts’, as necessary because of the risk of flooding from the Parramatta River. ‘But opponents of the scheme say it is now clear that the project will involve the destruction of two heritage sites in historic Parramatta … Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer says … “Our community feels very strongly about Parramatta’s rich history, and council will continue to work with the state government to explore opportunities for the design to incorporate our important heritage assets Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.” ‘
Westwood also notes that: ‘A parliamentary inquiry earlier this year rejected the scheme to relocate the long-established Ultimo museum, saying it was based on poor planning, a flawed business case and insufficient consultation. It heard that the Powerhouse Museum was an acclaimed urban-renewal project, built to last a century or more, and was being dismantled after just 30 years.’
‘The proposed Parramatta building is billed as the state’s biggest single cultural project since the Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973 … Some estimates put the final cost of the Powerhouse at well north of $1bn, once the cost associated with moving the collection from Ultimo is taken into account. The assets include significant items of industrial heritage — such as the 1785 Boulton and Watt steam engine and Locomotive 1243, the oldest surviving locomotive built in Australia — as well as collections of decorative arts, fashion, communications technology and musical instruments.’
Meanwhile, ‘The future of the Ultimo site is yet to be determined. Options include a smaller design and fashion museum, a lyric theatre, and residential and commercial developments. The changes have provoked the anger of groups such as the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, which has campaigned persistently against dismantling the Ultimo institution. Heritage expert and PMA member Kylie Winkworth says the downgrade is a breach of faith with the museum’s stakeholders, including donors to its collections. She says the Parramatta Powerhouse is the “wrong museum on the wrong site”, and that Parramatta instead could have a museum that celebrates the city’s built heritage and history of indigenous, colonial and migrant populations. “It would be cheaper to keep the Powerhouse Museum (in Ultimo) and build a new museum in Parramatta,” she says. “We have always supported a new museum for Parramatta but this government has broken every rule in the museum-planning rule book.”
Read more:  20 Dec MW The Aust or here: 20 Dec MW Aust

19 December, 2019
‘Dead fish and shonky salesmen’
In CityHUB, Kylie Winkworth writes about how: ‘At this time of year government staffers are preparing the dead fish announcements for release during the festive season when no one is paying attention.’ She cites recent approval of the three high rise towers at Waterloo, and ‘news of the whopping $100m blowout on the Sydney Football Stadium,’ and focuses, in particular, on the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.
Discussing responses to the now released design for the proposed new building in Parramatta, she says of the ‘Milk crate on stilts’, that The sketch designs show empty, neo-fascist spaces, curiously devoid of objects, exhibitions or anything suggestive of an actual museum. But this project was never about a real museum. It was entirely focussed on the delivery of an iconic trophy building that would define Parramatta’s character and cultural coming of age.’ She also mentioned strong opposition to proposed demolition of the heritage listed St Georges Terrace, and former maternity hospital, Willow Grove.
Moreover, ‘In selecting the winning design, the competition jury appears to have given no weight to the practical use of the building as a museum. There are vast facades of north facing glass that will trap heat and be an environmental and conservation nightmare. The long vertiginous escalators will be a safety risk for moving people and objects in the building. The empty caverns at the base of the buildings, a necessity because the site floods, are spruiked as an exciting 24 hour open precinct.’ But ‘The cost and practicality of providing 24/7 security for these vast spaces must be keeping the Powerhouse CEO awake at night.’
As well, Winkworth points out that ‘the real prize is the museum’s site at Ultimo. This must pay big time for the Parramatta museum. Planning Minister Rob Stokes is busy finessing the up-zoning of Pyrmont Ultimo to deliver the biggest possible development opportunity for the site…The government’s move on the assets of the Powerhouse Museum is a scandalous bait and switch exercise … It’s a shame the museum will lose more 50% of its audiences and income but we won’t be compensating you for that. At a cost of more than $1.5b the deal is such poor value for the NSW taxpayers it is worthy of a complaint to Fair Trading. But in this case the shonky salesman is the government.’ Read more or here: 19 Dec KW CityHub

19 December, 2019
‘New Powerhouse project needs a practical vision’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald follows up many of the implications being recognised about the recently released design for the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.  ‘The design … is sleek and structurally interesting but it gives few clues about how the building will be used. It is a big box with lots of big halls but it could just as easily be a convention centre as a museum. That is an indication of one of the project’s main problems. The design is impersonal because the government has failed to explain what the building is for… Sometimes the government seems to want the building to be an updated version of the Powerhouse Museum (part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) in Ultimo, sometimes a space for travelling blockbuster exhibitions and sometimes a cultural centre for local shows…
The state government has muddied the waters from the beginning by linking the project to the plan to close and redevelop the Powerhouse Museum’s current site in Ultimo. Sceptics believe the government is motivated more by the desire to sell off the valuable inner city land in Ultimo than by the desire to expand Sydney’s cultural vision to the geographic centre of the city.
The plan seems to be that some of the Powerhouse’s historic collection will move to the new site in Parramatta. But the historic turbines and locomotives might look out of place without the historic atmosphere of the old power station… A parliamentary inquiry this year recommended using part of the building for an Indigenous museum, which could attract support from the Indigenous community in the western suburbs. That at least would be a clear and practical purpose.
If the plan is simply for a new cultural space, it is not clear why it needs to be so huge. It will have to compete with several similar venues such as the Casula Powerhouse and Carriageworks in Redfern and, indeed, the Riverside Theatre just across the Parramatta River. ..The odd thing about the design is that it seems determined to ignore its location in Parramatta. While it looks across the river, the design involves bulldozing two heritage buildings. Unfortunately, Arts Minister Don Harwin said it was too expensive to keep them. The idea of a new cultural attraction in Parramatta is welcome but a lot more work is needed before the huge price tag for the current project is justified.’ Read more   or here: 19 Dec SMH

19 December, 2019
‘Ludicrous, vandalistic ‘relocation’ of the Powerhouse Museum’
In his regular newsletter, among exhibition and film reviews, critic John McDonald  compares government inadequacy in properly supporting people during droughts and bushfires, compared with over-spending elsewhere. He says: ‘Back in NSW the Berejiklian government is making alarmed noises about the bushfires, but this seems a trifle hypocritical when we learn that $121 million was cut from the Parks and Wildlife budget in 2016-17, and a further $80 million this year. This has resulted in about 100 park rangers being laid off, and a corresponding decline in forest management. To put this in perspective, over the same period the government has proposed spending more than $2 billion demolishing and rebuilding two sports stadiums; has gone about $1.5 billion over budget on Sydney’s light rail; and is pushing on with the ludicrous, vandalistic ‘relocation’ of the Powerhouse Museum, against all expert advice and common sense – at a cost that will probably nudge $2 billion when all the sums are in.
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18 December, 2019
‘Powerhouse saga is far from over at both sites’
In the Sydney Morning Herald’s Opinion page, Linda Morris writes that ‘With the announcement of the winning design…the government hopes to push the reset button on protests that have dogged the Powerhouse project at Parramatta since its inception. What it risks however, is more political and budget headaches lasting until the 2023 election.’ Morris itemises issues of dealing with the flood-prone site, the need for adequate exhibition space, the proposed demolition of heritage buildings, the provision of spaces for diverse activities and the determination of the chief executive officer and chair of Trustees that the building not ‘be compromised by developer demands’ with commercial or residential towers.’… ‘And there is still the wider story of what will be built at Ultimo, which will only become clear with the release of the new business case in April.’ She asks: ‘Just how high will commercial or residential towers need to rise there to make the Parramatta Powerhouse a viable venture? These are questions that are yet to be answered.’ Read more: 18 Dec SMH-2

18 December, 2019
‘Powerhouse needs $75 million top-up to pay for re-location’
Linda Morris and Megan Gorrey write in the Sydney Morning Herald that The Powerhouse Museum will need to raise about $75 million from private philanthropists and corporations to meet the cost of relocating to Parramatta [see position advertisement listed below on 9 December], where the winning design ‘has divided public opinion,’ and where ‘NSW opposition leader Jodi McKay branded the estimated $1 billion-plus museum relocation a “colossal indulgence”. The designers are quoted as saying: ‘The minimal building footprint will touch the ground lightly and the structure supports a series of hyper-platforms, column-free spaces with flexibility and potential .’ [Museum specialists express concern, in these circumstances, about the safe location of eg. aeroplanes and steam engines, and the need for controlled lighting.]… ‘Asked if the winning architects met budget brief, Mr Harwin said only that the building would be constructed to a set “budget envelope”.’ Meanwhile, ‘city of Parramatta councillor Donna Davis reacted with “grief” when she realised the [historic] properties would be bulldozed…I’m not going to give up yet.’ Read more:  18 Dec SMH – 1

18 December, 2019
‘New Powerhouse fizzles’
Alec Smart writes in City Hub, about the government’s announcement of the winning architectural design for the proposed new Powerhouse Museum building in Parramatta, and many of the responses made to it. ‘Making the announcement, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said:  …“The relocated Powerhouse Museum represents the largest investment in arts and culture infrastructure since the Sydney Opera House. Once this museum is built – there simply will not be another building like it in Australia – it will be a leading cultural institution in the South Pacific.” The winners responded: “We envisage the new Powerhouse Museum as a hyper-platform, a building with many functions and limitless potential. The building will tread lightly on the site, with the architecture opening up towards the river….” ‘
But in sections such as ‘Rumpled stilts skin’, ‘Power and the glory’ and ‘Museum move justification a ‘furphy’’’, Smart also documents concerns about destruction of heritage buildings, flood dangers, complications of moving and locating large objects and lack of confidence by former donors. He traces the Museum’s history in Ultimo, the significance of the current Powerhouse buildings, and the effects of the diminution of recurrent government funding for it in recent years.
As well, he perceptively summarises the efforts of the Upper House Inquiry that recommended a new museum for Parramatta while leaving the Powerhouse in Ultimo, and the difficulty in obtaining details of the supposed business case. Read more  or: 18 Dec Alec Smart, City Hub

17 December, 2019
‘Announcement: winner of design competition for new Museum in Parramatta’
Following the design competition for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, that was launched in January 2019, and chaired by Naomi Milgrom, an initial 74 submissions from 20 countries was reduced to six finalists in the second round. The final selection went to Paris-based firm Moreau Kusunoki (Lead Design Architect) and Australian-based Genton (Local Design Architect).
See Arts Minister Don Harwin’s media release here: Powerhouse media release-new Powerhouse design announcement-17Dec2019-
‘Moreau Kusunoki and Genton said: “We envisage the new Powerhouse as a hyper-platform, a building with many functions and limitless potential. The built form will tread lightly on the site, with the architecture opening up towards the river, providing generous public space and creating an open 24-hour precinct. Seven large-scale presentation spaces are at the core of the Powerhouse, facilitating dynamic programming and providing total internal flexibility.”’

The decision was not without controversy. See reports below (and above):

17 Dec: ‘Powerhouse shows hand with winning design’
On-line as ‘Designs revealed for Parramatta’s new Powerhouse Museum’.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris and Megan Gorrey report on responses to the announcement of the winning design, which they describe as ‘A towering structure resembling a stacked deck of cards.’ As well as the museum, they note that ‘Under the development, 60 studio residences will be built on site and let to scientists and researchers [and overnight stays for school students].’ However, ‘the plans for the riverside arts precinct include demolishing the state heritage-listed 1870s-built Italianate villa and maternity hospital, Willow Grove, and St George’s Terrace. The removal of commercial and residential towers above the building is a coup for the museum’s chief executive officer, Lisa Havilah and its chairman Barney Glover…Create NSW confirmed earlier this month almost $20 million has so far been spent planning to relocate the Powerhouse [and that] the government has put the “net cost” of the move at $645 million, once revenue sources are taken into account, but according to the first business case summary the costs of land purchase and moving operations is estimated to be $1.179 billion.’ They also mention a so-far undocumented plan for Ultimo, as ‘The museum’s permanent display in Ultimo will make way for a revolving program of temporary exhibitions…’.  Read more   or here: SMH 17 Dec 2019

17 December, 2019
‘Let the people choose’ Powerhouse Museum design
Joanne Vella writes in the Parramatta Advertiser, that  ‘The public has called for the government to release all architects’ designs for the Powerhouse Museum following backlash over the “monstrosity on stilts” design that would signal the demolition of historic Parramatta properties. The release of the winning Powerhouse Museum design for Parramatta has signalled the likely demolition of historic properties … but Parramatta councillor Donna Davis said there was some hope for saving St George’s Terrace and Willow Grove, the two-storey Victorian Italianate villa that was also used as a maternity hospital. “I think that the future of St George’s Terrace and Willow Grove is grave but there is still a glimmer of hope while they’re still standing that the building could be saved in some way,’’ she said. …Cr Davis said the architects should only have been given one brief — to build around the historic properties.’
‘Ms Meade slammed the design. “It looks like we’ve got the matching site for the country’s ugliest stadium (Bankwest) to be blunt,’’ she said. “…This is not what Parramatta want. When will the government listen. People of Parramatta must drive this or it will fail.”
Mr Secord also labelled the design as “utterly disappointing…The Berejiklian Government was warned about the flood plain at Parramatta and it responded by putting together a Queensland-style flood and cyclone house deep in the heart of Parramatta…He also questioned the $1.6 billion relocation cost from Pyrmont in tough economic times. Sadly, the arts community has predicted that this project will be yet another cost blowout like the light rail and it will likely surpass $2 billion before it is eventually completed,’’ he said. Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee said he would support an option to relocate Willow Grove. “My preference was to preserve Willow Grove,’’ he said. “Unfortunately that’s not my decision.”‘  Read More here: 17 Dec Parra Advertiser

17 Dec: ‘First look at Sydney’s controversial Parramatta Powerhouse Museum’
In The Australian, Ashleigh Wilson discusses some of the contenders, and says of the winners: ‘Their pitch was designed to challenge the conventions of the contemporary museum “to create a place of collective memory, reflection and community.” It went on: “The collective vision is to instil a lasting memory through the creation of unique environmental experiences, existing in perfect harmony with the evolving social, cultural and physical landscape of the site.”’
However, he reminds us that ‘The state government’s decision to move Powerhouse to Parramatta led to a vigorous debate across the arts sector after then premier Mike Baird announced the plan during the NSW election campaign in 2015. A long-running parliamentary inquiry later called on the government to reverse its decision to relocate the museum to Parramatta, recommending instead a boost in funding for the existing site and the creation of another “world class cultural institution” in Parramatta. The new museum, set to cover 18,000 square metres of exhibition and public space, will sit on the banks of the [flood-prone] Parramatta River and is due to open in 2023. The government has promised to retain a cultural presence in Ultimo, where programming will continue until next year.’
Read more: 17 Dec The Australian-new museum design

17 December, 2019
‘The National Trust (NSW) opposes the destruction of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace’
‘The National Trust (NSW) is shocked by the announcement that Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace may be demolished to make way for a new ‘Powerhouse Museum’ in Parramatta… “We are so disappointed that this is the result and this decision has been made despite the National Trust’s campaign led by the late Brian Powyer, our former President and a respected historian and advocate for the protection of heritage in Parramatta and Western Sydney,” said Graham Quint, Director, Conservation …The people of Parramatta have voiced their opposition to the loss of ‘Willow Grove’ and ‘St George’s Terrace’ as part of the Powerhouse Museum move from Ultimo, a move the National Trust strongly opposes. Parramatta should have its own distinctive museum which is not founded on the loss of one of its loved historic buildings and one of Sydney’s cherished museums. No other world-class city has closed such a key, historic museum for redevelopment purposes”, said Mr Quint. With the increasing threat to life and property from bushfires in the regions, towns and cities right across New South Wales many of our most historic buildings are in grave danger. This makes it even more important that development proposals such as the Powerhouse debacle do not compound this threat,” said Mr Quint’. Read more  or here: 17 Dec National Trust

17 Dec: ‘Parra’s new Sour House Museum’
Anna Caldwell writes in the Daily Telegraph that ‘Former NSW government architect Chris Johnson told the Daily Telegraph the design was “bold” and “controversial” and would “shock people” but said this was better than having a building that was simple and boring…However, the design … was labelled a “monstrosity on stilts surrounded by discount garden lattice…” by Labor arts spokesman Walt Secord.. “The whole design is completely out of step and no effort has been made to engage with … the culture of Western Sydney.” Heritage expert Kylie Winkworth who campaigned against the move said the building was “inappropriate in size and scale for the banks of the Parramatta River”.’
Read more  or here: 17 Dec DT

17 December, 2019
‘Latticed ‘hyper-platform’ design wins Powerhouse Parramatta competition’
Linda Cheng writes for ArchitectureAU that ‘An elegant, latticed design has been unanimously chosen as the winner of the international competition to design the new Powerhouse Parramatta in Sydney. Moreau Kusunoki and Genton’s design will consist of structural steel lattices that will minimize the building’s weight and carbon footprint. The lattices will transition to structural timber at the top of the building, “giving the impression that the building is dissolving into the sky.”.. Internally, the museum will have seven “flexible presentation spaces” that will enable the museum to exhibit its internationally significant collections as well as host changing exhibitions.’ Cheng continues with information about the proposed relationship between the building and the neighbouring riverbank  environment, previous achievements of the architects, and the identities of members of the jury. ‘The shortlisted teams each received an honorarium of $150,000. The competition, organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants, was endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects.’ Read more   or here: ArchitectureAU 17 Dec

Radio 2GB: 
Ray Hadley speaks  the new Museum and the demolition of Willow Grove

Radio ABC: In ‘Winning design for new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta revealed’, Antonette Collins discusses the proposed plan, including ‘Parramatta councillor Donna Davis said it was devastating the State Government had not listened to community concerns about the heritage buildings. “We do welcome the investment in the city but we thought there would be a bit more vision in terms of incorporating the heritage that we have in our city,” the Labor councillor said.’

See posts for around 17+ December on Facebook pages:
Powerhouse Museum Alliance: Facebook
Save the Powerhouse: Facebook
North Parramatta Residents Action Group – NPRAG: NPRAG

9-16 December:
New appointments: Create NSW and Powerhouse Museum
16 December, 2019
‘Executive Director, Create NSW’

It has been announced that ‘Chris Keely, a former media and commercial lawyer with over 20 years’ experience spanning arts and cultural policy and subscription television industries across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, started today with Create NSW as Executive Director. Coming to Create NSW from his role as General Manager SBS Food, SBS World Movies & Subscription TV, Mr Keely brings with him extensive experience with the arts and cultural sectors including Arts Advisor, and communications and media executive. Mr Keely will be heading up Create NSW to deliver our vision for bold and exciting arts and culture across the State. Mr Keely commenced as Executive Director Create NSW on Monday 16 December 2019.’ Read more

9 December, 2019

‘Director, Campaign’
An advertisement is placed for this new position at the Powerhouse Museum: ‘The Director, Campaign will lead the capital raising program for the Powerhouse Parramatta including identifying and securing private contributions from individual donors, trusts and foundations, corporate partners and government grants.  The Director will work closely with the Executive Leadership Team, the Trust and the Powerhouse Foundation to ensure campaign targets are met and support is secured for
the delivery of the Powerhouse at Parramatta.’ Read here: Director_Campaign_-Powerhouse_Program_RD

12 December, 2019
‘Day job prompts developer’s quiet Powerhouse departure’
on line 11 Dec as ‘Power play on museum’s board’
Writing for CBD in the Sydney Morning Herald, Kylar Loussikian and Samantha Hutchinson expose the undisclosed departure of Darren Steinberg, a recently-appointed Powerhouse Museum trustee. They say: ‘Darren Steinberg’s appointment to the board of the Powerhouse Museum three days before Christmas last year was followed almost immediately by assurances that any potential for conflict of interest with his day job as chief executive at property giant Dexus would be well managed. So it was with some surprise that this column confirmed Steinberg had actually left the high-powered board, led by Western Sydney University vice-chancellor Barney Glover, back in August.’
They refer to the Powerhouse Museum being ‘in the midst of a well-publicised move to Parramatta, a relocation cynics suggest will result in the government making a motza by flogging the institution’s Ultimo home to developers. Documents tabled at Macquarie Street last year show the Ultimo HQ would make way for a small museum outpost, while the rest will be converted to office space and apartments. So does Steinberg’s departure have anything to do with Dexus’ designs on the site?… “Darren resigned due to a possible conflict that may arise with the potential sale of the Powerhouse site,” a Dexus spokesman told this column on Wednesday.’ Read more   or here:  12 Dec CBD Steinberg
[PHM expresses strong concern that 1) Steinberg was appointed by the Minister in the first place, 2) that he should take his place at the Board table knowing his company may bid for the site, and 3) asks if other Trustees have conflicts of interest?]

9, 10 December, 2019
‘Parramatta people continue to speak out’
Suzette Meade, spokesperson for the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, is interviewed twice on radio to follow up what appears to be a leaked government decision to demolish heritage buildings in Parramatta to make way for the relocated Powerhouse Museum. The successful tender for the design competition is expected to be formally announced soon.
Meade discusses the cultural value of the heritage buildings, the better alternatives for museum sites than the flood-prone river bank, the significance of local and NSW history in Parramatta, the need to listen to what local people want and the NSW government’s relationship with local council.
9 December: Suzette Meade speaks with Michael McLaren on Radio 2GB’s  ‘Wake Up Australia’.
10 December: Suzette Meade speaks with Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck on Radio 702 (From 1.20.27 to 1.29.15)
13 December, 2019; related unpublished comment:
‘Cost of consultants: benefit for Parramatta?’
PMA advocate Kylie Winkworth comments on recent reports of consultancy costs:
‘The sad thing is, for all the money spent on consultants fiddling the books to make the sums add up, not a single new cultural job has been created in Parramatta. Over five years and a whopping $38.7m they haven’t employed one local curator. If the government had worked with Parramatta Council they could have built an amazing creative team of locally employed curators, designers, artists and historians to plan a new museum by, for and about the people, cultures and stories of western Sydney. It’s not as if Sydney’s bland museum culture doesn’t urgently need more diversity in its people and programs. But Berejiklian’s museum demolition scheme is all about clearing the Powerhouse site development. Therefore Parramatta must have a trophy building with the evicted PHM collections, a STEM museum they didn’t ask for. Meanwhile the authentic stories and cultures of western Sydney are ignored, as if the place is the museum equivalent of terra nullius, just waiting for the museum spaceship to land on the riverbank to the grateful applause of the populace. This is a double cultural tragedy for Sydney; the destruction of the real Powerhouse Museum, and the wrong museum in the wrong place at Parramatta.’

9 December, 2019
‘Delays hit refurbishment plans for Riverside Theatres’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘The Berejiklian Government has failed to meet the deadline for a $100 million redevelopment of the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta, which underpinned a deal designed to future-proof the Powerhouse Museum. Create NSW has not supplied Parramatta City Council a business case for redevelopment of the Riverside Theatres by the due date of November 30, the latest in three extensions granted.
The missed deadline amounts to a technical breach of an agreement with council reached in July 2017, and varied in 2018, in which the NSW Government said it would fund the redeveloped theatres in return for buying the Parramatta riverfront land on which it is to build the new Powerhouse Museum.’
Morris also notes that: ‘The delay comes amid deep misgivings within council about the possible demolition of the former maternity hospital, Willow Grove, and St George’s Terrace, a row of Victorian period terraces, to make way for the new museum. Council said the revitalisation of arts and culture remained an important priority and it was working with government to explore the redevelopment of the Riverside Theatres, including finalising a business case.’ Read more here: Delays hit Riverside Theatres 9 Dec

8 December, 2019
‘Powerhouse planning bill hits $18m as new design to be unveiled’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes: ‘The winning design for Parramatta’s new Powerhouse Museum is expected to be announced as early as this week as the Berejiklian government seeks to draw a line under bitter protests that have marked its decision to relocate the venerable institution from its home in inner-city Sydney. The move comes as Create NSW confirmed almost $20 million has been spent planning to relocate the Powerhouse Museum from its home in inner-Sydney Ultimo to Parramatta to date. The international jury met one week ago to select the winning architects from a shortlist of six, comprising local and international firms. The final decision has been kept under wraps with the government yet to deny claims that the museum’s new riverside home will come at the expense of the state heritage-listed 1870s-built Italianate villa and former maternity hospital, Willow Grove.
But protesters have vowed to continue to draw attention to the spending at a time of drought and bushfire crisis and tiny funding allocations to the NSW’s 300 volunteer museums. “They’re splurging $1.5 billion to shrink the Powerhouse Museum and move it 23 kilometres west to a flood-prone riverbank, building a smaller, less accessible museum with demonstrably inferior facilities to what the Powerhouse already owns at Ultimo,” museum and heritage consultant Kylie Winkworth said. ”So let’s talk cultural equity, Premier…?” ‘ Morris continues: ‘Labor’s Walt Secord said two galleries in regional NSW could have been built for consultants’ fees alone, which he estimated to be almost $36 million. “In these tough and uncertain economic times … we cannot afford more infrastructure cost-blow outs like the Powerhouse Museum move,” Mr Secord said.
Read more for disputed costing estimates and actual public records, including: ‘The government has put the “net cost” of the museum move at $645 million, once revenue sources are taken into account, but, according to the first business case summary, the costs of land purchase and moving operations, including wages, is estimated to be $1.179 billion.
Read more:  or here:  Sun-H Dec 8
And for extra reference: read Kylie Winkworth’s summary of consultancy and related costs to date, drawn from annual reports, and already totalling $38.718. Read: The Consultants’ picnic.

7 December, 2019
‘SOS for the arts against government attacks’
In her regular Culture Heist newsletter, Judith White draws attention to how: ‘The Morrison and Berejiklian governments seem hell-bent on reversing the key cultural gains of the past 50 years. The abolition of the federal arts department is the latest move in the slide towards authoritarianism.’ Alongside where ‘On Thursday 5 December Prime Minister Scott Morrison terminated the Department of Communications and the Arts and incorporated it into one of his new mega-departments under Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Not even a mention of the arts,’ she also writes: ‘Rolling the arts in with infrastructure and regional development signals that for this government the arts are there only to serve the needs of corporatisation, developer deals and pork-barrelling. In NSW the Berejiklian Government is already expert in this. It is ploughing ahead with the disastrous demolition of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, throwing an extra $100 million at the cost blowout of its vanity project at Walsh Bay and turning the sod on the soon-to-blow-out Sydney Modern project at the Art Gallery of NSW. Meanwhile Arts Minister Don Harwin ends peer assessment for arts funding, concentrates decision-making in his own hands and keeps deals with the big end of town under such secrecy that the full business case for his major projects has never been revealed.’ She cites museum specialist Kylie Winkworth in ‘… a closely argued paper, “It’s time to re-think the move of the Powerhouse Museum … NSW needs a fair and equitable museum plan, including strategies for museum development in regional NSW and western Sydney and landmark museums in Sydney. Cultural equity matters for museums and communities across NSW. One extravagant museum project in Parramatta is not a plan, nor is it fair or equitable.” Read more

6 December, 2019
‘Willow Grove heritage building to be destroyed for Powerhouse Museum’
As the deadline approaches for the announcement of the successful architectural bid for the ‘iconic’ Powerhouse museum building in Parramatta and, following what was understood as the NSW government’s election promise to preserve the heritage buildings in the proposed building precinct, Joanne Vella in the Parramatta Advertiser, reports that:
‘Bulldozers are soon expected to obliterate the state heritage-listed Willow Grove after Premier Gladys Berejiklian reversed her decision to preserve it for the construction of the $767 million Powerhouse Museum. The North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) has said multiple sources and leaked government documents show Ms Berejiklian has opted to demolish the 1870s-built Italianate villa at Phillip Street. St George’s Terrace, on the corner of Wilde Ave and Phillip St, could also be demolished for the museum, which is expected to be completed by December 2022.
NPRAG spokeswoman Suzette Meade said the decision came after the museum’s final six architects had an option to retain the former maternity hospital but were planning to announce its demise soon.  “We’ve been told that this decision has already been made, no doubt to be dropped out as people enter their Christmas breaks in the hope of avoiding scrutiny,’’ Ms Meade said. “If this is true, it’s a disgrace. Clearly, it’s a big concern for the people of Parramatta that our heritage is being disrespected. Western Sydney heritage seems to be second rate and I think they should expect quite a kickback from the community.’’
A spokesman for Arts Minister Don Harwin said the government would not respond to any of the Parramatta Advertiser’s questions. Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee did not comment on heritage concerns but said he understood the winning design for the museum would be announced shortly… National Trust of Australia’s Parramatta branch president Cheryl Bates said demolishing Willow Grove would mean Parramatta lost another link to its important historical past. “The National Trust does not understand how a building considered worthy of a heritage listing, using the accepted criteria for listing, can now simply be disregarded because a new use is considered more appropriate,’’ she said. Read more  or here: Parra Advertiser 6 Dec 2019   and for the media release here: NPRAG Media Release 06122019

6 December, 2019
‘Revised Boards announced for NSW Cultural Institutions’
The Museums & Galleries of NSW organisation publishes that ‘Minister for the Arts Don Harwin has confirmed nine new appointments and nine reappointments set to take effect for three year terms from 2020 across NSW State Cultural Institutions,’ quoting him as saying ‘I’m excited about the passion, strategic expertise and breadth of cultural experience that our latest appointments will bring to each respective Board.’
For the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (including the Powerhouse Museum), Suzie Laundy and Peter Poulet join as new appointments for the Board of Trustees, with Dr Alex Birrell and Lisa Chung, who appear to have had only one term on the board, are stepping down. Laundie is described as being an ‘experienced sponsorship, fundraising and marketing Executive with extensive experience working in Western Sydney’, while Poulet is a ‘former NSW Government Architect, current Central City District Commissioner at the Greater Sydney Commission and a Professor of Practice Architecture, Western Sydney University’.  There is no mention of Darren Steinberg’s early resignation for what appeared to be potential conflicts of interest. Read more     or:  MGNSW Trustees 6 Dec
[It is noted by PMA that ‘It says something about Harwin’s  judgement of the project challenges facing MAAS that he has not thought it necessary to appoint anyone to the Trust with collection expertise or experience in museum planning and development, despite the obvious skills deficit on the board… Harwin sees the Parramatta project as the delivery of Architecture, landing the trophy building on the banks of the Parramatta River which the management of MAAS will have to make work as a museum, having had little say over the selection and design of the new museum.’]

 5 December, 2019
‘Cable cars and floating bars: The new $20 billion ‘vision’ for Pyrmont’
In print as: ‘Cable cars,floating bars in report for Pyrmont facelift’
Megan Gorrey reports in the Sydney  Morning Herald that ‘Pyrmont and the precinct west of Sydney Harbour would be home to a cable car into the city, floating bars and swimming pools under a new “vision” being backed by the NSW government. A waterfront promenade, metro train station, extra ferry services, a major festival and a reopened Glebe Island Bridge would help transform the area into a $20 billion tourism and entertainment hub, a report from the Western Harbour Alliance and Committee for Sydney lobby groups suggests.  Read more here: SMH 5 Dec Pyrmont
[Those making submissions to support retaining the Powerhouse Museum in the Pyrmont/Ultimo area had been advised that projects already under way could not be considered for review.]

4 December, 2019
‘Glamorous vision of a western front’
On line as: ‘NSW Government endorses a glamorous vision for Sydney’s Western Harbour’
Edward Boyd, State Political Reporter for The Daily Telegraph, writes that the NSW Treasurer and Planning Ministers ‘have endorsed the Committee for Sydney’s new  vision for the Western Harbour Precinct… [which will] turn the area into Australia’s biggest entertainment and tourist precinct…’. This will include the development proposal by the Star Casino, previously rejected by the Independent Planning Committee.
Read more here: DT 4 Dec-Pyrmont

[Pyrmont residents had previously expressed concern that over-development would damage the identity of the historic area, and supporters of the Powerhouse Museum argue to maintain it in its current location, and not have it buried by further development.]

21 November, 2019
‘Parramatta high-rise towers to make Sydney Australia’s first two-CBD city’
In print as ‘Parra-digm shift: building boom to create “a second CBD”’
Megan Gorrey writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, that ‘The City of Parramatta Council … has offered a glimpse of how $5.5 Billion worth of building projects will change the city.’ Their information includes includes images and video footage showing 30 major building projects ‘set to transform the city’s core over the next 10 years.’ While the proposed ‘Powerhouse/MAAS precinct’ is not mentioned in the text, it is identified on the attached plan for the future city centre. Read more or here: SMH 21 Nov

14 November, 2019
‘Millions of dollars in funding approved for Walsh Bay precinct’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Kylar Loussikian announces that: ‘The Berejiklian government has approved millions of dollars of funding for the redevelopment of Pier 2/3 at the Walsh Bay precinct, ending fears from some of the state’s largest arts companies that the major project would be delayed indefinitely.’ He continues: ‘The Walsh Bay redevelopment — first announced during the 2015 state election and now forecast to cost $245 million — also includes work on Pier 4/5, which houses the Sydney Theatre Company, the Sydney Dance Company and the Bangarra Dance Theatre. That development is expected to be completed next year. But the completion of the project has been repeatedly delayed, including by a successful 2017 legal challenge brought by restaurateur Brigid Kennedy, the former chairwoman of Walsh Bay Arts and Commerce, over the legality of the government’s planning approval.’ Read more  and  SMH 14 Nov [See also a followup article on 15 November, 2019 ‘Construction to begin on ‘new home’ for the artsSMH 15 Nov.]
[Powerhouse Museum Alliance notes that in previous reports the following estimated costs are recorded: In 2015 the cost of turning Walsh Bay into a cultural precinct was put at $139m; In the 2016-17 state budget the allocation for Walsh Bay had risen to $147m; Before the end of 2017 the cost had jumped to $207m; In evidence to the Legislative Council museum inquiry hearing in September the Minister said the government was spending $245m on Walsh Bay.
PMA asks: ‘Perhaps the cost-blowout at Walsh Bay will give cabinet pause to think about other options for the Powerhouse Museum?

7 November, 2019
‘$30b script to start Sydney’s new heart’
In the Daily Telegraph, Edward Boyd announces that: ‘Parramatta’s position as the economic heart of Sydney will be realised under a phased development plan announced by the Greater Sydney Commission today. The plan is the next step in the three cities vision that was announced by GSC chief commissioner Lucy Turnbull at The Bradfield Oration three years ago.’ Among many other commitments already made, he includes the  government’s proposal to spend $645 million towards the new Powerhouse precinct. And: ‘Ms Turnbull said her organisation would seek community feedback on the proposal before it is presented to government for response.’ Read More:  Daily Tele 7 Nov

October, 2019
Exhibition: ‘Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson: Step Into Paradise’

This very well-received exhibition of the work of fashion designers Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson, which opened at the Powerhouse Museum on 16 October, is described by the Museum as drawing  ‘… on more than four decades of one of the most influential pairings in the history of Australian fashion, examining the influences, inspirations and the compelling stories behind their work’, beginning with ‘…their creative partnership in the 1970s at the Flamingo Park Frock Salon at Sydney’s Strand arcade.’Read more
Based largely on the Museum’s extensive collection of their work, as well as personal archives, the exhibition is a reminder of the depth of the Museum’s collection in many fields across decorative arts and design, science, technology and social history. And the supportive and enthusiastic crowd at the launch demonstrated how it appreciates attending such collection-based exhibitions in the Museum’s accessible Ultimo site.
In a statement congratulating the designers on the launch, Jennifer Sanders, the Museum’s first curator of textiles and dress writes ‘A generation of design students has drawn inspiration from the museum’s collection of Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson’s work, and from their archives which reveal their creative processes’, while Kylie Winkworth says ‘This may be the last major PHM exhibition shown in the [award-winning] Wran building before the building is demolished’ and that ‘We want museum development for NSW, not museum shrinkage at a shocking cost of $1.5 Billion!’ Read More: PMA statement 17 Oct 2019
For reviews,
see Tony Magnusson in the Saturday Paper: Read more or here: Magnusson-Sat Paper, and Gina Fairley in ArtsHub: :Read more or here: Fairley ArtsHub

29 October, 2019
‘The destruction of Sydney’s cultural spaces is creating a city of ghosts’
In the UTS publication, The Conversation, professor in the School of Architecture, Deborah Barnstone, gives examples of why she believes ‘Sydney is a city of ghosts: so much of the historic building fabric of this city is gone.’ In discussing ‘why heritage protection should include social housing’, she cites the controversy over the Sirius building and the sale of historic buildings in Millers Point.  As well, with examples such as the stalling of development of facilities for theatre in Walsh Bay because of budget shortfalls, and the proposed takeover by a developer, of the new Sydney Dance Company facility in Ultimo, she says ‘We are not only losing our historic buildings, but our cultural spaces, too.’
‘Yet cultural buildings of this kind are not considered for special heritage status. And they are not protected from destruction or development. In 2018, NSW announced the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The land on which the museum sits is prime real estate. Government has been cutting funding for art and culture steadily since 2013, eroding the ability of cultural organisations to function. Meanwhile, buildings for arts and culture continue to fall under the wrecker’s ball, victims of economic rationalisation.’  Read more  or here:  City of ghosts 29 Oct

22 October, 2019
‘Echoes of a distant wave in museum’s net display’
on-line as ‘Iconic Stratocaster launches  Powerhouse Museum’s virtual collection’
It was announced that the Powerhouse Museum ‘yesterday began one of the largest digitisation projects in Australia, unlocking a wealth of information from 338,000 items in its 500,000- strong collection.’  Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, cites CEO Lisa Havilah as saying that the process will take two-and-a-half years and, once photographed, objects will be relocated to expanded storage space at Castle Hill. Morris records that ‘digitisation and relocation process will cost $65.7 million and includes the museum’s very large objects’ and that ‘the Powerhouse begins a staged closure from June 2020 ahead of its relocation to Parramatta…’. Read more
Read more: PHM SMH Oct 22  (Note: see Letters: October 23, 24: the museum has been digitising its collection for some years; and audiences still want to see objects)

18 October, 2019
‘NSW govt plans huge infill for Sydney’s new tech precinct’
24ha of prime real estate reclaimed over rail corridor
Justin Henry writes in itnews that: ‘ The NSW government has revealed early development plans for Sydney’s innovation and technology precinct that propose reclaiming land over rail tracks between Central and Eveleigh… for the 24 hectare area, which has been dubbed the Central Precinct. The Central to Eveleigh rail corridor was identified as the “ideal location” for the government’s innovation and technology precinct by the taskforce appointed to lead its design earlier this year … immediate plans will focus on a number of buildings on the western edge of the station around Henry Deane Plaza that currently serve as federal and state government offices, hotels and hostels’ and which ‘will house Atlassian’s new Sydney headquarters after the Australian software darling made an in-principal agreement with the government in February.’
‘Acting deputy secretary of Greater Sydney Place and Infrastructure Brett Whitworth said the plans aimed to “transform Central Precinct into Sydney’s next big jobs hub and a cornerstone of the Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct and create up to 25,000 jobs of the future…Central Precinct is surrounded by world-class universities, more than 100 research institutes, and a vibrant ecosystem of creative businesses, on top of excellent public transport,” he said. Public consultation on the plans, which will inform planning over the next 18 months, close 27 November.’ Read more  or here: itnews 18 Oct Central Precinct
But those protesting about moving the Powerhouse Museum out of the area, point out that this venue of the  Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences is perfectly placed, in Ultimo, to contribute to this proposal and should stay where it is.  

11 October, 2019
‘Pyrmont Peninsula Planning Framework Review Report : but not the Powerhouse!’
The Pyrmont Peninsula Planning Framework Review Report documented all submissions, and summarised its findings in 10 points.
However, when asked in an email from Tom Lockley about where the report leaves all the submissions made about the Powerhouse Museum, the GSC (Greater Sydney Commission) responded on 11 October that its review did not apply to projects already under way, ie: ‘… Significant projects planned and underway have been identified where they relate to planning processes and how parts of the Review Area function as a place, including the Powerhouse Museum. The Review does not relate to, or comment on, specific projects or developments.’
Finding 9, under the heading  4. Significant Projects Planned and Underway, specifies: ‘A number of major projects, on the edge of the Review Area, are being planned but are disconnected from each other.’ Read more: Pyrmont Review 10 points

However, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in her eNews 922  (10 October):
‘…  I welcome the Commission’s findingsThe ten findings, which you can read here, are a great indication that the State Government is ready to do away with ad hoc planning – where pieces of Pyrmont and Ultimo are broken off for isolated projects – and ready to implement a holistic, place-based approach. When it comes to proper planning in Pyrmont, the Sydney Morning Herald editorial put it perfectly: “It is essential that key decisions are inspired by a long-term vision rather than quick profits for developers.” I look forward to working with the Premier and Planning Minister to build on the qualities of what makes Ultimo and Pyrmont distinctive as a place, while building an innovation corridor in the precinct that delivers more jobs in the burgeoning tech and start-up sectors.’
[PMA notes: that with reference to Finding 9 above, for the state government, changes to ad hoc planning do not appear to apply to moving a significant state museum out of the area.]

1 October, 2019
‘Policy, Power & the Cultural and Heritage Values of the Powerhouse Museum’
Museum experts Jennifer Sanders and Kylie Winkworth  were invited by the Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) organisation of cultural heritage professionals, to speak to about issues raised regarding the proposed government relocation of the Powerhouse Museum.  The invitation to members and associates explained:
‘In November 2014 the NSW Government announced that the Powerhouse Museum would be “moving” to Parramatta. The Powerhouse Museum has been based in Ultimo since 1893. What has followed in the last five years is the most sustained protest campaign in the history of Australian museums. The debate has clearly demonstrated the social, cultural and heritage values of the Powerhouse Museum in its context at Ultimo. This talk explores some of the major heritage and policy issues surrounding the government’s move to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.’ For the Invitation see: ICOMOS PHM talk flyer 1 Oct 2019
For the talks see:
Jennifer Sanders:  ‘The Powerhouse Museum: a Tale of two destructions’ (short title): JS – Australia ICOMOS
Kylie Winkworth: (to come)

29 September, 2019
‘Powerhouse Museum’s Star Wars exhibition posts loss’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports that following the announcement of financial and audience loss from the recent imported Star Wars exhibition, ‘The museum’s chief executive officer, Lisa Havilah, said she would concentrate the institution’s energies on developing exhibitions from its collection of half a million objects to tour regional centres, interstate and worldwide… “The museum will be focused on developing and producing its own exhibitions in collaboration with national and international partners,” she said. ”This will see a shift from importing existing exhibition product to utilising the curatorial wealth of the institution to create our own.” ‘
As well, Morris adds that ‘Announcements around the museum’s relocation to Parramatta had probably affected visitor numbers, as people thought it had closed, according to museum consultant Kylie Winkworth, an opponent of its relocation. A loss of expertise in museum practice also seriously affected the institution’s capacity to put on a big program of engaging shows from a collection capable of drawing big audiences, Ms Winkworth said. “A museum is not like a gallery where you just hang a picture on a wall. Museum exhibitions are framed around storylines that need research and that make linkages between objects, themes and ideas. Objects need the additional design so they are properly contextualised.” ‘ Read more

24 September, 2019
Greater Sydney Commission: Pyrmont Planning Review
After what has been described as a ‘hasty’ process in several contexts, the Greater Sydney Commission sent out a notice thanking contributors, saying ‘In August 2019, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces requested the Greater Sydney Commission review the effectiveness of the planning framework to deliver the Government’s vision for the Western Harbour Precinct and Pyrmont Peninsula, as the western gateway of Sydney’s CBD. The Commission has finished its review and, on 30 September 2019, provided the Minister and the Premier with its findings and recommendations.’ They announced that ‘All online submissions and transcripts from one-on-one meetings have now been published on the Commission’s website.‘ To see it:  Read more  This site provides a link to the 798 pages including both brief comments and comprehensive submissions. Read more
Following this announcement, Tom Lockley extracted statements of particular relevance to the future of the Powerhouse Museum and its site in Ultimo, and sent them to the Commission, pointing out that they were from: ‘people and organisations who … spontaneously included reference to their well-founded objections to the so-called ‘move’ of the Powerhouse Museum from this area. While it is recognised that the investigation of individual cases may not be part of the Review, we submit that such strong sentiments, and their underlying rational basis, must be recorded in your final report and strengthens the points I made in our oral and written submission to the panel.’Pyrmont review – extracts Tom Lockey

17 September, 2019
‘On this day: 17 September 1879 the Sydney International Exhibition opened’
NSW State Archives posts on Instagram the anniversary of the opening of the exhibition at the Garden Palace, to be destroyed by fire on 22 September 1882, that nevertheless founded the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, now including the Powerhouse Museum. Read more
Following the State Archives notes, Jennifer Sanders adds information about the Museum’s move to Ultimo, saying ‘The Museum has only had 3 homes its 139 year history –  it has not moved 6 times as claimed in the International Design Brief for the ‘Parramatta plan’. And about the proposed move to Parramatta, she says: ‘Sir Henry Parkes, whose vision it was to set up the Museum in the Garden Palace, would be turning in his grave. Parramatta deserves its own homegrown cultural centre.’ Read more:  Garden Palace – NSW archives

3 September, 2019
‘Public invited to have a say on Pyrmont plans’
Relevant to concerns about greedy over-development influencing the rationale for relocating the Powerhouse Museum, Jacob Saulwick in the Sydney Morning Herald, draws attention to an on-line survey where ‘Members of the public and interested parties have two weeks to comment on a review of the planning controls covering Pyrmont, Ultimo and much of Darling Harbour. The Greater Sydney Commission has been charged by Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Planning and Open Spaces Minister Rob Stokes with completing a review of the planning controls for the so-called Western Harbour Precinct by the end of September. The request for the review followed the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s recommendation that a proposed 237-metre apartment and hotel tower at the Star casino in Pyrmont be rejected.’
Read more: Public invited to have a say on Pyrmont plans
You can give your opinion here on the development plans in the Pyrmont and Ultimo area. Submissions open until 5pm Monday 16 September: Read more
A concurrent survey specifically about the Star Casino, is extended to  6th Sept, 5pm, and ‘To support the Open letter to the IPC (Independent Planning Commission) from more than 60 design professionals opposing the proposal, simply sign & send’:

30 August, 2019
NSW govt Legislative Council budget meeting, including the arts: transcript and extracts
This committee met to ask budget and management questions of Don Harwin, special minister of state, public service and employee relations, Aboriginal affairs and the Arts. It also interviewed witnesses from relevant government offices and institutions – including director, Lisa Havilah, from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Many questions were asked about the move of the Powerhouse Museum, the cost blowouts of developments associated with other institutions, the infrastructure for arts funding and the significance of heritage listings.
Read here for 1) the full ‘uncorrected’ transcript: Transcript – 30 August 2019 – UNCORRECTED – PC 1 – Public Service and Employee Relations Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts  as well as 2) a document of extracts relating specifically to the Powerhouse Museum,other museums and museum related issues: Committee No 1- Extracts from sitting 30 Aug 2019

30 August, 2019
Lord Mayor Clover Moore confirms City opposition to moving the Powerhouse Museum
In a letter of reply to Marion Barker, a long-term active supporter of the Powerhouse Museum, Clover Moore wrote: ‘At its meeting on 11 March 2019, Council endorsed the findings of a New South Wales Parliamentary inquiry that the business case for the relocation of the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is ‘inadequate,’ and recommended against the move. The inquiry also recommended that the museum be ‘restored to its former glory’ by calling for major investment, and recognised the iconic status of the museum. Council also resolved to advocate for the immediate restoration of artefacts to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and for more investment in the site into the future.‘  She also warns that: ‘Despite the City’s position and the findings of the Parliamentary inquiry, there are strong indications that the Government plans to go ahead with the proposed move… It is nonetheless essential that the Ultimo site retains a strong museum presence. I am continuing to call on the Minister for the Arts and the Premier to retain the Powerhouse Museum for cultural purposes and reintegrating the site into the surrounding cultural, creative and innovation precinct.’ See attached letter: R OLM2019 004414 BARKER  and Council resolution:  NOM Save the Powerhouse – NSW Parliamentary Inquiry

29 August, 2019
‘NSW arts policy officially in ruins’
Following continuing debate about changes to arts funding assessment procedures by both the Federal government and the NSW government, where Arts ministers have imposed their own preferences of successful grant applicants, Judith White draws attention to issues that affect funding of arts organisations. She says:
‘Arm’s length funding of the arts is the hallmark of a government attempting to work in the interests of the people. It prevents the arts being used as a political football, and together with peer assessment fosters the development of creativity. It was the founding principle in 1946 of the Arts Council of Great Britain …It was also the basis of the funding model for the Australia Council developed by the Whitlam government in 1973… In the past six years Coalition governments have persistently undermined those principles. In 2015 federal arts minister George Brandis notoriously diverted $105 million in funding to a ministerially-controlled slush fund known as Catalyst.’
‘The arm’s length principle in arts funding is supposed to apply at State level, too. But in NSW, the Coalition government has abrogated the principle in ways that might make even George Brandis blush. Premier Berejikian’s arts minister Don Harwin … is logging up an extraordinary record of political interference in the arts by executive government.’  Amongst many other examples affecting a range of cultural institutions, White notes his effect on the Powerhouse Museum: ‘Lisa Havilah, appointed director of the Powerhouse Museum in November 2018, is obliged to report directly to Harwin – an unprecedented move, overturning the long-established relationship between government, statutory board and management. He has contemptuously ignored the meticulous Upper House Inquiry report into the removal of the Powerhouse from Ultimo …Related deals with developers at both Ultimo and Parramatta remain shrouded in secrecy… The Berejiklian government and its arts minister Don Harwin are trashing the principle of arm’s length funding, which is central to a civilised society. Time to reaffirm the accord between the people and the arts.’ Read more  See also 14 August entries, below.

Save the Powerhouse community campaign: summary of current events
The community campaign group, Save the Powerhouse, document on their Facebook page, a number of recent issues associated with moving the Powerhouse Museum, including budget blowouts in a range of projects and concerns about overdevelopment
Three extracts below; for full reports see:  or here: Save the Powerhouse Aug 17, 26, 28
28 August, 2019
“Heritage values” depend on where you live
‘The Victorian Government has consistently respected Melbourne’s significant buildings and museums – its museums program is actively expanding – as fundamental to building the city’s brand and tourism trade… A recent example is heritage listing for Federation Square … which was completed in 2002 and is now recognised for its historical, aesthetic, technological and social values. The listing followed strong community opposition to commercial development on the site. Contrast this with Sydney, where the nomination of the Powerhouse Museum with the Heritage Council for state heritage listing has gone precisely nowhere after four years. “Yet over the same period”, observes museums and heritage consultant Kylie Winkworth, the Berejiklian government has “ruthlessly pursued its…plan to close the Powerhouse and turn the museum site over to property developers, despite (similar) sustained community opposition”.
Further, only this week in her development zeal, the Premier demonstrated her determination to impose a 237 m hotel/residential tower on low-rise Pyrmont by instructing the Greater Sydney Commission to immediately review the planning controls for this area – presumably to ensure a smooth passage for the Star Casino Tower’s development approval. ”Pyrmont is open for business” Gladys crowed, “ready to be taken to the next level…”
26 August, 2019
MAAS exodus … “and then there was … one?”
‘This month’s unexplained exit by Craig Limkin, Executive Director of Create Infrastructure, is just the latest in a series of departures of senior officials associated with the nefarious “Powerhouse move” project.
The massive haemorrhage of talent and expertise appears to have been triggered by former Powerhouse director Rose Hiscock. Appointed in 2013, a year later she released the board’s well-received “2020 strategic plan”, with the (then) president of the board of trustees, Professor John Shine. “The museum’s location in Ultimo was central to their vision” (SMH November 13, 2015). “The board said that [MAAS’] future was intertwined with plans for Darling Harbour…[which] will enliven our city.” When (former) premier Baird announced the shock Powerhouse move to Parramatta, Hiscock initially opposed him – “You can’t just pick up a museum and move it” – then resigned. As museums expert Kylie Winkworth commented “It’s very unusual for a director [to] leave after just two years”. And it seems to have been the beginning of the end….’
17 August, 2019
Ignorance & greed underpin all government infrastructure projects
‘The ongoing Upper House debate on the final report from the 2½ year Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has already achieved two valuable purposes. Not only has it rekindled vigorous public interest in the contentious “Powerhouse move” issue, but has also highlighted the fact that the Government’s entire infrastructure policy is driven by just two forces: ignorance and greed, which feed on each other.
Wherever you look, whatever the project, the story is the same. It seems that a “developer mate” has only to murmur “more big bucks “and the Government races away like a pack of frenzied hounds sighting a hare. Even though expert analysis and feasibility studies for each new project are clearly essential, the lure of the dollar prevails, invariably resulting in disaster – budget chaos, lengthy delays and huge budget blowouts whether it’s WestConnex, the Light Rail, the Sydney Metro, Sydney Football Stadium or ambitious ventures in Sydney’s troubled arts sector. More recently noisy clashes with former “best friends” like LendLease, initially selected to develop the new stadium and Sydney Modern, or the Light Rail builder Acciona Infrastructure, with whom, Wikipedia says, “ the relationship has deteriorated” following massive delays and finance disputes. In the Upper House debate last week, speakers’ comments specifically illustrated the “greed and ignorance” syndrome…’ Read more

25 August, 2019
‘Barangaroo performance space on the cards, as Arts Minister admits to shortage of theatres in Sydney’
ABC News reports that ‘The NSW Government will look at options for a new theatre at Barangaroo as it seeks to create more capacity in Sydney, Arts Minister Don Harwin has promised.’ After noting a perceived lack of theatre space in Sydney, Harwin adds: ‘ “But the good news is there’s still a capacity to look at something there and I’ve made a firm decision that I will ask my officials to look at the capacity for a new performance space in the Barangaroo area.” The State Government is also working on the business case for a 1,500-seat lyric theatre at Ultimo on the site of the Powerhouse Museum, which is moving to Parramatta.’Read more
[The Minister’s ‘Lyric Theatre at the Powerhouse’ idea remains on Harwin’s list despite all opposition to it. And also of concern are the delays because of planning and budget issues in the Walsh Bay arts project. PMA]

19 August, 2019
Sydney lord mayor calls snap Pyrmont planning review an ‘astounding betrayal of trust’
Adding to the concerns for over-development in Pyrmont and Ultimo that could affect  potential high-rise development on the Powerhouse Museum site, Anne Davies writes in The Guardian that lord mayor, Clover Moore, warns that the entire credibility of NSW planning rules are at stake after Premier Berejiklian says the suburb of Pyrmont  is “open for business and ready to be taken to the next level”.  Davies says the mayor made this warning  ‘…after the premier intervened to order a speedy review of planning controls in Pyrmont, where her own planning department has blocked the development of a 62-storey tower on top of Star casino. The rejection of the Star proposal for the 237 metre tower, in the historic area zoned for eight storeys to the west of the CBD, has bitterly divided the state government and led to a ferocious campaign by Star, aided by the Daily Telegraph and radio talkback host Alan Jones. The review by the Greater Sydney Commission will inevitably result in planning controls for the historic suburb – regarded as a model of urban renewal – coming under intense pressure from developers. Moore called the review “an astounding betrayal of public trust”, given Pyrmont residents had chosen to live there based on the council’s planning process.’ Read more: The Guardian 19 August

16 August, 2019
Craig Limkin leaves Create NSW
Saying ‘Legacy. What is a legacy? – It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see’, Limkin wrote to colleagues: ‘After almost 2½ years since I started at what was then known as the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO), now Create Infrastructure, and almost 7 years in the NSW Government, I have decided that it is time for new challenges, new adventures’… I came to this job to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, deliver the State’s first Cultural Infrastructure Plan and increase the theatre landscape in Sydney. However, I was lucky enough to be able to be a small part of many other arts and culture projects such as the Sydney Modern Project and Project Discover. Arts and Culture is the backbone of our society and creative industries will be the productivity boom of the future. We need to invest in it, Governments need to continue to invest in it, as it will provide the jobs for the future.  Thank you for all your support and guidance over the last period of time.’ [He is replaced by Annette Pitkin.]
Museum expert Kylie Winkworth commented on 20 August: ‘Craig Limkin joins an exodus of people associated with the PHM demolition, including: former directors of MAAS Rose Hiscock and Dolla Merrillees. This year saw the departures of senior executive staff Michael Parry, Tristan Sharp and Peter Denham. Of the seven people listed as principal officers in the last annual report only one is still there, Andrew Elliott. Craig Limkin was also special adviser to the jury selecting the architect for the Parramatta museum. It is unusual that he has left just before the stage 2 architectural submissions are due in September. Notwithstanding the cost of the $1.5b new Museum Western Sydney, which is half the size of the PHM, there is no one on the jury with experience in museum planning, design or management. This is akin to designing a hospital with no input from medical professionals.’

14 August, 2019
‘The new custodians of culture’
on-line as ‘A who’s who of the new arts shakers and movers’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, identifies that : ‘The Berejiklian government has appointed 82 arts leaders to 10 powerful boards across theatre, opera, music, museums, visual arts and dance, replacing five-member, peer-reviewed panels that previously judged the merits of funding applications…’ Read more

14 August 2019
‘Nationwide funding rejections reflect vulnerability of Australia’s arts sector’
Linda Morris and Hannah Francis report in the Sydney Morning Herald on the recent national funding decisions made by the Australia Council for the Arts: ‘Almost two-thirds of the 412 organisations which submitted expressions of interest did not make it to the second stage of the multi-year funding round, the first since former arts minister George Brandis controversially stripped out $105 million in funding in 2016, a day commonly referred to as Black Friday by the arts community. Those rejected organisations are unable to apply for the next four years and will need to find alternative sources of funding to survive.
Labor’s Tony Burke said independent and small- to medium-sized arts companies were the “powerhouse for telling Australian stories”. “If anyone is wondering in years to come why so few stories, images and shows are Australian, the answer will date back to when this government slashed funding to the Australia Council,” Mr Burke said. A spokesperson for the Minister for Communications and Arts, Paul Fletcher, said the Australia Council would work with rejected organisations to help manage the transition.’ Read more

10-11 August, 2019
Exhibition review: ‘Between East and West’
In his positive review in the Weekend Australian of the exhibition ‘Reflections of Asia’ at the Powerhouse Museum, critic Christopher Allen remained convinced that: ‘Moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is a mistake. Worse, it is a stupid and obstinate mistake, made and persisted with by the NSW government against all advice from the museological and cultural community. Hostility to the plan has been so great that the government has been forced into a charade of consultation, which has confirmed overwhelming opposition, and which has been predictably ignored.’
He traced the path of public and professional opposition and the parliamentary inquiry, saying : ‘Its findings were unambiguous: “After much evidence, it seems the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum has been based on poor planning and advice, a flawed business case and insufficient community consultation. Nothing so far has demonstrated the necessity or purpose for relocating this institution …” The report recommended instead providing funds for renovation and improvements at the current site, and the building of a new museum for Parramatta.’ But, he notes: ‘…in the middle of July, the NSW government finally issued what was presented as a response to the parliamentary report, but which was in reality a perfunctory dismissal of its findings, an insult to the intelligence of its readers and worse, thuggish in its disregard of expert advice and community consultation.’
‘So now we are back to the dismal prospect that the museum will be moved, at immense expense and risk to its precious collections, to a place where no one will visit it. Why not? Because, as I have pointed out before, tourists with limited time will not go all the way out to Parramatta. And Sydney people, like those in all cities, want to come into the centre of the city for cultural attractions, not go sideways to other suburbs.’
After documenting the breadth of the museum’s collection, and the dangers of moving it, he examines the examples of ceramics, lacquer ware, fans, sword guards and other culturally influential objects in the exhibition. And after discussing the significant role of collectors, donors and philanthropists, he concludes: ‘Such philanthropic relations are vital to the development of an institution like this, but are not likely to be enhanced by exiling the museum to a distant suburb. The indispensable basis for any properly thought out business plan for a museum is to be close and accessible to its audience, to other important cultural institutions, and to its supporters, collectors and benefactors.’ Read more   or here: C Allen-WAust 10-11 Aug

9 August, 2019
Inquiry Report debated in Parliament: August 7-8, 2019
On 8 May, 2019 Chair of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries had tabled the committee’s report in the Legislative Council; this was followed by a brief statement of disagreement by arts minister Don Harwin on 19 June.
Then in a sitting of the Council on 7 August, a number of short statements were made by Committee members, followed by some Questions on notice on 8 August. However, the debate remains adjourned, and it is anticipated that there may be more contributions at the next sitting on 20 August. It is unclear what outcomes there will be from the Report, and whether the government’s determination to barge ahead with their much-criticised plan will be irretrievable. [Note: the discussion was further adjourned on 20 August, and may be scheduled again for 17/18 September]
For extracts from each session as they relate to the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum, read hereHansard transcript May 8 and 7-8 August 2019
On 7 August, committee chair Robert Borsak said: ‘One of the great mysteries of the last Parliament is understanding the rationale for moving the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to the flood-prone banks of the Parramatta River. We are no closer to solving this mystery after more than two years of painstaking inquiries. It has been an exercise in posturing by this Government, which has been testing how much it can get away with without going through the appropriate channels such as consulting with stakeholders or the general public and taking into account its own NSW Government Guide to Cost-Benefit Analysis, not to mention due process … I am bitterly disappointed, but not surprised, by the arrogance of this Government. I will canvass my views and the Government’s responses with Opposition members and crossbench members. I am confident this isnot the last that we will hear on this issue.’
Deputy Chair, David Shoebridge, said: ‘The case was so obviously tailored to produce a political response. It was not a fair and independent assessment of the actual business fundamentals of moving the Powerhouse, let alone the cultural, political and social fundamentals.’ Walt Secord, shadow Treasurer and shadow Minister for the Arts, added: ‘A blowout in arts infrastructure and cultural projects is taking place under this Minister’s management. The arts have lurched from crisis to crisis under this Minister and this Government. The disease and the problem of the Powerhouse Museum is creeping into other projects.’
For full records, go to the government site and download pdfs, or read them here: 8 May   HANSARD-1820781676-78626 (2) , 7 August  HANSARD-1820781676-79513 (4) , 8 August   HANSARD-1820781676-79600

5 August, 2019
‘Gallery’s opening on shifting ground’
Linda Morris reports in The Sydney Morning Herald  that ‘Some of Sydney’s leading architects have expressed scepticism that Sydney Modern can be built within budget and by its planned 2021 opening date. … The project’s drift has drawn strong criticism from Andrew Andersons, architect of two previous successful expansions to the Art Gallery of NSW building’, because there is still not a successful tenderer. Instead of impacting on the Botanic Gardens, he suggested a better solution could be moving it to the site proposed for the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, or the Cutaway at Barangaroo. And ‘Renowned architect Philip Thalis said the risk of any blowout was that Sydney would get undersized and undervalued public buildings for its major institutions.’ Read more: SMH 5 Aug
2 September, 2019
‘Sydney Modern Project under budget but late’,
in print as ‘Better deal on gallery growth comes with opening delay’
Lisa Visentin writes in The Sydney Morning Herald that ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has promised to deliver the much-vaunted $344 million expansion to the Art Gallery of NSW “under budget” after her government was forced to go back to the market to find a builder…Ms Berejiklian announced on Sunday that Richard Crookes Constructions had won the contract to build the project, with construction to begin in the coming months. She said the government had made the right call in re-opening the tender process because it  had secured a better deal due to improved market conditions.’ Read more

4 August, 2019
“It is a total mess’: Government risks delays by standing up to developer’
(in print as ‘Government risks developer backlash with repeated delays’)
Andrew Taylor, in The Sun- Herald, writes: ‘The NSW government will face pressure from construction companies to spend more money to complete major projects on time, planning experts warn, as the Labor opposition said developers will think twice about bidding for infrastructure contracts… Peter Phibbs, the head of urban and regional planning and policy at the University of Sydney, said developers often sought to vary contracts on large, complex projects to increase profits and reduce risk. “A lot of times when details of a contract aren’t known, particularly when there’s a tight timeline, governments will just pay the extra cash to get the thing built,” he said.
In contrast, Labor’s arts spokesman, Walt Secord, said the government had put developers in an “invidious position” by failing to reveal the true cost of projects. “The industry takes them at their word and after they investigate, they discover that the true costs have been vastly under-estimated putting them in an invidious situation,” he said. Mr Secord also expressed fears of a budget blowout over Sydney Modern after suggesting the cost of the Walsh Bay Arts precinct had ballooned from $129 million to $245 million. “It is a total mess with companies thinking twice about investing time, energy and resources into bidding for government arts infrastructure projects,” he said.
The government’s other major arts project is the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, which will cost taxpayers $645 million. A Create NSW spokesman said it would not be impacted by Sydney Modern “and both projects are on track”. Sydney Modern is due for completion in 2021 in time for the gallery’s 150th anniversary, but Professor Phibbs suggested the government would be under more pressure to complete the Moore Park stadium or risk being left with a hole in the ground. Professor Phibbs also said past disputes over Barangaroo could be a source of lingering tension between the infrastructure giant and the NSW government.’
Read more   or: SunH 4 August

1 and 2 August, 2019
Sydney Modern: a further example of questionable NSW government planning processes
The ABC, as well as the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian newspapers (in print and on line), announce a further example of the Berejiklian government’s poor planning and budgeting processes. As with the stadium issue, Lendlease, the developer contracted to build the Sydney Modern extension for the Art Gallery of NSW, has disputed the costs for the project. This further reinforces concerns about the future of the Powerhouse Museum.
1 August: ‘Secord on Sydney Modern Project Questions’
In a media release, ‘Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts Walt Secord has called on the Berejiklian Government to reveal the current cost of the Sydney Modern Project – saying there are serious questions including concerns about possible major cost blow-outs and whether it will make its 2021 completion date. “Unfortunately, the Berejiklian Government has a dreadful record on managing infrastructure projects. It comes off the back of the Sydney Light Rail, the Sydney football stadium fiasco and the Powerhouse Museum move. There is a cloak of secrecy around the Sydney Modern project. There are major concerns in the arts community about the lack of transparency surrounding the actual cost of the Sydney Modern Project. The Berejiklian Government has the reverse Midas touch. Every project that it manages … goes into cost overruns. …There are also serious questions that need to be answered by the Berejiklian Government and the NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin, who has made this his signature project. In November 2018, the Arts Minister Don Harwin boasted that he had secured $100 million from private donors and another $244 million from NSW taxpayers for the project.” … Mr Secord said any additional funds will likely come from the NSW taxpayers and other arts programs as the Arts Minister Don Harwin has a track record of diverting funding from small fledging arts groups to his own pet projects.’ Read here:  190801 SECORD ON SYDNEY MODERN PROJECT QUESTIONS
1 August: ‘Sydney Modern art gallery’s future in doubt after Lendlease withdraws initial bid’
Michaela Boland, for ABC net news, discusses the history of fundraising but says: ‘Six years after it was announced, and eight months after construction was due to commence, the ABC can reveal the project is now effectively in limbo, with the NSW Government again searching for a company to build it.’   Read moreand SMH Aug 3-4
2 August: ‘Lendlease leaves Gladys in the lurch, again’

In The Australian, Andrew Clennell says ‘The Australian understands Lendlease was the last company standing in the original tender for the Art Gallery and had told the government the project would cost tens of millions more than first thought.’ PHM and infrastructure debacle The Aust 2019
2 August: ‘Gladys and her bumble squad’ (print title)
The Daily Telegraph: the Editorial starts with ‘Another day, another debacle for the NSW government of Premier Gladys Berejiklian…’ Read more  or here: DT Edit Aug 8
2 August: ‘Art of a disaster’
(in print)
The Daily Telegraph: Edward Boyd writes: ‘The government has been forced to re-open a critical tender process to build the $344 million Art Gallery of NSW expansion after another disagreement over cost.’ Read more  or here: DT 2 Aug
2 August: ‘Sydney Modern tender process back to drawing board over costs’
Alexandra Smith, on-line in the Sydney Morning Herald writes ‘Sydney Modern tender process back to drawing board over costs … There are concerns over cost blowouts to the Sydney Modern project.’ Read more

 29 July, 2019
‘Stadium setback shows cost of planning on the run’
Following the ‘shock announcement’ on 26 July that building company, Lendlease, was pulling out of the development of the Allianz stadium, the Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald says: ‘It’s back. The endless controversy about knocking down Sydney’s two biggest football stadiums, Allianz near the Sydney Cricket Ground and ANZ at Homebush at a cost of $2 billion, has returned to haunt the Berejiklian government. In the latest twist, building company Lendlease, which signed a contract to knock down and rebuild Allianz only eight months ago, has done the demolition but now walked away from the job of actually building the stadium…Lendlease says it quit because it could not guarantee that it could complete the stadium within the budget of $730 million…’. Read more   or here:  SMH Edit July 30

And further reports demonstrate this as among the repercussions (along with those for the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum) of the Government’s hasty and inadequate planning and budgeting processes.

30 July, 2019

‘Really unusual: Contract for stadium was offered before final design’,
Carrie Fellner, in the Sydney Morning Herald,  says: ‘The state government offered Lendlease the contract to rebuild Sydney Football Stadium before the detailed designs were finalised, in a move experts say was “really unusual” and could have triggered the construction company’s shock exit from the project on Friday.’ Read more     or here: SMH July 30

26 July, 2019
‘On par with London and Paris: Treasurer wants a minister for Sydney’
(In print as: ‘What about us? Perrottet wants a minister to preach Sydney’s virtues’)
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith cites NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, as saying the ‘state should have a dedicated minister for Sydney “to talk up our city” to ensure it gets the same global recognition as London or Paris… “When Sydney goes well, regional NSW goes well and Australia goes well,” he said. “Everyone in NSW and Australia are shareholders in Sydney’s success. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk up Sydney – we have an obligation to invest in it as Australia’s only truly global city and our nation’s gateway to the world.” … “When people around the world think of Australia they don’t think of Rundle Mall in Adelaide, they think of Sydney Harbour.”
‘The Treasurer said Sydney was emerging as a revitalised city, with major projects such as the CBD light rail, stadiums and cultural institutions including new museums and galleries …”We have a Minister for Regional NSW. We have a Minister for Western Sydney. These are important positions. But what we should certainly also have is a minister for Sydney,” he said. “Investing in Sydney doesn’t come at the expense of investments anywhere else. Never before have we seen more investments in our regions, remote communities and Western Sydney.” But the Treasurer warned politics should not get in the way of making Sydney a “truly global city”. “Whether its governments or as people, it’s often been the case that investments in Sydney are often seen as vanity projects,” Mr Perrottet said.’ Read more   or here: SMH A Smith 25 July
[PMA notes that in his argument for investment in museums and stadiums in focusing on the central city, Perrottet contradicts the plans of the Arts Minister and Premier in moving a key museum (the Powerhouse) away from it!] See  also Letters (above)

26 July, 2019
‘The Powerhouse Museum is being railroaded out of town’
In his regular on-line newsletter, critic John McDonald says: ‘Gladys’s gang has never been notable for transparency or accountability, but with re-election this tendency looks set to descend to a whole new level. In response to a detailed Parliamentary Inquiry into Museums and Galleries that was more than two-and-a half years in the making, Arts Minister, Don Harwin, wrote off the six recommendations in the most perfunctory fashion. … This really is the height of arrogance. It’s a calculated act of contempt that declares the Minister does not believe he is answerable to anyone for his actions or decisions. The proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has been criticised by every kind of expert, while the government’s Business Case is a threadbare document based on assertions rather than facts…We stand on the verge of a momentous act that will effectively destroy one of the state’s leading cultural facilities. The plan doesn’t give Parramatta a cultural institution but will remove a major attraction from the metropolitan area. The government will spend at least $1.5 billion to achieve this negative result.  Who wins? The developers that get hold of the Powerhouse site. Anybody else?’ Read more here:  26 July John McD     or here:  Read more

25 July, 2019 (24 on line)
‘Staged closure planned for the Powerhouse Museum’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, provides a progress report discussing the temporary closure of the Australian Museum to prepare for the King Tut blockbuster in 2021, while: ‘The Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo will also begin a staged shutdown from June next year more than 30 years after it first shifted to the site of the Ultimo Power Station and tram depot. The main heritage power station building will close to the public mid-2020 while the Wran Building, the 1980s addition that features the main entrance and touring hall, will remain open for exhibitions for a further 12 months …The Collection Relocation Project is to send most objects to Castle Hill’s Discovery Centre, with the remainder housed at Parramatta. .. Originally, the museum was to have closed in January and reopened three years later in its new $1.17 billion home on the Parramatta River. Even with the new timetable, the museum will be without a physical home for two years.’
Morris continues:  ‘While the Powerhouse Museum prepares to exit Ultimo, Mr Harwin is pursuing plans for a “creative industries presence” at Ultimo, according to the Berejiklian government’s brief response to a damning Upper House inquiry into the museum’s relocation tabled last week. That two-and-a-half-year-long inquiry urged the government immediately abandon the project and the Powerhouse Museum be restored to its former glory. Commercial or residential tower developments on the site of the Harwood building, where the bulk of the museum’s collection is stored, and the Wran building is to offset the billion-dollar cost of the museum’s new riverside home, according to a draft business case still in progress.’ However, she  also notes ‘speculation that Treasury is pushing for a cheaper scaled-down theatre and gallery presence for music performance and exhibitions similar to that opened at Barangaroo. The museum’s new chief executive officer, Lisa Havilah, was recruited from Carriageworks, a multi-space venue, and is thought to be advocating for the museum to remain a major stakeholder in any event… Greens MP David Shoebridge said: ‘…. ”Even a casual observer of the property market would realise the net cost to government of the project is blowing out probably to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. One of the reasons the community remains so strongly opposed to the Powerhouse move is that it is underpinned by speculative property deals at Ultimo and Parramatta. Those deals are even more speculative with the collapse in house prices and confidence in the building industry.” ‘  Read more   or here: SMH 25 July

18 July, 2019
‘Arts vandalism in NSW: Minister Harwin dismisses key report’
In her regular Culture Heist blog, Judith White writes: ‘Buoyed by the re-election of the NSW Berejiklian Government in March, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin is ploughing ahead with the controversial move of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. He has at last responded to the painstaking, long-running Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, which focused on the affair. His response is to disregard the findings of the Inquiry and the highly experienced professionals who gave detailed evidence to it.
Established in June 2016, the Inquiry committee took 179 submissions, held 12 hearings, listened to evidence from distinguished former directors and trustees and grilled Government officials and former Premier Mike Baird. It heard that the Parramatta site was prone to flooding and unsuitable for housing museum objects; that costs of relocation were certain to blow out; that the new location would be less accessible for most of the State’s citizens; and crucially, that the move puts the museum’s priceless collection at serious risk.
The conclusions of the committee’s meticulous report, delivered in February 2019, were damning of the Government policy – but Arts Minister Harwin has brushed them aside. In a response received by the Clerk of Parliament on 17 July, he dismissed the Inquiry’s finding that the business case for relocation did not comply with Treasury guidelines for cost-benefit analysis – without even discussing the evidence.’  White also discussed his (non) responses to particular recommendations, including issues associated with efficiency dividends for cultural institutions, and the need to inquire into governance of the arts and culture sector in NSW.’  Read more

17 July, 2019
Minister Harwin’s self-serving response to Inquiry report: what do we do now?
Five months after the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries submitted its informative and critical Final Report, especially of the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum, Arts Minister Don Harwin has provided a very brief, self-serving response to be tabled in the NSW Legislative Council (Upper House). This appears to have been sent on 17 July to all those who made submissions to the Inquiry over nearly 3 years.  (Read here ).
Notable is Harwin’s absolute lack of recognition of the findings of the Inquiry; each response merely repeats the Government’s original proposal, making unfounded claims, previously refuted by the Inquiry for adequate consultation, provision of a business case with a realistic budget and transparency of procedures – or a credible rationale for the move!
On 28 February 2019, the Chair of the Inquiry committee had said, in submitting the Final Report: ‘After much evidence, it seems that the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum has been based on poor planning and advice, a flawed business case and insufficient community consultation. Nothing so far has demonstrated the necessity or purpose for relocating this institution…’. Instead of relocating the museum, the committee called on the NSW Government to focus on restoring the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, by providing a significant injection of funding for refurbishment and expansion … ‘The committee also agreed that Western Sydney should benefit from its own museum, which could be a satellite site or a cultural institution that reflects Parramatta’s own extraordinary history.’ Also significant was a recommendation to inquire into governance of the arts and culture sector.
(For Media release Read more and for Report: Read more. Also read news reports on and after 28 February here, in our News Chronology.

What do we do now? Many supporters are planning to write to the opposition and cross-bench members of the Legislative Council, to reinforce our support for them in the findings and recommendations of the Inquiry, and to encourage them to condemn and reject the Minister’s pathetic ‘response’. (Read here for list of Legislative Council members.)

18 June, 2019
The returned NSW government confirms intent to move the Powerhouse Museum.
In a media release, arts minister Don Harwin says: ‘ARTS, SCREEN & CULTURE ACROSS NSW TO FLOURISH WITH $871 MILLION INVESTMENT: Arts, screen and culture are alive and well with the NSW Government delivering an $871 million total investment in the sector, including a 22 per cent increase in recurrent funding for the 2019-20 NSW Budget.’ Amongst other commitments, is listed: ‘MAAS Powerhouse Precinct Parramatta: $167.2 million.’ Harwin Media release 19 June

12 May, 2019
‘A throwaway city of junk buildings’: Leading architect slams NSW government over heritage
Andrew Taylor, in the Sun-Herald, reports from the National Trust Heritage Awards, that: ‘Sydney is in danger of becoming “a throwaway city of junk buildings” built on the cheap to be knocked down every 30 years, a leading architect and City of Sydney councillor has warned. Philip Thalis also criticised the NSW government’s sell-off of public buildings, which he said constituted “a theft of public assets”, and the destruction of heritage buildings and streetscapes caused by projects such as the Sydney Metro, Westconnex and roadworks. “Public Sydney risks becoming privatised Sydney,” said Cr Thalis…”We know that regardless of political persuasion, privatisation is deeply unpopular with the majority of citizens, and constitutes a theft of public assets that would otherwise have been available to future generations.” Cr Thalis pointed to the sale of sandstone public buildings in Bridge Street in Sydney’s CBD,  the disposal of Millers Point public housing, the lease of NSW Land and Property Information and “the atrocities along Anzac Parade, one of our very few commemorative avenues”…”For us, without war, fire, flood or pestilence, this recent period has been perhaps the most voracious of booms in our city’s history,” he said. “It’s been self-inflicted.”…
NSW Special Minister of State Don Harwin, also at the awards, did not respond at the time but later said in a statement: “The NSW government is committed to working with communities to strike the right balance between celebrating our past and building for the future.” Also present at the Awards was Labor’s acting leader Penny Sharpe, who said Cr Thalis’ speech was a “wake-up call” about how heritage laws had been eroded. “In NSW, the notion that public buildings are under the custodianship of government across generations no longer applies,” she said…
The heritage of western Sydney was also under assault, Cr Thalis said, pointing to the threat posed to Willow Grove and St Georges Terrace by the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, the “cavalier demolition” of Parramatta Memorial Pool and the intrusion of a new football stadium, Leagues Club and hotel into Parramatta Park. Read moreor here: 12 May A Taylor – Thalis

9 May, 2019
‘Powerhouse Museum to keep doors open’
Following the Arts Minister’s media announcement that the Powerhouse Museum would close in 2020 before relocation in 2023, Linda Morris in the Sydney Morning Herald reports:
‘The Powerhouse Museum is likely to stay open at Ultimo for up to another two years. The museum was to have closed its doors by January before its relocation to Parramatta by 2023 but newly appointed chief executive officer Lisa Havilah confirmed she would prefer it be delayed by one or two years to enable exhibition programming to continue on site. ”The project is very much on track but we are looking to keeping the museum open for another year or two to keep delivering projects and programs that will engage the community, but ultimately it is a decision for government,” she said after announcing the first major survey of Australian designers and artists Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson to open in October…’
Of the design shortlist Morris says: ‘Each finalist team will now receive $150,000 to develop design concepts and attend a site visit in June, after which they have three months to develop their concept designs to show to the public in a physical exhibition and online gallery before the international jury meets later this year to decide a winner. Exact site boundaries and the fate of two heritage buildings Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace are expected to be announced at this next stage.’
As well, Morris reports changes in the management structure: ‘The competition shortlist comes as the Powerhouse’s executive team continues to thin, with Michael Parry, responsible for the new museum project, soon to leave in the wake of the departure of Tristan Sharp, the museum’s former director of programs and engagement.’ Read more…or here: SMH 9 May

Elsewhere, new Museum Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah, is documented as writing: ‘As the Powerhouse Precinct Project moves from planning to implementation, the Museum and our project partner Create Infrastructure are changing the resourcing arrangements.  For the Museum this means that the project management will be integrated into our existing teams and I will be working directly with the Executive and broader teams on the delivery of the project and we will continue to work in collaboration with our partners at Create Infrastructure.’

9 May, 2019
Media Release: ‘Six Teams Vie for New Powerhouse Design’
‘Minister for the Arts Don Harwin has today announced the six global architect teams shortlisted to develop designs for an iconic new Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta.’ These were drawn from 74 expressions of interest, and Harwin said:
‘We are moving forward with this major project for Western Sydney and the museum at Ultimo will close in 2020 to ensure the safe removal and transfer of the collection before the new museum’s scheduled opening in 2023.’  The finalist international-Australian and Australian teams are (in alphabetical order):
AL_A (UK) and Architectus (Australia)   Bernardes Architecture (Brazil) and Scale Architecture (Australia)
BVN Architecture (Australia) and Carlo Ratti Associati (Italy)
CHROFI (Australia) with Reko Rennie (Australia)
Moreau Kusunoki (France) and Genton (Australia)
Steven Holl Architects (United States) and Conrad Gargett (Australia)
Read more: 9 May Don Harwin media release – design teams

30 April, 2019
Senior staff changes at MAAS
Chief Executive of MAAS announced: ‘I’m writing to let you know that Michael Parry will be leaving his position as Director, Museum Project Office. As the Powerhouse Precinct Project moves from planning to implementation, the Museum and our project partner Create Infrastructure are changing the resourcing arrangements.  For the Museum this means that the project management will be integrated into our existing teams and I will be working directly with the Executive and broader teams on the delivery of the project and we will continue to work in collaboration with our partners at Create Infrastructure. … Many of you have worked with Michael over the past five years and I know you would agree that he has played an important role in getting the project successfully to this point…’ [This announcement was followed in August by the news that Craig Limkin,
Executive Director, Create Infrastructure, in Create NSW, was also leaving.]

1 May, 2019
‘Blue sky to fund 200th anniversary renos of Hyde Park Barracks’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Julie Power reports that [unlike the arrangements that appear to be under way for the significant Powerhouse Museum site]: ‘The 200-year-old Hyde Park Barracks is raising nearly $20 million towards its future conservation by selling its air rights – or unused development space above the building – to private developers for use elsewhere in the city.
It is the first time in Australia that a UNESCO-listed building has sold its air rights, and the second government building in Sydney to do so. New renovations will be funded by the sale of the air rights above the building to Sydney developers.
The sale of 12,743 square metres using the City of Sydney’s transferable heritage floor space scheme was the largest sale yet achieving a record price, said the executive director of Sydney Living Museums, Mark Goggin. The air rights were sold to three different developers, including Lendlease, with the price ranging from $1460-$1610 per sqm, for developments in other parts of central Sydney.
Under City of Sydney planning regulations developers can purchase heritage floor space from registered buildings like the Barracks in order to gain approval to supplement their existing floor space. The space above the existing building will never be developed. The sale of the air rights was generating “blue sky” revenue, said Mr Goggin, now and into the future with potential for the rights to be sold every 25 years. The money will fund the conservation of the Francis Greenway designed building which received UNESCO world heritage listing with 10 other Australian convict places and institutions, including Port Arthur, in 2010. The NSW Minister for the Arts and Heritage, Don Harwin, said the heritage floor transfer scheme was “an innovative way for our metro-based cultural institutions to raise new investment that ensures the continued conservation of our heritage sites.” “I’m hugely excited about the future of the Hyde Park Barracks site. The renewal project will boost visitation and showcase this amazing heritage asset in the heart of our city.” Read more…or here: 1 May HPB air space

18 April, 2019
‘Don’t move the Powerhouse to Parramatta; build another museum’
In The Fifth Estate, Mike Brown considers options for Parramatta that leave the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. He identifies specialist museums in many countries that provide background to ‘spectacular and unusual first cultures in Australia and the Pacific’, alongside appropriation of cultural materials. He also considers ‘cultural indifference’ in some Australian museums where important collections are not accessible, saying: ‘To illustrate further where our values lie we need only compare two decisions in the lead-up to the recent state election. The first is the commitment to rebuild or significantly modify two relatively new sporting stadiums… The second is the decision to relocate most of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.’
After considerable discussion, he concludes: ‘Controversy surrounding the proposed Powerhouse Museum relocation and the stadiums rebuild straddled the last state election. Now that the election is over, how might the city-making components championed by The Fifth Estate square with the Powerhouse and stadiums decisions? Not well, but the government is unlikely to revisit these decisions willingly. Pressure to do so is typically met by “we have a mandate”, often followed by the lemming-like idiocy of “a decision has been made”.
Fortunately, lack of strategic wit is a condition that can be reversed. An upper house committee has vowed to re-examine the Powerhouse decision and explore alternative proposals. Before the election, the committee recommended that “…the Powerhouse Museum be given a cash injection and restored to its former glory, while Parramatta would receive funding for its own, separate ”world-class” institution.”
What a good idea. Hey … why not leave the Powerhouse where it is, save bucket loads on the costs of moving the collections, sell a smaller amount of the spare Darling Harbour land, use the proceeds to build a brand new “world class” venue on the recently purchased Parramatta River site, and stock it with “…one of the largest collection in the world of First Nations cultures, specifically from Pacific and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” held by the Australian Museum.
That way, we accelerate the development of Parramatta as Sydney’s central city with its own unique cultural offers, as proposed by the Greater Sydney Commission, we double the number of world class new museums, we reduce the cost of establishing both, and we develop a whole new tourist attraction simply by displaying what we already possess.We could have the Quay Parramatta Museum of Australian and Pacific Indigenous Cultures – MAPIC – and the Powerhouse … Remember the sloganeering; we can have it all.’ Read more

10 April, 2019
‘Clover Moore still fighting for Powerhouse stay’ 
Heath Parkes-Hupton reports in the Daily Telegraph that ‘Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has written to NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin, requesting an urgent meeting about the future of Ultimo’s Powerhouse Museum site… It comes after Mr Harwin on Wednesday revealed the move was a step closer, following the the State Government’s acquisition of land on the banks of the Parramatta River, which would be turned into a new “arts and cultural precinct” and home to the Powerhouse… This was despite a damning Upper House parliamentary inquiry report released in February that called for the Ultimo site to be “restored to its former glory” and stated the government’s business case for the move was “inadequate”.
As part of the plan, the government announced in April 2018 a creative industries precinct, Lyric theatre and small museum would be built in place of the Powerhouse. The government is preparing a business case for that project and a funding announcement is expected later this year. The project was opposed by Labor during the campaign for last month’s NSW Election, who instead pledged to build a stand-alone “world class cultural” precinct in western Sydney. Cr Moore said City of Sydney Council still opposed the move and she hoped to again push that case in a meeting with Mr Harwin.’ Read more or here: 10 April C Moore to Harwin

10 April, 2019
‘Parramatta Powerhouse Site Purchase – what’s new minister?’
Following the Arts Minister’s announcement of the purchase of a site in Parramatta for the ‘Powerhouse Precinct’, Save the Powerhouse Facebook writes: ‘…Previously we heard that just the Powerhouse clone itself was destined for the riverbank site, despite several expert analyses showing that the space available would be less than half the size of the current Ultimo site (when the planned super-tower is added), and that the flood risk is dangerously high (see water engineer John Macintosh’s video…/powerhouse-relocation-prop…/9647870 ) Now the new development becomes the “Powerhouse Precinct… a new arts and cultural precinct on the banks of the Parramatta River… that will deliver a spectacular new museum for families, industry and educational institutions.” And the flood problem? Not mentioned in the Minister’s MR…All this we’ve heard before, Minister. When are you going to announce something new and meaningful? And when, with the support of strong allies in Parliament, the “Powerhouse move” is successfully halted? Not to worry. The Government will just sell off the riverbank land to a developer mate at a vast profit – IF any of them is prepared to risk their project being regularly under water!’ See 10 April in:

10 April, 2019
Arts Minister’s land purchase: ‘Powerhouse home secured in Parramatta’
Arts Minister Don Harwin announces in a news conference on 9 April and media release on 10 April, that ‘Western Sydney is a step closer to having its own world class museum with the purchase of the riverbank site for the Powerhouse Precinct,’ and that ‘acquisition of the land from the City of Parramatta means it is now full steam ahead for the Powerhouse move to Parramatta.’ The media report goes on to cite comments from Lord Mayor Andrew Wilson, and Harwin’s report on the development of design concepts. For media release: Read more

7 April, 2019
‘Vow to resume scrutiny of Powerhouse Museum move’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes: ‘The political battle over the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta may not be over yet, with key opponents pledging fresh parliamentary scrutiny of the Berejiklian government’s plans. Labor and the Greens have rejected any suggestion the Coalition has a fresh mandate to shift the Powerhouse at a capital cost of $1.1 billion and use the proceeds from the institution’s redeveloped Ultimo site without oversight.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge, deputy chairman of the long-running Upper House inquiry which recommended the project be abandoned, is hoping to gather enough crossbench support with Labor to re-establish a select committee in the arts portfolio to monitor governance and management of the relocation. At its first meeting after the March 23 election in which the Berejiklian government secured a working majority, Labor caucus gave its backing to fresh scrutiny of the Powerhouse Museum move, including support for a new committee…The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s Robert Borsak is the inquiry chairman and is said to be looking at potential terms of reference.The two-and-a-half-year parliamentary inquiry had urged the Powerhouse Museum be given a cash injection and restored to its former glory, while Parramatta would receive funding for its own, separate ”world-class” institution…But the NSW Premier insisted there was no turning back: ”The Powerhouse in western Sydney is part of the future of western Sydney.”
”Regardless of whether the museum move happens, it is the job of parliament to scrutinise government policy,” Mr Shoebridge said. ”We have a very strong prospect of getting the numbers to continue the work of the original committee which has already exposed significant flaws in policy. … The government got re-elected but it would be foolish to say it has a mandate for relocation. There is a strong grassroots movement opposed to the Powerhouse’s relocation.”  See:  SMH 7 April or  Read more

7 April, 2019
‘Gladys powers up the centre’
The Sunday Telegraph editorial raises concerns about changes to the Premier’s new Cabinet, saying: ‘When Premier Gladys Berejiklian finalised her newly-expanded 24-strong Cabinet last weekend, there appeared to be more winners than losers. However, the detail that followed suggested all but eight ministers had been given the equivalent of a booby prize – a ministerial title but no department. The others – many of her closest confidantes – were put in charge of eight newly-merged “super-ministries”.‘ It notes that many agencies ‘have been swallowed up by the Planning and Industry department and that :’The Premier says her move is designed to make for a more efficient and streamlined government. Cynics say the move is designed to fast-track the approval of infrastructure projects without bureaucrats in Environment putting up obstacles such as flora and fauna protection … And will the public servants within each of the “clusters” still be able to give the frank and honest advice their patch deserves? Unsurprisingly the make-up of the super-ministries makes it clear that infrastructure and industry remains the focus …over the next four years. …[The Premier] has every right to shape the state as she sees fit. But it would be a shame to ignore the other elements that make NSW a great place to live. Read more:  DT 7 April

3 April, 2019
‘NSW gov’t to disband Office of Environment and Heritage’
ArchitectureAU expresses concerns in the report that: ‘The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage will be dismantled and its two principal functions absorbed by other departments, following the re-election of the NSW government in March. The environmental protection and management functions of the office will be moved to an enlarged “Planning and Industry” department, while the heritage functions of the office will be moved to the arts portfolio. …Following the election, Rob Stokes has become NSW’s new Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Matt Kean is the new minister of a combined energy and environment portfolio, while Don Harwin retains the arts portfolio.’ Read more

2 April, 2019
‘NSW Cabinet, list of ministers’
Returned Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s  list of ministerial appointments reflects some changes of personnel, including some amalgamations of responsibilities.
Among them, Don Harwin is returned as Arts Minister: ‘Special Minister of State, Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts, and Vice-President of the Executive Council, Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council.’ Read more 

2 April, 2019
‘Speaking Truth to Power: public support and policy clout are vital’
(on line as ‘Sector needs hotline to power’)
Matthew Westwood, in The Australian, places recent NSW government funding decisions for the arts in the context of the federal arts minister’s decision four years earlier, to take $105 million from the Australia Council to fund organisations of his personal preference: ‘There was no consultation, no evidence of need and certainly no warning about a policy change that up-ended the operating environment for a significant part of the sector.’ He continues to write about the need for sector advocacy: ‘a strong and sustained communication of the sector’s needs.’ He gives examples of effective advocacy bodies across visual and performing arts, and says: ‘The state election in NSW last month brought arts issues to the foreground on two fronts: the Berejiklian governments’ intention to move the Powerhouse Museum from the inner city to Parramatta; and government policies on music venues and festivals that opponents say threatened to make NSW a “music-free” state’.
‘In both cases, opponents of these policies mounted vigorous and highly visible campaigns. The Powerhouse Museum Alliance has argued against moving the Powerhouse since the plan was announced by Premier Mike Baird in 2015, and in the final weeks of the election campaign, prominent arts donor Neil Balnaves took out full-page ads in this newspaper deploring the government’s intransigence on the issue.’ He gives many further examples and concludes: ‘The need for arts advocacy is critical because individual artists and organisations lack the resources to do it themselves, or are reluctant to speak out against the government for fear of reprisals.’ Read more  (by subscription)

25 March, 2019
‘Office towers on rise in bustling Parramatta’
In The Australian, Ben Wilmot describes the competitive – and often controversial – development projects around Parramatta Square. As well, he says: ‘The re-elected Berejiklian government is also driving plans for a new light rail, West Metro, improved motorway connections and is shifting the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.’ He also cites Sydney Business Chamber executive director in Western Sydney who supports these moves (and was also controversially recently appointed to the MAAS Powerhouse Museum Trustees), as saying: “Parramatta is in the midst of an incredible shift, where there will be more workers than residents in the CBD in five years’ time.” Read more: 25 March Aust

23 March, into April, 2019
‘2019 New South Wales state election’
Wikipedia provides explanations of the NSW voting process, details of votes counted, swings in preferences, seats won and lost and links to various newspaper reports.
‘The 2019 New South Wales state election was held on Saturday 23 March 2019 to elect the 57th Parliament of New South Wales, including all 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 21 of the 42 seats in the Legislative Council…The two-term incumbent Liberal/National Coalition Government led by Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro was re-elected to a third four-year term with a reduced majority in the Legislative Assembly, where government is formed.  Read more

23 March, into April, 2019
‘Berejiklian’s Liberal-National Coalition returned to power for a third term’
ABC News supplies a number of reports confirming that the Liberal-National Coalition has been returned to government, and identifies a number of issues associated with changes of preferences amongst smaller parties; regional priorities and city concerns. Read more

23-24 March, 2019
Election results – and continuing museum issues
The NSW state election has returned the Liberal/National coalition party to government, under Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Among its many criticised promises, processes and plans for development projects, this government has remained committed to moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Labor, supported by other members, had announced they would develop a new museum/gallery in western Sydney after consultation with people in Parramatta, while maintaining and enhancing the Powerhouse Museum in its long-term location in Ultimo.
However, the government has a commitment to respond to the Upper House Inquiry report that has recommended the second option. Read more

23 March 2019
‘NSW state election results 2019’
The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) Virtual Tally Room (VTR) contains results for the 2019 Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council Elections. Read more

23 March, 2019

21 March, 2019
‘NSW Election Update’
The Australian Museums and Galleries Association  advises: ‘AMaGA has written to all the party leaders and their Arts spokesperson with comments on their cultural policy agendas and asking that they expand their commitment to the museum and gallery sector through following and funding some specific priorities. Read more
Below is the letter to Don Harwin MLC, Minister for the Arts, and his reply.
12 March: Letter to Don Harwin MLC :
13 March:  Don Harwin’s reply to AMaGA
Among the claims of support Harwin makes for the sector, he confirms: ‘The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is also being transformed, with $645 million for the new Museum at Parramatta, an expansion of the Museum Discovery Centre at Castle Hill and planning is under way for a Museum of Design and Fashion in the Ultimo creative industries precinct’. [This is despite strong contrary recommendations being made in the Final Report of the Upper House Inquiry, which must be responded to in coming months.]

… March, 2019
‘A Billion Dollar Con? Powerhouse move in the spotlight’
Just before the election, Geoff Sirmai’s press release for issue 46 of the monthly publication Artist Profile: ‘… blows the lid on the highly controversial on-again, off-again efforts of the NSW government to move the Powerhouse Museum to Sydney’s West … John McDonald pens a provocative open letter to Michael Daley – with some choice words of advice for the NSW opposition leader. [He] urges the ALP leader to nail his colours to the mast, in the interest of repairing the state – and the nation’s – cultural reputation. Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government, says McDonald, has refused to listen to its critics and has tried to keep its plans from public scrutiny – and it’s no secret that the current site has been re-valued upwards by some $220 million. “There are no convincing arguments in favour of the move… too many questions remain unanswered, too many other projects have been hurried or bungled. What world city moves a major cultural asset out of the metropolitan area? … The government’s sole remaining rallying cry seems to be ‘Build it and they will come!’. It is, incidentally, the same rationale being trumpeted for the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sydney Modern extension. Mr Daley, you’ve shown you can respond positively when we rose up against the sporting stadiums, now let’s see you save the Powerhouse.” Read: Artist Profile Issue 46 release 1 – The Billion Dollar Powerhouse Con

22 March, 2019
Save the Powerhouse Museum!
In an advertisement in the Daily Telegraph, the Powerhouse Museum alliance says: ‘Don’t let the Liberal Government waste $1.5b of taxpayers money selling our museum to property developers. Let’s have a new museum in Parramatta and keep the Powerhouse in Ultimo where it is accessible to everyone. Put the Liberals last!’ See the ad:  22 March PMA ad

22 March, 2019
From John McDonald:
‘In his weekly newsletter, art critic John McDonald writes: ‘It’s the NSW State elections this weekend and the arts lobby has finally been baring its teeth … For me, and a lot of other people, the election has become a kind of referendum on the Powerhouse Museum. The proposal to ‘move’ the Powerhouse to Parramatta is nothing more than a sneaky real estate deal. It doesn’t make sense in any other interpretation. It will be ridiculously expensive. It’s not going to give Parramatta a new arts facility. It will have a devastating impact on attendance figures. It’s impossible to ‘move’ the collection to a smaller site without destroying its very raison d’etre. In brief: it’s a brazen exercise in transferring public assets into private hands at the expense of the state’s cultural heritage.
If the Berejiklian government is re-elected it has vowed to pursue this ill-conceived plan. If Labor gets in, the Powerhouse is saved. This is an excellent reason to vote Labor…
The sheer arrogance of so many ministers is breathtaking. There is no transparency, no accountability, and a born-to-rule attitude that shows contempt for the electorate. They’re prepared to flash the cash and tell us  they care right up until voting day, but given another term they will recommence their evil deeds with redoubled energy… What can we hope for in this state in which politics has been a byword for incompetence and corruption since the days of the Rum Rebellion? We need to stop the current mob before they sell off every asset to their corporate mates. We may expect it will take Labor at least two years to become as greedy, arrogant and sneaky as the current incumbents. So let’s vote Labor this weekend and buy ourselves a little time. As you see, I’m not a party animal…’.  Read more: 22 March JMcD

19/20 March, 2019
Election promises!
20 March, 2019
‘NSW Shadow Arts Minister presents Labor’s future plan’
In ArtsHub, ‘Walt Secord outlines what Labor has in mind for the arts – including keeping the Powerhouse Museum where it is, and a new institution for Parramatta… “As Arts Minister in a Daley Labor government, I will support art and culture throughout NSW. But I will also make sure Western Sydney and rural and regional NSW get their fair share. I am also committed to fostering Australian theatre. We will also end the politicisation of arts and culture by the Arts Minister Don Harwin who has twice re-directed arts funds from small fledging organisations to larger ones.” ‘ Read more

20 March, 2019

The NSW Greens’ vision for the arts
In ArtsHub, spokespeople for the Greens, Dawn Walker and Cate Faehrmann, say that: ‘Art and creativity are fundamental to our wellbeing and cultural heritage, with a vibrant arts and creative sector being integral to a healthy society. The arts make an enormous contribution economically too, with the arts, screen and cultural sectors contributing $16 billion to the NSW economy each year. Unfortunately, whenever a conservative government is looking for budget savings their first port of call is the arts budget. The NSW Liberal/National Government has done just that, waging a war on our creative industries, limiting opportunities for young people, gutting funding for new and emerging artists, and failing to attract talent to NSW. The Greens believe the arts sector in NSW requires a significant boost in funding to get it back on track.’ Read more
19 March, 2019
‘Minister Don Harwin outlines his arts election promises’
In ArtsHub, ‘Minister Harwin outlines his party’s wins for the arts during their time in government, and presents his plan for the future if re-elected as NSW Arts Minister. ‘Amongst mention of support for Sydney Modern and The Australian Museum, as well as other reports and proposals, he continues to insist that: “The Museum of Applied Arts and Science is also being transformed, with $645 million for the new Museum at Parramatta, an expansion of the Museum Discovery Centre at Castle Hill and planning is underway for a Museum of Design and Fashion in the Ultimo creative industries precinct.” Read more

20 March, 2019
‘Inspire us’: Call to bolster arts funds and axe music laws;
in print as Call for funding to boost arts sector
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes: ‘The Berejiklian government’s decision to move the Powerhouse Museum, restrictions on live music and the adequacy and integrity of arts funding have become lightning rod issues for dissent within the arts community on the eve of the election. The National Association for Visual Arts (NAVA) has called for transparency in arts funding decisions and investment in artists as it became the latest peak industry group to release a ”report card” on the major parties’ arts policies ahead of Saturday’s election.
The move comes after the extraordinary intervention of the Balnaves family foundation which this week placed full-page ads (see below) in national media pointing to a disparity in arts funding – “a miserable $542 million” – compared with the sector’s economic contribution and asking voters to consider the state’s ”cultural future” at the ballot box.
”Arts and culture have become hot election issues for all the wrong reasons,” Ms Anatolitis [from NAVA] said. Political interference in arts funding decisions, the ”unexplained” billion-dollar relocation of the Powerhouse Museum and restrictions to festivals and live music were part of the election time ”public conversation”, she said. Morris also noted that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum Alliance has commissioned short films for social media with the message “Save the Powerhouse Museum put the Liberals last”.  ”Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences will be finished otherwise,” says critic Kylie Winkworth. ”The government will change the legislation and change the museum’s mission. Whatever they build in Parramatta will bear no relation to the Powerhouse Museum as we know it.” The music industry is also deeply unhappy with the government’s new regulations for music festivals and restrictions on live music venues.’ Read more

18,19, 20 March, 2019
‘Consider our cultural future when you vote on 23 March’
Over three days,  the Balnaves Foundation placed different but related full page advertisements in The Australian.
18 March: showing comparisons between the annual contribution of the arts to the economy, and the small amount contributed by the NSW Liberal government. 18 March Balnaves
19 March: focusing on the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘… Despite a devastating Upper House Inquiry that found there is no credible business case for the move the Government is still determined to proceed. Surely Parramatta deserves a world-class cultural centre of its own. We should build additional arts infrastructure not just move one.’ 19 March Balnaves
20 March: comparing arts funding in NSW with other states: … ‘The Liberal Government is delivering deals to its friends and allies but failing to deliver on the Arts…’. 20 March Balnaves

18 March, 2019
Museum move slammed as a ‘bone-headed’ idea
Sascha O’Sullivan, in The Australian, writes that: ‘In the last week of the NSW election campaign, the founder of the Balnaves Foundation has thrown his weight, and a full-page ad in todays The Australian, against Gladys Berejiklian’s proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta… [Generous supporter of arts and medicine, galleries and museums] Foundation founder Neil Balnaves has called the proposed move from Ultimo to Parramatta a ‘bone-headed idea”, and said Sydney needed more cultural spaces, not stadiums. “The NSW Liberal government doesn’t get the arts … The argument (not to move it) is not terribly complex,” Mr Balnaves said. “(The Powerhouse Museum) certainly needs updating but it has a wider market and is more easily available in the city. Why can’t Parramatta have a more multifaceted centre that is flexible to growth?” …” and the economic benefit case has not been made, and I don’t believe my taxes are being well spent on moving the museum. The government’s robbing our pockets, takes the money, and then makes decisions that don’t make sense.” ‘
Read More: 18 March Aust Balnaves

15 March, 2019
‘Put the Liberals last!’
In two Youtube messages, supported by donors to the Powerhouse Museum Alliance’s media campaign, Michael Caton fiercely criticises the Berejiklian Liberal Government’s asset sales and plans to destroy the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and relocate it inappropriately in western Sydney. To stop this move he argues that, in the forthcoming election, we should ‘Vote the Liberals (and in other versions for regional areas, Nationals) last!’

14 March, 2019
‘NSW Labor to review all Harwin arts funding grants decisions – in light of second report of interference’
Walt Secord MLC, Labor shadow minister for the arts, says: ‘All arts funding grants determined and distributed by Arts Minister Don Harwin in the last two years will be subject to a comprehensive independent review, if a Daley Labor Government is elected next weekend. … This is in light of two separate known incidences of political interference by Mr Harwin – over-ruling the independent assessment panels.’ He referred to:
–  ’The Regional Cultural Fund – and concerns expressed this morning (7.45am – ABC Radio Sydney) that Mr Harwin over-ruled the independent selection panel and re-directed funding to 13 projects in Berejiklian Government-held electorates, which did not meet basic requirements; and
–  The Arts and Cultural Development Program – where Mr Harwin admitted in mid-2018 that he redirected $1 million from small arts groups to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. This resulted in 11 organisations missing out on funding and some arts groups were forced to cancel programs because of the decision.’
“The politicisation of arts funding by the Berejiklian Government must stop. The funding should go to deserving groups rather than the mates of the Arts Minister… It is very disappointing to see a Minister of the Crown using the arts portfolio to distribute funds to parliamentary colleagues and his favourite personal favourite arts groups…The review will be about restoring confidence in the arts grants process and limiting political interference in the distribution of arts and cultural grants.”Read more: 190314 SECORD Harwin arts

14 Mar 2019
‘John Barilaro, Don Harwin overruled expert advice on regional arts funding, documents reveal’
Michaela Boland and Greg Miskelly record for the ABC that: ‘Documents obtained by the ABC under freedom of information revealed NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin and Regional Development Minister John Barilaro, also the NSW leader of the Nationals, co-approved 13 regional arts projects a seven-person panel deemed unworthy of funding. The projects, which received a share of $3 million in funding, were all in seats held by either the Liberal Party or the Nationals when the decisions were made. The documents also show the three rounds of funding were planned to run for four years. However, this was revised into two rounds of funding — with one round handed out in May 2018 and another round handed this February. All the funding has now been handed out.
Asked about the decision, both Mr Harwin and Mr Barilaro said the funding would stimulate cultural and economic growth and labelled the projects as “highly worthy”.’
The ABC report provides examples of funding decisions that benefitted government electorates, and rationales provided by deputy premier Mr Barilaro, and how ‘the planning documents also revealed details of how applications were assessed ahead of the NSW election on March 23, and note that ‘This was the second instance where Mr Harwin has been found to have ignored expert advice. Last year, the ABC revealed he had intercepted funding intended for small arts organisations, and against the advice of bureaucrats, redirected it to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO). The SSO subsequently returned the funds and the money was redirected back to smaller organisations.’ Read more    and  ABC 14 March

13 March, 2019
‘ALP cries foul in case of hard-to-find museum boss’
Andrew Clennell reports in The Australian that former Powerhouse Museum director, Dolla Merrillees, is now working for Barney Glover, vice-chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and chair of the Powerhouse trustees. But he says: ‘Labor’s arts spokesman Walt Secord has made a complaint alleging contempt of parliament by the government after a committee examining a proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum was not provided with contact details … both Create NSW and MAAS said they did not know her whereabouts and that she would not be able to provide evidence to the parliamentary committee [about the management of the loss-making 2018 Fashion Ball]. .. Professor Glover said yesterday the issue was “nothing to do with me”.’  Read more: Andrew C Aust 13 March  and Andrew C Aust 13M       Or (via subscription): Read more

13 March, 2019
‘Powerhouse move rejected’
In Altmedia, Kylie Winkworth summarises recent reports and decisions, saying: ‘The Legislative Council’s long-running Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in NSW wrapped up, recommending that the government not proceed with the controversial relocation of the Powerhouse Museum (PHM). Instead the Powerhouse should be restored to its former glory, and the government should build a new cultural institution in Parramatta…
The Report’s conclusions and six recommendations were the only ones that could be drawn from the expert submissions, evidence and analysis of the secret business case papers that the Government tried to hide from public scrutiny.’ She continues: ‘Committee members deserve a medal for wading through the 4,500 pages of documents that reveal the flimsy, confected and unsubstantiated case for “moving” the PHM. Reading all the business case papers was more than the President of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Trust could manage’, and provides examples of confusion of costs, size and space. She also identifies that: ‘The Inquiry probed the failure of the MAAS Trust to defend the interests of the museum and the NSW community against the NSW government’s naked grab for the museum’s assets’, where Dr Nick Pappas, former president of the MAAS Trust, ‘explained the board’s obligation to protect the museum’s long-term interests for the people of NSW,’ and where ‘Regrettably, as he told the Inquiry, “we have watched as the Trust has instead become a meek, obsequious, even fawning vassal of government and of property developers.”
As well, Winkworth notes that: ‘One of the Inquiry’s most important recommendations is to establish a Select Committee on governance in the arts and culture. More devastating disclosures of governance and management failures at the Powerhouse came with the release of transcripts of in camera evidence to the Inquiry. Witness B described a senior management dominated by careerists from art museums, with little understanding of the collection or interest in the PHM’s core family audience. Witness C revealed more about the failed fashion ball…’
Read more   and KW Altmedia 13 March

12 March 2019
‘Culture, music hit the NSW election campaign trail’
In The Australian, Matthew Westwood points out that: ‘Not often are politicians too bothered with the arts in a state election but in NSW, cultural matters have elbowed their way into public debate as serious, second-tier issues. Two policies in particular have driven passionate and sometimes divisive discussion: the future of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, and the laws and regulations surrounding live music and music ­festivals.’

As well as discussing issues around music festivals and new facilities in music precincts, he also notes developments associated with Sydney Modern, the new extension to the Art Gallery of NSW, and a new exhibition hall at the Australian Museum. At the same time, he says: ‘The government and Labor opposition have offered starkly different policy choices ahead of the March 23 election. The government’s plan to create a world-class museum at Parramatta by shifting the Powerhouse Museum from inner-city Ultimo is an enormously expensive project and has been vigorously opposed by Powerhouse supporters. It is the big-ticket item in a massive investment program the government is undertaking in cultural infrastructure. Labor has vowed to keep the Powerhouse where it is, and to build a separate and distinctive cultural facility in western Sydney…’

‘Opponents have sustained a vigorous campaign since the plans were announced by former premier Mike Baird four years ago. Cost and concept repeatedly have been called into question by the Powerhouse Museum Alliance and in testimony to a parliamentary inquiry, whose final report last month rejected the Powerhouse move.’
While the Liberal government remains committed to moving the museum: ‘Labor says the government is spending $760m on cultural institutions that are all within the CBD and $1.5bn to “forcibly” move the Powerhouse. Labor instead has promised $500m for a different museum in Parramatta, $100m for a western Sydney cultural fund an additional $100m for the regional cultural fund, $40m for regional conservatoriums and $15m to promote original writing for the stage, especially at independent theatres. Secord says Labor will not cancel cultural infrastructure projects already under way.

Voters in NSW have never seen such a bonanza of cultural spending offered by both major parties but on the question of music festivals and the Powerhouse Museum, the choice is starkly drawn.’ Read more:   M Westwood Aust 12 March 2019          Or (via subscription):  Read more   

7 March, 2019
‘The Powerhouse Museum – its future in the balance’
In the regular newsletter of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association, director Alex Marsden writes: ‘The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta has rejected government arguments for the move and is highly critical of the process. AMaGA welcomes the issuing of the final report and notes that while the move is a matter for an elected state government to resolve, there is keen national and international interest. There is a substantial number of museum professionals who believe that the process has been flawed. Museum planning standards have not been met in a number of ways.
At core, museums and collections are an inter-generational responsibility. A fundamental principle is that collections must be protected. States and cities must continue to evolve and improve their cultural offerings and we welcome well-argued proposals for change and for funding programs that would enlarge the cultural infrastructure.’
Marsden summarises the history of the Powerhouse Museum; the establishment of the Inquiry Committee and the recommendations in its final report; and also provides links to the Associations submissions to the Inquiry. Read more 

7 March, 2019
‘Shocking’ evidence of executive’s antics
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on evidence supplied in the transcripts of an in-camera session of the 13th hearing for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, that demonstrate recent mismanagement on the part of senior staff and trustees. Apart from several reports on behaviour and poor financial management at the controversial Fashion Ball, ‘Witness B, a former senior manager, testified that the museum had been hollowed out by careerists from art institutions with no interest in protecting the collection. Senior managers were privately opposed to the relocation or were going along with the government’s decision to further their careers…’. Read more   

7 March, 2019
‘Inquiry told of museum gala’s fund-raising fiasco’
Matthew Westwood, in The Australian, also reports on aspects of the in-camera session at the 13th Inquiry hearing. Read More: MW Aust 7 March

6 March, 2019
Upper House Inquiry: report on 13th hearing’s in-camera proceedings
Associated with the public session for the 13th hearing of the Inquiry on 11 February, 2019, an in-camera session was held with three extra witnesses. These interviews provided observations about the management of the Powerhouse Museum in recent years, and included former Trustee Janet McDonald AO (who had resigned), and two who appear to have been former museum staff members. For the full transcript: Read more.

3 March, 2019
‘No expense spared for museum ball’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris reported that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum’s failed fashion ball fundraiser is to be referred to the NSW Auditor-General as it has been revealed at least one board member quit in frustration because she had been kept in the dark over its budget. Former trustee Janet McDonald resigned in March 2017 but her reasons have only now been revealed with the publication of in-camera evidence she gave to the upper house inquiry into the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation. ”I asked where the budget was and who was paying and how many people were going and was told not to worry,” she told the committee on February 11. ”It was all sponsored and paid for.” She added: ”That was $300,000 lost to the museum. That is why I resigned.”
… [Greens MP David] Shoebridge, deputy chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the Powerhouse Museum, said the Fashion Ball was an appalling business deal and warranted referral to the NSW Auditor General. ”Why did MAAS take all the reputational and financial risk? Why did taxpayers end up paying for the losses?” …That inquiry found last week that the institution had suffered reputation damage as a result of the ball while recommending the government abandon its plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.
But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made it clear on Thursday the government would push ahead with the relocation of the Powerhouse. Government sources acknowledged that the management of the event was not in line with government and community expectations and expressed confidence in the new director, Lisa Havilah.’ Read more     or here: L Morris 3 March

Jeanne Gang joins Parramatta Powerhouse jury, parliamentary inquiry slams project as ‘expensive and unneccesary’
In ArchitectureAU, Patrick Hunn writes: ‘The NSW government has announced the final jury for the international design competition for a new Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta, on the same day as the release of the final report by an upper house inquiry into the project, which called the relocation from Ultimo “expensive and unnecessary.”’ He identifies those invited, and describes the two-stage competition process.
However, he also identifies recommendations the report of the Upper House Inquiry saying: ‘The final report from the inquiry can be read in full here. The NSW government confirmed the controversial relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from its current home in Ultimo to a site on the edge of the Parramatta River in May 2018.The fate of the Paramatta and Ultimo facilities hinges on the results of the NSW state election on 23 March. The Labor opposition has said that if it forms government, it will retain and restore the Powerhouse in Ultimo while also building a new, stand-alone museum in Sydney’s east although whether this would be on the competition site is unknown.
The Australian Institute of Architects has endorsed the competition process, but it has previously stressed that it does not favour the government’s plan to move the museum, instead preferring a plan that would build a branch of MAAS in Western Sydney that would complement the existing Ultimo Powerhouse.’  Read more

2-3 March, 2019
‘Lunch with new Powerhouse CEO Lisa Havilah’
Reporting on a discussion over lunch with new Powerhouse Museum CEO Lisa Havilah, Linda Morris in the Sydney Morning Herald, says she is  ‘ambitious for herself and for the institution.’ But with the NSW election four weeks away, the new chief executive of the Powerhouse Museum is mindful of caretaker conventions that public servants avoid political commentary on sticky subjects. “I have my instructions,” she grins … off limits are musings around the white-hot political controversy of a polarising arts policy: the Berejiklian government’s planned relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to western Sydney (subject this week to scathing criticism from the upper house inquiry), but she can talk about the job itself, regarded as a poisoned chalice by just about everyone except Havilah.’
Discussion covers Havilah’s personal and professional background, ‘ Havilah had been almost eight years at Carriageworks, the longest  she had spent in any job. The opportunity to lead the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences was, as she tells it, too good to refuse… Given her success at Carriageworks, her collaborative management style, risky but popular programming decisions, entrepreneurial approach to the arts and familiarity with western Sydney and the regional arts scene, Havilah was not a surprise choice to lead the Powerhouse… “I like working with people. I definitely want to collaborate whether it’s with the creative industries, staff, government. Leading an institution is a collaborative process unto itself. I believe in decisions and hierarchy.” … Insiders point out that Havilah is a very different leader than her two immediate predecessors,  whom they say seemed uninterested in the experience learned by long-serving staff. While their remit seemed largely to draw a line under the past, Havilah has shown genuine interest in curatorial expertise within MAAS and she professes to be surprised and delighted by the depth of experience and commitment. But museum staff are also girding themselves for change. … Post-election, there are rumours of another restructure, and staff are distrustful of new ministerial appointees to the MAAS Trust. “Staff are always generous with their faith that a good leader will eventually come,” said one. … Her team along with Create Infrastructure has developed the architectural brief for an international architectural competition at the Parramatta site criticised by Greens MP David Shoebridge for giving scant attention to the museum’s precious collection  – which only goes ahead if the Coalition wins majority government and was damned by the inquiry for its scant regard of the collection – while starting the digitisation of the Powerhouse’s world-renowned collection …
It will be 2020 before we see how Havilah influences exhibitions and commissions but I get a sense that the new CEO does not think the blockbuster model of imported shows is the best fit for MAAS. … “I’d like to see us really focus on investing and creating great exhibitions that are driven by the institution and its collection. The opportunities sit in not just one discipline but looking at shows that bring a number of disciplines together through one idea, across film, fashion, health and design.” Read more  or here: L Morris March 2-3 LH

28 February, 2019

Save the Powerhouse lobby group reports: ‘Premier Berejiklian has responded angrily to the Parliamentary “Museums and galleries in New South Wales” final report saying “We have absolutely no plans to change what we’ve already announced.” Read more
Read also SMH  and The Guardian

28 February, 2019
‘Relocation of Powerhouse Museum condemned by NSW opposition inquiry’
In The Guardian, Anne Davies writes: ‘The relocation of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is set to become a major fault-line in next month’s New South Wales election after the Greens, Shooters and Fishers, and Labor joined forces to deliver a scathing report of the government’s plan to move it to Parramatta.
The parliamentary upper house committee has recommended the museum should be “restored to its former glory” at its current site in Ultimo through a significant injection of funds. It argues this would lead to greater patronage and that the government business case for moving it was “inadequate” and did not consider the option of leaving it at the current site…
The government fought orders from the upper house to release the final business case, leading to a tussle over whether it constituted a cabinet document. In the end the government chose to release it.
The committee found that the final business case did not comply with the NSW Treasury’s own guide to cost-benefit analysis. It did not consider the status quo option and it looked at patronage figures from a single month – July 2017.
The committee obtained a 2014 business case by Ernst and Young that looked at seven options and found that relocation of the museum would have adverse effects on international, national and local patronage, and “was not a viable project option”. It also warned of a public backlash because of the museum’s important historical connection with the Ultimo and Pyrmont area. Labor has said it will keep the museum at Ultimo and invest $500m in a new cultural institution at Parramatta…
The committee said it heard from numerous witnesses that the Powerhouse had been neglected since the relocation was announced in 2015. It found that both management and the board of trustees had “lost their way” and the museum was not performing to the high standard it once did. It said the NSW government had used the museum’s decline inappropriately to bolster its case.’ Read more

28 February, 2019
‘Relocation of Powerhouse Museum condemned by NSW opposition inquiry’

UK-based WorldNewsLive4You reports: The relocation of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is set to become a major fault-line in next month’s NSW election after the Greens, Shooters and Fishers, and Labor joined forces to deliver a scathing report of the government’s plan to move it to Parramatta. The parliamentary upper house committee has recommended the museum should be “restored to its former glory” at its current site in Ultimo through a significant injection of funds. It argues this would lead to greater patronage and that the government business case for moving it was “inadequate” and did not consider the option of leaving it at the current site. The deputy chairman of the committee, Greens MP David Shoebridge, said the move would be a disaster. “We’re calling for a major investment in the Powerhouse museum. Parramatta should get its own iconic cultural institution that reflects its Aboriginal, colonial and migration history,” he said. The report says: “Parramatta deserves a world-class museum that all of Sydney, in fact all of NSW and Australia, can get behind and support. Tragically, through political manoeuvring and sheer bloody-mindedness, the current proposal fails to achieve this.”’
The story continues to document the announcement of a design jury for the proposed new building; the eventual release of the final business case after considerable demands; the public backlash against the move; Labor’s policy has said it will keep the museum at Ultimo and invest $500m in a new cultural institution at Parramatta. and the recommendations from the Inquiry Committee, concluding: ‘The committee said it heard from numerous witnesses that the Powerhouse had been neglected since the relocation was announced in 2015.It found that both management and the board of trustees had “lost their way” and the museum was not performing to the high standard it once did. It said the NSW government had used the museum’s decline inappropriately to bolster its case.’ Read more

28 February/1 March, 2019
‘Parliamentary Inquiry urges government to abandon Powerhouse move’
in print as ‘State urged to put museum move on hold’)
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘A two-and-a-half-year-long inquiry into the Berejiklian government’s decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has urged the billion dollar project be immediately abandoned as it raised fresh doubts over the adequacy of the new museum’s international design brief.
The Powerhouse Museum should instead be given a cash injection and restored to its former glory, a new satellite museum be considered elsewhere in western Sydney and Parramatta be given its own world-class institution, the upper house committee found in a report timed to exert maximum political pressure on the government four weeks out from the state election. But the NSW Premier said there was no turning back: ”The Powerhouse in western Sydney is part of the future of western Sydney.” Arts minister, Don Harwin, announced final jurors to select the design for the new museum, public space and pedestrian bridge. …[But] The international architectural design brief for the shell of the new museum, launched last month, came in, too, for stinging criticism with the committee finding it failed to comply with the minimum requirements set down by the museum’s board and paid only scant attention to the museum’s world-renowned collection. The brief did not provide the focus, or information needed to understand the “real treasure of the Powerhouse” – its unparalleled collection of artifacts and objects…. “Of an 80-page report reference to the Powerhouse’s renowned collection that comprises more than 500,000 objects … amounts to a four line paragraph,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said.”That blew my mind. It proves that the project is a real estate deal dressed up as a cultural investment”. Read more   or here: phm_smh28feb2019

28 February, 2019
‘Labor endorses parliamentary Inquiry’s key recommendation on Powerhouse Museum’
Walt Secord, shadow minister for the arts, sent out a media release advising: ‘NSW Labor today endorsed the key finding of a cross-party parliamentary two-and-a-half year inquiry that recommended against the Berejiklian Government’s controversial plan to move the Powerhouse Museum. The main recommendation vindicated Labor’s January 20 election commitment to retain the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and establish a world class cultural institution in Western Sydney. “The Powerhouse Museum project has lurched from crisis to crisis. The Berejiklian Government’s handling of the Powerhouse Museum has been a colossal economic disaster for the community, and the only winners in this whole exercise will be property developers” … Mr Secord said the final report of the cross-party parliamentary inquiry, handed down today (February 28), revealed the Berejiklian Government’s handling of the Powerhouse move has been plagued by mismanagement, inadequate business cases; politically-driven decision-making and a project which had the potential for billion dollar cost blow-outs On January 20, NSW Labor announced it would redirect savings from cancelling the Powerhouse move towards supporting arts in Western Sydney and rural and regional areas. … Currently, there is no State Cultural Institution in Western Sydney.  NSW Labor has pledged that the Western Sydney-based Cultural Institution would be created in consultation with the local communities. Read More: 190228 SECORD Powerhouse Museum inquiry

28 February, 2019
Museums and galleries in NSW Inquiry:  Final report tabled
Powerhouse Museum Relocation should not proceed’
Three weeks before the NSW state election, Robert Borsak, Chair of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in NSW, announced that the committee’s Final Report has been tabled for consideration in Parliament. A media release entitled ‘Powerhouse Museum Relocation should not proceed’, says: ‘For two and a half years, the inquiry has tirelessly pursued the NSW Government’s rationale for the 2015 policy decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum. After much evidence, it seems that the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum has been based on poor planning and advice, a flawed business case and insufficient community consultation. Nothing so far has demonstrated the necessity or purpose for relocating this institution, a museum that is loved and internationally acclaimed”. Instead of relocating the museum, the committee called on the NSW Government to focus on restoring the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, by providing a significant injection of funding for refurbishment and expansion … The committee also agreed that Western Sydney should benefit from its own museum, which could be a satellite site or a cultural institution that reflects Parramatta’s own extraordinary history.’ Also significant is a recommendation to inquire into governance of the arts and culture sector.
For media release:  Read more
For Inquiry webpage, with submissions and transcripts: Read more
For Final Report:  Read more

Recommendations in report, with detailed background provided, are:
1: That the NSW Government not proceed with the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta.
2: That the NSW Government restore the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, by providing a significant injection of funding for refurbishment and expansion.
3: That the NSW Government, instead of relocating the Powerhouse Museum, establish a world class cultural institution in Parramatta that reflects its own extraordinary history.
4: That the NSW Government consider establishing a Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences satellite site in Western Sydney.
5: That the NSW Government exempt state-owned museums from the annual efficiency dividend.
6: That the Legislative Council, in the 57th Parliament, establish a Select Committee to inquire into and report on the governance of the arts and culture sector in New South Wales, with particular reference to the governance and management of the Powerhouse Museum relocation project.

22 February, 2019
‘A call to action: Save our culture, save ourselves’
In her Culture Heist blog, Judith White reports on the 13th Inquiry hearing:
‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s NSW Government stands accused by some of the State’s most experienced museum professionals and former board members of a culture of “toxic planning” and of repeatedly using “flawed factoids”, a practice in which Arts Minister Don Harwin is considered “the worst offender”.
The accusations came at the most recent hearing, on 11 February, of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries [which has focused on the plan] to move the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta.
The 11 February hearing, expected to be the last before the 23 March State election, came after January’s announcement by Arts Minister Harwin of new appointments to the museum’s Board of Trustees. … In evidence to the inquiry former President Nick Pappas said he considered the new trustees “highly unsuitable”, adding: “The role and purpose of a great museum is to inspire and to stimulate exploration and thinking, not to tick the boxes of the government of the day. People understand the fiduciary obligations when they take part in trust discussions.”
Some of the most colourful evidence came from Lionel Glendenning, the museum’s Architect of Record, who has referred to the Premier as “Gladys in Wonderland”. “A broad pattern,” he said, “emerges in almost every government document, consultant report and statement… There have been factually flawed factoids; unprofessional opinions; false statements; inaccurate figures; an ignorance of impacts, particularly flooding, collection risks, expensive implicit relocation costs and astronomic building costs with no alternatives; and a blind attachment to the slogan ‘Move the Powerhouse Museum’.
Brad Finley Baker, who was for 25 years Powerhouse manager of exhibition development and design, testified … about the damaging impact of the “efficiency dividend” spending cuts on the entire sector: “The most significant failure of the [NSW Government’s] report in my opinion is that it underestimates the significance of staff reductions and restructuring which have taken a great deal of corporate knowledge, technical skills and most importantly the personal connections of people around the museum industry both nationally and internationally. The issue is not simply one about failing infrastructure… the people are an organisation’s greatest asset and I believe that they have been, to a large degree, poorly served… Over the last few years … efficiency dividends were biting very hard into our ability to change over galleries and to build new exhibitions … Redundancy programs have been run over the last several years. We have lost incredibly highly skilled staff through the process.”
Jennifer Sanders, former deputy director of the Powerhouse, picked apart the “business case” which had been kept secret until the Upper House forced its partial disclosure last year. The document was developed in the context of the Government’s 2016 announcement of a $600 million “cultural infrastructure” fund. “This $600 million,” she said, “was dangled like a carrot on a stick before NSW cultural entities vying to maximise the dollars for their bailiwicks with little thought given to a coherent, value-for-money approach.”
Supporters of galleries and museums will need to remain ever vigilant if we are to have a chance of saving our culture. Read more

19 February, 2019
‘Parramatta flash flood risk: nine minutes to escape’
Since it was first announced that the State Government planned to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, many experts have expressed concern about the suggested flood-prone site (see Submissions to Inquiry, and Responses to Business Case on this web site).
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Megan Gorrey and Katharine Haynes now report that following recent emergencies including SES rescues of motorists ‘trapped after heavy rains overwhelmed drainage systems and caused rapid flooding’ …  ‘A senior SES official has warned that Parramatta’s CBD could be overwhelmed by a flash flood in as little as nine minutes, giving residents little time to evacuate.’ They add ‘But that had been a minor flood compared to what could occur, emergency services professionals say … Parramatta is a low-lying catchment area fed by 39 tributary creeks, any of which can cause flooding. But another expert said the risks seemed to have been ignored as the government and council continued with strategies to turn Parramatta into Sydney’s second city centre … Councillor Phil Bradley, who is chair of the council’s floodplain risk management committee, said flood risk was “one of the main considerations we have for developments”. However, he thought the council had “insufficient modelling” on the possible impacts of climate change. Cr Bradley also said there were concerns around flood risk for the site next to the Parramatta River that had been earmarked for the Powerhouse Museum relocation.’ Read more

19 February, 2019
‘Government says it will keep properties – but budgets for their sale’
(In print as ‘Mixed messages for Heritage properties amid costings’)
Jacob Saulwick, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes that: ‘The state government has budgeted $60 million from the sale of development rights for a commercial and residential tower near the Powerhouse Museum it wants to build in Parramatta. The inclusion of the planned $60 million sale proceeds is revealed in a costing prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Office for the Labor Opposition, which requested advice on how much it would cost to maintain heritage properties in the area. The demolition of those properties – an 1886 Italianate villa known as Willow Grove, and a row of seven terraces known as St George’s Terrace – was assumed as part of business cases prepared for the government’s planned Parramatta Powerhouse.
But the government has since said it would try to keep those buildings … If the government does preserve Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace, it would be at a cost to the budget bottom line. According to the costing, the government would have to forego $60 million from not selling the site to a private developer, which it has already included in budget estimates… Deputy Labor leader Penny Sharpe, however, said Ms Berejiklian had been “caught out lying” over Willow Grove. “These documents show that there is a secret plan to bulldoze Willow and hand it over to developers,” Ms Sharpe, also Labor’s heritage spokeswoman, said. “The Berejiklian Government can’t say on one hand they will save a building when they have already budgeted for its destruction.”  The Labor Opposition says it would preserve the Powerhouse at Ultimo, and that it would build an alternative “world class state cultural institution” in Parramatta.’ Read more

16 February, 2019
‘Labor will protect and celebrate NSW heritage’
In a media release, Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Penny Sharpe, announced Labor’s plan to protect and celebrate the state’s heritage. It said: ‘If elected in March, Labor will create the first Heritage Strategy for NSW, deliver specific laws to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage, close the loopholes in heritage laws and ensure a transparent heritage decision making process. Ms Sharpe outlined Labor’s plan today at Parramatta heritage site, Willow Grove, which locals are fighting to save from being demolished by the Berejiklian Liberal Government. Ms Sharpe said: “There are significant sites around the state, just like Willow Grove and the St George’s Terrace, here in Parramatta, which are being bulldozed for development.  “Labor has a comprehensive plan to protect our precious environmental and cultural heritage, like these sites, and to protect and promote Aboriginal heritage.”’ Labor’s five-point plan to protect and celebrate our state’s heritage, will [in summary]:
1. Create the first NSW Heritage Strategy
2. Deliver an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act
3. Stop Heritage Ministers ignoring the Heritage Council’s recommendations for heritage listings
4. End the misuse of financial hardship provisions by government
5. Protect heritage sites. Read more: 190216 SHARPE heritage plan

16 February, 2019
Labor museums policy confirmed
In election campaign media releases circulated, Labor Opposition leader Michael Daley includes two significant policies that concern the Powerhouse Museum, to be carried out if they win the election in March 2019. In his ‘weekly wrap-up’ he lists:

1. Save Our Powerhouse:
‘The Powerhouse Museum is one of Sydney’s most iconic cultural institutions, with collections spanning science, history, technology, arts, industry and design.
Ms Berejiklian’s plan to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is little more than a property deal to free up prime real estate in Sydney’s CBD.
Labor recognises the need for cultural institutions in rural and regional NSW too. That’s why we’ll upgrade the Powerhouse Museum, keep it in Ultimo, and build a brand new $500 Million Western Sydney cultural centre, as well as double the Regional Cultural Fund for rural NSW.’ This announcement also provides a petition to sign.
2. Restoring the integrity of arts board appointments and grants
As well, following strong criticism (see 12 February and 22 December below) of recent appointments to the MAAS Board of Trustees (and others) he states:
‘Strong boards should promote good governance within organisations, provide financial accountability and safeguard artistic expression. The Liberals and Nationals have politicised appointments to boards and arts advisory bodies in NSW – and there has been direct political interference in relation to grant allocations. A Daley Labor Government will:
–  Review recent appointments to significant cultural institutions;
–  Ensure that Western Sydney and rural and regional NSW have appropriate representation on boards and advisory bodies; and
–  Require all major State-run cultural institutions to provide a regional activity statement in their annual reports which details their activities outside Sydney’s CBD – including Western Sydney, Illawarra, the Hunter, and rural and regional NSW. Read more here.

11 February, 2019
‘Report on the 13th Inquiry hearing’
In its final hearing on 11 February 2019, the Committee of Inquiry interviewed Brad Baker, exhibition consultant, and former PHM exhibition development and design manager over 30 years; Lionel Glendenning, architect of record and life fellow, Powerhouse Museum; Jennifer Sanders, former deputy director, Powerhouse Museum and Nick Pappas, former President, MAAS Trust. The introductory papers and follow-up responses to questions by these museum specialists were outstanding, providing an informed and critical summary of responses to the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum and the process associated with consultation (for both this state institution and what western Sydney may ask for), research, costing, collection and exhibition priorities, role of Trustees and many others. Discussion included critique of the information provided in the Design Competition. Craig Limkin from the Dept. of Planning and Environment was unable to speak beyond the government clichés already provided in previous hearings.
Read transcript here.And transcript of earlier  In-camera hearing here.
See also: 2019 submission from Jennifer Sanders, with appendices including statements from colleagues and Archive list of exhibitions by Christina Sumner, 1988-2018; and other Submissions to the Inquiry made by the speakers.

12 February, 2019

‘Museum picks ‘cynical, brazen’
Matthew Westwood, in The Australian, cites Nick Pappas, former President of Trustees at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, as criticising ‘recent appointments to the museum trust as “brazen” and “cynical” as the government presses ahead with plans to move the institution…’. He argued that ‘former mayor David Borger, and Darren Steinberg, chief executive of property fund, Dexus, were “highly unsuitable” trustees of the institution.’ He also reported: ‘architect Lionel Glendenning, who worked on the transformation of the former power station into the Powerhouse Museum, said such an institution was built to last 100 years or more, not 30 years.’ Read more: MW – Australian -12 Feb 2019

11 February, 2019
‘Race to house public servants in Parramatta’
Relevant to the submission made to the Inquiry by Nick Pappas (see 12 February above) about conflict of interest for some new MAAS Trustees, Ben Wilmot draws attention to

new trustee Darren Steinberg’s company, Dexus, and increasing property development in Parramatta. Read more: Australian 11 Feb 2019

January, 2019

A 13th Inquiry hearing announced: 11th February
A further, perhaps final, Inquiry hearing has also now been announced. It will take place in the Macquarie Room at NSW Parliament House on 11th February, and times and interviewees should be identified soon. It is noted that the reporting date should be 28th February, 2019. To check meeting details:  Read more  

25 January, 2019
‘AIA calls for two Powerhouse Museums’
While the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) says it has welcomed the NSW government’s announcement of support for retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo while maintaining a commitment to build a world-class cultural institution at Parramatta, it also says both Sydney and Parramatta both need their own respective Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) facilities.
“Western Sydney’s growing population already exceeding two million, the case for a new MAAS facility in Parramatta is overwhelming and the Institute continues to support its development, says the AIA, adding, “But to downgrade the Ultimo Powerhouse is to short-change Sydney.” … “The Powerhouse building’s form, its history and its siting within this publicly valuable precinct is integral to the social, cultural, technological and economic story of Sydney.” The AIA also notes there is also the issue of the Ultimo Powerhouse’s high architectural value, “which should be celebrated and retained.” According to the AIA, the adaptive reuse of the building in 1988 won the Sulman Medal, and has earned listing on the Institute’s own Register of Significant Buildings.“To this end,” it says, “the Institute recommends the government grant the Powerhouse Museum the heritage listing and protections that it deserves as a matter of priority.”Read more 
See also Architecture and Design’s announcement of the competition: Read more

24 January, 2019
‘Powerhouse architect search begins’
Create NSW  circulated information that: ‘The search is on for world-leading architects to design a Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta encompassing an iconic new museum, public space and pedestrian bridge, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced today.’
‘Create NSW is looking for the best designers from across NSW, Australia and internationally to create this new cultural landmark in Parramatta.
The competition process has the endorsement of the Australian Institute of Architects and Australian entrepreneur Naomi Milgrom AO will chair our highly-credentialed jury with Lisa Havilah, Wendy Lewin and David Gianotten confirmed as members to date. Designs produced by shortlisted teams will be on public display later this year. Stage One Expressions of Interest are now open and close at 22:00 AEDT Monday 18 March 2019. For more information, guidelines and applications, visit the competition website.’
Read more
See also: ‘Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta: international design competition’
‘The client is the NSW Government represented by Create Infrastructure. Create Infrastructure is supported in the initiative by MAAS, and the City of Parramatta Council. Create Infrastructure is the competition sponsor and has overall responsibility for initiating and funding the competition. [They have] appointed Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC), an independent expert organiser of design competitions, to devise and manage the competition. Read here for background and guidelines for submissions.’ Read more

23 January, 2019
‘The Voters’ Choice: saving the PHM and building a new western Sydney cultural institution’
In Altmedia, Kylie Winkworth writes: ‘Voters will have a stark choice in the March election after opposition leader Michael Daley launched Labor’s cultural policy outside the Powerhouse Museum (PHM). The centrepiece of the policy is the promise to save the Powerhouse Museum and build a new $500m cultural institution in Parramatta, following proper consultation. The Riverside Theatre redevelopment at Parramatta will go ahead, and there is a $100m arts and cultural fund for Western Sydney.’ She also discusses how ‘Regional NSW is a big winner in the Labor policy’ where ‘regional cultural infrastructure fund will be doubled to $200m.’ And despite government criticism, she concludes: Labor’s funding commitment for a new Western Sydney cultural institution, with its own board and legislation, is a vote of confidence in the nationally important stories, cultures and creativity in Western Sydney. This can never be second rate. If Labor is elected the people of Western Sydney will have a cultural institution that gives voice to their stories, and form to their creativity. And they will decide the shape and themes of their new cultural institution, not the government and their developer proxies. That should focus the minds of voters in March.’ Read more
And read it also in PMA’s Find Out More.

22 January, 2019
Labor policy: Approval from Public Service Association
Stewart Little, general secretary of the Public Service Association, speaks at the Powerhouse Museum about the PSA’s strong approval for the announcement that Labor will leave the Museum in Ultimo. To hear his comments: Read more

21 January, 2019
Radio interviews with Secord and Harwin about the Powerhouse Museum.
Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck, on ABC breakfast radio, address Labor’s newly announced arts policy, with an interview with Labor Shadow Arts Minister, Walt Secord, and comments from Premier Gladys Berejiklian. This is followed by an interview with Government Arts Minister, Don Harwin. Listen here (courtesy Save the Powerhouse):

20 January, 2019
Labor’s announcements: Powerhouse to stay in Ultimo; new facility for Parramatta
On the forecourt of the Powerhouse Museum, to an enthusiastic and supportive audience from both Parramatta and Sydney city, Labor leader Michael Daley, with shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord, released a policy detailing Labor’s plans for museums and galleries if elected in March 2019. Among commitments to regional NSW and protecting Parramatta’s heritage precincts, the policy says a Daley Labor Government will:
–  Retain and protect the Powerhouse Museum at its existing Ultimo site;
–  Invest $45 million over four years to make necessary repairs to the Ultimo site
–  Assist with the listing of the Powerhouse Museum’s Ultimo site on the State Heritage Register; and
– Invest $500 million to create a new world-class cultural institution at Parramatta in consultation with the community.
As well, they intend to ‘restore the integrity of arts board appointments’, including reviewing ‘recent appointments to significant cultural institutions’.
To see and hear Michael Daley’s Announcement, see video (courtesy Save the Powerhouse):
For Labor  media release, Read:  190120 daley powerhouse museum arts policy
For Labor Arts Policy, Read: arts policy final
‘Labor will make additional announcements regarding our support for arts and culture in NSW before the 2019 State Election.’

‘Powerhouse Museum to stay in Ultimo under Labor’
Sally Rawsthorne, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the meeting that: ‘A controversial plan to move the Powerhouse Museum to Western Sydney would be axed under a Labor government, which would commit $50 million to restoring the museum on its current site and $500 million on a “cultural institution” in Parramatta… The $550 million policy will be funded by “not moving the Powerhouse,” if Labor wins the March election, State Opposition leader Michael Daley said on Sunday.’ Read more
See also in Canberra Times: Read more

‘Powerhouse Museum to stay in Ultimo, NSW Opposition promises’
In an ABC report, Jamie McKinnell and Ashleigh Raper wrote: ‘In what he described as his “first big announcement of the election campaign”, Opposition leader Michael Daley today revealed the museum would not be relocated if he won the state election. “[The move] was never about Western Sydney, it was about what the Liberals do best — it was a property deal,” he said.’ The reporters interviewed PHM museum architect, Lionel Glendenning, and former deputy-director of the museum, Jennifer Sanders, who were very positive about the decision; Chair of Trustees, Barney Glover, who ‘was not convinced $50 million would go very far. “A significant capital and operational investment will be required…” he said’; while [despite reports to the contrary in Inquiry hearings] ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian said ’… agreements had already been signed with various stakeholders about the move.’ Read more

20 January, 2019
‘NSW Labor scrap govt’s Powerhouse proposal’
Sarah McPhee, in the Western Advocate, writes that ‘The NSW opposition has unveiled plans to build a $500 million cultural institution in Sydney’s west and scrap the government’s billion-dollar move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. In announcing his party’s arts policy on Sunday, Labor leader Michael Daley said they would instead upgrade the current museum in inner-city Ultimo for $50 million and redirect savings to rural and regional areas.’ Read more

21 January, 2019
‘Sydney power struggle: Labor to keep museum at Ultimo and build new space in the west’
Danielle Le Messurier, in the Daily Telegraph, discusses Opposition Leader Michael Daley’s promise to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and build a $500 million museum in Parramatta, as part of Labor’s arts policy for NSW. She cited Daley as saying of the government’s plan to move the museum: “It was never about something shiny and new and original for Western Sydney, it was about a property deal – a cultural knock-off,” and also noted Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s criticism of Labor as offering only second-best to Western Sydney. Read more:  d tele 21 jan 19

8 January, 2019
‘Ready for takeoff…western Sydney is powering ahead’
Stuart Ayres, Minister for Western Sydney, WestConnex and Sport, identifies changes over the last eight years to education, youth employment and transport in Western Sydney, emphasising the ‘Aerotropolis initiative that will drive the delivery of 200,000 new jobs to the outer west’, a ‘new parkland city’. He also says: ‘The expansion of the Powerhouse in the west and delivery of Western Sydney Stadium (both vigorously opposed by Labor) are further examples of enhanced lifestyle opportunities for Western Sydney residents.’ [But PMA reminds us that the Powerhouse Museum is a state institution that also addresses state, national and international audiences, who need ready access.] Read more:  s ayres 8 jan 19-1  and  s ayres 8 jan 19-2

7 January, 2019
‘Reborn or Ruined: the transformation of Darling Harbour’, on line as ‘Population of a small town: the transformation of Darling Harbour’
Garry Maddox, in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarises current commercial and residential development changes to Sydney’s Darling Harbour area, that contribute to the future of the Powerhouse Museum there.
‘While it has already won awards and is attracting bustling daytime and evening crowds, not everyone is happy with how the multi-billion dollar redevelopment of Darling Harbour has unfolded,’ he writes. ‘Gradually – in one of the biggest urban redevelopments Sydney has seen – the 22 hectare precinct has been transformed. Just about everything from the 30-year-old Bicentennial project south of Cockle Bay has gone, including the monorail, the Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment centres and IMAX theatre.’ ‘And the first section of the redevelopment to be completed at a cost of $3.4 billion won the prestigious Walter Burley Griffin Award for urban design at the Australian Institute of Architects Awards late last year….But this new Darling Harbour is not emerging without controversy.’ … ‘Celebrated architect … Philip Cox’s Sulman Medal-winning Exhibition Centre was demolished in the redevelopment  … but his criticism is wider. “It’s gone backwards,” he says.’
While some features remain, Maddox describes in detail recent and proposed changes to significant buildings: ‘Lendlease project director for urban regeneration Neil Arckless says they are aiming to create an “urban neighbourhood” with a new square as its heart.’  However, ‘Cox does not accept the redevelopment is an improvement. “I’m concerned about the replacement of the Exhibition building … A building that had world significance was ruthlessly torn down for absolutely no good reason in order to have commercial exploitation of the Haymarket area … It was a blatant real estate political move … The actual definition of that part of Darling Harbour has been quite destroyed.”… Cox is also concerned by the proposed developments at Harbourside and Cockle Bay Wharf and what could happen to the nearby site when the Powerhouse Museum moves to Parramatta. “Instead of being a cultural, people place down there, it’s going to become a very different place where exploitation of the real estate values, I believe, will reduce the urban amenity for Sydney,” he says.’ The New Darling Square neighbourhood is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2019. Read more

3- 4 January, 2019
‘Powerhouse stripped bare’, on-line as‘Class A asset stripping of the Powerhouse Museum’
In City Hub and Altmedia, Kylie Winkworth brings together many long-identified issues, and recently discussed criticisms, associated with the NSW government’s policy of the sale, recycling and re-locating of government properties and functions – including the Powerhouse Museum. She says: ‘One day economic historians will document the vampire squid epoch in NSW history; … relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money … Under the O’Farrell, Baird and Berejiklian governments more than $50b in public assets has been sold to infrastructure companies, toll road operators, developers, banks and foreign pension funds, in the name of recycling the proceeds into new infrastructure.  Behind the scenes a constellation of banks, businesses, mates and lobbyists are working their networks and levers of influence to get a slice of public property. With a quiet word to the government they lob an unsolicited proposal, negotiate a secret deal marked commercial in confidence, grease the approval process for an even bigger tower, and buy a tier one income generating asset that has paid dividends to NSW governments for generations…
Perhaps the most egregious asset sale is the demolition of the Powerhouse Museum, in the guise of building a new museum in Parramatta. This is class A asset stripping. It is worthy of a special case study on the modus operandi of the vampire squid, to understand how the NSW government conspired to sell off the museum’s Ultimo land and buildings to developers. Then there’s the con on the Parramatta community, who thought they were getting the recycled Powerhouse on public land strategically acquired by the council. Now we know it’s not the Powerhouse; it’s a stalking horse for developers.  Heritage buildings will be demolished and a brutal 70 storey super tower will loom over the New Museum Western Sydney, which is half the size of the PHM and nothing like the Powerhouse.  All this, at a cost to the taxpayer of a further $1.2b just to ‘move’ the PHM 23ks west to build a smaller, less accessible museum on a flood prone riverbank. ‘
Winkworth continues to demonstrate many more aspects of how: ‘NSW is breaking all the wrong records with its world first museum demolition plan … This is a great meal deal for the vampire squid, but a bad deal for NSW taxpayers and museum lovers.’ Furthermore, ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin has also appointed David Borger to the museum’s Trust. He is the executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber and led the public campaign to “move” the Powerhouse. The mission of the Sydney Business Chamber and its affiliate is urban renewal, planning reform and recycling state assets. Enough said.’ Read more and here: winkworth city hub 3 jan 2019
..and Longer version

3 January, 2019   
‘Boom time for NSW: State’s growing $160b property portfolio’ (in print as ‘Boom time: $10b property sell-off’)
Alexandra Smith, in the Sydney Morning Herald, documents how the Auditor-General has criticised the NSW Government’s management of public land and buildings, saying : ‘The Berejiklian government has cashed in on the property boom since coming in to office, making $10 billion from the sale of public land and buildings, while holding on to a $160 billion property portfolio. NSW Treasury expects the $160 billion figure to rise over the coming years but a new Auditor-General’s report warns that the register designed to keep track of government-owned property is inaccurate and incomplete. The report says the government property register, the “single source of truth on NSW government owned property” is out-of-date, with valuations missing for half the properties on the register … The Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford, says Property NSW – the agency responsible for managing the government’s property portfolio – has not comprehensively reviewed many agencies’ assets… The most recent figures show the state government has sold 30,508 publicly-owned properties between March 26, 2011 and September 11 this year. It is expected to sell about $400 million worth of assets in the next year.’ A spokesman for Property NSW said it had more than $2 billion worth of property, and ‘… has also reduced the government’s CBD office space by more than 70,000sqm as part of the “Decade of Decentralisation” policy and has saved taxpayers about $80 million in rent.’ The Opposition’s finance spokesman Clayton Barr said taxpayers could not be assured of transparency in terms of the sale of public land and buildings because “the government’s single source of truth is a dog’s breakfast”. Read more
14 October, 2016: The 2018 report above is a reminder of Treasurer, Dominic Perottet’s speech in 2016, where he commended the government’s policy of selling and recycling government properties, saying: ‘asset recycling is about making better use of the assets we have on our balance sheet – leveraging them as a source of funding for infrastructure and capital expenditure.’ Read more 

3 January, 2019
Editorial, Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Don’t forget our watery wonderland in Sydney’s vision splendid’ (in print as ‘River city left high and dry for now’)
With reference to two reports in the SMH on January 2, 2018, about leaked documents on delays in extending public transport to Parramatta (‘Ferries Project Dead in the Water’  Read more  and ‘Billions added to cost of rail line’ Read more), the Editorial recalled an announcement in 2017 that ‘the Greater Sydney Commission, the independent body charged with devising long-term strategies for the metropolis, proposed a harbour city, a central river city and a parkland city. People and businesses would be encouraged to organise themselves around one of three specialised precincts: the CBD, Parramatta, and Badgerys Creek, where Sydney’s second airport would be operating.’
But, it continued: ‘Enough, for now, with the blue-sky thinking. A touch of jarring reality came yesterday when the Herald revealed from leaked documents that the state government had shelved plans to buy new ferries for the Parramatta River route …Coming alongside yesterday’s report that the state government is running behind its own timelines on its much-vaunted new rail line between Parramatta and central Sydney, this is unwelcome news for the sleeping giant that is Parramatta. … We are now in an election year, with transport a key issue. The Berejiklian government will boast, as is its wont, of impending  ”delivery”, at least with Sydney Metro Northwest,  the M4 East tunnel part of WestConnex and NorthConnex. Hold on for the light rail though: George Street will be just a bonza place for selfies until 2020. Now, can somebody sell us a ferry?’ Read more
[Such transport issues would inevitably affect audience access to Western Sydney, including to the proposed relocated Powerhouse Museum and its collection.]

29 December, 2018
‘Descendants protest Australian Museum’s removal of Pacific treasures’
Concurrent with debates about potential changes to state museums and galleries and their collections, including those of audiences, costs, collection storage, income generation and site development, issues raised about the Australian Museum join criticism of the NSW government’s proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris writes: ‘The Australian Museum’s decision to move a world-class collection offsite to make way for a touring Tutankhamun exhibition has sparked protests from descendants of a distinguished Danish anthropologist and descendants of Melanesians brought to Australia as cheap labourers … the Pacific collection is to be ejected as a result of a $57.5 million expansion of Australia’s oldest museum to stage the blockbuster Tutankhamun exhibition and accommodate peak predictions of nine new visitors every minute.’ In a submission made to the Department of Planning’s Environmental Impact Statement, 157 descendants submitted that: ‘ ”We recognise the obvious lack of floor space at the museum but lament the Pacific – our region, our geographical location, our home – has been on a lower priority rung to other areas and so-called blockbusters. Commercial values should never trump cultural values,” …  But the museum contends that the current storage facilities at the Australian Museum’s William Street site did not provide the optimum environment for the collection. .. Many larger objects from the Pacific collection were already housed offsite at Castle Hill due to space constraints.
But opposition to the moving of the Pacific collection also came from members of an action group opposed to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. Patricia Johnson and Jean-Pierre Alexandre [see Save the Powerhouse Facebook] questioned why the Tutankhamun exhibition needed to be housed at the museum at all. Read more

27 December, 2018
‘Western Sydney’s must reads for 2018’ – Weeping Willow
Maryanne Taouk lists ‘Weeping Willow’, on June 20, 2018,  which reports on protests about the potential loss of  the historic Willowgrove building to make way for two tower blocks to fund the Powerhouse Museum’s controversial move to Parramatta, as the top story for 2018 in the Parramatta Advertiser, saying: ‘Out with the old and in with the new — that was the plan for the Powerhouse Museum relocating to Parramatta. A redacted and secret State Government recommendation had two of the region’s historical sites earmarked for demolition to make the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences museum “work”. Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace were at risk of being gobbled up by the development.’  Read more  or  Read more

22 December, 2018
‘Powerhouse Museum board gets new look ahead of relocation’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on new 3-year appointments to Boards of Trustees for the Powerhouse Museum (MAAS), the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum, the State Library of NSW and the Sydney Opera House.
For the Powerhouse Museum (MAAS), she identifies five new members: ‘The former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Kellie Hush, will join educationalist Eddie Woo, PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Paddy Carney and businessman David Borger on a new-look board of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences at a critical juncture, as the Powerhouse Museum prepares to relocate to Parramatta. As executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber, Mr Borger championed the shift to the riverside site, arguing it was only equitable that the region’s two million people have access to an iconic cultural asset. Read more Notably, Darren Steinberg, chief executive officer of Dexus Funds, part owner of the Theatre Royal, has also been appointed to the Powerhouse Museum with the government offering assurances that any conflict of interest from the businessman’s long experience in property and funds management had been declared and managed. The government hopes to convert part of the Ultimo Powerhouse site to a lyric theatre.’ Read more

16 December, 2018
‘Labor enjoys honeymoon, but real test comes in the new year’, in print as ‘Honeymoon is almost over for Daley’)
Lisa Visentin in the Sydney Morning Herald  wrote that ‘last week marked the countdown of 100 days to the NSW state election’ and that ‘the milestone suits freshly anointed Labor leader Michael Daley who called a press conference to acknowledge the occasion’. Listed as part of Labor’s election promises are issues associated with stadiums, schools, hospitals and transport. Read more
So far, Daley has not formally announced a public policy on the future of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and an appropriate cultural centre in Parramatta. However, his letter of response to public enquiries includes confirmation that NSW Labor has ‘withdrawn its bipartisan support for the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta – because the Berejiklian Government’s actions bear little resemblance to the original promise…’ [made by Baird in February 2015], and is ‘dismembering the Powerhouse – chopping it into small pieces, strewn across Ultimo, Parramatta and Castle Hill.’ He commits NSW Labor to a ‘multi-purpose performance and cultural exhibition space at the Parramatta site’, but does not confirm that the Powerhouse Museum will remain in Ultimo. He concludes: ‘Full details will be announced before the State election…’.  Read the letter: Daley letter 4 Dec 2018

16 December, 2018
‘Power surge: price of Ultimo site soars $220m ahead of museum move’
Carrie Fellner writes in The Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum’s coveted site at Ultimo has been revalued upwards by $220 million ahead of the attraction’s planned relocation to Parramatta, according to a NSW Auditor-General’s report,’ and that ‘Critics have seized on the figure as evidence that the state government’s attempt to uproot the museum is a land grab that will deliver “windfall” profits to property developers.’ But ‘The state government disputed the Auditor-General’s report, saying the $220 million increase accounted for all three of the Powerhouse Museum’s sites, including its land and buildings at Ultimo, Millers Point and Castle Hill.’ Meanwhile, ‘A  spokesperson said the Auditor-General stood by her report. All three sites had been revalued, but the change in the worth of the Castle Hill and Millers Point sites had been “very minimal”, the spokesperson said.’
In response, ‘”Make no mistake, the property developers in Sydney would love to get their hands on this prime site at Ultimo – and the Liberals are actively helping them to do so,” Labor’s arts spokesman Walt Secord said. He was joined in his criticism by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Robert Borsak, who chaired a parliamentary inquiry into museum’s relocation.”We now really understand the motivation behind the government wanting to move the museum to Parramatta,” he said. “It wasn’t driven by anything other than pure property development greed.” ’  Read more

6 December, 2018
‘Heritage listing process starts for Powerhouse after years of inaction’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports that:  ‘The final step towards state heritage listing of the original Ultimo Powerhouse will begin next year following pressure from the National Trust, which has described three years of inaction after the building’s nomination as “inexplicable”.’ However, she also points out that: ‘… there are no plans to give heritage protection to the museum’s Sulman award-winning domed extension which constitutes the museum’s entry hall. And the Office of Environment and Heritage says any subsequent heritage protections imposed on the historic powerhouse and its interiors won’t impede government plans to either sell the site or relocate the museum to Parramatta.’
Morris quotes representatives of the Trust who are angry about the delay: In a letter to NSW Heritage Council dated November 5, (See: Powerhouse Museum SHR Nomination) the National Trust’s chief executive officer Ms Debbie Mills, ‘… said it was vital that the Powerhouse be given “the recognition it clearly merits and the protection of the NSW Heritage Act through any future development”.’ And ‘Graham Quint, National Trust (NSW) conservation director, said: “Due to its heritage significance, the [Powerhouse] building requires the protection of the NSW Heritage Act prior to any development proposals. When it was first adapted, it was considered to be in ‘good hands’, so state listing was never regarded as urgent. It is now. The National Trust (NSW) finds the continued delay in proceeding with the nomination to be inexplicable.” Morris cites minutes from 2016 which show: ‘In March 2016 the State Heritage Register Committee recommended that the potential industrial heritage significance of the Powerhouse be investigated for listing, according to minutes obtained by the Herald.’ But she points out that ‘research for the Powerhouse has yet to start.’ … ‘Lionel Glendenning, the government architect responsible for the 1988 award-winning museum design, said the heritage response was erroneous and lacked any understanding of the literature and history or consideration of its place on the major urban edge of the CBD.’ Similarly critical of the delay, ‘No tree, no park, no great landscape, no colonial precinct and no museum had any genuine heritage protection in NSW, said former trustee Kylie Winkworth. ”The NSW Heritage Council has been sitting on its hands for three years while the Powerhouse Museum is at risk, and they won’t stir themselves to get around to research until 2019. The building will be an empty ruin by the time they do anything.”’  Read more

25 November, 2018
‘Secret Sydney and the corporatisation of the arts’
In her regular Cultureheist blog, Judith White discusses a number of current issues: ‘The NSW government has given the green light to the $344m Sydney Modern building project at the AGNSW, but critics are unhappy and major issues remain – How secret deals are done in Sydney – Problems pile up at the Powerhouse – Why museums matter – Arts policies for 2019.’ Among other issues, she identifies: ‘Funding needs to focus on preserving heritage, developing best practice and ensuring public education, rather than on grandiose building projects… and …Governance must ensure that public institutions, while accountable to parliaments and the people, have the level of independence necessary to fulfil their objectives.’
Of the Powerhouse Museum she says: ‘But while the Government steamrollers through its plans, problems are piling up at the Powerhouse…Lisa Havilah has been appointed the new head of the Powerhouse, but she faces massive challenges when she takes up the post in January… Made CEO rather than Director, her brief is to oversee the much-contested move, and in a break from tradition she must report directly to the Minister rather than principally to the board.’
And of the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, she reports:  ‘In more than two years since it was established, [the Inquiry] has been unable to ascertain just what developer deals have been done or are contemplated at the Ultimo and Parramatta sites. At its latest hearing on 16 November committee members questioned Professor Barney Glover, appointed chair of the board in 2016, and acting director Andrew Elliott. In a tense Inquiry session both Glover and Elliott appeared to have some difficulty providing answers about the budget for last year’s loss-making, scandal-plagued fashion ball, about funds for maintenance at Ultimo, about the appointment process for the new CEO and about the board’s failure to oppose the siting of developer tower blocks on the plot marked out for the new museum at Parramatta. Several questions were taken on notice.’
She concludes: ‘The full transcript (Read more) is worth reading. It’s an object lesson in the way politically-appointed boards of public institutions come to prostrate themselves before governments and their business advisers.’ Read more

21 November, 2018
12th Inquiry hearing: transcript on line
On 16th November, the Committee for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries interviewed two Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences representatives: Professor Barney Glover, President of Board of Trustees, and  Andrew Elliott, Acting Director, Chief Financial Officer, and Director of Corporate Resources, at the Museum.
Key questions centred round issues of governance: their knowledge of and involvement in budgeting for Powerhouse Museum maintenance and events, and especially, the staff and Trustees’ involvement in the government’s decision to move the Museum to Parramatta, with a controversial ‘cultural presence’ remaining in Ultimo. It was clear to the many informed members in the audience that:
1) They were speaking to (familiar cliché-ridden) prepared notes and were reluctant to express personal points of view that may have been at odds with government decisions
2) As has been obvious over recent years, the Trustees have been very much sidelined by government from their legal and public responsibilities to the museum and its collection, and are merely ‘represented’ on the Create NSW committee, and ‘briefed’ on outcomes and progress, without apparent disputation of any proposals or decisions
3) Glover appeared to: have limited knowledge of the details of the ‘New Museum’ business plan, or any earlier plans; accept that Create NSW is managing the project (and Museum) for the Minister; be very personally focused on western Sydney audiences rather than those for a state (national and international)  museum; and provide no evidence of considering viable alternatives in either location.
It is noted by Inquiry audiences, and this PMA website, that earlier reports indicate that the new CEO (director) will be similarly responsible directly to the Minister, and will provide an interface between Project committees and the Trustees. For the full transcript: Read more
Answers to questions on notice will appear on this link in ‘Other papers’ in due course.

21 November, 2018
‘Sydney Modern Project approved as critics appeased’
After a great deal of negotiation, criticism and concern about the takeover of public space, Linda Morris , in the Sydney Morning Herald, advises: ‘Excavation work will begin within months on the $344 million Sydney Modern expansion to the Art Gallery of NSW after the Berejiklian government granted final planning approval.. The series of pavilions to be built opposite the Royal Botanic Garden and cascading to Woolloomooloo will almost double the gallery’s exhibition space when completed in 2021 in time for the 150th anniversary of the gallery’s founding in 1871, and the 100th anniversary of the Archibald Prize.…Opponents of the development had worried about the loss of open public space in the Domain, lack of setback and visual prominence… Approval has been determined by the Department of Planning and welcomed by Arts Minister Don Harwin as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to increase gallery visitation to an expected two million people a year. The project had been assessed to inject over $1 billion into the NSW economy over 25 years, Mr Harwin said….The gallery will remain open as work begins. Conditions of approval governing construction, heritage, environment and transport are to be released Wednesday morning. Read more

16 November, 2018
‘…no cultural, economic or demographic justification for this move ‘
Prompted by the 9 November (see below) announcement of a new CEO for the Powerhouse Museum, art critic John McDonald says in his weekly newsletter: ‘This week’s announcement that Lisa Havilah  will  be  the  new  CEO of the Powerhouse Museum  brings  another  twist to  this  painful saga. We already know the decision to move the Powerhouse from its site in Ultimo to Parramatta – a distance  of  25  kms  at  a cost of not less than $1.5 billion – is the worst, the stupidest, the most evil and destructive thing a state government has ever done to a cultural institution in this country. There is no cultural, economic or demographic justification for this move when it would be much simpler, cheaper and more effective to build a new museum from scratch. Why destroy an institution that is 129 years old and housed in an award-winning building?
Lisa Havilah has been extremely successful as the director of Carriageworks, turning a moribund venue into a thriving enterprise. The Powerhouse, however, will present a much bigger challenge. What does it mean, for instance, to be appointed as CEO rather than director? Perhaps the most important point is that Lisa will report directly to the Minister, Don Harwin, rather than the trustees of the museum. This is an unsavoury little detail that serves to centralise power in the hands of the government and lessen transparency.’  Read more: J McD 16 Nov 2018

14 November, 2018
‘Another Day, Another CEO for the PHM’
Kylie Winkworth writes for Altmedia, ‘After an international search for the next CEO of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), the government has appointed Lisa Havilah, current director of Carriageworks. … Announcing the museum’s fourth CEO in just six years, Arts Minister Don Harwin lauded Havilah’s experience…’.
But Winkworth discusses the underlying realities of the project and the task of the new CEO (who has spoken earlier in support of the move): ‘Havilah is highly regarded for her work at Carriageworks, combining an adventurous multi-arts program with commercial events, and growing visitor numbers and income. If the government was creating a new contemporary arts museum at Parramatta her selection for the job would be an excellent pick. But this is not what the New Museum Western Sydney (NMWS) is about. …The new MAAS CEO will be the face of museum demolition, closing the Powerhouse, managing the end of Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences, handing the PHM’s land and buildings to developers, moving the collection into inadequate storage, and building a smaller less accessible museum on a flood prone riverbank. The Parramatta community has said this is the wrong museum on the wrong site, but this scheme is not about meeting their cultural aspirations… Perhaps this ugly set of challenges was a turn-off for applicants with museum experience, even with a salary package of more than $400,000. Museum experts can see that the whole mad scheme is under-funded, under-resourced and missing grassroots community passion. … But the central aim of the government’s scheme was always about ‘releasing’ the museum’s land to developers. …
Lisa Havilah will be the fourth director of MAAS in less than six years; an unprecedented turnover in the museum industry. …We are all invested in the success of the new MAAS CEO and wish her well. After all, it is our museum. It belongs to the people of NSW, not just Western Sydney. …  Let’s hope she can keep it together. Having driven the museum into the ground with cuts and controversy, the government could give Havilah a fair chance of success by restoring the museum’s budget and staff. … Better still, the government could stop the sale and demolition of the PHM and let the new CEO use her outstanding cultural planning and community skills to develop a new museum for Parramatta and Western Sydney, based on the region’s cultures, stories and creativity. Barracking from business groups and the media may get the government’s attention, but this is not evidence of the community’s cultural needs and priorities. Successful cultural projects are planned from the bottom up, around community conversations and transparent consultations. … Lisa Havilah knows how to do this and the government should let her run with it, free of their poisonous Powerhouse demolition plan.’ Read more    Longer version 

13 November, 2018
‘World-leading theatre producer’s plan to save the Theatre Royal’
Following his 9 November report (below), Nathanael Cooper, in the Sydney Morning Herald, announces that Sir Howard Panter’s Trafalgar Entertainment Group is not only interested in purchasing the Theatre Royal (currently the subject of a petition to save it), but also in investing in Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre – and in operating the proposed theatre on the Powerhouse Museum’s Ultimo site!
He says:  ‘Sir Howard Panter, who built Ambassador Theatre Group with his wife and business partner Rosemary Squire in 1992, going on to own the most theatres in the world and become one of the biggest producers, has since launched a new company. Sir Howard’s newest venture, Trafalgar Entertainment Group, is steadily growing through theatre ownership, new productions and cinema simulcasts of theatrical productions around the world.
Now he has his sights set on Sydney…But the Theatre Royal isn’t the only theatre he would like to run. Trafalgar has also commenced discussions with the operators of the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, to potentially invest in a larger theatre space and run the venue. “Western Sydney is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia but to an extent you have to build the infrastructure for the audience to come,” McFarlane said. …Sir Howard said the company would also be interested in operating the new venue that has been mooted for the current space occupied by the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.’ Read more

12 November, 2018
‘Architects Put NSW Government ‘On Notice’ After Powerhouse’
Ana Navarez reports in The Urban Developer that: ‘The NSW government is moving ahead with its controversial decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, making two major appointments to steer the final design of the new Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. On the banks of the Parramatta River on Friday, NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced the appointment of former Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah as chief executive, while global design competition consultancy firm Malcolm Reading was appointed to manage the design process.’
But she added that: ‘Friday’s announcement has attracted more scrutiny to the already controversial project, with the appointment of Malcolm Reading drawing the ire of some of Australia’s most well-known architects…In a letter addressed to acting NSW government architect Olivia Hyde, recent national architecture award winner Angelo Candalepas led a group of 22 architects criticising the appointment of the international consultancy to manage the design shortlist. The letter advises the government against pursuing a shortlist that prioritises big name global firms to use for political capital in the lead up to an election. “They have an impending election, they want a headline as they are moving into caretaker mode…And the headline will be used as publicity using taxpayer money.” A shortlist is expected to be finalised later this year, with early works commencing in 2019.’ Read more

12 November, 2018
‘DA withdrawn for North Parramatta heritage precinct’
(and Uni of Sydney one considered)
Following great local controversy about proposed over-development of the North Parramatta heritage precinct, where last November the Female Factory was officially listed on the National Heritage List, Maryanne Taouk reports in the Parramatta Advertiser that: ‘The NSW Government has made a promise not to build any apartments on the 7ha of heritage land at the centre of a $500 million development, but will revise their plan in a new application’ and that ‘A deal for a 25,000 student campus has helped UrbanGrowth NSW broaden their image of the North Parramatta heritage precinct. Barry Mann, chief executive of the development corporation, has recalled the previous development application made for the site and is instead looking at incorporating the University of Sydney announcement to create a “university town” into their own. Read more: 12 Nov Nth Parra DA plans

10 November, 2018
Michael Daley appointed leader of the NSW Labor Party, replacing Luke Foley.
In an emailed circular of 10 November, Daley thanked supporters and said:
‘A Government I lead will be built on four pillars:
1. World class health and education systems
2. Easing the cost of living
3. Jobs for the suburbs and jobs for the regions
4. Stopping over-development.’
[While he does not mention culture and heritage, it is hoped that his concern about ‘over-development’ includes issues associated with the proposed museum demolition in Ultimo and controversial relocation to Parramatta. Labor spokespeople to date, have opposed the government’s proposal.]

10 November, 2018
Michael Daley elected NSW Labor Party leader, promising to ‘press the reset button’
Lisa Visentin reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Maroubra MP Michael Daley has secured the leadership of the NSW Labor Party, and pledged to “fix the planning system in NSW” should he be elected Premier in March,’ and that ‘Penny Sharpe, an upper house member and Labor’s environment spokeswoman, was elected deputy unopposed.’ …   ‘With just four months until the state election, Mr Daley’s speech resembled an election pitch. He declared there to be “something horribly wrong at the heart” of the NSW Liberal government, describing his opponents as “a government of bankers, by bankers, for bankers.”’ Read more

9 November, 2018
‘A great city deserves great theatres’: Campaign to save Sydney’s lost theatre

Linda Morris and Nathanael Cooper report in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian government and Lord Mayor Clover Moore have backed a campaign by leading theatre producers and performers to force the reopening of the Theatre Royal, warning that the viability of live theatre is at risk in Sydney… Amid rumours the owners want to hand over the theatre site to an upmarket retailer, supermarket or boutique hotel chain, the LPA’s president Andrew Kay said producers were turning away shows every month due to a lack of suitable venues in Sydney.’ Read more
[While supporting  the reopening of the Theatre Royal, Powerhouse Museum Alliance supporters remain extremely concerned about Arts Minister, Don Harwin’s, expressed desire for a lyric theatre to replace the Powerhouse Museum.]

9 November, 2018
‘Former Carriageworks director to head Powerhouse move’
Maryanne Taouk, in the Parramatta Advertiser says ‘Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah has announced her move from the Eveleigh space to western Sydney- spearheading the move of the Powerhouse Museum. Her role will be to oversee the design, planning and construction of the Powerhouse’s $1.17 billion home on the banks of the Parramatta River…The design of the museum will match the programming, Mr Harwin has made a call to Australian and international architects and design firms to “think big” during the design competition.’
Read here: 9 Nov Parra Advertiser

 9 November, 2018
‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum appoints Lisa Havilah from Carriageworks as first CEO’
ABC’s national reporter, Michaela Boland says: ‘Reporting directly to arts minister Don Harwin, Havilah will assume control of the state government’s planned $1.17 billion move to a new riverside site in Parramatta. In a statement, Arts Minister Don Harwin said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Lisa to this crucial role. There is no doubt her wealth of experience puts her in a class of her own.” … Ms Havilah said: “This is such a visionary project and I’m really looking forward to working with the government, the trust and with the staff of the Powerhouse.”
Havilah has since 2011 overseen significant expansion of the Carriageworks multi-arts hub in Redfern. Before that, she built her career in western Sydney as director of Campbelltown Arts Centre, after a period as deputy at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre…
Havilah will be the first chief executive to run the Powerhouse which, as a museum, has historically been run by a director. Dawn Casey left in 2013, at the end of her contract, after the role was advertised and she failed to be re-appointed. An untried director, Rose Hiscock, was appointed instead. Ms Hiscock re-named the Powerhouse as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, but resigned after two years after accepting the job to oversee a start-up Science Museum in Melbourne when the NSW government announced it intended to move the Powerhouse to western Sydney. Hiscock’s deputy Dolla Merrillees was appointed to the top job, but resigned earlier this year after the ABC revealed she approved museum funds be spent on a lavish fashion fundraiser which ended-up costing more than it raised.
The Powerhouse has existed for 129 years and been located at Ultimo, inner Sydney, since 1988. Four years after then-NSW premier Mike Baird announced an intention to sell the Ultimo site and relocate the Powerhouse to western Sydney, the move has not yet commenced… NSW Labor has expressed its opposition to the move, the announcement of which triggered a backlash. In June 2016, the NSW Legislative Council announced an inquiry into museums and galleries that would look into the Powerhouse Museum move. The inquiry is still underway and scheduled to meet next Friday, November 16.
Ms Havilah will report to the arts minister, rather than board chairman as per the previous structure, and her job description is heavily weighted towards managing the move and build of the new museum … MAAS’s operating expenditure in 2017 was $61 million and the chief executive is expected to have in-depth knowledge and understanding of the workings of museum collections and major exhibitions. None of Ms Havilah’s previous roles incorporated collections oversight. The chief executive salary is band three, which pays approximately $400,000.’  Read more  or see  9 Nov ABC Boland

9 November, 2018
‘Powerhouse’s $1b woman’, on-line as ‘Meet the new head of the Powerhouse Museum’
Linda Morris reports in the  Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times: ‘The director of Carriageworks, Lisa Havilah, has been appointed head of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to oversee the design, planning and construction of the Powerhouse’s $1.17 billion home on the banks of the Parramatta River … at a time when the museum has been mired in controversy, suffering from poor staff morale, loss of expertise and falling ticket revenue. Where critics see a poison chalice, however, Havilah regards the new position, which she will take up on January 7, as a ”massive opportunity” to bring the museum’s world-renowned collection to a much wider audience. ”I have a million ideas,” she told Fairfax Media…
One of her first priorities is building and developing programs that connect the museum’s 500,000 item collection with socially and culturally diverse communities across western Sydney, particularly Indian, Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities … As well as boosting audience numbers and widening the museum’s reach, Havilah’s key role is to find revenue sources and ”commercial opportunities” to fund activities.
But Havilah’s lack of museum experience is unlikely to impress opponents who claim the new museum is a toxic project that cannot be delivered for the money, or in the timeframe proposed, and is not supported by the community or independent museum experts. ”The new CEO will be the face of museum demolition, closing the museum, managing the end of Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences, handing over of the Powerhouse Museum’s land and buildings to developers, moving the collection into inferior and smaller storage, all to build a smaller less accessible museum on a flood-prone riverbank,” former trustee Kylie Winkworth said. ”The Parramatta community has said this is the wrong museum on the wrong site, but this is what the government’s new CEO will have to deliver, with no increase in staff or recurrent revenue.”
Arts Minister Don Harwin said  … ”I think people sometimes get too caught up in an old-fashioned idea of what a museum is …I also sometimes am a bit perplexed by this idea that an art gallery isn’t a museum. Everywhere else in the world, people don’t call them art galleries, they call them art museums.” The announcement comes as the international design competition for the new Powerhouse Museum prepares to launch in early December, with the government to announce a winning design in the second half of 2019 … Having worked with Labor mayors and ministers, Havilah was untroubled by the prospect of a change in government. A Labor government is committed to keeping the Powerhouse at Ultimo and building new exhibition, cultural and museum facilities at   Parramatta.’  Read more   or  Read more  See also: Minister Harwin media alert

9 November, 2018
‘Lisa Havilah to head up MAAS and lead Powerhouse Museum move’
In Arts Hub, Gina Fairley reports: ‘Lisa Havilah is the fourth woman to take the reins of the Powerhouse, and the first to step into a restructured CEO position that will captain the Museum’s controversial relocation.’… ‘In April this year, Minister Harwin confirmed the position would be restructured into a CEO role with the Powerhouse’s move to Parramatta’. Fairley provides a comprehensive background to Havilah’s career in regional art galleries and Sydney’s Carriageworks art centre. Read More: Havilah – Arts Hub 9 Nov  

8 November, 2018
‘SOS for the Powerhouse Museum’s Collection’
Museum expert and former Powerhouse Museum trustee, Kylie Winkworth, writes in Altmedia  about the foolishness of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and the better option of funding it properly to keep it in Ultimo. She says: ‘If the Powerhouse collection had a voice it would be sending out SOS distress signals. One of Australia’s most significant museum collections, including treasures of international significance, is under existential threat.’ After discussing implications of repairing a recent leak and protecting the collection (see 1 Nov, below), she continues: ‘The Public Service Association (PSA) has sounded the alarm on the loss of expert staff at every level of the museum’s operations, including the trade staff who knew the museum buildings and infrastructure inside out.  Now the museum uses contractors, and employs managers to manage contracts. The museum’s buildings and exhibits are not being maintained, feeding the government’s narrative that the Powerhouse is too decrepit and must be closed. This is absurd … The Powerhouse just needs proper maintenance by skilled people, like any high traffic public building.’
But, as she points out, the government has been negligent in providing appropriate maintenance and operating support: ‘Last year MAAS posted a $10m deficit. Its management team is relatively new and has limited experience working with a major museum collection. Most of the senior management team have come from art galleries. The lack of deep museum experience in key positions matters in all kinds of ways, from collection development, exhibitions and community engagement, not to mention planning the risky move of the collection and the complete neglect of the museum’s major donors.’  She further discusses the issue that  ‘… there is no one on the museum’s Trust who has any experience in museums or collections. The Trustees and past directors have driven a vicious redundancy program which has seen the museum’s staff shrink by nearly half. There has been no succession planning to retain critical skills and expertise. If a public company had four CEOs in just six years, a senior management team new to the company and the business, and a board with no industry experience, the shareholders would be revolting and the company would be in administration … But instead of re-building the museum’s staff numbers and capacity, the government is cutting $13m from the museum’s budget next year. Meanwhile, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is sitting on a money pile like Uncle Scrooge, gloating over the state’s $3.8b surplus … But when it comes to caring for the treasures of NSW, they are squeezing the museum till the pips squeal. That is the SOS we can hear. At this point the fate of a 135 year old museum hangs in the balance. The Powerhouse can and must be saved. Visit the Powerhouse this summer. Support the staff and volunteers. And put the Liberals last next March.’ Read more

5 November, 2018
Powerhouse Museum Buildings: nomination for Heritage Listing (a 3-year wait…)
Debbie Mills, Chief Executive Officer of the National Trust, writes to the Heritage Division of the NSW government, to ask why it has taken so long for their nomination in 2015 for the former Ultimo Powerhouse, adapted to house the Powerhouse Museum, to be considered for listing on the NSW State Heritage Register. After reiterating their many points of argument, she also says: ‘The non-listing of Ultimo was always a procedural anomaly, as it had been adapted for use as the Powerhouse Museum in 1988 and was considered to be ‘in good hands’, consequently its ‘State’ listing was not urgent. More recent debate regarding the possible repurposing of the building has, however, brought this status into question and consequently, the Trust believes that it is vital that the place be given the recognition it clearly merits and the protection of the NSW Heritage Act through any further development.’…The Trust finds the continuing delay in proceeding with the nomination to be inexplicable…The Trust notes that none of the members of the National Trust’s Industrial Heritage Committee have been approached for an assessment opinion, in any capacity …The Trust is well aware of the public furore regarding various proposals affecting the former Ultimo Power House … [and] would be pleased to hear your response in relation to these matters.’ Read the letter:  Powerhouse Museum SHR Nomination

1 November, 2018
‘Staff steamed up over idle, damaged Powerhouse Museum objects’

Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the effects of inadequate government funding for staff and maintenance costs at the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘The world’s oldest working steam engine, a priceless object in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, has stopped running as questions mount over maintenance priorities at Ultimo ahead of the museum’s relocation to Parramatta. The Boulton and Watt Engine, said to have been one of most significant technological artefacts ever to reach Australia, has been inoperable since September 6, along with other steam objects on public display, following the replacement of the old Lucas boiler and redundancies of expert maintenance staff. Compounding staff concerns is a major water leak on August 24 that affected 25 objects from its renowned collection, two of them permanently, the Public Service Association said.’
She quotes Labor’s Walt Secord, who ‘said there had been a concentrated campaign of maintenance neglect of the Ultimo Powerhouse site to justify the forced Parramatta relocation. Budget papers show MAAS expenses were projected to fall from $62.1 million to $49.04 million this financial year. “Unfortunately, the continuing deterioration and decay of the existing Ultimo site endanger the value historic artefacts,” he said, calling on Arts Minister Don Harwin to drop plans to ”frog march staff and artefacts to Parramatta”.’ And former trustee, Kylie Winkworth said ‘the loss of expert maintenance staff meant contractors do not know the buildings and their systems. ”We know that vital maintenance contracts have not been renewed because it is in the government’s interest to suggest that the museum is in poor condition. Which it is not.” ‘ As well, ‘Senior industrial officer for the PSA, Kerrie Butson, said the advice of museum staff was ignored in consultations around the purchase of a new boiler. The ”low attendance” boiler, she said, is the incorrect type for the museum’s purposes… Ms Butson said the Powerhouse buildings were by no means “past their use by date” and the current issue was as a result of a program of attrition and redundancy that had adversely affected the maintenance staff. With no tradespeople directly employed in the facilities department to carry out  maintenance, all repairs had been contracted out.’  Read more  For comments from readers see: 1 Nov 2018 SMH Comments

26 October, 2018
The minister: ‘…a brilliant career or a brief career’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald reports on Nick Serota’s visit to Sydney to deliver an address on art education. ‘The former director of the Tate galleries, now head of the Arts Council, is an object lesson in leanness and austerity. There is an absolute focus with everything he says and does, with no wastage. One would imagine Serota’s personal style would fit him up to be an apologist for the cutbacks and belt-tightening that most governments around the world seem ready to inflict on the arts. Instead, he is a formidable advocate for art and art education, able to argue his case from an economic point-of-view, and from a broader cultural perspective.’ …  ‘Speaking to the slogan formulated by artist, Bob and Roberta Smith – All Schools Should Be Art Schools – Serota noted that knowledge today can be obtained with the flick of a button, meaning that creativity and imagination should take priority in any meaningful education system. He quoted research that showed how students that excel in arts-based subjects tend to do better in other subjects as well.
All these arguments have been rehearsed many times in many parts of the world. The problem is getting narrow-minded politicians and bureaucracies to take them seriously. To this end it was amazing to hear the NSW Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, use words like “ontological” and “ heuristic” in a brief preliminary address. Mr Stokes also outlined a progressive – almost futuristic – vision for reforming the NSW education system. It was startling, to say the least, given this government’s appalling track record on supporting the arts, and the cultural vandalism apparent in the plan to move the Powerhouse Museum. One suspects Mr Stokes will have either a brilliant career or a brief career. As for his educational vision, I’ll believe it when I see it in action.’ Go to website to subscribe:

24 October, 2018
Australian Museum bracing for ‘nine visitors every minute’
While the Powerhouse Museum suffers inadequate maintenance and operating costs in Ultimo, Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘The NSW government plans to spend $57.5 million to expand Australia’s oldest museum so it can stage the blockbuster Tutankhamun exhibition and accommodate peak predictions of nine new visitors every minute. … The renovation would also “significantly enhance its role as a world-class educational and cultural facility” and strengthen the museum’s financial independence by increasing its visitor capacity and upgrading ancillary income generating uses such as the cafe and shop… The report finds the proposal to expand the Crystal Hall, constructed in 2015, for a ticket office and wider entrance point to accommodate expected crowds will result in some loss of fabric and alteration to spaces assessed as being of medium-heritage significance, namely the six-storey Parkes Farmer Wing constructed along William Street. But the majority of works, the EIS said, affect fabric and spaces which had been assessed as being of low significance or intrusive. It is also noted some of the works proposed would allow greater appreciation of the internal facades of the Lewis, Barnett and Vernon Wings surrounding the atrium.’ Read more
[PMA asks: why privilege one museum and not another?]

October, 2018
Upper House Inquiry: announcement of a 12th hearing on November 16.
While the Committee for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has extended its completion date for its report until February 29, shortly before the NSW state election, it has announced another hearing. No names have yet been published, but no doubt the committee will be following up unanswered questions from the 11th hearing in September.
For schedules and transcripts of hearingsRead more
See also news report on 26 September,
below, for report on 11th hearing.

20 October, 2018
‘The double act working to save a heritage precinct.’
In ‘Two of us’, in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine, Suzette Meade, from the North Parramatta Residents action Group, and Shane Withington, well-known actor and activist, describe their work in fighting to save the 77 heritage-listed buildings associated with the area around the Female Factory in Parramatta from over-development.  Read more

11 October, 2018
‘Creative push for Parramatta’s heritage core’

(on-line as) ‘Parramatta Female Factory could host artists, start-ups, hackathons’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Megan Gorrey provides details of an idea outlined by chair of Western Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, where ‘Parramatta’s Female Factory is among convict-era buildings that would be transformed under a plan to turn a historic site in Sydney’s west into a lively hub for artists, creative industries and start-ups.’ … ‘Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project director Bonnie Djuric said the discussion paper was “a first conversation” but the creative community was “best-situated” to revive the site. “My hope is the organisations that show interest in activating the site do appreciate its history.” ‘
However, Gorrey  also notes that ‘Conserving the heritage core is part of the state government’s $310 million Parramatta North urban renewal project that includes residential and retail development over the next decade. Plans to build thousands of dwellings as part of the project have drawn criticism from community groups who feared the development would compromise the heritage site. The government’s property development arm has emphasised there will be no residential development in the heritage core. UrbanGrowth NSW chief executive Barry Mann said the government wanted the area’s historic sites to stay in public hands. “Together with our partners and community, we can develop a shared vision for the heritage core that is future focused and respects the Indigenous, colonial and institutional stories of Parramatta north.” ‘  Read more  See report here: Andrew Overton Nth Paramatta Report_Sep2018
[And, as a member of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group reminded PMA after reading the article, ‘This is just the 4 hectares of the sandstone buildings. It ignores the 77 state heritage listed buildings over the 19 hectares of open space that will be 4000 units.’]

12 October, 2018
‘Push for Museum on prison land’

In reporting on the proposal (above), The Daily Telegraph says: ‘It once housed the first criminals in Australia and a new report wants the heritage building and land to become a cultural and creative industries hub, including a space for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.’  Read more 

28 September, 2018
‘From the President – Moving the Powerhouse Museum’
President of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Ian Sloane, wrote to members in their September Bulletin:
‘I want to share with you the fact that the Council of your Society has resolved to oppose the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta, believing that its historical links to Ultimo are of great importance, not to mention that it would be a colossal waste of money. Rather, it wants to see the Powerhouse Museum properly refurbished, and an outstanding new museum established in Parramatta. As a result of this decision, and with the help of former President Don Hector and modern technology, I wrote 134 individual letters to every member of the NSW Parliament, in both the Lower and Upper Houses. Here is a sample:
Dear Ms ….,
The Council of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Australia’s oldest scientific and cultural institution, wishes to express its strong opposition to the decision to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. At the same time, it wants to emphasise that it strongly supports the vision of an outstanding new museum in Western Sydney – it is the moving of the existing Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences that is opposed. The Powerhouse’s links to the Ultimo precinct are of fundamental historical importance to the development of the Australian economy and the Museum is, and should be, a major drawcard for overseas visitors. If the Museum has been allowed to run down then the solution is not removal, but rather a Government commitment to renewal of the present Museum. And moving the Museum’s many heavy exhibits is surely a great waste of public money. While the nature of a major new museum in Western Sydney should be very much in the hands of the region, the Council of the RSNSW is interested to contribute to the discussion. An exciting possibility is a new museum of science and technology at Parramatta with a special focus – a museum that differs from that of the Powerhouse at UItimo but is not of lower status, just as the various Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC are not of different standing. But the immediate need is to stop the tragic, irreversible destruction of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo. Etc.
Another kind of museum for the Western Suburbs that would find strong support in Council is an Australian Museum of the First Peoples, if that should be the wish of Indigenous groups. Council has been following up in various ways, including interacting with individual parliamentarians. I hope that our Members and Fellows agree with Council on the decision and the actions taken. I welcome your feedback.’
Ian H. Sloan AO FAA FRSN, President, Royal Society of New South Wales.

26 September, 2018
‘Peak arts body calls for return of funding’

Arts Minister Don Harwin has been strongly criticised for taking funds intended for small to medium arts organisations, and giving them to projects of his own choice. Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, says: ‘Part of a $1 million one-off grant to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has come from a fund which supported small to medium-sized arts groups …The National Association for the Visual Arts called for the prompt return of the public funds to the artists who’ve earned them. ”Let’s be clear: artists have earned this money,” said NAVA’s executive director Esther Anatolitis. ”They’ve earned it through the hard work it took to reach the professional standing that made them such outstanding applicants, and they’ve also earned it by putting hundreds of hours into participating in this highly competitive funding process.”
So far just six projects have been funded this year to a value of $256,029 in what has been dubbed by the National Association for the Visual Arts as one of the poorest funding rounds in Australian history. More than 200 projects were not funded, representing a success rate of just 2.7 per cent. An independent panel had originally recommended 17 projects share a total budget of $660,000 but when its recommendations went to the minister, he directed savings of $400,000.
“These artists and organisations operate on a wafer-thin budget and utilise every single cent that they can muster. In short, they operate on a whiff of an oil rag,” [Labor arts spokesperson] Mr Secord said. “The arts minister is treating arts like his own personal fiefdom – favouring the large cultural institutions over the smaller ones.”
… Mr Harwin apologised to arts bodies who had experienced delays during the funding round and said the art funding unit, Create NSW, was surveying previous applicants and reviewing their responses to see how they could improve the process.’ Read more 

26 September, 2018
Original 2014 Powerhouse Museum Renewal business case now available!

Following  the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries on 12th September 2018, some extra papers  were later supplied as answers to Questions on Notice. These include the ‘Final Business Case for the Renewal of the Powerhouse Museum’ and ‘Appendices’, dated 24 October, 2014, prepared by the Museum and presented to government at that time.
This business case had been researched to redress inadequate government funding over recent years, and aimed to renew and develop the Powerhouse Museum on site in Ultimo. While it had been expected that this would be agreed, the government suddenly announced that the museum would close on this site and move to Parramatta. Notable in the Business Case is that, while descriptions of the condition of the building have since been discussed as exaggerated, of the several options considered, none were to demolish the site and move the museum, and the recommended proposal argued strongly to keep both the Museum exhibition buildings and the adjacent Harwood building in the renewal proposal. See Other Papers here: Read more 

September 2018
Inquiry report: due date extended
After 11 hearings over a two year period, and after an interim report in June, 2018, the NSW Legislative Council (Upper House) committee inquiring into Museums and Galleries has announced an extended reporting date:
‘This inquiry was established on 23 June 2016 to inquire into and report on museums and galleries. The reporting date has been extended to 28 February 2019.’ Read more.

24 September, 2018
‘Consultants are a blight on government and business.’
Trevor Kennedy, writing in John Menadue’s blog, Pearls & Irritations, argues that ‘It is, at the very least, arguable that consultants have become toxic weeds in business and government in Australia.’ He continues: ‘Recently the NSW Auditor-General was just so right to question and criticize the role and costs of consultants to government. NSW is probably the greatest offender. It reached epidemic proportion under Baird who must qualify as one of the worst premiers in history. His thought-bubble and consultant – backed decisions involved disasters such as council amalgamations, greyhound racing, Powerhouse museum wrecking, Sydney Modern and various infrastructure projects, which have proven to be disastrous from a costing perspective…’
‘The most extraordinary bad move, of which I have some personal knowledge, is the Baird thought-bubble decision to shift the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Unusually, as far as we can gather no museum experts were consulted at the time—nor have they been since. The Powerhouse is a treasure in an appropriate precinct accessible to all. The proposal is to shift it to a flood prone site on the Parramatta River. There has been no consideration of what sort of art establishment would best suit Parramatta and regional museums and art galleries are busted.’ Also drawing attention to the danger to precious objects during transfer and the demolition of existing significant buildings to make way for high-rise development, he concludes:  ‘Berejiklian and her arts minister, Harwin, have proven ridiculously unreceptive to listen to experts and alternatives. Thank goodness the government is unlikely to make a major move on this till after the next election. The whole thing makes a joke of the armies of bureaucrats in government and business who are paid to enable decisions to be made.’ Read more 

23 September, 2018
‘Secrets of “cultural planning” unmasked’

In her Culture Heist blog, Judith White notes: ‘What a dark story emerges when the lid is lifted on the NSW Government’s much-vaunted “cultural infrastructure” spending! Evidence at the hearing on 12 September of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, held at Parliament House in Sydney, revealed a Kafkaesque scenario of arts and planning authorities entangled in a web of bad policy and political spin,’ and reminds us that: ‘It was only in June, after a prolonged tussle in which it attempted to defy an Upper House order, that the Government released a heavily redacted version of the business case for demolishing the Powerhouse Museum in Darling Harbour and moving part of its collection to Parramatta in Western Sydney. Since then concerned museum professionals have spent many hours of voluntary labour poring over thousands of pages of previously secret documents in an attempt to make sense of them.’
In ‘Realities of the Powerhouse move’, White summarises the Inquiry presentations made by ‘three of the most highly qualified professionals: Dr Lindsay Sharp, former director both of the Powerhouse and of London’s Science Museum …; Kylie Winkworth, widely considered one of the country’s most distinguished and knowledgeable museum consultants; and Andrew Grant, a transport heritage and engineering consultant who spent 33 years a curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) of which the Powerhouse is a part.’ This is followed by evidence from Arts Minister Don Harwin and Craig Limkin from the Department of Planning and the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO), which came under severe questioning …The Inquiry, which has been running for more than two years, has again extended its reporting date, to February 2019.’ Read more 

21 September, 2018
it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald says he is: ‘… it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum which has been on my mind ever since an exchange of emails with Kylie Winkworth, who’s … done something I haven’t had time to do: namely read through the state government’s “secret business papers… The papers reveal that no alternatives were considered. There was no cultural mapping, no proper costings, and only the flimsiest rationales put forward. Every basic tenet of museum planning has been ignored or trounced, and the result can only be a disaster… If the Brazilians have lost a priceless cultural asset through lack of attention, what should we make of the Berejiklian government, which is actively working to demolish an award-winning building and sell the site to developers while squeezing the Powerhouse collection into a much smaller, utterly inappropriate building 23 kms away, at a cost of more than $1.4 billion to the tax payer??
The plan is blatantly inappropriate – both for the existing institution and for Parramatta, which is not getting anything it wanted out of this deal. Instead of an arts facility the city will get a Disneyfied science museum and more towering commercial and residential space. It can’t be emphasised often enough that cultural heritage is not the private property of the government of the day. It belongs to the people of NSW. Our representatives have a sacred duty to preserve this legacy for future generations, not to sacrifice it for the sole purpose of helping your mates make a quick buck.’ He concludes: ‘Museum professionals in Britain and elsewhere are apparently expressing their dismay and incredulity about this project, which will make Sydney an international laughing stock. Do we want to look like barbarians in the eyes of the world?’ Read more 

19 September, 2018
‘Why is the Powerhouse going?’
In AltMedia, Kylie Winkworth identifies that ‘There are many big questions begging answers from the Liberal Party,’ including the proposal/decision to move the Powerhouse Museum. She says ‘The case for moving the Powerhouse Museum has been a morass of contradictions since it was first announced by former Premier Mike Baird in November 2014. Infrastructure NSW stitched up the case for the Premier’s captain’s pick in its November 2014 State Infrastructure Strategy Update, claiming the Powerhouse was relatively remote, not in a cultural precinct, and should be urgently relocated to Parramatta. How things change. Now the Powerhouse site is back in a cultural precinct after the Arts Minister Don Harwin threw the idea of a creative industries precinct in Ultimo into the mess of justifications for demolishing the museum.’
She exposes the contradictions of ignoring the existing history of a cultural precinct in Ultimo, including the Museum, saying ‘When it comes to tourism and cultural life there is no equivalence between a major state museum, open 364 days a year, showing our stories and the treasures of NSW, and a lyric theatre for American musicals with tickets at $200 a pop….It is selling off our sandstone heritage buildings and demolishing a major state museum. This leaves a big unanswered question for the Liberal government: why is the Powerhouse being demolished?’ Read more 

19 September, 2018
Save the Powerhouse says: ‘…you can’t get a quart into a pint pot’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook page reminds readers: ‘It’s been said many times before, and we are saying it again: the Parramatta Riverbank site is far too small for the Government’s grandiose MAAS Museum project. … Maybe someone should tell Gladys Berejiklian and the Arts Minister, who have so far studiously ignored a wealth of independent research by engineers and architects, and the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry supporting this argument.’ Suggesting ‘Let’s look at the facts’, the report leads us through an informative video, and asks pertinent questions about size, site limitations, heritage issues and competing development plans.
SEE video )
Read more: Here  or Here: 19 Sept – Save the Powerhouse

16 September, 2018
‘Review: Sydney Contemporary 2018’
John McDonald, in the Sydney Morning Herald, draws attention to Australia’s valuing of cultural heritage. In discussing the Sydney Contemporary art fair at Carriageworks in the context of other art fairs and biennales, he says ‘One of the signal purposes of Sydney Contemporary is to help build a local art market that is not completely overshadowed by its international counterparts … In countries such as the USA, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, contemporary art is big business, but there is also a much stronger sense of the value of cultural heritage.’
As an example he observes: ‘In Sydney that sense is so poor the state government is aggressively trying to dismantle a major cultural asset – the Powerhouse Museum – and sell the land to developers. It’s a project that makes no sense whatsoever. Apart from costing the taxpayer more than a billion dollars, it will not give Parramatta any new arts facilities, with the development being planned as a science museum. It promotes short-term private profit over long-term public value.’ Read more 

14 September, 2018
‘Three convincing presentations; one clap-trap claim’
PMA reports that at the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry on 12th September, museum experts Kylie Winkworth, Andrew Grant and Dr Lindsay Sharp exposed major flaws in the business case documents finally supplied to Parliament, and argued that the Powerhouse Museum should remain as a long-standing state museum in Ultimo while Parramatta deserved its own museum. Reasons included insufficient consultation in both locations, risks to the collection, questionable governance arrangements, faulty financial assessments and comparative inequity with regional NSW. These applauded statements were followed by a presentation by Arts Minister Don Harwin, which was received by the audience as a public relations hype-speech, demonstrating his complete ignorance of all the issues involved and, moreover, what the Powerhouse Museum actually is.
Cross-examination by the Committee exposed, however, that while many decisions were being made there were no binding contracts in place that would inhibit a future government from changing the proposal. For transcripts of the hearing, Read more 

14 September, 2018
‘Good news from Powerhouse inquiry’
In his regular newsletter, Greens MP Jamie Parker says: ‘It’s been clear from the start that the Powerhouse move isn’t about creating the best possible museum in Western Sydney, it’s about ripping off the public by letting property developers snatch up land in Ultimo. Yesterday we got another opportunity to unpack the government’s decision with the latest in a series of Powerhouse inquiry hearings at Parliament House … It’s clear that this inquiry and the swell of community support behind it have slowed the government’s plans. Now we need to make this a high profile issue in the run up to the state election to ensure whoever wins government will not go ahead with this destructive policy. Read more: JParker-14-9-18

13 September, 2018
‘Full steam ahead’ for Powerhouse Museum relocation – but there’s a catch’ (in print as:Powerhouse fate not yet sealed’.)
Following the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, where three museum experts were interviewed (Kylie Winkworth, Andrew Grant and Dr Lindsay Sharp) followed by Arts Minister Don Harwin, Linda Morris reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The fate of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is far from sealed with the Berejiklian government conceding no binding contracts would be in place by the March election that will lock in a future government. … Harwin’s concession lays the groundwork for an election contest in western Sydney framed around vastly different positions on the provision of cultural infrastructure, with Labor arguing for the retention of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, and new exhibition, cultural and museum facilities at Parramatta, while the Coalition is promising to deliver on its new museum and planetarium project.’ … ‘Greens MP David Shoebridge put developers on notice that his party would also seek to overturn by legislation any option signed for residential or commercial redevelopment prior to the March election. The Upper House committee investigating the museum relocation heard from former museum director Lindsay Sharp who was critical of the “flimsy” business case justifying the dismantling of museum’s world-class collection…Former museum trustee Kylie Winkworth told the inquiry the $10 million cost of consultants’ fees could have built a new museum in regional NSW. ‘ Read more 

9 September, 2018
‘Government’s bankers and burning museums…’
Judith White reminds us of risks to collections, saying ‘Brazil’s Museu Nacional has burned down and most of its 20-million object collection is lost. Couldn’t happen in Australia? Not the conflagration, perhaps, but collections ARE at risk, from what one report describes as “wilful neglect”. Government policies and corporatised boards are responsible.’ Amongst many examples across the arts, she says: ‘Watch out, Gladys. The Liberal Party has just lost the seat of Wagga Wagga after 61 years. A small contributing factor, missed by most analysts, came in the form of an advert placed in last week’s Wagga Advertiser by the normally mild-mannered museum professionals of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance. It warned that the closure of the Powerhouse is “a bad deal for NSW taxpayers. Only developers will profit. Regional visitors will miss out… The Powerhouse belongs to the people of NSW, not politicians.” ‘ Read more 

5 September, 2018
‘Closing soon! The Powerhouse Museum
The Berejiklian government’s next development site’
In the lead-up to the critical by-election in Wagga Wagga on 8 September, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance placed an advertisement in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser. It drew attention to the implications for regional audiences, saying: ‘The NSW government intends to close the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and hand the site to property developers. The museum’s priceless collections will be evicted. A new museum half the size of the Powerhouse is planned for a flood prone riverbank at Parramatta, with no though for the impact on regional visitors. All this at a cost of more than $1.4b, just to move the museum 23ks west.’  Read more: (foot of page) WW advert Sept 2018
[Note: the seat was won by Independent Joe McGirr, with a 29% swing against the government]

6 September, 2018
‘Consultants must not take place of government’
The Sydney Morning Herald editorial brought together a common current concern, saying ‘There is nothing wrong with governments turning to external consultants for special expertise or fresh ideas on a tricky project. But the explosion in the use of external consultants, highlighted by the NSW auditor-general, will add to concerns that core areas of government are being outsourced and the state is losing the ability to think for itself… The state spent $327 million on consultants in 2016-17 … External consultants do not have the public service’s history of independent advice and can be motivated more by maximising fees than providing good advice. One particularly worrying issue is that consultants will provide the advice that their customers want to hear. Major consulting firms overseas have been embarrassed by fraudulent advice to governments. Ministers are already too dependent on political advice from their staff, rather than the more objective advice from career public servants. And while consultants can propose anything, they then disappear and it is public servants who have the burden of implementing them.’
Amongst many examples provided, the Business Case for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum could be easily included. Read more  

5 September, 2018
‘Closing soon! The Powerhouse Museum
The Berejiklian government’s next development site’
In the lead-up to the critical by-election in Wagga Wagga on 8 September, The Powerhouse Museum Alliance placed an advertisement in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser. It drew attention to the implications for regional audiences, saying: ‘The NSW government intends to close the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and hand the site to property developers. The museum’s priceless collections will be evicted. A new museum half the size of the Powerhouse is planned for a flood prone riverbank at Parramatta, with no though for the impact on regional visitors. All this at a cost of more than $1.4b, just to move the museum 23ks west.’ Read more: (foot of page) WW advert Sept 2018
[Note: the seat was won by Independent Joe McGirr, with a 29% swing against the government]

22 August, 2018
‘Powerhouse Property Play’
Kylie Winkworth, writing for AltMedia’s City Hub, says of the recent  advertisement for a chief executive for the Museum of Applied Arts Sciences (MAAS) that it ‘… should carry a career health warning. The successful applicant will be museum’s fourth director in just six years, a turnover that is unheard of in the museum sector. That alone should give intending applicants pause for thought, even before they start reading the 4,500 pages of the Final Business Case on moving the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) to Parramatta.’ She points out the many issues associated with cost, consultation, site risks, storage, governance and audience expectations, concluding that ‘The demolition and downsizing of the Powerhouse was always a nakedly political decision by a government that sees every project through the lens of property development.’  Read more  

21 September, 2018
it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald says he is: ‘… it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum which has been on my mind ever since an exchange of emails with Kylie Winkworth, who’s … done something I haven’t had time to do: namely read through the state government’s “secret business papers… The papers reveal that no alternatives were considered. There was no cultural mapping, no proper costings, and only the flimsiest rationales put forward. Every basic tenet of museum planning has been ignored or trounced, and the result can only be a disaster… If the Brazilians have lost a priceless cultural asset through lack of attention, what should we make of the Berejiklian government, which is actively working to demolish an award-winning building and sell the site to developers while squeezing the Powerhouse collection into a much smaller, utterly inappropriate building 23 kms away, at a cost of more than $1.4 billion to the tax payer??
The plan is blatantly inappropriate – both for the existing institution and for Parramatta, which is not getting anything it wanted out of this deal. Instead of an arts facility the city will get a Disneyfied science museum and more towering commercial and residential space. It can’t be emphasised often enough that cultural heritage is not the private property of the government of the day. It belongs to the people of NSW. Our representatives have a sacred duty to preserve this legacy for future generations, not to sacrifice it for the sole purpose of helping your mates make a quick buck.’ He concludes: ‘Museum professionals in Britain and elsewhere are apparently expressing their dismay and incredulity about this project, which will make Sydney an international laughing stock. Do we want to look like barbarians in the eyes of the world?’

16 August, 2018
‘NPRAG calls on Premier Berejiklian to stop destroying Australia’s second oldest city’
‘Seven months out from the crucial 2019 state election, the North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) calls on Premier Berejiklian to start listening to the community, stop destroying Australia’s heritage and history, and make seven urgent changes to her Government’s current policies’. These changes include protection of the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta, abandoning the State Government’s plan to destroy Willow Grove and the seven St Georges terraces to make way for two 50-storey tower blocks, retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and building a new museum in the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct.
Read more: NPRAG 16 Aug

15 August, 2018
‘Tick for Sydney Modern “Carwash” would show contempt for critics’
(in print as) ‘Gallery nod would show contempt for objectors’
Bruce Donald, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, discusses the government’s  imminent decision to build an extension of the Art Gallery of NSW across part of the Botanic Gardens. Saying, ‘While I hope it isn’t so, it appears that with the stroke of a secret pen, following a secret assessment by the Planning Department of all those 200 or more public objections, the Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, may dismiss the lot of us and consign yet another 8000 square metres of our iconic Sydney Domain public land to a palace for the wealthy to hold receptions.’
And echoing similar issues about the government’s plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, he concludes: ‘Could the minister have transparently sent the matter for a full public examination by an Independent Planning Commission? Of course, he could have, but this is not a government which is about public inquiry and transparency. This is a government about pushing through decisions on public assets as secretly as possible unless the details can be wrung out of them at the very last minute after endless obstructive processes. When the government is contemptuous of its active citizenry and turns open process into a secret rubber stamp, it corrodes and ultimately destroys the very basis of an engaged, democratic society.’ Read more 

14 August, 2018
Upper House Inquiry Committee continues report to Legislative Council
Hansard documents continuing reports from Portfolio Committee No. 4, for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in New South Wales, in a debate resumed from 22 May 2018.
The Hon. Robert Borsak (chair) and The Hon. Walt Secord continued their comments on their interim or First Report of the Inquiry, with Borsak saying ‘This inquiry should have been straightforward, but because of the lack of cooperation from this Government it has turned into a massive headache. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that a simple inquiry into museums and galleries would spark such controversy, with Ministers, Government members and senior public servants ducking for cover… The inquiry is ongoing and we expect to produce a final report later this year. However, the committee has issued this interim report in order for its recommendations to be considered by the Government alongside the final business case relating to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. What was the outcome? The Government continues to obfuscate and has done the exact opposite to what the interim report of this inquiry recommended.’ Secord added: ‘…The documents released showed that the Berejiklian Government had to cook the books and approve massive development towers at Parramatta to lift the benefit-cost ratio from 0.435 to more than one, resulting in so-called “super towers”… The committee also found that parts of the Powerhouse Museum will have to be demolished to remove the iconic exhibits and move them into storage or to the Parramatta site… While the portfolio committee canvassed challenges for rural and regional galleries and museums and the repeated failure by the current Minister for the Arts to listen to their concerns, the overwhelming evidence to the committee related to the Government’s decision to forcibly move the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. But in relation to general arts functioning, the disappointment surrounding the distribution of funds from the Regional Cultural Fund is overwhelming and palpable.’ For full record:  Read more 

12 August, 2018
‘Truth telling and cultural amnesia’
In her regular blog, commentator Judith White discusses ‘Truth telling’ as ‘the theme of this year’s Garma festival, held in northeast Arnhemland on the first weekend of August… Telling the truth should be a simple matter, shouldn’t it? Yet when it comes to the nation’s history, for those in positions of power it seems to be the hardest ask.’ Following several examples she also notes of ‘The culture heist in NSW’ and the Powerhouse Museum, that ‘Director Dolla Merrilees resigned, when Arts Minister Don Harwin should have, and his department announced that there would now be no director but instead a CEO with property and construction experience to oversee the hugely controversial move to Parramatta. Merrilees and the museum’s Trust bent over backwards to accommodate the NSW Government’s ambitions for the move. Now Merrilees has been sacrificed, the Trust has been sidelined and the needs of the priceless collection, which no longer has a qualified head of conservation, are completely ignored. A major museum has been effectively taken over by NSW Inc as a pawn in its property dealings. It’s hard to imagine this happening anywhere else but in real-estate- and money-obsessed Sydney where colonisation began in 1788…The well-informed professionals of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance continue to campaign against the ludicrous move, and the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has been asking all the right questions about what dirty property deals have been done, … But the reasons for the Government’s obstinacy, in the face of expert opinion and public condemnation, remain shrouded in secrecy. Truth telling? Not in Macquarie Street.’ Read more 

July-August 2018
Applications called for ‘Chief Executive Museum Of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS)’ closing date 21/08/2018
Following the resignation of the former director of MAAS, and the announcement that the subsequent position would be that of a CEO rather than a Director, this advertisement was placed. The task is to:
– Ensure efficient and effective management of all Museum operations
– Lead organisation through transformational change, including development of new Museum at Parramatta
– Develop and review policies and programs
-Establish major strategic direction
Read here for published details of this position, or here: Chief Executive MAAS

1 August, 2018
‘Powerhouse: Trust knew of losses caused by fashion ball’
on line as: ‘Powerhouse Museum trust knew of fashion ball losses’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on minutes of the Board of Trustees, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, which demonstrate the government’s intervention in the role and responsibilities of the Trust.
‘At its second meeting of the year in May [2018], the board ”noted” a summary of the final budget breakdown for the black-tie event which was later revealed to have cost the museum $215,209.50…[but] made no recommendations. The trust was instead concerned by the government’s new ”governance” structure which is expected to reduce the board’s direct oversight of the $1.2 billion museum build on the Parramatta riverfront and redevelopment of the Ultimo site. … The Berejiklian government seems intent on instituting a new business management model to drive the relocation of the museum to western Sydney by 2023. In the final business case consultants, Johnstaff Projects, recommended a new Project Steering Committee, comprising mostly government bureaucrats and a single trust representative, be directly accountable for the Parramatta museum project. The trust would have an advisory capacity on key documentation and policy.
Former trust president, Nick Pappas, [said]… it was extraordinary that the board had not taken a more active role in defending the institution and its prized collection. While statutory trusts were established for the purpose of ”creating separation” between government and the institution, the trust minutes of May indicated the Department of Planning and Environment was driving the new museum project, he said.” Since when does a planning department tell a statutory trust of a cultural institution about its so-called new governance framework,” Mr Pappas said.… ”They are custodians of the museum’s collection representing the wishes of benefactors who have given their most prized artefacts over the last century …Now is the time for benefactors, museum staff and lovers of the Powerhouse Museum to make a stand. It is not too late.” ’ Read more 

1 August, 2018
‘Libraries call for help balancing the books’’
(on-line as: ‘Renew our Libraries campaign: Councils’ plea for funding “crisis” fix’)
Reporting on a similar situation to that of regional – and state – museums, Megan Gorrey, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports of funding cuts to libraries, that they are: ‘…an amenity the NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW will fight to preserve amid insufficient funding they say threatens the viability of 360 public libraries across the state. They will urge both sides of politics to double spending and commit to a sustainable funding model for libraries in the lead-up to next year’s state election through the Renew our Libraries campaign. From Wednesday, public library users across NSW will be encouraged to sign a petition calling for a fairer funding model. Local Government NSW president Linda Scott – who is also a City of Sydney councillor – said funding for public libraries had reached “crisis point” and they were struggling to maintain services. She said the Berejiklian government slashed recurrent funding to libraries by 5 per cent in its most recent budget. It also cut off “much-needed” infrastructure funding, which is still available in regional areas, for metropolitan libraries, Cr Scott said.’ Read more 

31 July, 2018
Arts bodies decry ‘one of poorest funding rounds in history’
Reflecting further examples of the government’s reduced funding of cultural organisations, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘In a rare move, 60 arts bodies have come together to criticise the latest round of project funding for small to medium arts bodies administered by Create NSW. Of 222 applications in round two of the NSW Arts and Cultural Projects fund, six projects were supported to a total value of $256,029, representing a success rate of just 2.7 per cent. Success rates of between 15 and 30 per cent are typical of these arts funding rounds, according to the executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Esther Anatolitis. In the previous round, 23 projects worth $886,341 were funded for a success rate of 17 per cent.  In  2016, 41 projects were funded to the value of $1.5 million giving a success rate of 27 per cent. ”In terms of arts policy, project funding is where the adventurous risk-taking is and where you need to invest with courage,” Anatolitis said. ”It’s more than surprising, it’s shocking and deeply concerning that only six projects were supported. These are the only project rounds proposing to develop exciting new work for risk-taking audiences. Think of the size of NSW.”’ Read more 

31 July, 2018
Culture experts deplore the latest ‘Powerhouse Move’ blunders’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook page, comments: ‘The “Powerhouse move” saga is rapidly reaching the level of high farce with revelations that a February “fundraising ball ” cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, followed by the unexplained dismissal of the …Museum Director, Dolla Merrillees.’ They say: ‘These latest examples of Government mismanagement have evoked scathing comment from museum and cultural experts associated with the Powerhouse Museum Alliance’, and provide quotes from leading museum specialist and former Powerhouse trustee, Kylie Winkworth, believes the Arts Minister should resign… “He has seen one of the most cynical and destructive processes in the cultural history of NSW …”; former deputy director Jennifer Sanders, who said ‘… I can only assume (the ball) was an ill-conceived, desperate measure to link in with some fashion elites and (the Minister) has now decided to have a fashion museum here. It won’t be a museum here, it will be some tiny gallery”;… [while] founding Director of the Powerhouse Museum, Dr Lindsay Sharp, … raises the question of whether Merrillees was simply a scapegoat; … [and] well-known cultural commentator Leo Schofield posted on his website “…Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her inept arts minister Don plough on, despite massive opposition…to wilfully destroy a splendid and much-loved cultural institution with a great history and irreplaceable collection. Is there no way to stop what is plainly an insane decision?” he concludes.’ And finally Save the Powerhouse says: ‘YES this madness CAN be stopped – by us, the people of NSW – at the ballot box in March 2019.’ Read more 

28 July, 2018
In his weekly newsletter, art critic John McDonald comments on the implications of recent events at the Powerhouse Museum:  ‘You know that feeling when you’ve no sooner arrived at your destination and you hear everything’s gone wrong at home? I experienced that the other night … The first news from home was that the Nine Network had just absorbed Fairfax Media, which publishes the newspapers I contribute to every week…
…Leaving one story hanging by its fingernails I then learned that Dolla Merrillees is resigning from the directorship of the Powerhouse Museum as a result of the ludicrous fashion ball (intended as a fund-raiser), that failed badly and ran up a bill. Well, it was a dumb idea, but not as dumb – or anywhere near as expensive – as the idea of moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta. The fashion ball looks like one of those desperate gambits somebody dreams up when a museum is floating in limbo. With the impending move – or should we simply say “destruction” – on the horizon, it’s hard to plan shows, make new acquisitions, attract donors and sponsors, and keep good staff. The ball was like the last fling on the Titanic… The real horror is that the government is using her resignation as an opportunity to remove the position of “director” and replace her with a “manager” that will oversee the relocation. We’ve seen many times that when a gallery or museum director is replaced by a manager, disaster soon follows.
Of course, it could be argued that the disaster has already happened, but until they start demolishing the building there must still be some hope that this ill-conceived, secretive, hugely expensive piece of bastardry can be stopped, or at least paused until Gladys’s team pay the ultimate price at the ballot box for the ruin they’ve inflicted on Sydney…’
Read more: 28 July John McD 

27 July, 2018
‘Failed fashion ball claims Powerhouse Museum director’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, announces that: ‘Dolla Merrillees, the director of the Powerhouse Museum who presided over the institution’s failed fashion ball which caused the museum to spend three times more money than it raised, has stepped down. Ms Merrillees will not be returning to lead the museum’s relocation from Harris St, Ultimo to a new purpose-built building on the Parramatta Riverside…
Ms Merrillees’s departure comes as the museum has been haemorrhaging specialist expertise. The museum is without a manager of conservation, head of development and a senior audio-visual technician. The director of external affairs left soon after the fashion ball. The museum’s maintenance department is making all trades roles redundant – three electricians and three machine fitters – and these are expected to be replaced by external contracts. Those staff will leave in September. Curators are very concerned about the splitting of the collection given the disciplines are interconnected. The head of Sydney Observatory resigned in September 2017, and the head of the Museum’s Discovery Centre resigned last December…
The position of director, which Merrillees has held since April 2016, has been abolished and a new position of chief executive officer will be advertised by the government in the next week to supervise the museum’s relocation, site building works and transformation. Ms Merrillees had decided not to apply and will not return to the museum after an extended period of leave ends in September. “The department will be commencing a recruitment process for a new Chief Executive for the MAAS in the coming days.” Inquiry’s chairman, Mr Borsak said the new CEO position was about the government appointing a ”developer’s dog” to strong arm the development process and destroy the Powerhouse Museum once and for all. Former trustee, Kylie Winkworth, said the turnover of three directors in six years was a disaster and unheard of in the museum sector. ”Three museum directors have gone from a great museum under this government,” she said. ”Perhaps the problem at MAAS is not with the directors but the government’s museum demolition plans. ” ‘ Read more 

26 July, 2018
‘Done like a dinner: Museum’s black-tie debacle’
… on-line as ‘She should go: Calls for Powerhouse Museum director to resign over fashion ball’
Following the release of documents through FOI, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, identifies the costs of running the Powerhouse Museum’s inaugural fashion ball in early 2018, compared with the minimal revenue raised. ‘The extravagance has been condemned by the chairman of the Upper House inquiry investigating the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to a new riverside location in Parramatta at a cost of more than a $1 billion.’ MLC Robert Borsak said of the director: ‘ “She should go … It’s an outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money, especially in these times when they are shifting the museum to Parramatta and are launching a fashion design gallery at the site where the Powerhouse should be kept.”’ Morris continues: ‘A dedicated fashion and design museum of 4000 square metres will be all that is left on site at Ultimo when the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is relocated to a purpose-built site at Parramatta by 2021.’…‘Despite the poor returns, the museum insists the event was successful and achieved its objectives by “introducing the Centre for Fashion to key stakeholders, building relationships with key corporate, industry and cultural partners, raising funding for the Australian Fashion Fund, increasing MAAS’ fashion collection and enhancing the reputation of MAAS as the leading public centre for fashion in Australia”.’
‘Former Powerhouse trustee, Kylie Winkworth, said the minister should also fall on his sword. “He has seen one of the most cynical and destructive processes in the cultural history of NSW, driving the demolition of a great public museum, endowed by generations of NSW taxpayers and philanthropists,” she said. “The minister’s ambition is to strip the museum of its land and purpose-designed buildings so the site can be handed to property developers. It is a grotesque betrayal of his responsibilities…The debacle of the MAAS fashion ball is just a sideshow in the sad shrinkage of the museum’s focus, collecting and capacity … As we have said since 2014, there is no need to demolish the PHM to build a new museum in Parramatta.”’ Read more 

25 July, 2018
Powerhouse Museum director, Arts Minister ‘should resign’ over ‘ego trip’ fashion fundraiser, MP says
For ABC news, Michaela Boland and Alison Branley report that ‘The director of the Powerhouse Museum and NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin should step down over a lavish fundraiser that cost taxpayers almost three times what it raised, one state MP says.’ MLC Robert Borsak ‘described the event as a “fashion knees-up” and “ego trip” for Mr Harwin, who told Parliament earlier this year the event made more than $70,000 but failed to say the Powerhouse spent $215,000 in public funds to do so… On Tuesday, a spokesman for Mr Harwin said: “The responses given to parliament were based on advice received from the director of the museum…The MAAS [Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences] Ball was entirely organised by the MAAS Trust and MAAS staff.” Mr Borsak responded, saying it was Mr Harwin’s responsibility. “The reality is the Minister is the one responsible and he should take responsibility for this particular soiree and waste of taxpayers’ money and he should resign,” he said.
Former deputy director Jennifer Sanders said the ball that was billed as Australia’s answer to the Met Gala was “ill-conceived” and placed too much of the museum’s focus on fashion… She said the museum “didn’t need to throw a flashy ball to build a brand … I don’t know what’s going on. I can only assume it was an ill-conceived, desperate measure to link in with some fashion elites and clearly it caught the Minister’s attention because he’s now decided to have a fashion museum here. It won’t be a museum here, it will be some tiny gallery.” Ms Sanders said a museum should be wary of such an “expensive branding exercise”. Plans to move the cash-strapped Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta have been highly criticised during that inquiry, as has the Arts Minister.’ Read more 

19 July, 2018
Mayor slams ‘mean and vicious group’
MaryAnne Taok in the Parramatta Advertiser reports that ‘The North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group has been slammed as “desperate” and “cruel” after attacks on the mayor over the State Government’s plan for Willow Grove heritage house.’ NPRAG had raised over 12,000 signatures in a petition to save this and other significant historical buildings from demolition to make way for the ‘new’ Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. Mayor Andrew Wilson, who had been controversially elected as Mayor of City of Parramatta Council in September 2017 (see SMH ’Secret deal hands independents mayoralty at Parramatta council’: Read more ) was proposing to send a letter to premier Gladys Berejiklian ‘as a follow-up to a previous one which councillors deemed “too soft”.’ But Wilson announced he would exclude NPRAG from consultation, although NPRAG President said Wilson said ‘Our fight is with the State Government that wants to destroy Australia’s glorious history by hook or by crook as long as there’s a dollar to be made’.
Read more  or  19 July P-Advertiser

16 July, 2018
‘Going, going, gone – the final spiral of a cultural icon?’
In his regular blog, cultural researcher and writer, Stephen Cassidy, discusses his experience of the Powerhouse Museum: ‘Despite its fragmented nature, the Powerhouse Museum was a great design museum precisely because it was also a museum of science and technology – and a museum of social history, which could place it all in a historical and social context. In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. The current travails of the internationally renowned Powerhouse are a measure of a lack of strategic vision, including from successive governments which have never properly grasped the power of culture in shaping society and the need for the long-term substantial commitment to enable it.’ He describes his responses to two current exhibitions, Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015, and Common Good, an exhibition of work by designers from Australia and Asia that shows the vast range of ways design can be used to solve problems, asking of the changes proposed for the museum: ‘Where will exhibitions of this relevance and calibre be exhibited and, more importantly, developed, once these short-sighted changes have become real[and] the continual fiddling with the Powerhouse is finished?’ Cassidy applauds that ‘In a bid to break free from the lack of transparency of the whole process, part of the campaign to halt the dismantling and relocation of the Powerhouse Museum has released the hitherto secret business case documents provided under pressure by the NSW government to its Upper House, the Legislative Council, about the proposal by the State Government to move the museum to western Sydney … The current travails of the Powerhouse Museum are a sad reflection of this shallow lack of understanding and vision.’  Read more 
He concludes, about the continuing relevance of the museum: ‘With its extensive collection of design of all kinds, from engineering to fashion to ceramics and jewellery, and with its links to industry, I always had high hopes for the Powerhouse Museum.’ and refers to previous blogs:
The grand design of things: ..lost unrealised potential of the Powerhouse Museum‘: Read more 
The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival’: Read more 
‘Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy’: Read more 

13 July, 2018
‘… Sydney museum move could be most expensive gallery relocation in history’
Tim Stone, in The Art Newspaper, an international online and print publication with offices in London and New York, draws attention to continuing dilemmas regarding the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum, including how  ‘critics fear that plan will lead to parts of the … collection being sold off’. Noting that ‘The Powerhouse Museum incorporates a historic power station and a tram depot with a contemporary steel-and-glass structure, and won the Sulman Medal, Australia’s most prestigious architecture award’ he continues: ‘Despite the accolade, the Powerhouse Museum is not protected by heritage legislation, putting its historic buildings at risk once sold. “It did not have a heritage listing because no one would have thought in their wildest imaginings of pulling it down—you wouldn’t think of pulling down the Musee d’Orsay or the Louvre,” says [historian] Tom Lockley…’. And Stone quotes museum expert Kylie Winkworth who asks: ‘“What civilised government plans a A$1.2bn project to shrink a major state museum, make it less accessible to visitors… downgrading its facilities and putting the museum on a flood-prone riverbank?” Winkworth says. “It would be cheaper to keep the museum and build a new museum in Parramatta.” ’ Read more 

 9 July, 2018
Transcripts of Parramatta rally speeches
‘On Sunday 8 July 2018, North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) organised a protest against the destruction of the beautiful heritage listed 1870s villa, Willow Grove, and the seven St. Georges Terraces in Parramatta. On the back of our 12,500-signature petition, and supported by a network of community groups, we were thrilled that over 175 people attended to send a clear message to Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the State Member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee MP, that we completely oppose the destruction of Parramatta’s heritage – and Australia’s history – to make way for two 50-plus storey tower blocks and a basement museum. Please sign our petition:…
Speakers in order of appearance: 1. Aidan Anderson, NPRAG President 2. Brian Powyer, President of the National Trust of Australia – NSW Branch (speech pending approval for circulation) 3. Clr Michelle Garrard, Parramatta Council – Deputy Lord Mayor 4. Julia Finn MP, State Member for Granville, representing Luke Foley MP – LOP 5. Clr Donna Davis, Parramatta Council 6. Clr Phil Bradley, Parramatta Council 7. Liz Scully, candidate for state seat of Parramatta 8. Clr Paul Garrard, Cumberland Council. Read more 

5 July, 2018
‘Suffocating Sydneysiders rise up against overdevelopment’
Aidan Anderson reports in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Look around Sydney and you’ll see battles being waged in nearly every suburb between residents’ action groups and the state government. From Penrith to Bondi the warzones are green spaces, heritage buildings and community facilities. The terms of conflict are consistent: the government is attempting to override local opposition to overdevelopment in underserviced suburbs.
A conflux of changes has contributed to the explosion of residents’ action groups [including the Baird/Berejiklian government’s decision] to forcibly merge councils and appoint administrators to oversee decision-making. Stripped of local representation, residents were forced to self-organise to oppose reckless developments. … The common refrain by those whose commercial interest is interrupted by these groups is to accuse them of NIMBYism, naive tree-huggers unaware of economic imperatives. Developers argue that they are responding to demand fuelled by Australia’s soaring population.
…The false dilemma of “houses or heritage” positions preservation of our history as an obstruction to progress. The question we must ask is whether the plan for a city is viable when liveability requires carnage. In Parramatta, the community’s answer is increasingly becoming “no”. When the community discovered that the plan to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta required the demolition of the 150-year-old Willow Grove and St George’s Terraces, to be replaced by two 50-plus storey tower blocks, local opposition exploded. The North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group petition secured more than 10,000 signatures in a week.
…A stone’s throw from Willow Grove, the 30-hectare Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta is home to 77 state heritage-listed buildings.. Set against this rich history, the location presents a unique opportunity to create contemporary arts and cultural precinct, infused with the continent’s colonial legacy and Indigenous history. Such a site would be special to the world.
Or it could be a human ant colony.’ Read more

5 July, 2018
‘Parramatta residents fight to save heritage buildings in the shadow of Powerhouse Museum move’
And Josh Harris writes on the same subject in Architectureau, saying: ‘…The business case documents released by the government in June contain cost projections for three possible scenarios for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum: a bare-bones “baseline” move which would deliver 5,650 square metres of gallery space and 12,180 metres square of net museum area for a cost of $454 million; a similar option with additional gallery space to be equivalent to the Powerhouse Museum; and a third option which would include a planetarium as well as additional function, events and education space. The report states that the third option, which will cost an estimated $674 million, is the preferred option since it is consistent with the government’s assertion that the new museum will be “bigger and better” than its Ultimo counterpart. All options would involve the demolition of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. The North Parramatta Residents Action Group is holding a protest at Willow Grove on 8 July to “send a message” to Berejiklian and the state member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee.’  Read more

27 June, 2018
Waltzing Matilda as ‘Let’s Save the Powerhouse’
‘Let’s Save the Powerhouse’ recorded live at the Gladstone Park Bowling Club in Balmain, Sydney. Original lyrics by Tim Glover, performed by Sue Lister and Tim Glover, published on sawmilqueen (To the tune of Waltzing Matilda, the lyrics trace the decision-making process in Parliament and the protests about moving the Powerhouse Museum.) Listen here on YouTube.

27 June, 2018
‘State wreckers hit Parramatta’
In Altmedia, Erika Echternach writes that a petition to save Parramatta’s Willow Grove received over 10,000 signatures in one week. ‘For as deep and rich as Parramatta’s history is, it has an equally long history of seeing its heritage sites demolished to for the sake of development. Most recently, freshly released State Government documents regarding the Powerhouse Museum move revealed that Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s wrecking ball is poised to strike again – this time aimed at Parramatta’s Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace heritage sites…
The petition was organised by the North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group … president, Aidan Anderson, said…“This has created a lot of community angst, a lot of community resentment,” ..[what] “People in Parramatta … see around them is basically State Government knocking everything down and replacing it with deals for developments.”
Donna Davis, a member of the City of Parramatta Council, explained that both the at-risk sites hold significant meaning for many members of the community, especially Willow Grove which used to serve as a maternity hospital…“We just can’t let these buildings on our watch, as the custodians of this city, be taken away from future generations.” … Cr Davis initiated a motion recommending the Council advises the NSW State Government on considering local heritage items within the design brief, hoping to preserve St George’s Terrace and Willow Grove and incorporate them into the design of any development on the Powerhouse Site…“The priority seems to be making money,” Cr Davis said. “And that is going to take precedence over the heritage.” Patricia Johnson, a member of the Ultimo Save the Powerhouse group, said everyone would win if the government did what the people wanted and kept the museum in Ultimo, but with the current plan to demolish historical sites everyone loses. “The move of the Powerhouse obviously involves destroying heritage,” Ms Johnson said … Mr Anderson suggested that rather than demolishing heritage sites to move a second rate, hatchet job version of the Powerhouse to a floodplain at the bottom of two 250 metre skyscraper towers, an arts and cultural precinct could be built at the 26-hectare Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta. But based on the government’s past decisions, Mr Anderson doubts it will alter any plans.’  Read more 

25 June, 2018
City of Parramatta Council discusses issues of heritage buildings
Extracts from the minutes of a meeting of the City of Parramatta Council on 25 June, 2018, record submissions made by Councillors Donna Davis and Michelle Garrard, regarding the state government’s business reports advising that the properties Willow Grove and eight terrace buildings on St Georges Terrace form a portion of the land to be transferred to the NSW Government to deliver the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS). It was noted that a substantial petition had condemned the proposed use of this land, and that: ‘…It will ultimately be the decision of the state government as to whether the heritage buildings will be retained and they will need to seek planning approval for all development on the site.’ Among other resolutions, it was agreed to consult with both local constituents and the state government, and:
–   that the Lord Mayor write to the Minister for the Arts and Minister for Planning regarding a strategic approach for the site and alternatives for the site that are more consistent with the City’s plans and vision for this site.
–   that Council advises the NSW State Government that the relevant Council endorsed policies and strategies including the CBD Planning Strategy, River Strategy and Civic Link Plan are to be addressed within the design, to ensure that the MAAS development respects the site and its orientation to both the City and River.
–   that Council issue a statement that corrects public misconceptions that a development application has been lodged for the demolition on either Willow Grove or St George’s Terrace. Read more: Minutes P Council 25 June 18

23 June, 2019
‘…demolishing significant Parramatta buildings to make way for the Museum’
Simon Marnie, on ABC Radio 702, interviews Suzette Meade, Secretary of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) about the recently released business plan for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, which includes demolishing significant Parramatta buildings to make way for the Museum and its adjacent towers. Read more 

20 June, 2018
Premier loosens purse strings in NSW budget’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald comments on the NSW government budget, saying it was:  ‘…delivering a budget that creates many winners, few losers and sets aside a small but creditable surplus. The state is awash with tens of billions in cash from an unprecedented privatisation program that has included the sale of ports, electricity businesses, the land titles office and the transfer of the state’s share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the federal government. Aside from its controversial plans for massive spending on sports stadiums and the baffling and expensive decision to move the Powerhouse Museum, the government has mostly resisted political urges to squander that war chest and the benefits of properly targeted spending are already being felt across the state…’ Read more 

20 June, 2018
‘ANZ Stadium upgrade waits on business case’
Jacob Saulwick, in the Sydney Morning Herald,  reports that: ‘The source of funding for a revamped ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park will wait on a final business case for the project, while the government plies on with a $729 million new stadium for Moore Park.’ After further discussion about stadium options, he also noted that: ‘The budget also showed significant spending on capital works programs at cultural institutions, even as recurrent funding for some of those institutions is planned to be cut. For instance, the government has set aside $120 million over the next four years for the $240 million expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW. But expenses are due to fall by 3.5 per cent at the Museum next year. Expenses at the Australian Museum – where a new exhibition hall is to be built – is to drop 8 per cent next year, while the State Library’s expenses are to drop 4 per cent.’  Read more 

20 June, 2018
‘Don’t Destroy Our Heritage’ (a petition)
The North Parramatta Residents Action group (NPRAG) organised a petition to save the heritage buildings listed to be demolished for the construction of the ‘new museum’ in Parramatta.  Read more  ‘The State Government wants to tear down the much loved state heritage listed 1870s Victorian Italianate villa, Willow Grove in Philip Street, Parramatta. Originally a private villa … Willow Grove was purchased by the City of Parramatta Council as part of plans for an open foreshore reserve. However, subsequently and while Council was under administration, plans were progressed by the government to relocate the Powerhouse to one of Parramatta’s most flood prone sites. More recently the business case was revealed.  This indicates Willow Grove will be demolished as part of plans to relocate the Museum. …Enough is enough! Join us in calling on the Premier to stop the madness and from pushing ahead with the flawed business case for the Powerhouse Museum relocation.
Rather than build the Powerhouse Museum on a floodplain under a 250m high skyscraper towers with limited space, and demolish one of Parramatta’s most treasured buildings … the 26 ha Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta … could become a world class Arts & Cultural Precinct for Western Sydney celebrating the region’s unique heritage and diversity and thereby saving Willow Grove while retaining the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo. In short, a win for everyone.’

20 June, 2018
‘Historic buildings demolished if Powerhouse Museum relocation preferred option selected’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, follows up information revealed in the now-public Business Case papers saying: ‘Redacted State Government documents on the museum’s relocation to Parramatta were released this month. They reveal information that has remained a secret until now. It has been revealed two of the region’s historical sites are earmarked for demolition to make the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences museum “work”. Willow Grove, located at 34 Phillip St, was built in the 1870s and has been home to a hospital in many reincarnations. It is one of the at-risk sites. Residents and local groups are also rallying to save St George’s Terrace, located on the corner of Wilde Ave and Phillip St, from being gobbled up by the development… Adding weight to keeping the historic buildings is Parramatta Council’s 2017-2022 Cultural Plan which lists state significant heritage sites and significant archaeological sites, which both of the at-risk sites are included. The plan’s focus includes celebrating Parramatta’s history.’
And further: ‘To fight for council’s stance, Parramatta Labor councillor Donna Davis will put a motion forward at next Monday night’s meeting. She said the council needs a say in the museum, having stood by and watched the project unfold since its relocation was announced by the then-premier Mike Baird in 2015. “We need a seat at the table. We don’t have a seat but we deserve one,” Cr Davis said. “We were cut out of any involvement in the business case and that seems ludicrous.”’  In the Comments section,North Parramatta Residents Action Group’s Suzette Meade, said: “Protecting Parramatta’s heritage should be a priority but it looks like the Berejiklian Government’s bulldozers are back in town.” Read more 

 18 June, 2018
‘Government response to Inquiry interim report’
We have been advised that ‘The government response to the Inquiry into museums and galleries is now available’. This is, in fact, the Interim report, because following the extra 9th and 10th hearings, the final report will be presented on 17 October, 2018.
See here for The Inquiry committee’s web location.
See here for the Government’s response.

 16 June, 2018
‘Pity Parramatta, victim of an elitist land grab’
In The Sydney Morning Herald, Elizabeth Farrelly questions recent criticisms of the Vivid festival: ‘Elitist? Seriously? Exhortations to excellence aren’t elitist. Critiquing some popular art event is no more elitist than training people to swim fast or kick a decent goal. I’ll tell you what is elitist, though. Grabbing every damn thing for the wealthy and powerful. That’s elitist – and it’s destroying Sydney. You might think the Berejiklianistas are trashing inner and northern Sydney and you’d be right. They are. But spare a thought for the west. In particular, pity Parramatta. Supporters may call the Powerhouse move a “victory” for western Sydney but honestly, with victories like this you don’t need defeats.’ Amongst a number of examples she mentions: ‘First, Parramatta’s beautiful old hospital site is slated for an epidemic-size rash of resi-towers…Next, the Berejiklianistas close Parramatta’s much-loved public pool for a stadium that quarantines swathes of parkland to benefit huge commercial interests …
Then, the coup de grace. Even before the parliamentary inquiry was complete or the business case available, and despite immense public outcry, they decide to move Sydney’s … Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta…Did I say move? Calling the Powerhouse fiasco a “move” makes it sound simple, a timely and elegant rebalancing of the cultural scales. In fact it’s a billion-dollar knock down-rebuild that involves relocating hundreds of tonnes of priceless objects, selling off still more prime public land for mega-development and demolishing significant heritage buildings. What it’s moving, in short, is a great dollop of wealth from public to private. The so-called “business case” documents, which finally appeared this week, reveal even more bad news.’
Farrelly discusses in detail the destruction of the Riverbank site in Parramatta, including ‘eight listed heritage buildings and a possible archaeological site along Phillip Street …The Powerhouse will occupy a site currently owned by Parramatta Council, to be purchased by the state for an undisclosed sum (figure redacted). The heritage buildings, bought by the council with this (no doubt) in mind, will be demolished and part of the site sold-on for a super-tower.’ Two buildings, she says: ‘are listed on Schedule 5 as fine examples of the ancient fabric of our second-oldest settlement. Yet the “business case” says both must go. When former premier Mike Baird was grilled in the Upper House inquiry into museums and galleries last month it became very clear that the decision on the Powerhouse was taken first, and then the business case was constructed to justify it. If that justification demands flogging two major pieces of prime public land for a nasty private view-grabbing tower, demolishing eight 140-year old heritage-listed houses in public ownership then yes, elitist is precisely the word.’ Read more

16 June, 2018
‘Splash goes the cash for NSW’s pre-election budget’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald reviews some issues leading up to the forthcoming state budget: ‘NSW voters are being softened up for the 2018 state budget and the good news is coming thick and fast. (And once they’ve been suitably softened, they will get any bad news next Tuesday with the document itself.)’ As well as discussing funding to be provided for schools, ambulance services and incentives for businesses to set up in regional centres, it says: ‘All these initiatives are needed but they are not enough…TAFE, for example, needs restoration to its former health. Public transport needs to be expanded and not just in Sydney…The list goes on.
As the government races for the finish line – the state election next March – its progress would be a good deal faster if it had not placed large pieces of lead in its own saddlebags: the billions set aside for the dubious stadium projects and the expensive and baffling Powerhouse Museum move. This week we learned that not even government ministers – who had to sell the projects to a sceptical public – were given the business cases on which the decision to demolish and rebuild three stadiums was based. It says a lot, and none of it good … if the government could not even trust its own members to know what that case is. [Other examples show]… It is emerging as part of a pattern of waste and extravagance. If the government continues this loose way in the budget, it will deserve to lose the election. … The Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, boasts of his government’s strong economic management. It has been competent but some big decisions have been flawed. His budget must show the government has come to its senses, has given up its taste for expensive follies and is focusing resources where they are genuinely needed.’ Read more 

14 June, 2018
‘Sydney has an insatiable appetite for culture but won’t share the spoils’
Andy Marks, assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University, writes in The Sydney Morning Herald about reported ‘overcrowding’ at the Sydney Vivid festival, and says: ‘How dreadful. Basking in the glow of all that culture has never been so gruelling. Meanwhile, in large areas of western Sydney, the closest we get to a light show is a mosquito sparking the insect zapper at the local chicken shop,’ and discusses arguments about comparative access to Parramatta and western Sydney. He claims that: ‘Culture doesn’t mysteriously evaporate at the point where Broadway becomes Parramatta Road. Nor should arts and cultural institutions be necessarily wedded to one spot. The Powerhouse, for instance, moved between three locations before settling at Ultimo and pending relocation to Parramatta. Changing the nature and location of our encounters with arts and culture is critical if we are to extend their capacity to enliven and shape our cities. In The Shock of the New, Hughes observed that the opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in the late 1800s marked a pronounced “change” in “the conditions for seeing. It wasn’t the view of the tower from the ground that counted, it was seeing the ground from the tower.… When we look to redress structural inequity in the arts, or even just capacity constraints, look first at the possibilities a changed view can bring. Otherwise, Sydney, “how would you like [your culture] served? All, uh, mixed up together in a bucket?” ’  Read more  See also: Letters June 15 

 13 June, 2018
‘Demolition’ required to move Powerhouse collection
(in print 14 June: ‘Demolition’ required to move exhibits)
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘The herculean scale and complexity of shifting 338,000 heritage items from Ultimo is detailed in a comprehensive report developed as part of the new museum’s business case made public on Tuesday that underlines the risks of managing the largest museum move in modern memory… Parts of the Powerhouse Museum will need to be demolished to remove iconic exhibits from display and move them to storage or their new Parramatta riverside home.’ She notes: ‘The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences is the custodian of a collection of around 500,000 items, valued at more than $311.5 million, built up over 150 years and renowned throughout the state, Australia and the world…Most of the 338,000 items based at Ultimo, including 6000 on exhibition, will need to be relocated and stored until the new museum opens in 2023 …The cost of relocation is estimated at $65.7 million, revised from an original estimate of $85.9 million, with a further $9.5 million needed for special commercial climate-controlled temporary storage to house some of the 32 “very large objects” that cannot be fitted into expanded facilities at Castle Hill built at a cost of around $50 million.  The Parramatta museum will have minimal storage space. “These objects will require extensive planning and risk analysis, as well as contractor resources and demolition of parts of the fabric of the Powerhouse Museum to move,” the report said.
The huge relocation was an opportunity to consider objects and materials in the collection that may no longer be required, though deaccession, the report said, should be undertaken with “great care”. Former Powerhouse Museum trustee, Kylie Winkworth, said donors and collectors were very concerned that the move would become an excuse for mass deaccessioning, given space pressures on what will be smaller storage facilities. “This is the time when museums make dreadful mistakes,” Ms Winkworth said. “In recent years MAAS has contracted its collecting to focus on a limited range of currently fashionable subjects. Many areas of the applied arts are no longer collected or on display. The museum has ceased collecting items of Australia history, an area where it has very significant collections that underpinned its popular social history exhibitions. “Will these collections be deaccessioned? What a disgrace that NSW is the only state in the country that does not a museum responsible for the history of this state.” ‘ Read more 

13 June, 2018
‘Powerhouse museum will double entry fees at Parramatta site’
The Public Service Association of NSW reports on the proposed costs for visitors in the ‘new museum’ in Parramatta, saying: ‘It will not only cost taxpayers $1.1 billion to relocate, the end result will be a 400% increase in the cost of visiting the Museum, another example of the Government tearing down public amenities to sell them to property developers.’ In Comments, Nigel Miles adds: ‘ People of Western Sydney, do not be fooled by this government plan to move the Powerhouse Museum. This has nothing to do with giving you better access to cultural institutions. This is about selling off a public asset and allow property developers another opportunity to make millions out of a publicly owned asset.’ Read more 

12 June, 2018
‘Powerhouse documents show Ultimo sell-off plan’
(in print 13 June: ‘Museum site was marked for housing’)
After going through the documents supplied to the Upper House in Parliament, Linda Morris (Sydney Morning Herald) reports on many issues of planning and costing where it appears that decisions have been made for economic rather than cultural reasons: ‘…A report for the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office discloses an investment case has already been prepared for the creation of the Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct once the inner-city museum site is decommissioned. The preferred option includes two to three storeys of office space, a fashion and design museum of 4426 square metres, a restaurant and bar, and the repurposing of existing heritage buildings as a 1500-seat lyric theatre … [In Parramatta] The final business case justifying the museum’s move benchmarked a museum general admission fee of $15 and a ticket price of $34 per adult, $26 per child for separate entry to the Planetarium. …Greens MLC David Shoebridge said a family of four would be more than $150 out of pocket for a single visit and this flew in the face of the government’s own analysis which warned new museum visitors would be extremely price sensitive …The final business case assumes a 20 per cent increase in sponsorship for the new museum quickly ramping up to 40 per cent and a fillip in attendances…But the government has been warned the decision to relocate the museum is not popular and unless properly marketed, the museum may not attract interstate and international visitors and inner-city communities in the same number. Labor’s arts spokesman, Walter Secord, said the documents made clear there was no case to move the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta and “the government was making it up as it moved along”.  The withholding of key financial details indicated the government had failed to comply with the spirit of the parliamentary resolution. Read more 

13 June, 2018
Development tower ‘powers museum move’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian, says of a released business case for the Powerhouse Museum move that it ‘spells out just how much development will have to occur to make the project economical.’ He discusses how ‘getting the move … above the BCR (benefit-cost ratio)of 1 is critical in that it allows Premier Gladys Berejiklian to plunder the Restart NSW Find, paid for by asset sales, to cover the $1 billion cost of the move.’ [an original estimate had a BCR of .435] He continues: ‘The documents point to the potential to develop up to 68 levels high on the Ultimo site…’. As well, of the Parramatta site: ‘the documents show that consultants told the government “The development of a stand-alone museum on this site would represent a significant under-utilisation of the property’s development potential’, [and recommended and opportunity for ] ‘an iconic, integrated mixed museum-private development”… Opposition spokesman Walt Secord said: “The only way the Berejiklian government could make the Powerhouse Museum move stack up was to allow overdevelopment of the Parramatta site. We will see Shanghai-style skyscrapers in Parramatta.”’ Read more: The Aust 13 June 2018

12 June, 2018
Powerhouse documents available for inspection
MP David Shoebridge’s office advised: ‘As you may be aware, on Friday afternoon the Government ‘voluntarily’ released a number of documents following our return to order. There are 10 volumes available for inspection at the Parliament. The documents are only available from 9-5. To arrange to see this we recommend contacting the table office on 9230 2749.’

11 June, 2018
‘Most NSW ministers did not see cabinet in confidence documents’
(Print: ‘Stadiums file kept away from ministers’)
Following the release of documents to the Legislative Council, Alexandra Smith (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that ‘Cabinet in confidence documents detailing the business cases for the state government’s controversial stadiums policy were never shown to the full cabinet. Government sources have confirmed that the full business cases prepared by KPMG – which the government has repeatedly refused to release – were never presented to a cabinet meeting, forcing ministers to publicly defend a policy when they hadn’t seen the detail… most ministers have not seen them and will only see them for the first time when they are released to the upper house.’
‘In an extraordinary backflip, the government last week surrendered to the upper house and agreed to release the business cases for Allianz and ANZ stadiums and the Powerhouse Museum relocation as well as a highly critical report into the state’s child protection system … Mr Harwin told the house he would release all the documents by 5pm Friday, but a letter from the secretary of Premier and Cabinet, Tim Reardon, said some would still be protected by privilege. …[and that] … the Government has decided to provide the documents sought to the Legislative Council on a voluntary basis, even though the Council has no power to require such production.”
But the leader of the Opposition in the upper house, Adam Searle, said the government may have scored a “legal own goal” by claiming privilege. “The only way a privilege claim can be recognised is if the government has been compelled to produce the documents by Parliament,” Mr Searle said. “If the government has voluntarily handed them over, legally it has surrendered any privilege claim it may have. “With no valid claim of privilege before it, the house is free to publish the whole documents to the public and, given their nature, may even be required to do so.” Questions about the privilege claim were sent to Mr Harwin’s office, who referred them to the Premier’s office. They did not respond.’ Read more 

8 June, 2018
Government papers released to Legislative Council
Following the demand on 5 June from the Legislative Council that certain papers be made available by 5pm on Friday 8 June, documents were received and listed by the Clerk of Parliaments. These documents refer to the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Western Sydney, Sydney Stadiums and the Tune Report into out-of-home care.
Read letters and lists here: Read more 
A covering letter from Premier and Cabinet says: ‘…I note that all of the documents referred to in the resolution are Cabinet documents, and that the Legislative Council has no power to require such documents to be produced. On this occasion, however, the Government has decided to provide the documents sought to the Legislative Council on a voluntary basis …  I note that some information has been redacted from the documents where its disclosure could compromise the financial interests of taxpayers, including by adversely impacting ongoing commercial negotiations. The unredacted versions of these documents are provided on a confidential basis for inspection by members of the Legislative Council only.’
In relation to the Powerhouse Museum in Western Sydney a letter from the Department of Planning and Environment includes: ‘The Department is claiming privilege over some items in documents as the release of this information would impact on the people of NSW and prejudice their legitimate interests by potentially providing a commercial advantage to developers and construction companies. This information can be released at an appropriate time in the future once the Government has undertaken the procurement process. … Enclosed at Attachment A is submission in support of the claim for confidentiality and privilege.’
Attachment A lists documents in Volumes with attachments, identifying redacted pages. Some points to note:
– Presumably there are other documents without redacted pages. In this list there appears to be no specific record of earlier consultation with Council, Museum or community, or record of other options for the Ultimo site, including the previous director’s 2014 Business Plan.
– The proposed release date for these documents is June 2021.
– The only mentions of Ultimo (in Vol 7) are as ‘economic and investment’ cases.

8 June, 2018
‘An engaging week in the NSW parliament…’
In his weekly newsletter, art critic John McDonald discusses the Sydney Film Festival, the visitor numbers at the Art Gallery of NSW, and an exhibition at the White Rabbit Gallery, but also says:
‘It’s also been an engaging week in the NSW Parliament, with show pony Arts Minister, Don Harwin, almost being expelled for failing to produce business plans for pet government projects such as moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta and Oblivion. As we know, such projects have been approved in secret by an all-seeing, all-knowing government that chooses not to discuss its mystical rationales (or its relationships with property developers) with the unwashed masses. Previously we were told these business plans did not exist, but now they seem to have miraculously come to light. The contents still have to be made public but that should happen eventually. I’ll be surprised if there is anything that reveals a positive Costs-Benefits ratio.’
To subscribe:

8 June, 2018
‘Take to the Banks’, and ‘Welcome to Westworld’
In three full pages, Rose Brennan, in The Daily Telegraph, expresses this newspaper’s support for the present government; it had hosted political and business leaders at a Project Sydney gala dinner, as part of its Fair Go For the West campaign. In a separate story, ‘Focus on building a prosperous west’, the premier mentioned a commitment to increasing employment and infrastructure, including ‘We have confirmed that we will relocate and expand the Powerhouse to give the west a science museum to rival the world’s best in the United States and Europe’. See more: 8 June, 2018 Daily T   or 8 June,    [PMA asks: ‘What about the extensive collections of applied arts, decorative arts and design, that go far beyond the suggested Fashion Museum in Ultimo; the significant collections associated with social history; and the ways these have always been integrated with science and engineering in this Museum?]

7 June, 2018
Soon we’ll know! The Hansard record for 7 June shows:
‘The Hon. ROBERT BORSAK (15:04): My question is directed to Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Don Harwin. Would the Minister guarantee that the business case documents for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum that he will provide to the Parliament tomorrow will be complete documents—that is, not redacted, censored, or summarised?
The Hon. DON HARWIN (Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts) (15:04): I gave an answer to that question yesterday: The material that will be provided will be consistent with its status and the conventions of the House.’

7 June, 2018
‘Pressure builds for review of how infrastructure projects are assessed’
in print as ‘Regime change to reveal ‘real’ value of projects’
Matt Wade reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian Government is under pressure to review a key tool used to select new transport infrastructure after a parliamentary committee called for a reassessment of how projects are assessed. A report by the Upper House’s Standing Committee on State Development… has recommended the official “discount rate” used to evaluate the costs and benefits of major projects be reconsidered.’ As well as citing benefits for transport projects, he notes: ‘The committee’s recommendation to review the discount rate in NSW comes after months of political controversy over major infrastructure projects including questions over the government’s business case for moving the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. In March plans to demolish and rebuild two Sydney stadiums were watered down after a damaging political backlash. Labor’s shadow treasurer, Ryan Park, said a review of the discount rate “will ensure we get a more equal playing field for the assessment of public transport and private toll roads and of course regional and rural projects.”  Read more 

6 June 2018
Hansard record for provision of documents
Legislative Council records for request of doocuments for: SYDNEY STADIUMS; POWERHOUSE MUSEUM; OUT-OF-HOME CARE SERVICES, leading to agreement that they would be provided by 5pm on Friday 8 June:
5 June: Read more  
Pages 11-12, 14, 23-41 (motion p11, passed to provide by 6 June, p41)
6 June: Read more  
(agreed to provide by 5pm, 7 June)

6 June, 2018
‘State government surrenders, will hand over key stadium, Powerhouse documents’
in print: ‘Powerhouse, stadium papers see light of day’)
Alexandra Smith reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘In a major backflip, the state government has surrendered to the demands of the upper house and will produce key documents relating to some of its most controversial policies.
The business cases for Sydney stadiums as well as the Powerhouse Museum relocation and a highly critical report into the state’s child protection system will be handed over by 5pm Friday [8 June]… Mr Harwin was spared from being kicked out of the chamber after he told parliament on Wednesday that the government would agree to the demands of the upper house… Labor’s leader in the upper house, Adam Searle, said the government had “capitulated”. He said until today, the government had refused to comply with the orders, claiming the upper house had no power to compel production of cabinet documents. “This is a complete surrender by the Berejiklian government .. It is now clear that the upper house does have the power to order production even of cabinet documents, as long as they do not disclose the internal workings and decisions of the cabinet.” Read more 

6 June, 2018
‘NSW government caves in to pressure and agrees to release key documents’
Shortly after the Legislative Council met on the morning of June 6, Anne Davies reported in The Guardian that: ‘The New South Wales state government has bent to pressure to hand over three documents related to contentious policy decisions to the upper house, avoiding a showdown that could have seen one of the most senior members of the government ejected from parliament. In a spectacular about-face, the government agreed to hand the Tune report on out-of-home care for at risk children and the business cases underpinning stadium upgrades and the plan to move the Powerhouse museum from Sydney’s city to Parramatta to the Legislative Council by Friday [8 June] … This does not necessarily mean they will be made public – there may still be claims for privilege – but it is likely that each document will be made public in some form.’ Read more 

6 June, 2018
‘NSW Government backflips to release controversial documents to save Don Harwin’
Among many TV and radio reports, ABC news recoorded ‘The NSW Government has caved to Parliament’s demands to release documents about some of its most controversial policies to save its Upper House leader Don Harwin from being suspended from the chamber… Mr Harwin surprised many in the Upper House this morning when he stood up and said the Government would deliver the documents requested by 5:00pm Friday. It had previously resisted all formal demands from the Upper House to produce the papers, arguing they were cabinet in confidence. Labor’s Upper House leader Adam Searle said it was the first time a NSW Coalition Government leader had been censured. “This is historic and is about the integrity of the Legislative Council to hold the Government to account,” Mr Searle said. He accused the Berejiklian Government of acting under a “cloak of secrecy” and said the Government’s backflip on the documents was a “win for democracy”.’ Read more 

6 June, 2018
‘NSW parliament is finally challenging the culture of secrecy in government’
Greens MP, David Shoebridge, provides a rationale for demanding that critical papers be made available to the Legislative Council, saying: ‘For the last three decades power has shifted in the Australian political system from parliaments to the ministers and unelected bureaucrats who form the executive government. Most parliaments, state and federal, operate as little more than a rubber stamp to the decisions of the executive. So much so that most people see no real distinction between the government and parliament.’ But he argues: ‘Accountability starts with getting access to information. Since the mid-1990s the NSW upper house has been quietly developing a new set of constitutional norms that have confirmed it has the power to demand information and documents from the executive. This is often referred to as the “call for papers” power.’ With regard to the current demand for documents, including those for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, he says: ‘The long-suffering public should welcome this independent streak in the NSW parliament. Finally a parliament is striking back at executive overreach. Parliament is challenging the culture of secrecy that prevents real scrutiny of how government works and how billions of dollars of taxpayer funds are spent.’ Read more 

6 June, 2018
‘Showdown looms as NSW government refuses to release three crucial reports’
Anne Davies says in The Guardian: ‘The New South Wales parliament is headed for a constitutional showdown over the Berejiklian government’s refusal to release three crucial reports, despite the upper house ordering their release… The crisis is testing the right of parliament to demand documents versus the right of the executive to claim documents are cabinet-in-confidence. The Greens, the Shooters and Fishers and the opposition are all supporting the censure motion this evening that requires the leader of the government in the upper house, Don Harwin, to … hand over the documents by tomorrow morning [June 6]. Sources said this was the precursor to a vote to expel Harwin from the chamber. Moving the motion, Labor’s Adam Searle said the government had shown “reckless indifference and thumbed its nose at the Council in a way we haven’t seen the 1990s.” Greens’ David Shoebridge said the job of parliament was to hold the government to account. That accountability starts with getting access to information,” he said. Read more 

NSW in constitutional crisis as government MP crosses floor over secret reports’
In a separate report in The Guardian, Anne Davies continues, discussing issues of conscience votes and cabinet-in-confidence.The expulsion of Harwin would make the numbers for the government in the Legislative Council even more precarious than they are now. It currently depends on the votes of one minor party member to pass legislation. The NSW opposition, the Greens, the Shooters and Fishers and Mason-Cox joined forces to issue an ultimatum to the government to either release the reports or face the expulsion of the leader… Over the last two months Mason-Cox, a former fair trading minister, has crossed the floor to demand that the reports be released. .. With the numbers in the NSW upper house on a knife edge, an expulsion from the house could dramatically alter the Berejiklian government’s ability to pass legislation.’ Read more 

6 June, 2018
Minister Don Harwin censured in Parliament for refusal to release documents
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith reports that: ‘The state government’s most senior minister in the upper house, Don Harwin, faces being suspended from Parliament over his refusal to produce key documents. … Mr Harwin told Parliament last night that the release of some of the documents could “constrain and harm the government” commercially … Mr Harwin was censured over his refusal to release documents to the upper house, including the business cases for the rebuild and renovation of Sydney stadiums and the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. The government also refused to release a key report into the child protection system … Mr Harwin has until 9.30am on Wednesday to produce the documents …It is the first censure against a NSW Liberal government leader. The motion was moved by the leader of the opposition in the upper house, Adam Searle.’ Read more 

And under ‘Minister could get the arts’ in the Daily Telegraph, Clarissa Bye says: ‘A state government front-bencher today faces being first minister kicked out of the NSW Parliament in almost two decades over an embarrassing constitutional showdown … Mr Harwin has been ordered to hand over key internal government documents … after the government lost an ALP censure motion by 21 votes to 20. … A coalition of the ALP, minor parties and maverick Liberal Matthew Mason Cox joined forces…’. Read more: Daily Telegraph 6 June

In ‘Untenable, repugnant’: Backbencher defies Premier to censure colleague’ in the New Daily, Rachel Eddie discusses how ‘A maverick New South Wales backbencher has defied Gladys Berejiklian … Matthew Mason-Cox crossed the floor anyway on Tuesday night to censure the leader of the government in the upper house, Arts Minister Don Harwin. … “It has been made clear to me today by the leader of the government and the premier that no conscience vote is permissible on this respective issue,” Mr Mason-Cox told parliament. “I accept the premier’s judgement, however apparently conscience votes are only permitted where the premier permits them. To me, that is untenable and completely repugnant to the whole nature of a conscience vote, which is by its very essence personal to the member.” Greens MLC David Shoebridge said there had been a “shroud of secrecy over almost every controversial decision made by the government. “Finally parliament is striking back at executive overreach.” Read more 

5 June, 2018
‘Sydney’s flagship museum is entirely focused on building a costly extension. Why?’
John McDonald, in The Art Newspaper, discusses issues associated with the controversy over extending the Art Gallery of NSW with a Sydney Modern extension over part of the Botanic Gardens, saying that unless it begind to ‘focus more on exhibitions, there is every reason to believe that Sydney Modern will be a gigantic and costly flop.’
His comments have relevance to the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. He says: ‘Ever since 1997, when Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum turned Bilbao into an unlikely tourist magnet, there has been a belief that a “destination” building is the key to solving a gallery’s every problem. Alas, in most cases, there has been a surge of interest for the first few months, and then everything has returned to normal. Everything, that is, except the massive extra costs associated with staffing and maintaining the new addition. By now, one might imagine that the art museums of the world had lost faith in the idea: “Build it and they will come.” ’
He stresses the importance of adequate and continuing government funding, noting of the very successful National Gallery of Victoria developments: ‘Melbourne learned the hard way that a new building is no guarantee of success after opening a hugely expensive second branch in 2002. Eventually, the NGV had to close each building for one day a week to make ends meet.’ Read more 

4 June, 2018
Transcripts of 9th and 10th  Inquiry hearings: 28 May and 1 June, 2018
See below for links to the transcripts for the 9th and 10th hearings for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries particularly, in these sessions, about the original decisions and planning process for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum.
9th Hearing, 28 May:
GREG DYER, Former Chief Executive Officer, City of Parramatta Council
CRAIG BEECROFT, Former Chief Financial Officer, City of Parramatta Council
MICHAEL BRUCE BAIRD, Former Premier of New South Wales. Read more
10th Hearing, 1 June:
BAY WARBURTON, former Chief of Staff to Mr Mike Baird, former Premier. Read more
For all transcripts, including possible updated ones from these hearings: Read more 

2 June, 2018
10th hearing: ‘Baird’s former staffer denies approach from developers in Powerhouse saga’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports of the 10th and probably final hearing of the Upper House Inquiry, that ‘The former chief of staff to Mike Baird, Bay Warburton, denied any property developers or commercial operators had approached him directly about the fate of either the Ultimo or Parramatta sites following the government’s election commitment in 2015. … His appearance was marked by several testy exchanges in which Green’s MLC David Shoebridge and Labor’s Walter Secord separately accused Mr Warburton of rubber-stamping a ”captain’s call”. … Mr Warburton conceded the sale of the 2.6-hectare inner-city site was clearly one option open to the government, with the original Infrastructure NSW report floating the idea of ”unlocking the value” of the Ultimo site in 2014 before the election commitment in February 2015. …But the former senior political adviser invoked cabinet in confidence when asked if he had any role in developing assumptions around the business case, which had not tested the comparative value of refurbishing the Powerhouse or moving it.
Mr Shoebridge: ”The proposition that many members of the community have raised is that this decision was made without any understanding of what the cost would be, without any consultation with the institution itself, and was a thought bubble designed for the election as opposed to a considered response to such a treasured cultural institution. What do you say to that?” ‘ Read more 

2 June, 2018
Mike ‘the banker’ Baird, brazened it out…
In his weekly newsletter, John McDonald spoke about attending the National Art School Dinner where ‘NSW Arts Minister, Don Harwin, stole the show with a strident defence of the NAS and its embattled independence… If only the Minister would find the same energy and good will for the Powerhouse Museum … A little TLC towards the arts goes a long way.
There was nothing like that from the former Premier, Mike ‘the banker’ Baird, who brazened it out in front of an Upper House committee that accused him of being intent on flogging off the Powerhouse site to his developer mates. Not at all, said Magic Mike, he was “100 percent” concerned with providing a superior cultural experience for the people of Parramatta. I wonder if anyone asked him how this is to be achieved by carving up the existing Powerhouse and sending Parramatta citizens an unwanted science museum, when they might have expected something vaguely artistic. They may at least enjoy an absorbing spectacle when the building starts to fill with water during a big downpour.’ Read more: John McD 2 June 18

30 May, 2018
‘Opinion: Hostility to Move Powerhouse is Horribly Familiar
Western Sydney Director of the Sydney Business Chamber,  David Borger (later to be appointed a Trustee of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences), defends his support for moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, against criticism that a state museum should remain in the centre of a capital city, citing similar controversial issues about moving the children’s hospital. He appears to accept it would be a regional museum.
But he displays ignorance about expectations of audiences, the physical reality of the site and the complexity and purpose of the collection stating: ‘I want to set the record straight after hearing a few criticisms lately – the new museum will not flood, it is above any flood zone. We are expecting greater patronage and bigger crowds. This is a museum that is not fed by international tourists. Another mistruth coming from critics is that the collection will be destroyed – it won’t. Collections roam the world on loan – these curator types really look after the objects.’ Read more 

29 May, 2018
‘Lost in the debate’: Parramatta entitled to its own monument to recorded history
In his 2GB radio Breakfast Show Alan Jones asks if when Mike Baird said he was proud of his initiative to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, he should also have told us he was proud of other decisions such as forced Council amalgamations. Jones says the idea of a museum for Parramatta is unarguable but questions taking the Ultimo history to Parramatta. He observes that the debate is being dressed up as if those opposed to the move are opposed to arts and cultural facilities for Western Sydney, but argues that ‘this is nonsense’; the Powerhouse Museum should stay where it is, and that Parramatta is entitled to its own monument to recorded history. ‘But’ he says, ‘that seems to have been lost in the debate.’
Hear: (courtesy Save the Powerhouse)

29 May, 2018
‘Former NSW premier makes return to politics’
Linda Morris reports in The Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘After giving up politics 19 months ago to become an investment banker, former NSW premier Mike Baird returned to Macquarie Street to face the Upper House committee critical of his government’s decision to shut down the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and shift it to Parramatta. Under questioning, Mr Baird said he took “full responsibility” for kick-starting plans to build a new dedicated museum with a domed planetarium on the Parramatta River, a project estimated by government to cost $1.17 billion, or $647 million once the revenue it is expected to generate is taken into account. He denied Greens MP’s David Shoebridge’s assertion that the relocation was about unlocking the “dollar value” of the Ultimo site or “privatising and flogging off the site”. His “100 per cent” motivation was about building a new cultural institution for western Sydney, the former premier said, in the face of chortles from the public gallery…
During initial discussions, Mr Baird disclosed the 2.6-hectare Ultimo site had been considered for residential development, a school, as well as space for start-ups and other cultural uses but options had been left to the business case to identify. In fact, a master plan and a final business case setting out the government’s financial investment options at Ultimo have only just begun.’ Read more 

29 May, 2018
‘Former Premier Mike Baird faced off with critics over Powerhouse Museum move at inquiry’
In The Daily Telegraph, Danielle Le Messurier reported: ‘Mike Baird says anyone who cannot see the many benefits of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta “must be living in a parallel universe”. The former NSW premier made the bold statement yesterday as he stared down his critics during an often heated parliamentary inquiry into museums and galleries. Mr Baird faced off with Greens and Labor MPs who accused him of making “cavalier” decisions “all done on a thought bubble”, proclaiming his pride at his 2015 decision as anything else would have been a “second best” option for the west… During one a fierce exchange, Greens MP David Shoebridge criticised Mr Baird for not engaging with Parramatta Council prior to announcing the move. “You wouldn’t do something so cavalier as engaging in this kind of project without having that formal communication, would you?” he said, labelling it “a potentially wasteful and dangerous use of public money”. Read more: 29 May 2018 Daily T Baird
See also Editorial: ‘Baird down on museum critics’: 29 May Daily T editorial

29 May, 2018
‘I should have brought my mum’: Mike Baird faces tough crowd at Powerhouse inquiry
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, reports ‘The former NSW premier fronted a parliamentary inquiry – and a hostile public gallery – on Monday, 19 months after resigning from the top job. He announced the industrial science museum relocation in February 2015, one month before the state election. A summary business case was only released last month, after the government defied an upper house order for papers to produce the full business case. Mr Baird conceded a case took “longer than you might expect” to produce. But he rejected a suggestion from Labor’s Walt Secord that he made a “captain’s call” and was “going backwards from there”. “You had a thought bubble and now everyone is paying for it,” Mr Secord claimed.
Labor and the project’s fiercest critics in the Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party have called for Parramatta to instead get its own dedicated museum, which responds to the area’s unique Indigenous and migrant community. Mr Shoebridge asked why that possibility wasn’t tested in the business case before a decision was made.’ Read more 

29 May, 2018
Bulletin 28, Tom Lockley: ‘After Inquiry hearing and general info’
In his regular Bulletin, Tom Lockley reports: ‘A “standing room only” crowd of 103 people attended yesterday’s Legislative Council hearing. Several came from Parramatta and the west, including ex-councillors; I recognised supporters of all major political parties … Mr Baird confirmed that there has never been any research into alternative means of meeting the government’s desire to improve the cultural facilities of Western Sydney: moving the Powerhouse has been the only option that the government has looked at. [And] …witnesses at last had to agree that the land chosen by the government has been purchased despite the wishes of the elected council who had earmarked it for an area with more open space … I had to explain [to one of the many newcomers] that despite the overwhelming evidence against the ‘move’ that the Inquiry had produced, its findings could be completely ignored by the government … All that the government now has to do is bulldoze aside the diehard protesters and trash our heritage in a process that will waste at least several hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ money. But we can still battle on to avoid this stupidity.’ Read more: TL Bulletin 28

28 May, 2018
‘Mike Baird Faces Powerhouse Inquiry’
Jamie Parker, MP for Balmain, reported to his constituents and supporters after the 9th Hearing, that: ‘… Mr Baird couldn’t say why his government committed to moving the Powerhouse before a business case was completed. He couldn’t say why the government didn’t consider creating a new custom museum at Parramatta instead of translocating the Powerhouse. He couldn’t name any consultation that occurred with local Council or local community groups before announcing the decision either… It’s clear that the Powerhouse move isn’t about creating the best possible museum in Western Sydney, it’s about short changing the public by letting greedy property developers snatch up land in Ultimo.’ Read more: Jamie P 28 May

28 May, 2018
9th Inquiry hearing: Contradictory statements
At the 9th Inquiry Hearing into Museums and Galleries, the committee interviewed Greg Dyer, former Chief Executive Officer, and Craig Becroft, former Chief Financial Officer, of Parramatta City Council. Both confirmed that they had not been involved in discussions about the Powerhouse move to Parramatta, and that apart from earlier speculation they first heard the announcement about the ‘decision’ in early 2015 in the Daily Telegraph.
They were followed by former Premier, Mike Baird, who claimed to have discussed widely with cultural groups – but could not name one group or person, other than David Borger, Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber. Contrary to earlier reports, where it was acknowledged he had followed advice from MCA director, Liz-Anne McGregor, he said the relocation had been Borger’s idea and that Infrastructure NSW had recommended the move.
At the same time, he maintained his commitment to an ‘iconic, world-class’ museum for ‘children and families from Western Sydney’ without once acknowledging that Parramatta could have its own museum and art gallery (as in other city centres) and that the Powerhouse is a state museum, with NSW, interstate and international audiences, which also comprise professional and informed designers, makers, scientists, engineers, researchers, historians, educators, collectors and members of the general public who are all interested in the stories that can be told through the collection. (GC for PMA)
For a record of the hearing: see 28 May ‘Transcript’ here (soon).
For an insightful report: see Save the Powerhouse Facebook page.

28 May 2018
Parramatta Council reviews decisions made by Administrator
In Item no: 13.15 of the Parramatta Council minutes of 28 May 2018, it was documented that on 9 October, 2017, the Parramatta Council had resolved to establish a Committee of Councillors to ‘review the actions undertaken by Council under the NSW Government appointed Administrator and produce a report to Council recommending which actions may require independent review.’ This Committee met on 13 March, 17 April and 8 May 2018.
Among the issues discussed was the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. It was resolved on 8 May that: ‘The next meeting of the Committee will be held on the 23 July 2018 and will take the form of a Councillor Workshop where all Councillors will be invited to attend,’ and that ‘At this meeting, the Committee will give consideration to the following shortlisted matters; [including] Consideration of the report and background information relating to the sale of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum).’ Read minutes here: Parra Council Review 2018

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. It will close the Powerhouse Museum next year. 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. It has now released what it says is the Final Business Case Summary, a scant eight pages to justify an act of staggering cultural vandalism. The government spins its scheme to ‘move’ the Powerhouse Museum as cultural equity for western Sydney. The real reason, as always in Sydney, is the development opportunity in grabbing the PHM’s 2.6 hectare Ultimo site.’ Winkworth continues, identifying 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 

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 2 June. See: 24 May -What next – TL

19 May, 2018
Photo Festival v Stadia and Powerhouse: John McDonald compares funding allocations
In The Sydney Morning Herald, art critic John McDonald queries the minimal amount of state government funding provided for the 2018 Head On Photo Festival, compared with billions spent on sports stadia and ‘vandalising the Powerhouse’. He says: ‘We make a big fuss about the Sydney Biennale, we go wild for Vivid, we swarm over the Sydney foreshores during Sculpture by the Sea, but after ten years the Head On Photo Festival survives on a fraction of the resources devoted to other events. One might think that an annual spectacle that boasts 700 artists from 22 countries, spread across more than 100 exhibitions doesn’t have anything left to prove. This year the NSW Government and the Sydney City Council are listed as supporters, but as usual, Head On relies on volunteers and poorly-paid staffers to put together a photography festival with a worldwide reputation. One can’t get too excited about modest handouts from a state government that is willing to spend billions demolishing and rebuilding sports stadia or vandalising the Powerhouse…’ Read more 

18 May, 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 International Museum’s Day in 2018 as a day of mourning for the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) which is ‘set to close next year under the Berejiklian government’s world first museum demolition plan’. PMA ‘asks the community to visit the Powerhouse before the government flogs the museum to developers’.
The statement refers to inaccuracy of figures cited in the recently released business case summary, and critiques the secrecy around the plans to ‘move’ the museum to Parramatta, with Sharp saying: “The government’s scheme to appropriate the land and facilities of the Powerhouse is scam on NSW taxpayers and their investment in a great museum. The government plans a smaller museum in Parramatta, built on a flood prone site that puts visitors and the collections at risk”. It mentions inadequate and relatively inaccessible future storage at Castle Hill and notes that ‘The Benefit Cost Ratio for the museum move is far below accepted government guidelines’; while ‘The mooted “creative industries presence” to be left at Ultimo, with a so-called fashion and design museum, can only be the ghost what we already have in the PHM.’
It 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.  MAAS is not the client in its own museum development project … 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.’
It confirms that the PMA ‘has consistently supported the development of an iconic new museum in Parramatta, based on transparent community consultations’, adding ‘It is not clear that the proposed STEM museum is the No.1 cultural priority and preference of the Parramatta community’ and reminds us that ‘The Powerhouse Museum has suffered more than a decade of devastating budget cuts …The government must rebuild the museum’s staff numbers, skills, and capacity as the essential foundation for the museum’s future, serving the people of NSW as one of their treasured state cultural institutions. The 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

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.
Australian Unity Office Fund in February said it had been approached by the state government to sell the GE Building at 32 Phillip Street, Parramatta, which is adjacent to the planned site of the museum. On Thursday, it said it had been told the government wouldn’t proceed with the acquisition and negotiations had stopped. … Late last month, the NSW government said it had committed to moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta …But the government said a portion of the museum’s collection would be kept for exhibition in a design and fashion museum at the Ultimo site. As a result, it is understood it does not need as much space at Parramatta. Read more  or SMH 10 May Parra tower

May 2018
Hunters Hill Trust: ‘Save the Powerhouse’
In the May issue of their Journal (Vol 56, no 1, 2018), the Hunters Hill Trust expands on its earlier questions of 28 April, about demolishing the Powerhouse Museum, saying: ‘The Trust has supported the fight to Save the Powerhouse Museum and wrote to the Premier to express our concern over the NSW Government’s proposal to relocate the museum to Parramatta. Without doubt Parramatta deserves cultural facilities, but not at the expense of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. It should not be an either/or situation – pitting communities against each other. Despite sustained community objections, the expert advice on the horrendous cost and risk posed in moving the collections, the secrecy surrounding the business case and universal support for a new museum in Parramatta, the NSW Government appears to have signed off on the ‘move’ of the Powerhouse Museum from its Ultimo location …The most equitable and cost effective solution is to maintain the existing significant investment and build a second institution specifically for Parramatta.’  Read more (page 4)

9 May, 2018
Radio 702: Interview with David Throsby
On ABC 702 Breakfast Radio, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck interviewed well-known cultural economist, David Throsby, about the lack of mention of the arts in the recent federal budget. He also spoke strongly about the Powerhouse Museum, and was adamant it shouldn’t move from its established location. The interviewers also raised the question of mounting another lottery, as the Opera House one was so successful. Read more ; and an extract on his paper about lotteries in the Hunters Hill Trust Journal (above): Read more (page 4)

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 to the site’s drawcards, likening the planetarium announcement as “lame” much like Cartman did on a South Park episode. “We could be putting together something that really turns the cultural cringe elements of people’s thinking of art in western Sydney. Something that would probably be good to do is consultation with the community. It should be driven by the community. …I think there’s a ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ thought that when the government announces something, we fear that if we criticise it, it will be taken away because we never get anything.” She said it was a risk speaking up, but said she’d rather fight to get something that most people want than “accept something lame to point at and say ‘hey, we’ve got an arts and cultural centre’ .”  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. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has an extensive collection that can be shared across the state. While I welcome retention of fashion and design and a planned new theatre at Ultimo, 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.’  The questions he asked were: ‘(1) What undertakings, contracts or heads of agreements has the Government entered into with a developer or other party with regard to land or air space on the existing Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo? (2) What are the details of these arrangements including when discussions first took place and when agreements were made?’

4 May 2018
Afternoons with James Valentine: ‘The Even Greater Sydney Planning committee’
On ABC radio, James Valentine, joined by comedian commentator, HG Nelson, introduced  the (fictional) Even Greater Sydney Planning committee: formed voluntarily when they realised they weren’t clear who was in charge of city planning.
‘Join co-executive chair of digital communications, HG Nelson, and executive co-chair, James Valentine, for more leading edge ideas and vision for Sydney planning.’  This organisation is concerned with ‘Building an infrastructure for today that is no use for tomorrow; of many organisations – we are the number one.’
Amongst other issues such as Westconnex and the stadiums, of the Powerhouse Museum proposal, they recommend a ‘Dunkirk-style’ removal system, saying they could teach France a thing or two, such as moving the Louvre to Lyons or Marseilles. They also suggest that if the Sirius building has to go, surely the MCA can move also. Theatre in Ultimo? Yes, they could have ‘Winks the musical’; the government has already pulled down perfectly good entertainment centre in Ultimo. Why not flatten the NSW Art Gallery; maybe high-rise, car-parks, cafes? and send it to Newcastle’s disused industrial space.
They say about the Powerhouse Museum: ‘get real…thousands donated money and treasures… all held in trust – these are not political pawns…’ Read more 

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

1 , 2, 3 May, 2018
Hansard record of questions on Relocation of Powerhouse Museum
In the NSW Legislative Council on 1st and 2nd 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, Robert Borsak, Adam Searle,  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

2 May, 2018
‘Museum demolition; these are two words that don’t belong together’
Kylie Winkworth, museum expert and former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, points out that: ‘No government anywhere in the world has closed a major state museum to move it out of the city to a less accessible location. And no government has ever forced a major museum to give up its historic site, with purpose-designed infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities.
You don’t need to be a real estate genius to see the rip-off in swapping an expansive accessible 2.6 hectare city site, fully owned by the museum, for a smaller museum on a flood-prone riverbank at the base of a 50-storey apartment block. This is shameless asset stripping of cultural infrastructure, land and buildings that belong to the people of NSW, held in trust for current and future generations. And at a cost of $1.179billion, it is not even replacing like for like. Only in Sydney could the property of a major state museum be seen as a development opportunity.’
While supporting the provision of a museum in Parramatta, she points out:  ‘But the government can’t explain why a new museum in Parramatta must entail closing the Powerhouse at Ultimo.’ … ‘More than a dozen major towns and cities across Sydney and regional NSW do not have fit-for-purpose museums with paid staff that can take travelling exhibitions, collect and exhibit their own heritage, or borrow significant objects from NSW state institutions. This includes Penrith, Campbelltown, Bankstown, Sutherland, Gosford, Wollongong, Port Macquarie, Tweed Heads, Lithgow, Bega, Goulburn and Maitland. Just 10 per cent of the cost of moving the Powerhouse would build 12 new regional museums at a cost of $10 million each. Read more  or for longer version: 1 May 2018 Winkworth – long

2 May, 2018
‘Powerhouse relocation set in stone, international design competition forthcoming’
Linda Cheng, in, provides information about design opportunities in planning a new museum in Parramatta, saying: ‘After speculation that part of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum could stay at its current site in Ultimo, the New South Wales government has announced the Powerhouse Museum will relocate in its entirety to a purpose-built building by the Parramatta River in western Sydney.’ After noting the proposed dimensions and activities (focusing on science, technology and a planetarium, with brief mention of the arts), she says: ‘The government intends to conduct an international design competition for the design development of the project, [and had] initially refused to release the business case for the relocation but were forced do so after a motion was passed in state parliament’. She continued: ‘The relocation is a subject of a parliamentary inquiry into museums and galleries [whose] interim report, released in December 2017, … made a number of recommendations relating to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, including:
–  That the business case prepared by the NSW Government consider establishing a Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences satellite site in Western Sydney
–  That the NSW Government consider investing in a cultural precinct proposal for Western Sydney, such as a migration museum or cultural centre, to be identified during a community consultation process
–  That the NSW Government consider a range of other Western Sydney sites for a cultural centre or precinct.
Architects Joe Agius of Cox Architecture and Rachel Neeson of Neeson Murcutt were part of a consortium that prepared a preliminary business case relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. Their work concluded in March 2016.’ Read more 

1 May, 2018
‘NSW Government defies Parliament: Powerhouse to be vandalised’ 

On 29 April, 2018 author Judith White published an insightful summary and analysis of events, reports and comments leading to the Premier’s decision to move the Powerhouse Museum, and the debates about the implications of the move, in her Culture Heist blog: Read more
On 1 May, Grant Goldman, in his Breakfast show on Radio 2SM,  broadcast White’s summary, saying: ‘The Berejiklian government’s outrageous most recent Power House Museum decision is utterly indefensible and must be opposed absolutely. Today, I share with listeners’ successful Aussie Author, Judith White’s excellent 29th of April’s updated and much considered defense of YOUR Ultimo Powerhouse Museum.’ For audio and text Read more 

1 May, 2018
‘Virtual tour of Powerhouse Museum’s new Parramatta site’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, reports local business and political enthusiasm for the move of the Museum: ‘Now it’s official the Powerhouse Museum is relocating to Parramatta, there is a call to give western Sydney residents free access when it opens. Sydney Business Chamber, Western Sydney director David Borger likened the site to MONA in Tasmania and the National Portrait Gallery in London, where entry is free. “If you want attendance to increase, dropping the fees and making the money via eateries, shopping and other avenues on the site, would help,” he said. He said offering free entry removed a barrier. “People need access. We want people to be inspired,” he said. “The best thing about a museum is having a collection of objects and showing it in a new way.” Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee said the space would encourage kids to become scientists, researchers, engineers, mathematicians and astronauts. “It will inspire our kids to reach for the stars,” he said.
Parramatta Council was quick to get the ball rolling, advertising a project manager cultural infrastructure role.’ Read more:  1 May Parra Advertiser

1 May, 2018
‘Rogue NSW Liberal MP punished for crossing the floor’
Alexandra Smith reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Outspoken NSW Liberals MP Matthew Mason-Cox has been punished for his decision to cross the floor of Parliament and has been stripped of his position as chairman of a powerful committee [the privileges committee] … Before the final decision was made on the Powerhouse relocation, Mr Mason-Cox said it was another case where the government had failed “to do its homework”. But [he] said he accepted the Premier’s decision to remove him from the position. “This was a result of me exercising my conscience and I accept that,” …
There had been suggestions that Mr Mason-Cox could be suspended from the Liberal Party room when it meets on Tuesday ahead of a parliamentary sitting week. One senior Liberal source said: “Ultimately Matthew is still a conservative member of parliament but the reality is we can never be sure now what he will do on controversial issues. There is no doubt that this could be an issue for us in the next year.” Read more  or 1 May, SMH M-Cox

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,  4, 15 May,  2018
Issues of Access: on Twitter with Craig Hall
On April 30, Craig Hall, NSW State Director of the CDP (Christian Democratic Party), issued a photograph on Twitter saying: ‘With Parramatta Lord Mayor Andrew Wilson, celebrating Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta. Premier announced it at Parra on 28th April. A riverside site, plenty parking, access to public transport, ferry at the door – it just makes good sense.’  But a strong argument from reader, Helen Jacobsen, contradicts his rationale for leaving Ultimo and reveals his lack of knowledge about the issues involved. Craig Hall 30 April

30 April, 2018
‘RACISM, elitism and vandalism — politicians come out swinging over the latest Powerhouse Museum development.’
Maryanne Taouk, in The Parramatta Advertiser, says: ‘The war of the Powerhouse Museum has become heated, with local and state government along with the business chamber trading barbs after a decision to pull bipartisan support was made.
…Twitter was the chosen ground for Sydney Business Chamber, western Sydney director David Borger, calling out both sides of government, stating the west is paying for arts they are unable to access… “Keep the good bits for the white people of global Sydney and throw western Sydney a few crumbs,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr Foley called any talk of Mr Foley abandoning the west “laughable”. “Luke Foley remains absolutely committed to delivering for western Sydney on many fronts,” he said. “… so many of Labor’s policies are focused on helping the region grow and its residents thrive.”
…North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) president Suzette Meade said they are offering an alternative. “NPRAG have been in conversation with Sydney University’s architecture and planning faculty on alternative master plans for Cumberland hospital grounds in North Parramatta for a few years,” she said.
…Greens MP David Shoebridge said Fleet St at North Parramatta was one of the area’s extraordinary heritage precincts, alluding to the fact it should be capitalised on. “(A museum) would be a light bulb in the middle of these heritage precincts. It would be a huge welcome,” he said. 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,  and advises that the ‘business case was prepared by Infrastructure NSW’ … and that ‘The analysis considered three options at Parramatta, two of which had a benefit-cost ratio above one, the point of which a project is deemed to have more value than cost.’ The biggest risks to the project were deemed to be the need to shift the MAAS’ collections from Ultimo to the museum’s new riverside location … Although Option 3 had greater construction costs with a planetarium and large amounts of exhibition and education spaces, it was deemed to have greater functionality and draw the greatest visitor numbers.’
‘Yesterday,’ she continued, ‘Public Service Association secretary Stewart Little said museum staff were shattered by the announcement. “They are genuinely worried that priceless artefacts, including the world’s only working Boulton and Watts Steam Engine, will be irreparably damaged during the move. “They believe other exhibitions will be locked away from easy public access. They love this institution, they see its value every day, and they cannot believe this government is seriously shutting it down.’ However, ‘Museum of Applied Arts and Science director Dolla Merrillees thought her staff would be “extraordinarily excited” at the opportunity.’
‘The government has put the “net cost” of the museum move at $645 million, once revenue sources are taken into account, but, according to the business case summary, the costs of land purchase and moving operations, including wages, is estimated to be $1.179 billion.’ Read more   or   Sun Herald 29 April 2018-1
‘Powerhouse Museum collection caught in version of beds-to-the-west’
In the same print issue of The Sun-Herald, Linda Morris recalls the decision to take maternity beds to the west in 1982, saying: ‘The NSW government has drawn a line under its own cultural version of beds to the west, announcing a dedicated science and innovation museum for the heart of Parramatta.’
But she adds: ‘The decision is both an exercise in political pragmatism and answer to historic public funding inequities in western Sydney.  A big vision, it is also surprisingly vague around the future of Ultimo where clarity is necessary to assess the true value and costs of such an ambitious project, iconic or not.’
Comparing support being given to the Art Gallery of NSW, she suggests that ‘…Cabinet could well have opted to expand the flagship cultural institutions in western Sydney than go to the massive expense of relocating the Powerhouse. The Campbelltown Arts Centre is crying out and for a new 318-seat theatre, studios, rehearsal and workshop spaces.  The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith could be expanded to include a Western Sydney Conservatorium.’… ‘And the defenders of the Powerhouse Museum’s collection will continue to remind the government that its cultural legacy is precious and should not be used as a political football.’ 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, reports that ‘More than 100 apartments will be built where the Powerhouse Museum now stands in order to help fund the $645 million move of the museum to Parramatta …The Australian has learned that in order to help facilitate the controversial move from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta in Sydney’s west, the NSW government will look to rezone the site and build apartments, as well as keep a cultural space on site.
However, he notes that: ‘None of the three business cases were shown to state cabinet as ministers made their decisions,’ and in the one selected ‘State cabinet on Thursday approved Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s plan to move the museum but not without some concerns raised. The Australian understands among those to raise concerns with Ms Berejiklian in cabinet were Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Education Minister Rob Stokes. The Premier and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet are also understood to have been initially very concerned the cost of the project might balloon past $1 billion but are happier with what has emerged after the work of Arts Minister Don Harwin.’ Read more: The Australian 29 April 2018

28 April, 2018
After three years – a business case!
Read more: Powerhouse Business Case Summary
Associated with the announcement (below) from the Premier and Arts minister that the Powerhouse will relocate to Parramatta, a 9-page ‘Final Business Case Summary’ is at last available. Earlier, in response to a motion in the Legislative Council to table papers,  various government departments said they did not hold the  relevant papers. To see their letters of denial: Read more 
But, as Andrew Clennell reports (above), while three business cases were prepared [and referred to in the summary], ‘None of the three business cases were shown to state cabinet as ministers made their decisions.’
The Introduction 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.’

28 April, 2018
‘MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) Project update’
Craig Limkin, Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, sent out the following message by email:
‘Today the NSW Government announced that the Powerhouse Museum will completely relocate to stunning new premises in Parramatta and accommodate Australia’s largest and most advanced planetarium.
The new and expanded world-class Powerhouse Museum will form the centrepiece of a new arts and cultural precinct on the banks of the Parramatta River, including a modernised Riverside Theatres complex, cafes, bars and public spaces.
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.
The existing Powerhouse Museum will stay open for business before relocation, with an exciting array of international exhibitions and programs scheduled in the coming months.
The dedicated MAAS project website and responses to frequently asked questions are currently being updated to reflect the Government’s recent announcement.  We will provide further updates in the future.
Attached to the message are:
1) Media Release: Gladys Berejiklian, Don Harwin
‘Western Sydney becomes a cultural powerhouse’
Gladys Berejiklian and Don Harwin med rel – Western Sydney becomes cultural powerhouse_
Includes statements such as:
–  Powerhouse Museum will completely relocate to stunning new premises in Parramatta and accommodate Australia’s largest and most advanced planetarium, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced today.
–  The new Powerhouse Museum will be the largest museum in NSW and its relocation to Parramatta marks the first time one of NSW’s five major cultural institutions will be entirely located in Western Sydney.
–  The Government plans to retain cultural spaces at Ultimo, including plans for a new design and fashion museum and a Broadway-style lyric theatre.
2)  Fact sheet: See Powerhouse factsheet
Includes information about the ‘MAAS project’:
–  New Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta
–  Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct
–  Timeline

28 April, 2018
Premier announces ‘decisions’ for museum at Parramatta and Ultimo
Following considerable speculation Premier Berejiklian has announced government plans for the future of the Powerhouse Museum. This includes splitting the Museum into a science museum with a planetarium at Parramatta, leaving a fashion and design museum with a Broadway-style lyric theatre in Ultimo, with much of the property there to be sold. It is not at all clear where the considerable collections of decorative and applied arts, and social history, will be located, other than the relatively inaccessible storage facility at Castle Hill.
The Powerhouse Museum Alliance, which supports the idea of a museum and art gallery in Parramatta, for Parramatta – but not at the cost of demolishing an established state museum – says: ‘Good governments expand museum opportunities for the whole community. We expect responsible governments safeguard the cultural legacy of previous generations of taxpayers, and protect the endowment of thousands of donors and philanthropists. By treating the PHM as a disposable asset the Berejiklian government is breaking its most basic obligation to the community of NSW and the museum’s donors and supporters. The Powerhouse Museum Alliance asks the community to contact the Premier and their state MPs to object to the government’s reckless museum demolition plan.  See Press Release:  PMA press release 27 April 2018

28 April, 2018
Hunters Hill Trust: ‘Nowhere else in the world…’
The long-established community group, the Hunters Hill Trust, successful in having local heritage items listed, says: ‘No government anywhere in the world has ever moved a major state museum out of the city centre to a less accessible location. Despite sustained community objections, AND universal support for a new museum in Parramatta, the NSW government has reportedly signed off on the ‘move’ of the Powerhouse Museum from its Ultimo location. Why has the government refused to release the business case? In 2016-17 visitors to sporting events stayed for 2.6m visitor nights and contributed more than $909 million to the visitor economy. Cultural and heritage visitors stayed for 78.6 million nights and spent $12 billion. NSW has had 25 years of over-investment in under-used stadiums which do little for jobs in the visitor economy. The last time Sydney opened a major new museum was in 1988 when the Powerhouse opened. 30 years later, it is ready to demolish this museum. Why?  Read more 

28 April, 2018
‘Full steam ahead, at $645 million’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald describes the proposals and says: ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin is hoping his vision for a new Powerhouse Museum in a part of Sydney lacking a major cultural institutional drawcard will bring a new audience to the Powerhouse Museum.
But it is unlikely to silence the critics. A parliamentary inquiry has savaged the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, originally announced by the former NSW premier, Mike Baird, in 2015 as an ‘‘act of vandalism’’.  With the government stalling the release of the final business case to justify the relocation, opponents yesterday condemned the secrecy surrounding the museum’s eviction. Mr Harwin had broken his undertaking to release the business case before making a decision on the fate of the Powerhouse Museum, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance said. The government’s refusal to release the business case all but confirmed that this was ‘‘a bad deal for NSW taxpayers and museum lovers’’ …‘‘This is shameless asset stripping of award-winning, purpose-designed museum facilities that were built and endowed by previous generations of NSW taxpayers,’’ the statement released yesterday said. ‘‘The Powerhouse Museum is not a redundant asset or a development opportunity. It is a much-loved family museum that for the last 30 years has brought joy and wonder to millions of visitors from across Sydney, regional NSW, interstate and the overseas.’’ Read more  or  SMH 28 April, 2018

28 April, 2018
‘Parramatta to get some star Power: Relocated museum rivals global icons’
Without addressing the widely-discussed critiques of the proposal, Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph, says: ‘The state government will today detail its plans to completely relocate the museum to a dramatic presence on the Parramatta River, complete with bars, cafes, shopping and function spaces as well as a modernised Riverside Theatres complex. It is understood the government also intends to include a residential presence on the new site. It will be five years before the museum opens in 2023, with the project budgeted to cost $645 million. Initial work on the site will begin early next year, before the state election in March.’ Read more  oDaily T 28 April 2018

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. They interview Greens MP and deputy-chair of the Inquiry, David Shoebridge, who had moved the motion to table the papers, about the government’s announcement on 26 April to withhold them. [See here for letters from government departments saying they did not hold the  relevant papers  Read more ]
Shoebridge explains the reasons for asking to see the papers; the implications for the government making decisions without fully knowing cost;, the other options that should be considered and the contradictions between government statements of having received a business case in December 2017 and having no available papers now. Hear interview (from 1:00:54 to 1:09:23) at:  Read more 

27 April, 2018
The Premier’s announcement on Twitter causes comment:
On her Twitter page the Premier announced: ‘Powerhouse Museum is moving to Parramatta, the geographic heart of Sydney, so that more families across Greater Sydney can enjoy its extraordinary collections.’
Over the following days dozens of correspondents from many locations responded, disagreeing with the rationale for the proposal, and commenting on issues such as the motives behind the decision and the reality of access.  Read more 

27 April, 2018
Museum to move despite ‘missing business case’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian, elaborates on earlier reports by saying: ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has given the final sign-off to move the Powerhouse Museum from Sydney city to Parramatta after getting the proposal through state cabinet, with the project to be announced as early as today.’ After tracing the path of recent events, and the successful vote demanding tabling of documents relating to the business case for re-location, he notes that ‘letters were tabled [from various government offices] denying the government held the documents.’  He cited criticism by Greens MP David Shoebridge who said the government was ‘getting to the point of farce’; and Labor arts spokesman, Walt Secord, who said ‘the failure to produce documents was “arrogant” and “contemptuous”.’ Read more:  The Australian 27 April 2018 [See also letters of denial produced in Parliament: Read more ]

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. After documenting recent events she says: ‘The Powerhouse Museum is moving to Parramatta and the State Government is expected to announce full details of the plan in days…’
As well, she says that ‘A planetarium is also being considered as part of the Parramatta development. It’s understood the western Sydney museum will have a focus on science and technology. But that goes against everything the western Sydney community wants, according to one local group. “Create NSW have still not released the consultation carried out last year in Parramatta of what museum the community wanted,” North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) president Suzette Meade said. “I attended and not one resident coveted the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo. They all called for our own museum and heritage to be celebrated. The State Government own 30 hectares of land containing the national heritage listed female factory and sacred indigenous history just 800 metres away with a proposed light rail stop… Why isn’t Gladys listening to what the people of western Sydney have told them they want?”
However, [not demonstrating any understanding of wide audience expectations for state collections] ‘Sydney Business Chamber’s Western Sydney Director David Borger said the museum could be the most iconic building in the area. “You’re replacing the ugliest building with the best building,” he said. “The business case is done, now we can proceed with the design, which should go to a design competition.” … [And continuing in the same vein] ‘The NSW government is moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta and we are proud to be giving families in Western Sydney greater access to one of the city’s great cultural icons,” a spokesman for Arts Minister Don Harwin said this week.
[But] Wendy Harmer on ABC breakfast radio this morning refused to read out Don Harwin’s three-sentence statement saying she “wasn’t his copy girl”. People took to Twitter congratulating the presenter. “Good on you Wendy Harmer for not reading out govt spin. Let them do their own dirty work,” one said.
Committee Chair … Robert Borsak said …“I am baffled by the extreme lengths the government appears to be taking to hide this decision from public scrutiny.” Mr Borsak said the relocation announcement was made before a preliminary business case, including the cost and rationale, had been prepared.’ 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 that ‘The Berejiklian government has evaded a parliamentary order requiring it to produce the business case that justifies the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Coalition backbencher Matthew Mason-Cox risked suspension from the Liberal Party room to cross the floor of the Upper House in support of a Greens’ motion to have the critical set of documents released within 14 days.’…
They point out that: ‘This seems at odds with Arts Minister Don Harwin’s own statement to the Herald earlier this month in which, through a spokesman, he said:  “The business case was delivered to the government in December, and has since been going through a number of assurance processes that need to be completed before an informed decision can be made.”
… Labor attacked the government’s move as “contemptuous”. “Either this is a massive cover-up, or worse, there is no business case at all,” opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord said. Greens MP David Shoebridge said the battle to force transparency on the government would now return to the Upper House next week where ”the government’s contempt for transparency will again be tested”… Chairman of the Upper House inquiry into the Powerhouse move, Robert Borsak, said it was astounding that no documents had been produced by the government when the matter was before Cabinet. ”The government said they received a business case before December so they must have it or you have to call them liars,” he said. Justifying his decision to vote against his own party two weeks ago, Mr Mason-Cox said the state government had developed a “perverse culture of secrecy” that had threatened the public’s confidence in its decision making.’
But Mr Harwin, through a spokesman, said:’… “It has been a thorough process and we will have more to say about this project in the near future.” Read more 

27 April 2018
‘Parra has the power’: the Powerhouse Museum is on its way to Parramatta.
In The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell reports on the government’s statement: ‘The Powerhouse will move to Parra­matta under a plan signed off by the Berejiklian Cabinet yesterday to deliver a “bigger and better” museum in the west. It is understood a major planetarium is also being considered as part of the Parramatta development, which will have a science and technology focus. The government is still finalising what it will do with the Ultimo site, although there is a desire to establish a cultural precinct in the space in a nod to those who have fiercely opposed the move. The Daily Telegraph has previously ­reported the government’s preferred plan was to keep a fashion and creative collection at Ultimo.
It is understood Cabinet yesterday discussed the need to undertake more business planning around the future of the precinct. The government is expected to announce full details of the plan within days, and will release a summary of the business case for the relocation when it makes the announcement. … The Powerhouse Museum will get an upgrade and redevelopment as part of the move.
Despite committing to the relocation, the government last night refused to comply with a parliamentary order to table papers relating to the business case for the move. “The government said they received a business case before December so they must have it or you have to call them liars,” Shooters and Fishers MP Rob Borsak, who chaired the upper house inquiry into the Powerhouse relocation, said.’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 says: ‘Few museums on earth have as evocative a name as Powerhouse. And few places on earth are such a looming economic powerhouse as Western Sydney. That is one reason why moving the Powerhouse Museum to a new Parramatta location is so wonderfully appropriate. But there are other reasons, too, including a much larger exhibit space. Also, those mourning the move from Ultimo might actually enjoy the novelty of typing the word “Parramatta” into their GPS for the first time. To the future!’DailyT edit 27 April 2018

26 April, 2018
Job advertised: Parramatta City Council: Project Manager – Cultural Infrastructure (TEMPORARY)
Even 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. It said ‘This position is responsible for major cultural infrastructure, including projects such as the Riverside Theatres redevelopment and the proposed new Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Parramatta.’ They must have been well-prepared! Read more 

26 April, 2018
‘NSW government fails to produce Powerhouse Museum business case’
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, reports: ‘The NSW Berejiklian government has failed to hand over a business case for its controversial Powerhouse Museum relocation, two weeks after its own MP crossed the floor to force its release… But the government on Thursday claimed to have no preliminary or final business case, nor advice, relevant to the order to explain the move from Sydney’s Ultimo to Parramatta in the western suburbs. [See also letters of denial produced in Parliament: Read more ]
The New Daily understands Labor, the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) will continue voting together to put pressure on the government when Parliament resumes next week. Greens MLC David Shoebridge, who moved the order for papers earlier this month, told The New Daily the next move could include hitting the “nuclear button”. Earlier this month he said that “dot points … summarised by a government keen to chop out inconvenient detail” would not be acceptable…
SFF leader Robert Borsak – who is chair of a parliamentary inquiry into the relocation, with Mr Shoebridge as deputy chair – called on the government to come clean. “When we’re hearing privately that the Powerhouse Museum relocation decision is before cabinet, it astounds me that there are no documents being produced by the government in response to the call for papers by the upper house,” Mr Borsak said…’
Eddie reminds us: ‘Former premier Mike Baird is expected to give evidence to the inquiry next month’ and says ‘Labor’s shadow minister for the arts Walt Secord described the government as “arrogant and contemptuous”. “Either this is a massive cover-up, or worse, there is no business case at all…”.
The Greens motion, passed earlier this month with the support of Labor and SFF, called for “the preliminary and final business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta”. It also called for “any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House”. The Department of Premier and Cabinet, Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office, Mr Harwin’s office, the Planning and Environment Department and Infrastructure NSW all said they had no such documents in their “possession, custody or control”. Mr Shoebridge said the government was “getting to the point of farce”…
Earlier on Thursday, an open letter arranged by the Sydney Business Chamber urged Ms Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Luke Foley to continue with the project. It was signed by more than 30 organisations based in Western Sydney.
The fiercest opponents of the relocation – in the Greens and SFF – want to build Western Sydney a dedicated culture centre at a different site in Parramatta, instead of moving the Powerhouse. That dedicated centre would respond to the area’s “unique Aboriginal, colonial, and migrant history”, Mr Shoebridge told The New Daily earlier this month..’. Read more 

26 April, 2018
‘Western Sydney urges government to stand ground on Powerhouse Museum’ (on-line)
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarises reports of a current push from Western Sydney to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, through letters sent to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Luke Foley which said: ‘ ”We believe the establishment of a reinvigorated tier-one cultural institution is critical to the artistic and recreational development of western Sydney and Parramatta”.’ She continues: ‘The state government was confident of bipartisan support for its relocation plans until two weeks ago when the opposition announced it would not move the museum from Ultimo and instead build a dedicated performance and exhibition space in Parramatta where blockbuster exhibitions could roll through. On the same day, the government was left embarrassed when one of its MPs crossed the floor of Parliament on the issue forcing the release of the business case justifying relocation. That deadline expires today (Thursday).’ At the same time, ‘With an announcement thought to be imminent, Museums Australia, the national peak advocacy body representing museums and galleries, also released a statement expressing renewed concern for the safety and accessibility of the museum’s valuable collections.’ 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: ‘The Powerhouse Museum upping stumps and moving to Parramatta (by no means a fait accompli) is developing into a giant political football, which is sad and shameful for Sydney’s cultural scene.
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: a purpose-built, state-of-the-art building where a new permanent collection could be housed, and where touring shows could be staged.  As the new gallery gained its own history and traction, it would shape its own identity and fulfil the needs of its constituency without help from the “big end of town”.
And that would be cheaper than the billions it would reportedly cost to drag out the Powerhouse by its roots and transplant it to a new location.’  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’)
With the full business case for the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta expected in Parliament by 5pm on this day, 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 urging Labor leader Luke Foley to back the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta’ and has ‘has also sent the letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, urging her not to take her foot off the pedal.’  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 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’. Identifying that about 25% of visitors come from its immediate location, she does not appear to recognise the value of 75% of visitors coming from elsewhere in NSW, other states in Australia and overseas, as may be expected from a state museum. 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 from the public, government and other organisations, about the development of a new Sydney Modern wing at the Art Gallery of NSW, and the director’s responses. Read more

‘Alternative locations, future funding not seriously considered’
Judith White comments: ‘The Art Gallery of NSW has now responded to the raft of submissions opposing its Development Application (DA) for the Sydney Modern project … Its 126-page response report, prepared by Architectus, the Sydney firm consulting on the project, focuses on “addressing submissions requesting changes” by introducing minor modifications to the design. There will be no re-examination of the entire project.’
She also identifies similarities in the process of developing a business case with that of the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘When he took a stand on 12 April against moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, Opposition Leader Luke Foley backed the eminently sensible idea of building a Western Sydney space for performance and exhibitions from all the central Sydney cultural institutions. Both Labor and the Greens ought to be ready to pursue the idea when the business case for the Powerhouse move is released, which should be by the end of this week. It’s thanks to Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox, who earlier this month crossed the floor to support a Greens motion, that the business case is being released at all. He slammed the Government’s “perverse culture of secrecy” and said: “Governments invariably make poor decisions when they don’t do their homework before making an announcement, fail to properly consult those affected and don’t really listen”.’ Read more

PMA Comment:
And in considering one aspect from the Gallery’s rebuttal document: AGNSW rebuttal April 2018 , that of of alternative venues, a Powerhouse Museum Alliance colleague points out: ‘But it is interesting to see the arguments advanced for why Sydney Modern can’t be at a “remote” location like Walsh Bay, let alone Parramatta. The AGNSW argues that an alternate location will reduce visitation, funding and philanthropy, exacerbate inefficiencies, and lower financial viability and the cost benefit ratio! … We’re supposed to believe that visitation, philanthropy, and the efficiency of the gallery will be damaged if it is built in a “remote location”, but the same arguments are discounted when it comes to spending $1.2b to move the PHM 23ks west for no net increase in cultural facilities.’

18 April, 2018
Editorial: ‘Museum move makes sense’
Summarising arguments made in reports elsewhere in this issue of The Daily Telegraph, the editorial traces some of the history of the Powerhouse Museum, and refers to recent extracts from a report from 2014 and an opinion piece by Anna Caldwell. It insists that: ‘Yet the latest and most sensible shift yet, to Parramatta, is furiously resisted by some who seem hostile to any form of positive change.’ (See reports below)
18 April, 2018
 Powerhouse Museum move: Labor’s backflip is a sellout to inner-city’s privileged interests’ (in print as ‘The West deserves best:’
Seemingly ignoring the strong support for a museum and gallery in Parramatta from critics of the total move of the Powerhouse Museum, Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph argues that: ‘Wresting a prized museum from the inner-city elite for the battlers of Western Sydney was never going to be easy. But it’s the type of task that will define precisely what kind of city we want to be. Is it the kind of city that holds its cultural prizes hostage in the domain of the privileged? Surely we’re better than that…This is, unequivocally, a state that knows the value of the suburbs and the regions. We talk about spreading the benefits of the boom in health, education and infrastructure. And — newsflash — culture and art should be no different.’ She continues: ‘Labor’s backflip to instead say a “performance space” is a “better plan” for Western Sydney is bizarre, given Foley’s backing for the region he represents in his own electorate. He’ll need to be careful not to overreach in his opposition to a permanent Powerhouse collection for the west because voters can smell a disingenuous policy a mile off’. Read 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’)
In The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell cites selected extracts where ‘A secret report warned the government the Powerhouse Museum was riddled with problems including water leaks, mould, compliance issues and an inability to secure “blockbuster” exhibitions that meant its core functions would be “compromised” without a major overhaul,’ and claims that ‘The Daily Telegraph can reveal that it was this explosive report — outlining the full list of defects at the Ultimo facility and the cost of associated repairs — that ­informed the government’s decision to move the museum to a new site at Parramatta.’ 18 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: ‘The cost of moving the Powerhouse Museum from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta in Sydney’s west is about $700 million and the benefit cost ratio of the project has been put at about 1.1 …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.
Sources said the business case is damaging for the government but the BCR of the project is higher than either the government’s stadiums builds, valued at $2bn. …  The government requires a project’s BCR to be greater than one in order to access funds from its Restart NSW fund…. The government has already spent more than $100m buying a site on the banks of the Parramatta River to build the new museum, amid warnings the area is flood-prone.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley last week did a backflip on the project, after previously championing the movement of the centre to Western Sydney.
Part of the Parramatta plan involves the use of a Castle Hill site for storage, with some of the Ultimo site expected to be sold off and the remainder to contain an arts and cultural space. The final approval for the relocation of the Powerhouse — a 2015 state election commitment from former premier Mike Baird — is expected to go to cabinet soon. Arts Minister Don Harwin, who is managing the move, declined to comment yesterday.’ Read more

16 April, 2018
Museums Galleries Australia: Update on the Powerhouse Museum
Alex Marsden, national director of Museums Galleries Australia, provides members with an update on MGA’s position regarding the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. She says of their contribution to the Upper House Inquiry and later developments:  ‘We stand by our recommendations in the submission, are concerned for the safety and accessibility of the museum collections, and would support more recent proposals for enlarging the cultural infrastructure of the state rather than relocating it. The Smithsonian model of different museums and galleries under the one organisational structure (such as a new purpose-designed museum for Western Sydney and a well-funded Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo) has been suggested by many and has significant support.’ Read more

16 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse stoush adds more fuel to cultural fire’
Andy Marks, in the Sydney Morning Herald, questions the proposal to build a new incinerator at Eastern Creek. But he criticises it in the context of “cultural vandalism” in moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. ‘Sure, what do we know about art and stuff out West. We’d probably burn it, right? Bit risky. Best keep the good china in town, away from the savages.’ … ‘As a kid growing up in Western Sydney, the biggest act of “cultural vandalism” was that which was inflicted on the region by the stark absence of arts and cultural institutions. That’s changing…’ [but] ‘Despite the groundswell, Australia’s fastest growing and most populous region still attracts only about 5 per cent of state government arts funding and just 1 per cent from the Commonwealth.’ He continues: ‘Critics of the Powerhouse move or other measures to redress the astounding level of arts investment inequity across Greater Sydney might want to consider the potential going up in smoke out West …If we are to make the most of the wonderful infusion of creativity they bring to all facets of life then we need to ensure they have more than an incinerator for inspiration.’ 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 – and suggests: ‘Instead of its former can-do image, the Berejiklian government looks good at big ideas, not so hot at the follow-through. The government can – and should – expect its way of doing things to come into question.’
It used as examples: ‘…the light rail project to connect the south-eastern suburbs to the heart of Sydney with high-volume public transport has ground to a halt because of a dispute between the state government and one of the contractors, Acciona.’…’Other major projects have also hit controversy. We need not return to the stadium issue, except to say that the apparent backdown to public pressure over its excessive scale will probably convince few people.’…’A third issue along the same lines has been the state’s privatised ports. A consultants’ report commissioned by the Port of Newcastle this week drew attention to an arrangement which favours Port Botany…As often happens in privatisations, the secret condition, which the government – again – long denied existed, was introduced to boost price received for the transaction.’
‘Equally baffling has been the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The government had wanted to sit on the business case justifying this plan until three months after its decision had been announced – and then to release only a summary. But this week the Legislative Council voted to order it to publish the full document within 14 days. Matthew Mason-Cox, the rebel Liberal who supported the Greens’ motion, is right: the state government does have a perverse culture of secrecy and it is leading to some bad decisions. Like the stadiums, the Powerhouse move increasingly looks like more pointless churn: one perfectly good, readily accessible heritage-listed facility sold off to developers for a relatively small gain and, at enormously greater expense, another built somewhere else equally accessible, but slightly smaller, slightly inferior, and in a highly dubious flood-prone site beside the Parramatta River, to do the same thing. …
Labor has now withdrawn its support for the move. Its motives are no doubt strategic – to prepare an attack on government waste for the next election – but it has to be said that through its secrecy and poor thinking the government has handed it the ammunition….
In all this, part of the problem will be the long-term decline of public service independence. Once, career public servants could give advice impartially; now, their function appears to facilitate whatever whim a minister expresses. Poor process leads to poor outcomes – and the public pays. … But this government should be trying to fix it – and there is no sign that it wants to try.’  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. The Saturday Telegraph has learnt key details of the favoured plan, which is yet to be signed off by Cabinet, as Labor ramps up its attempts to block the museum’s relocation.
Government insiders see maintaining an Ultimo exhibition as a nod to inner west groups who have opposed the Powerhouse plan. The government has previously flagged there may be some arts presence retained there but there has been no detail until now.… Labor has backflipped on its support for the Powerhouse’s Parramatta move, with Mr Foley instead favouring only a performance space be built in the region, saying he didn’t want “Neville Wran’s gift to the state chopped into three pieces”.’ Read more14 April, Daily T Anna C

13 April, 2018
John McDonald: ‘…surely they can see that electoral disaster looms’
In his weekly personal newsletter, John McDonald, art critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, comments on his concerns about the move of the Powerhouse. ‘I’d been informed we were on the verge of some very bad news, which probably entailed the break-up of the museum and selling off of the land in Ultimo – a consummate act of cultural vandalism … All of a sudden, Liberal MP, Matthew Mason-Cox crossed the floor to help force his own party to release the “business case” for the Powerhouse relocation … It seems it took Mr. Mason-Cox’s courageous stand to convince the Labor Party that their opportunism was misplaced. Their backflip is the first sensible initiative we’ve had from the Opposition re the arts. By now it may be too much to expect the government to give up its strong-arm tactics, its profligate waste of tax-payers’ money, its cosy, secretive deals with developers and favoured companies, but surely they can see that electoral disaster looms.’ John McD 13 April

13 April, 2018
‘Rogue MP angers Libs as Labor backflips’
Sydney Morning Herald, in print as single story; on-line as two stories by Alexandra Smith, with Lisa Visentin (see below):
‘Foley reveals Powerhouse policy as government is left red-faced’
‘NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has abandoned his support for moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta as the state government was left red-faced when one of its MPs crossed the floor of parliament on the issue. In a significant shift, Mr Foley outlined the policy he would take to the election, saying he would not move the museum from Ultimo and would build a dedicated performance and exhibition space in Parramatta. His position on the museum comes as rogue Liberal MP, Matthew Mason-Cox, crossed the floor of the upper house yesterday to support a Greens motion calling for a release of the full business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse. The business case will have to be released within 14 days. The parliamentary order comes less than a fortnight after the government committed to releasing only a summary, and not until 90 days after its investment decision had been made.
Mr Mason-Cox, who is also a vocal opponent of the government’s stadiums policy, said the state government had developed a “perverse culture of secrecy”. “The key problem with the Powerhouse decision is that the decision came first, followed by the business case and a pretend consultation process,”…
The government has been considering the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse since December, and has repeatedly said it would announce its fate “in the near future”… But Mr Foley said he could not support the “dismembering of a great cultural institution”. “Western Sydney deserves its own cultural institution not the leftovers from the Powerhouse Museum, which I understand will be strewn across Sydney” …“multiple sources from within the government” had told him that the government would abandon its plans to move the Powerhouse “in its entirety” to Parramatta. He said it was his understanding that the government would keep some of the collection at Ultimo, as well as at the Castle Hill Discovery Centre and a new Parramatta space. It would then sell off a portion of the Ultimo site to developers, Mr Foley understands … Mr Foley said western Sydney deserved a dedicated space for performances and exhibitions. “Why should the Art Gallery, and the Australian Museum and the MCA not be required to take exhibitions to western Sydney when they finish their season in the city,” Mr Foley said. Read more

‘Rogue Liberal MP crosses the floor, forcing release of documents’
Rogue Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox has forced his government into releasing the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, in a move that could see him suspended from the party room. In what has been described as an unprecedented step, Mr Mason-Cox crossed the floor of parliament to support a Greens’ motion to have the business case released within 14 days.
The parliamentary order comes less than a fortnight after the government committed to releasing only a summary of the business case, and not until 90 days after its investment decision had been made. A senior Liberal source said the upper house MP’s decision to cross the floor could see a push to have him suspended from the Liberal party room … Another said: “This is very unhelpful when we are trying to win an election.” The source said that while the Liberal party has a non-binding caucus, and members are free to vote on matters of conscience, an MP is expected to support the government on procedural matters, which would include a vote on the release of papers. Mr Mason-Cox, a former fair trading minister, has become a vocal opponent of some of the government’s major policies, including stadiums. Earlier this week, he said the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum was another example of the government “failing to do its homework”.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said his motion “embarrassed” the government into releasing the documents. “If the government wants to spend $1.5 billion blowing up the Powerhouse and moving it to Parramatta, it needs to publicly release the business case before any decision is finalised,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“The government now has 14 days to end the secrecy, release the full business and show the people of NSW why it thinks this is a good idea.” Read more 

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)
‘… Hydrologist John Macintosh, who advised the inquiry into Queensland’s deadly Grantham flood, said building a museum at the chosen site adjacent to Parramatta River would create a “flood hazard”. “Speaking plainly, I think it’s crazy, it’s a crazy proposal to put the museum in that location, pure and simple,” he said. Dr Macintosh’s submission to the Upper House inquiry investigating the proposed museum move is the 17th paper to raise concerns about flooding…
Jewellery expert Anne Schofield, who has donated hundreds of jewels and costumes to the Powerhouse, is so worried about the risk of moisture and floods she will ask the museum to return everything she has donated. “I don’t want them to go to Parramatta frankly. I’d like to be able to ask for them back if the plan goes ahead, because I didn’t donate them to a museum in Parramatta, I donated them to a museum in Harris Street, Ultimo and that’s where I’d want them to stay. “If they’re not staying there I’ll donate them somewhere else.”
Trustees of the Powerhouse Museum have conditionally supported the move. One of those conditions is that “the new site is fit for purpose and appropriate to the construction of a museum”, according to chairman Barney Glover. Professor Glover would not say if Dr Macintosh’s report would lead the trust to withdraw its support. He said …”The Trust looks forward to the Government decision on the Powerhouse Museum relocation. Until a Government announcement is made the Trust is not in a position to comment.”
On Thursday afternoon, Greens MP David Shoebridge’s motion to compel the Government to release its business case for the move was passed by the Upper House. Outspoken Liberals backbencher Matthew Mason Cox crossed the floor to vote for the motion. Also on Thursday, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to the move. It’s expected to announce more details of the plan any day.’ Read more 

13 April, 2018
Media Release from Luke Foley, Leader of Opposition: ‘Labor withdraws bipartisan support’
‘…The Berejiklian Government plan for the Powerhouse Museum is “half-baked” and does not deliver a full cultural institution to Western Sydney.
Instead, NSW 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. Full details will be announced before the State election – and in conjunction with Western Sydney State MPs and relevant arts and cultural organisations and stakeholders.’ And Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord said: “Western Sydney deserves its own cultural institution to be proud of: Far better to deliver a new facility in Parramatta capable of holding large scale exhibitions and performances, than a half-baked move of the Powerhouse’s leftovers.” Read more  and 180413 FOLEY powerhouse

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
Hansard documents the debate in Parliament, where Greens MP David Shoebridge moved: 
‘That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within seven days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents in the possession, custody or control of the Premier, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Minister for the Arts, Create NSW, the Department of Planning and Environment or Infrastructure NSW:
(a) the preliminary and final or current versions of the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta; and
(b) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House.
For compilation of the record in Hansard see: Hansard April 12 2018

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. With a final announcement on the fate of the Powerhouse imminent, Jill Wran said she was ”absolutely crushed” that the legacy of a man ”whose contribution right across the cultural lines of NSW was itself monumental” might be dismantled and that the cultural relevance of the institution responsible for a world-renowned collection would be so undermined.
It was ”hurtful” too … that there had not been a ”stronger response” from Labor, which has been in lock step with the government … though it is reviewing its support… As premier, Neville Wran appointed himself minister for the arts and oversaw the building of the Powerhouse Museum and the Wharf Theatre, as well as the restoration of Parliament House, Hyde Park Barracks and the Mint. ‘The logic of removing one world-class institution on the perfect site for what is a unique collection to build another on flood-prone land for a purpose still very ill-defined defeats most thinking people, or people I know,” she said.
But the director of the Campbelltown Arts Centre, Michael Dagostino, said western Sydney deserved its own state cultural institution with its own identity, vision and daring ambitions. ”It’s important to locate a museum where people live, adding to the cultural vibrancy that already exists in western Sydney,” he said… “Cultural activity should be embedded in the everyday and when a major institution is 30 or 50 kilometres away how can that be possible?”
…Ms Wran said she wholeheartedly agreed western Sydney deserved cultural resources and programming. ”Why can’t we leave the Powerhouse intact and have a wonderful new different museum in the west? I would love to see an institution with an enterprising director who invites all the other leading galleries and museums to show their best in innovatively curated exhibitions on a revolving basis. Visiting blockbusters could also be scheduled so whether they are coming to Sydney, Melbourne or Darwin they could … include a period in this western Sydney gallery or museum. That way the people of western Sydney get the very best we have got. They don’t get a standing display that is permanent and once they’ve seen it they may not see it too often.” ’ 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” that threatens the public’s confidence in its decision making. Mr Mason-Cox … said the controversial decision to relocate the city’s Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was another poor decision where the government had failed “to do its homework”… it was the government’s “latest long running, self-inflicted saga”.
“Good process is characterised by wide consultation, the preparation of a strong business case and finally a decision informed by these facts,” Mr Mason-Cox said. “The key problem with the Powerhouse decision is that the decision came first followed by the business case and a pretend consultation process.”
The government has been considering the business case for the relocation of the Ultimo museum since December, but says it will make an announcement “in the near future”. It is expected to build a dedicated science and innovation museum in Parramatta and the Ultimo site’s two permanent galleries will be emptied and possibly turned into performance spaces. But the government has said it will withhold the business case for three months after the final decision is made… Mr Mason-Cox said the government “used to pride ourselves as transparent and accountable government”. “Lately, this has been replaced by a perverse culture of secrecy, undermining public confidence in government decision-making,” he said… Mr Mason-Cox, who does not face re-election in the upper house at next year’s election, said he had an obligation to publicly raise important issues.
“As a member of the Liberal Party I have a right, indeed a duty, to speak out on important matters of public policy where I strongly disagree on the position taken by the government,” Mr Mason-Cox said.’ 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’ … and that ‘the latest instance of poor implementation is the long-running plan to uproot the Powerhouse Museum from its purpose-built premises in Ultimo to a new flood-prone site beside the Parramatta River.’ He discusses how the decision was announced prior to commissioning a preliminary business case, and that a final decision is expected shortly but will not be released for 90 days, as well as the way the inquiry by a Legislative Council committee had been ‘appalled’ at the procedures. He concludes that ‘It would be much wiser to just leave the existing Powerhouse where it is’ and build another museum in Parramatta.

11 April, 2018
‘Power play for Parramatta’
Addie Morton, in Altmedia, records that ‘Community outrage continues to grow over the NSW Government’s decision to move the iconic Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to a flood-prone site on the Parramatta River… Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain in the NSW Parliament, isn’t sold on the relocation. “This proposal was always a real estate deal rather than any type of cultural decision,” Since Parramatta is a marginal seat for the government, Parker also sees the relocation as a political move. “It’s a seat they have to win, and they thought they could buy votes in Parramatta by moving the Powerhouse Museum into their community… The people of Parramatta and Western Sydney deserve a museum or a cultural space that actually speaks to the spirit of that community rather than just relocating and dumping the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta for a short-term political fix.”
Despite promises to release a preliminary business plan for the move in March, secrecy still surrounds the case as the release has been pushed back three months. Lindsay Sharp, Founding Powerhouse Museum Director, believes the excessive secrecy could be the government’s fear of someone finding a better solution. “Why would they delay their business plan for 90 days? Because people questioning the move would inevitably arise,” Sharp said. … Since exact costs and details of the relocation are still unknown, it seems the decision was made without any genuine consultation to either community. The heritages of both areas are being pushed aside and not being recognised.
Instead of moving the Powerhouse Museum … Parker believes the government should go back to the drawing board and recognise that an entirely new museum should be built in Parramatta instead of an enormous relocation of the Powerhouse. “That’s what the government should be looking at rather than trying to make a quick buck, which they have now realised it is very difficult to do with this site,” Parker said.
Kylie Winkworth, a museum and heritage consultant and former Powerhouse Museum trustee, worries about the state of the museum during the relocation process. “They’re going to pack up all of the treasures and we won’t see those treasures for another 10 years,” Winkworth said. “The Powerhouse Museum took 10 years in developing and planning…”. She added that great museums are not planned through secrecy, and the proposal of the move has breached trust with donors and supporters and puts the future of the museum at risk… Efforts of those opposed to the relocation are now geared towards not wasting tax money, preserving irreplaceable artefacts that are connected to the community and keeping the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.’ 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. Three years after the former premier Mike Baird announced plans to move the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ inner-city site to Parramatta, opposition and government MPs have received personal pleas for intervention from museum supporters, while Labor’s Luke Foley is under sustained pressure from within to recant the party’s support for Ultimo’s closure.
Government options for the site include a staged decommissioning starting with the emptying of the Powerhouse’s two permanent galleries, the Turbine and Boiler Halls, and refitting them as new cultural or performance spaces…The museum’s planned shutdown has been declared an act of cultural vandalism by the upper house parliamentary inquiry that is investigating the original Baird decision, and a ”wilful demolition of a world-class museum” by former museum trustee and consultant curator Kylie Winkworth.
Members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance have rushed out letters to all MPs, including Mr Foley, who announced last week he was reviewing Labor’s support for the museum’s relocation to Parramatta. ”It would be bitter indeed if Labor in government inherits the demolition of one of its signature cultural achievements,” Winkworth wrote, ”to build a cut-down version of the museum in Parramatta, on a site which is not just at risk of flood, but whose themes and content bear no relation to Parramatta’s stated cultural priorities or notable cultural opportunities.”
Opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord said support for the Powerhouse Museum move was “rapidly evaporating”… “Rather than creating a world-class cultural institution in western Sydney, the Powerhouse Museum move has turned into a feast for greedy property developers wanting to get their hands on the land and airspace in Ultimo. The Berejiklian government has the wrong priorities.”…
General secretary of the Public Service Association, Stewart Little said a national icon like the Powerhouse Museum should never be treated so shabbily.  “Staff have been left completely demoralised by the shambolic way the state government has approached this issue from day one,” he said. …“The passionate and dedicated custodians of so much history deserve far better than the treatment they have received from this government.” Read more 

8 April, 2018
City investigates Powerhouse complaint
(Linda Morris, The Sun Herald)
‘The City of Sydney council is investigating a complaint that the conversion of exhibition space at the Powerhouse Museum for a university classroom breaches planning laws as NSW cabinet is expected to decide the fate of the Ultimo site as early as this week. [See below: 23 March, 2018)
Part of the Powerhouse Museum’s main temporary gallery space has been renovated as a flexible learning space for up to 400 students of the University of Technology Sydney until the university’s contemporary student hub along Parramatta Road opens next year…The City of Sydney confirmed it had requested further information from the museum following receipt of a complaint about alleged unauthorised works and change of use.
In its defence, the university said it had proceeded with work after being advised by external consultants that a development application was not required.
The move comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made it clear on Friday that there would be no back-down on plans to shift the Museum of Applied Arts and Science headquarters at the old Powerhouse site in Ultimo to a new location in Parramatta… The City of Sydney approves all work valued below $30 million.
“The city will review the documentation to determine the extent of works involved in the creation of this space and whether they would have required development consent,” a spokesperson said.
The city council can impose fines, make enforcement orders for retrospective changes or take court action where development has been deemed to have been carried out without consent…’ Read more 

6 April, 2018
‘Labor backs away from support for Powerhouse move’
Following an ABC radio interview with Opposition Leader Luke Foley on 5 April (see below) Linda Morris (SMH) reported that he was ‘reviewing his party’s support of NSW government plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta … a year out from the state election, Mr Foley said he was ”increasingly sceptical” of the proposal, now before NSW cabinet, given evidence before a parliamentary inquiry that the new museum could cost more than $1 billion…While Mr Foley conceded he had given the original proposal his in-principle support, he had to consider if a new museum was the wisest use of taxpayer money. ”We all want to do more for arts and culture in western Sydney and I sit down with artists and cultural leaders of western Sydney, and leaders of some of those institutions, very regularly and I’m far from convinced that spending up to $2000 million to move not all, but part of the Powerhouse, is the best thing we can do for arts and culture in western Sydney, not convinced at all.” … While Labor risks disappointing western Sydney voters, a change of heart would enable the opposition to prosecute an election pitch, honed during the stadium redevelopment furore, that it is the party to deliver on airconditioned classrooms, reduced hospital waiting lists, and a western Sydney metro line between Westmead and the CBD. Behind the scenes, too, Labor sentimentalists have argued that commercial redevelopment of the Ultimo site trashes the legacy of former premier Neville Wran, who announced the redevelopment of the old Ultimo Power House in 1979 and presided over the opening of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ new site in 1988.’
Morris reported disagreement from Arts Minister Don Harwin and Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger. But ‘apart from skyrocketing costs, a former museum trustee, Kylie Winkworth, predicted the new Parramatta museum would face major hurdles in building community support, if it entailed the destruction of a much-loved museum, part of the cultural history of Sydney and NSW, and the memories of generations of families and museum visitors.’ Read more 

6 April, 2018
ABC Breakfast radio with Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer
Following interview with Foley, interview with Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who says ‘100% it is going to happen – absolutely’, while retaining a level of culture on the site in Ultimo. (starts at 58:10)

5 April, 2018
ABC Breakfast radio with Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer
Interview with Luke Foley, Opposition Labor leader, who says he is ‘increasingly sceptical’ and ‘far from convinced’ about the cost of moving the museum. (starts at 1:10:42)

6 April, 2018
Local groups help decide fate of Parramatta North’s heritage core
The Parramatta Advertiser reports: ‘Five local groups will weigh in on the future of the Parramatta North heritage precinct, but there are two organisations feeling bitter about not being included. North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said leaving their group off the UrbanGrowth NSW list was not a surprise, but they are still angered by the move. “Clearly they don’t want representatives on their committee that vehemently disagree with putting thousands of units on this sacred site,” she said. “You have to wonder, what is the real purpose of this committee if the State Government developer has secretly hand-picked members, instead of calling for public invitations.” While National Trust of Australia (NSW) president Brian Powyer said sometimes without friction there’s no fire. “A view shouldn’t be absent from the table because it’s different,” he said. Mr Powyer said the Trust’s inclusion would add to the group’s legitimacy. “You need people who can see that next stage so the planning will accommodate that growth and potential,” he said.
…  An UrbanGrowth spokesman said groups were chosen for their significant cultural and historical links to the site. “As part of our ongoing conversation with the community, we are open to further partnerships with groups who have close historical connections to the site, and who can bring constructive and meaningful ideas to the table,” he said. The collaboration framework agreement has selected organisations playing a key role in determining the future of the Parramatta North heritage precinct. They are Parramatta Council, Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council, Parragirls, Parramatta Female Factory Friends and Parramatta District Men’s Shed.
… The Parramatta Female Factory, which forms part of the heritage core, was added to the National Heritage List in November 2017. It is Australia’s 113th national heritage place and is one of only a handful of sites west of the Sydney CBD on the list…’ Read more 

5 April, 2018
‘Former premier Baird’s Powerhouse inquiry appearance delayed’
[Will the decision be made before the Inquiry report?]
In discussing the postponement of the appearance of Mike Baird and his former chief of staff to the Inquiry, Linda Morris says in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘But the evidence of both men, key figures in the government’s decision to shift the museum to Parramatta before completion of a fully costed business plan, are likely to post-date a public announcement on the museum’s fate. The business case is currently being considered by NSW Cabinet including options for commercial development with a cultural presence at Ultimo, and a new science and technology museum at Parramatta. “The business case was delivered to the government in December and has since been going through a number of assurance processes that need to be completed before an informed decision can be made,” a spokesman for Arts minister Don Harwin said last week.
Inquiry chairman, Robert Borsak, … said Mr Baird and Mr Warburton would be asked to explain how they had reached their decision to relocate the museum before even costing the proposal, …[and] … also criticised the government’s intention to delay the release of a summary of the business case until 90 days after the government’s final decision. The conversion of Powerhouse exhibition space into a University of Technology classroom suggested the government was going ahead with its relocation plan and mocked its assurances of public transparency. “With the dismantling of the Powerhouse Museum, it’s obvious the decision has been made,” Mr Borsak said.’  Read more 

2 April, 2018
Relocation plan: ‘Powerhouse business case secret for 90 days’
Lisa Visentin (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that over the Easter weekend, Arts Minister Don Harwin ‘gave the strongest indication yet that the government had reached the final stages of the decision-making process’ about the controversial relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. But he also made it clear that ‘The NSW government will with-hold the business case … for three months after the final decision is made.’ A spokesman for Harwin said: ‘The business case was delivered to the government in December, and has since been going through a number of assurance processes…’. However, ‘The Labor opposition, which has repeatedly called for the government to financially justify its Powerhouse relocation plan, said delaying the disclosure until after the investment decision had been made meant the process continued to “lack any measure of accountability”.’  Visentin reminds us that ‘The decision to move the Powerhouse Museum from its heritage-listed premises in Ultimo to Parramatta has been mired in controversy since it was first announced by then-Premier Mike Baird in February 2015 as part of an election pitch …’, and quotes Labor’s arts spokesman, Walt Secord, who said “What is the point of releasing the financial criteria after the massive expenditure?”
Read More: SMH PHM secret plan 2 April 18
See also: News Chronology below: 2 February, 2018, Don Harwin: ‘That is not the limit of my ambition’: One-on-one with the Arts Minister.

March 2018, undated
NSW Cultural Infrastructure reports: have they been listening?
(Report from the Powerhouse Museum Alliance.)
In an undated letter received by PMA in March, and apparently written in January, 2018, Graham Bradley AM, Chair of Infrastructure NSW, wrote to Don Harwin, Minister for the Arts, to update him on their NSW Cultural Infrastructure Strategy of October 2016.  Read more Here, he said they had submitted: ‘… advice on the infrastructure investment priorities to enhance the State’s cultural sector over the next 10-20 years,’ and continued, saying of the 2018 update: ‘Since our report was submitted, the Government has made substantial progress on cultural infrastructure investments, all of which are in line with the direction recommended in our report.’  It is notable that this 2018 letter still listed among recent commitments: ‘Heads of Agreement have been reached with the City of Parramatta Council to acquire land for a New Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and to establish a joint venture for the Riverside Theatres Redevelopment …’

The two cultural infrastructure reports for 2016 and 2018 can be found on the Create NSW website.  Established in April 2017, Create NSW ‘has responsibility for many of the functions previously undertaken by Arts NSW and Screen NSW’. Within it, the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) was formed ‘to enable a sector-wide coordinated response to Cultural Infrastructure in NSW.’ The office says: ‘To learn more download the Cultural Infrastructure Action Plan 2018. Infrastructure NSW’s Cultural Infrastructure Strategy 2016 – Advice to the NSW Government is a starting point for the development of our Plan.’

Despite an extensive 3½ year debate about the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and an extended Upper House Inquiry regarding the secretive and badly-researched and costed proposal, as well as other options that could be considered for both locations, no change has been made to the original strategy. The 2018 plan says (on P.4) of Priority Projects already committed: ‘Western Sydney – Parramatta Cultural Precinct: The NSW Government has committed to building a New Museum in Western Sydney, which will be the flagship campus of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences …’.

Create NSW’s Cultural Infrastructure link includes the MAAS Museum project,  where, using by now well-worn clichés of significance, it says: ‘The NSW Government is working with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to build a truly iconic museum in Western Sydney. The New Museum in Parramatta will become the flagship MAAS campus, offering a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a purpose-built Museum to welcome people from across NSW and around the world to experience the MAAS collection. The New Museum will be designed with community input and will be on the cutting edge of science and innovation.’
However, significantly, it does reflect the pressure to consider a better business case and further consideration for the Ultimo site: ‘To deliver the best possible Museum, a business case has been established to ensure all options are investigated, tested and analysed. The business case has been expanded to include an arts and cultural space in Ultimo that considers keeping some MAAS presence at the current Powerhouse Museum site.’
But – what will this cultural presence be?

30 March, 2018
‘Producers push for new lyric theatre in Sydney’
[On 31 July 2017 a press release from Arts Minister Don Harwin said that associated with the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, ‘The NSW Government will retain an arts and cultural presence at the current Ultimo site.’ Considerable public concern has followed about exactly what this ‘presence’ might be, at the expense of losing a valued state museum. This question is raised again associated with the following report.]
In reporting on 30 March, 2018 that ‘Leading theatre producers have called for investment in a lyric theatre with capacity for between 1500 and 1700 patrons to bring long-running productions to Sydney from Broadway and the West End’, Linda Morris in The Sydney Morning Herald says: ‘Despite the work of Destinations NSW, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said it was no secret Sydney was missing out on major theatre productions. ”I hear all the time from the sector about the need for a new lyric theatre – something the NSW’s Cultural Infrastructure Strategy identifies very clearly. A lively theatre scene puts the spotlight on a city bringing huge benefits to the local economy.”  Morris continues: ‘The need for a new lyric theatre was first identified by the Cultural Infrastructure Strategy developed by Infrastructure NSW in 2016 and underlined by uncertainty around the reopening of the 1100-seat Theatre Royal.’ Read more

29 March, 2018
‘NSW government abandons plan to knock down ANZ Stadium’
After considerable controversy about the amount of funds to be spent on sports stadiums at the expense of other community priorities, and a recent poll which found  almost 60 per cent of voters opposed the government’s stadiums policy’, Alexandra Smith, in The Sydney Morning Herald, announced: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has abandoned plans to knock down and rebuild ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park but will go ahead with a proposal for Allianz Stadium at Moore Park. … “I’m not going to deny this is a complicated issue, it’s been a complicated issue for years,” Ms Berejiklian said. “The difference today is we have done our homework … we don’t apologise for listening to the community.” … The decision comes after sustained pressure on the government to back down on its $2.5 billion stadiums policy. “We’ve never before considered the business cases, done by an independent authority like Infrastructure NSW  … the homework hasn’t been done,” Ms Berejiklian said. Coalition MPs have been privately expressing their concern over the policy, which has had the backing of the Premier and Sports Minister Stuart Ayres. Read more

28 March, 2018
‘New Parliamentary committees may benefit Powerhouse Inquiry’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook page draws our attention to how: ‘The heroic work of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee into Museums and Galleries has been hampered from the outset by Government’s refusals to disclose vital information.’ However, it points out, ‘Now, two new Parliamentary committees, established last week to investigate capital works projects and state finances, could help to pierce the veil of secrecy that has clouded the Powerhouse issue. In an unlikely alliance, the Fishers, Shooters and Farmers Party, with the support of Labor and the crossbench, introduced the Public Accountability Committee( ) and the Public Works Committee ( ) on 15 March .. Their powers and reach are considerable, and should significantly strengthen the parliament’s existing mechanisms to procure so-called ‘Cabinet-in-Confidence’ documents… With former Premier Baird due to testify at the next Powerhouse Inquiry hearings … scrutiny from these committees could make it much harder for Berejiklian to hide unpalatable truths in order to force her “Powerhouse move” project through.’ Read more

23 March, 2018
Powerhouse exhibition space converted to university classroom
Fears that plans are already under way for the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to eventually occupy the buildings of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, are documented by Linda Morris in the Sydney Morning Herald. She says: ‘Part of the Powerhouse Museum’s main temporary gallery space has been leased out as a classroom for up to 400 university students in a move the state government denies is confirmation the museum is to be relocated.’ UTS has been using an existing lecture theatre during 2017, while ‘a ”purpose-designed learning space” for the university opens this month under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UTS and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) in December.’  However, ‘At 1800 sqm, the hall is one of the largest exhibition spaces in Sydney and forms part of the Wran Building opened in 1988 and renovated at a cost of $25 million six years ago.’ It has housed many significant exhibitions in the past, and concerns are expressed that such important exhibition space is being sacrificed. Morris continues: ‘A former trustee, Kylie Winkworth, a heritage and museum consultant, said MAAS management seemed intent on closing the inner city Powerhouse Museum, one of MAAS’ three sites, ”by stealth”. Chairman of the Upper House inquiry into the Parramatta relocation plans, Robert Borsak, asked: ”Would we expect the same behaviour by the management of the Smithsonian Museum or the Louvre? No.” But the NSW Arts Minister, Don Harwin, said UTS and MAAS had a proud history of collaboration and the development of a purpose-designed learning space was yet another exciting step for the partnership.’ However, ‘“Trading a public museum for an indeterminate cultural presence and university classroom constituted a ”world-first museum demolition plan”, Winkworth said. ”It is an insult to the architect Lionel Glendenning that a museum that is supposed to care about design can partition a Sulman award-winning building into a generic teaching space.’ Borsak also warned: ‘it looked like ”a death by a thousand cuts. Since my inquiry has not yet been presented with a business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, either the government is still keeping it secret, or the museum is acting unilaterally.” ’ Read more

16 March, 2018
Upper House Inquiry: dates changed again!!
It has just been brought to our attention that, in the on-line Inquiry schedule, the date of 4 April for the 9th hearing has been changed again! In its place are two hearings, one on Monday, 28 May (3 hours), and another on Friday, 1 June (2 hours). There is no information as yet about who will be interviewed, although we know that the former Premier was one of those to be summonsed to attend. For more details as they appear, check: Read more

12 March, 2018
‘GPT leads listed push into Parramatta hub’
In The Australian, Ben Wilmot identifies development projects being pursued in Parramatta by the GPT Group, Mirvac, Dexus, Charter Hall and many others, quoting GPT head of office and logistics, Matthew Faddy, as saying of the GPT tower, for which it has just received approval: ‘This project will create a major iconic landmark and add energy to the transformation of Parramatta into a world-class commercial and cultural centre’. Wilmot adds:  ‘… the area is benefiting from a NSW government push to shift public servants to the western suburbs’, and that the GPT development ‘…is near the Parramatta Transport Interchange and planned $1.2 billion Riverbank cultural precinct which is slated to house the new Powerhouse Museum, despite uncertainty about whether it will shift from its Ultimo home in Sydney’s inner suburbs.’ Read more

10 March, 2018
‘Culture Heist: Scandals of Sydney’s Museums’
Following reports of ‘an alleged drunken after-party following the $1,000-a-seat Fashion Ball at the Powerhouse last month’, Judith White documents that: ‘according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (7 March), it was enraged professional staff who blew the whistle on the drunken gathering, and Mr Borsak has asked Minister Harwin for an “iron-clad guarantee” that the whistleblowers will not be subjected to a witchhunt. Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little weighed in to the controversy, saying it appeared museum management was undermining its staff and not pushing for retention of the Ultimo site.’
With reference to issues about the Development Application (DA) for Sydney Modern at the Art Gallery of NSW where ‘some of the most highly-qualified people and organisations among the huge number of objectors – 178 individuals and 17 organisations’ have written to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, she asks: ‘What is happening to our much-loved public cultural sector? It’s embarrassing and shameful. To me the affair is yet another symptom of the corporatisation of our cultural institutions, under the impact of many factors: governments cutting budgets, arts boards dominated by corporate heavyweights who are major political donors or dependent on government contracts, and managements hiring ever more marketing and fund-raising executives alienated from the core mission of caring for collections.’ Read more 

8 March, 2018
‘Powerhouse Museum’s Fashion Ball is all play, no cash’
Linda Morris (Sydney Morning Herald) enlarges on her report of 7 March, to comment on the cash benefit of the event, despite its ‘success in terms of publicity and engagement with the fashion community’. For the revised report: Read more or see: SMH PHM fundraiser 8March18

See also ‘Inside the inaugural MAAS Ball in Sydney’ by Melissa Hoyer in Vogue Australia on 2 February, for some of the identities attending the inaugural fashion ball at MAAS on 1 February: Read more 

7 March, 2018
‘Minister wants answers over Powerhouse Museum fundraiser allegations’
(by Linda Morris, on-line version in the Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Very Big Night at the Museum; claims a big blight on the museum’
(by Clarissa Bye, Daily Telegraph)
These reports document a question asked of Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, in the NSW Legislative Council on 6 March, by Chair of Upper House Inquiry committee, Robert Borsak. He referred to an after-party held for senior staff at the museum following a recent fundraising event, on  1 February, the inaugural Fashion Ball, where it was claimed that excessive alcohol was drunk in the presence of ‘white powder’. He asked if the Minister planned to investigate the claims.
Clarissa Bye reports that the minister’s office advised ‘ The minister has requested a full report into the incident.’ Read more: PHM Ball DT 7 March 2018
And Linda Morris says: ‘The controversy couldn’t come at a worse time for the museum with NSW Cabinet considering the business case to shift the Powerhouse from its Ultimo site to a new riverside location in Parramatta at a potential cost of more than $1 billion. Morale, said one insider, was “rock bottom”. While Museum staff were supportive of a museum in Western Sydney, and confident that the collection and the staff expertise would ensure a great museum was run at Parramatta and sites its Ultimo, Sydney Observatory and Castle Hill they could see no reason to de-commission the Ultimo site. Staff fear this alleged incident will only give the government greater impetus to ”start again”. Stewart Little, PSA general secretary, said he worried museum management was undermining the best efforts of its staff whose jobs are under threat from cutbacks and possible closure, and not forcefully pushing the case for retention of the Ultimo site. ”It’s like being on the Titanic and they want to get off,” he said. ”Do you think they are concerned about staff or their own futures, given the uncertainty?”’ Read more: SMH PHM party 7March18

7 March, 2018
‘Disneyland for developers: Is Parramatta losing its soul?’
Alan Mascarenhas, Parramatta resident and former adviser to NSW Labor leaders Luke Foley and John Robertson, writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about over-development at the cost of losing Parramatta’s ‘soul’, saying: ‘A who’s who of developers – Crown, Meriton, Walker Corporation – are reshaping the skyline.’ Among many examples of destroying cultural treasures, he mentions ‘the Female Factory, Australia’s first institution for convict women. The site merits UNESCO World Heritage Listing. Incredibly, however, there are proposals to flood the area with 3,000 apartments’ … ‘And the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation, without a published business case, has become shrouded in mystery. Former Premier Mike Baird has been summoned to appear before a NSW upper house inquiry on April 4.’
He concludes: ‘Today, Parramatta stands at a crucial moment. As the Greater Sydney Commission reimagines Parramatta as Sydney’s central city, it is vital to save it from becoming a Disneyland for developers … As Parramatta grows, its fundamental character must be retained …Today, there are good people focused on delivering the new Parramatta. However, key debates are occurring behind closed doors and essential voices remain unheard …In the end, a city’s destiny belongs not with developers or vested interests, but with its people. There’s never been a better time to ask: what will Parramatta’s future be?’ Read more or see: 7 March 2018 Parramatta as Disneyland

28 February, 2018
‘MP dubious over inquiry’
In its Fastlane news column, the Parramatta Advertiser reports: ‘Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee has lambasted the inquiry into museums and galleries, labelling the hearing “bullsh*t”. “This is a politically motivated inquiry,” Mr Lee said. “All they’re trying to do is bash up the whole thing.” Mr Lee was adamant that not only will the move of the Powerhouse Museum continue, but it will be the flagship museum for Sydney. “This is a commitment that was made and we’re not backing down from that.” ’

27 February, 2018
‘Parramatta Female Factory world heritage listing push’
In the Parramatta Advertiser, Stacy Thomas reports that ‘Three months after securing national heritage listing for the Parramatta Female Factory, the push is now on for global recognition … North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) wants to set up a coalition to push for the listing. “The coalition should be made up of heritage experts, community members, prominent Australians and other local community and industry groups,” NPRAG vice president Steve Brancatisano said. [But] while getting the site on the national list was a big win, it would not stop Urban Growth NSW from building unit blocks around the heritage components. He was certain world heritage listing would curb what NPRAG considers to be an “inappropriate development”…
Urban Growth NSW, is planning on building up to 2700 residential units surrounding the site. The developer said if both the state and federal governments proposed a World Heritage listing, it would support it … Mr Brancatisano said their push for world heritage listing wouldn’t happen overnight. “This is probably a five to 10 year fight and we believe there should be no development on the site until a decision is made,” he said.  Read more  or Read: PFF Heritage push Feb 2018

21 February, 2018
Call for Expressions of Interest for Western Sydney Art, Screen and Culture Roundtable: closing 5 March
PMA has discovered that the government office, Create NSW, is calling for expressions of interest from ‘emerging and established practitioners and workers’ from a range of backgrounds, with a view to establishing a shortlist of potential ‘roundtable’ advisers. These people are to ‘contribute to strategic policymaking for the Arts, Screen and Culture Division, Create NSW and the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIMPO)’, for Western Sydney.  Read more
While the emphasis is on opportunities for Western Sydney, it is noted that the last item on the list of considerations remains ‘The New Museum in Parramatta will become the flagship MAAS campus…’ where ‘…a business case has been established to ensure all options are investigated, tested and analysed…’ (We have still to see this business case.)
The callout concludes:
‘To find out more, please download a copy of the Western Sydney Arts, Screen and Culture Roundtable Terms of Reference. Applications to the Western Sydney Art, Screen and Culture Roundtable are reviewed by Create NSW Directors to determine a shortlist recommendation to the Create NSW Chief Executive Officer. Members will be appointed from the 6 April to the 31 December 2018. Submissions close: 5 March 2018 (Midnight, AEDT – Sydney time)’

19 February 2018
New dates: 9th hearing and Inquiry report further delayed; Former Premier to be issued with summons
In a media release: ‘Next steps for Museums and Galleries Inquiry’, Committee Chair Robert Borsak says: ‘The Upper House committee inquiry into museums and galleries has received responses from Mr Baird and Mr Warburton regarding the committee’s invitation to give evidence at the hearing scheduled for 23 February 2018. Both Mr Baird and Mr Warburton have again declined to attend the hearing. The committee will now issue Mr Baird and Mr Warburton with a summons to attend to give evidence on the Powerhouse Museum issue at a hearing to be held on 4 April 2018. The hearing will take place in the Jubilee Room, at Parliament House, Sydney. The hearing scheduled for 23 February 2018 has been postponed until 4 April 2018.
The committee has also extended the reporting date to 28 June 2018.’
For  information about the inquiry and next hearing, go to the committee’s website: Read more For media release: Read more

16 February, 2018
9th Hearing announced for Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: 23 February
The committee of Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has scheduled its 9th hearing, deferred from late 2017, to take place from 10.00am – 13.00 on 23 February. It also confirms that the ‘reporting date has been extended to 1 March 2018’. Read more

16 February, 2018
‘Former premier Mike Baird, Mirvac officials to be called to give evidence in Powerhouse inquiry’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that, as one of three prominent business leaders who have been given 24 hours to reconsider their refusal to front the Upper House inquiry ‘has given the former NSW premier Mike Baird an ultimatum: either appear before it or be forced.’ Morris points out ‘The move suggests the committee … may be pursuing information around any commercial plans for the existing Ultimo site or the museum’s proposed riverside home in Parramatta.’ She quotes from comments by MLC Robert Borsak , chair of the committee, in the Inquiry’s interim report (see news report 18 December, 2017): ‘From the very start of this inquiry the Government has obfuscated and [refused] to release details of the business case for relocating the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta,’ Mr Borsak said. ‘Nobody has provided a straight answer on why this decision was made before the Government knew how much it would cost, how they could move the Powerhouse Museum or whether the plan is even value for money. The public has a right to know the reason for such secrecy.’ Morris also notes that: ‘The Powerhouse business case, belatedly commissioned last year, is understood to be complete and is expected to be presented to NSW Cabinet within days. The committee has also sought advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments to access Cabinet documents which have been withheld from public scrutiny.’ Read more or Read more: SMH Baird 16 February

2 February, 2018
Don Harwin: ‘That is not the limit of my ambition’: One-on-one with the Arts Minister
Gina Fairley from ArtsHub ‘sat down this week with NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin in a checklist conversation that tackled funding, priorities and vision.’ She said: ‘This is a Minister who, in just 12 months, has dealt with some of the most contentious decisions surrounding the State’s arts and culture infrastructure, and its funding, including a State Inquiry into its museums sector; the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum; a Masterplan for a cultural precinct at Walsh Bay; the Sydney Modern Project, and the refurbishment of Australia’s cultural icon, the Sydney Opera House – all big vision, big budget projects that have been the subject of intense professional and public scrutiny. Meanwhile, the arts portfolio under Minister Harwin’s tenure has seen a significant injection of funding to arts and culture infrastructure in the State, possibly the largest such increase since the bicentenary … ‘And that is not the limit of my ambition, but don’t tell the Treasurer,’ Harwin added with a smile.’ It seems that ‘Establishing the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) was a personal initiative of the Minister’s. “It is going to make a huge difference in terms of completely changing the whole programmatic approach to expenditure on arts and culture – that possibly will be the big win; the most important win while I am Minister,” said Harwin.’

Regarding the issue of the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum being considered by the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, he said “The Government will announce what it will be doing quite separately from whatever the Inquiry proposes. I disagree with their interim recommendation about that museum. We will agree to disagree with them on that,” and continued “My vision is a new museum at Parramatta that is bigger and better and has far more exhibition space than the museum at Ultimo [a claim that has been contested by experts in the field], but to ensure the retention of a cultural space in the heritage precinct at Ultimo.” […a ‘cultural space’ that has not been satisfactorily explained in relation to the Powerhouse Museum’s long contribution to that location.] Read more

27 January, 2018
‘I have watched and mourned as NSW national parks have been run into the ground’
Michael McFadyen, long-time worker for National Parks and Wildlife Services,  includes the destruction of museums in his criticism of the current government. He says, in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘I have watched and mourned as the NPWS has been squeezed so hard over the past 15 years that every bit of life has been extracted from it. In 1986, the NSW NPWS was lauded as “one of the top five national park agencies in the world”. Today, it would not even be the in the top five in Australia.’ Documenting the effects of reduced funding, staff redundancies and pay cuts in national park services across the state, and the detrimental effects on both the environment and tourism, he concludes: ‘The government and opposition must make a tangible commitment to increase funding and staffing to at least previous levels and make the NPWS a standalone department once again … The fact that the Liberal government is happy to waste money on knocking down and rebuilding perfectly good concert venues, exhibition centres, stadiums and museums makes it even harder to understand why this important part of NSW’s heritage has been abandoned.’ Read more

25 January, 2018
Luke Foley questions government’s plans for Powerhouse in Parramatta
On ABC Breakfast radio, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck replayed an interview with Premier Berejiklian, who had confirmed that Parramatta would be Sydney’s central city (of three), and that the relocation of the Museum would contribute with an ‘iconic’ institution to ‘sharing the arts around’ with Western Sydney and those in the bush. In response, Opposition leader Luke Foley said that he shared ambitions for cultural facilities in western Sydney but was increasingly concerned through the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry about the government’s shambolic process, with a cost probably 100 times greater than originally announced. He added that the community was increasingly sceptical about the government’s possible decision to relocate part of the Museum but not all, saying that ‘providing a satellite won’t cut it’ and that more options needed to be looked at. He advised that he would wait for the final Inquiry report and would then outline Labor’s intentions. To hear: Read more  (courtesy Save the Powerhouse) or Read more (ABC link, starts at 1:28m)

9 January, 2018
Opinion: ‘A biased and flawed process’ or (on line) ‘Fast track to a rort’
In questioning the privatisation process of the F6 Freeway, the Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald raised issues pertinent to other government planning processes. It says: ‘the 2015 state election … showed that an able politician such as Mike Baird could get elected while promising to sell off public assets if the proceeds are to be used for a public purpose.’ However, it continues: ‘First, it would appear the NSW public service lacks sufficient expertise to negotiate privatised deals in ways that benefit the public it is supposed to be serving’ and that ‘… in return for colossal fees … An entire industry of private advisers has grown up to replace the bureaucrats who once decided these questions impartially in the public interest… Second, it reveals another example of the obvious and familiar flaw in the process of privatisation: government functions that are to be privatised are routinely given monopoly characteristics to entice investors to pay premium prices for them. But once they are sold, those monopoly characteristics can be used to exclude competitors and defeat the public interest. Here, public benefits in the form of a share of excess profits, are planned to be sold off to the highest bidder.’
There are echoes here of the process of decision-making about the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Who really benefits?  Read more 

1 January, 2018
‘New Year in the culture wars’
Judith White summarises some of the issues about the NSW government’s planning for museums and galleries that were still being addressed as we entered 2018.
Firstly, she says: ‘On 15 December submissions closed concerning the Development Application (DA) for the Sydney Modern Project at the Art Gallery of NSW. Published on the Department of Planning website, the submissions are overwhelmingly objections, numbering many more than the 25 required for the project to be referred for further assessment.’ Then: ‘on 18 December the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries delivered its interim report, concerned principally with the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse from Ultimo to Parramatta.’
White discusses in considerable detail, arguments for better consideration for concerns for destruction of state cultural assets and alternatives for each project.  She refers to papers received from experts such as museum specialist, Kylie Winkworth, and architect, Andrew Andersons, and points out: ‘Secrecy, cost overruns and a lack of genuine consultation? Sounds familiar. They have become hallmarks of the modus operandi of the Berejiklian government’s infrastructure spend.’
As well, in critiquing Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s support for unpopular spending on new sports stadiums, White refers to Opposition leader Luke Foley’s comment that ‘the Premier “has bent the knee to relentless lobbying by unelected powerbrokers”.’  But, she asks, ‘When will Mr Foley draw the same conclusion about the boards of cultural institutions and business chamber lobby groups, and take a firm stand on arts policy? … In the year to come, vigilant supporters of cultural institutions will be looking critically at their response, and at the arts policies of all political parties at both State and Federal levels.’ Read more 

19 December, 2017
Radio interviews with Inquiry Chair and Arts Minister:
Following the release of the Interim Report for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Mark Fennel, on Breakfast, ABC 702, interviews Robert Borsak (at 8.36 am), Chair of the Committee of Inquiry, and Arts Minister Don Harwin (at 8.45am). (Downloads courtesy Save the Powerhouse:
Borsak confirms the Committee’s concerns about lack of transparency in not releasing the business plan for moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta before any final decisions are made, or demonstrating consideration of other options: Hear/Read more
Harwin reinforces his commitment to ‘a brand new, world class, iconic, institution’ in the ‘centre’ of Sydney, without mentioning Parramatta’s local needs, or understanding the need to keep the main venue of a state museum in the axial centre of a capital city. Hear/Read more  

19 December, 2017
Parliamentary inquiry finds Powerhouse Museum move ‘an act of vandalism’
(Print: ‘Act of Vandalism: move under attack’)
Lisa Visentin, (SMH)  discusses the findings of the Inquiry’s interim report tabled on 18 December, saying it has ‘savaged the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to western Sydney before developing a business case, calling it an “act of vandalism by this government”.’  She continues: ‘Instead of relocating the Powerhouse Museum, the committee recommended the government consider investing in alternative proposals for western Sydney … and that a different site be considered’ and reports that ‘Labor’s acting spokeswoman for the arts, Penny Sharpe, slammed the museum’s relocation as a “beleaguered project mired in scandal and secrecy”.’ Despite this, Visentin notes that Premier Berejiklian and western Sydney director of the NSW Business Chamber David Borger remain committed to the move.  Read more  

18 December, 2017
‘Gig’s up’: Mike Baird could be forced to give evidence on Powerhouse Museum relocation
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, reports: ‘Former New South Wales premier Mike Baird could be forced to give evidence to explain his “thought bubble” to relocate the Powerhouse Museum. An upper house committee on Monday released a scathing interim report into the proposed relocation from Ultimo in central Sydney to Parramatta, at a projected cost of up to $1.5 billion. The inquiry’s deputy chair David Shoebridge, Greens MLC, said Mr Baird and his successor, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, had refused to give evidence. But … He hoped Mr Baird would voluntarily give evidence to explain “what on earth led to his thought bubble”…The Sydney Business Chamber’s western wing said it was “outrageous” the inquiry had failed to address the long-running inequality of cultural spending between the city’s east and west … Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the government was working to create a “working class museum in Parramatta”. Labor’s acting spokesperson for the arts Penny Sharpe said the Premier and Mr Baird ought to co-operate with the inquiry, release the business case and justify the decision to move the museum. “The government’s refusal to release the business case just continues the cloak of secrecy over this bungled project,” she said in a statement.’ Read more  

18 December, 2017
‘Former New South Wales premier Mike Baird could be compelled to give evidence over plans to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta in Sydney’s west.’
In reporting on the release of the interim report for the Inquiry, Jackson Vernon, for ABC news, reminds us that: ‘The proposal was announced under Mike Baird’s leadership in 2015 as part of the development of an arts and cultural precinct in Western Sydney. Deputy chair David Shoebridge said the committee previously asked Mr Baird to front the inquiry and would extend another invitation. “Now that he’s a private citizen, if he doesn’t come and present voluntarily the committee now has the power to compel him,” he said.’ Vernon continues: ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin did not say when the [extended business] report would be released but said the Government had received it. “At first blush I’m really impressed with what’s been studied by the consultants and their proposal, but with all of these business cases they need to go through a checking process that’s undertaken by Infrastructure NSW and Treasury before the final decision is made to allocate the money,” he said.’ Read more 

18 December, 2017
Upper House Inquiry: tabling of Interim Report on Museums and Galleries
For a full copy of the committee’s interim report, summary of recommendations and other inquiry documents see the committee’s webpage: Read more 

While the full report of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries is expected early in 2018, a press release from the committee announced on 18 December: ‘The Upper House committee inquiring into museums and galleries in New South Wales has today tabled an interim report, urging the NSW Government to release the full business case for the Powerhouse Museum and all assessed proposals to the committee and the community for full public consultation before making its final decision. The Chair of the committee, the Hon Robert Borsak MLC, said: “The committee has issued this report in order for its recommendations to be considered by the government alongside the final business case relating to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum”. The report examines the proposal to relocate the Powerhouse Museum and concerns related to the costs, rationale, logistics and issues with the proposed new site. It also discusses other cultural investment options for Western Sydney.  Mr Borsak said: “It is appalling that the decision to move the Powerhouse Museum was announced before either the preliminary or final business cases were prepared, and the exact costs and details of the move being known. This decision was made without any genuine consultation with the community or arts and cultural sector”.

15 December, 2016
‘Cultural Infrastructure Survey’ for NSW
A few days before the release of the Interim Report on the Museums and Galleries Inquiry, this invitation from the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) on 15 December to contribute to a survey, eventually filtered through into the new year of 2018. After an explanation of ‘cultural infrastructure’, two brief on-line questionnaires offered opportunity to comment by 11 February 2018.
However, while emphasis was on an infrastructure for important local arts activity, there was no mention of constituents’ needs and expectations for regional, or state museums and galleries. In fact, the only mention of ‘collections’ was in relation to whether there were local facilities, eg. warehouses, for storing artworks! Fortunately, a couple of open questions offered a chance to make wider needs and issues known. For access to the survey: Read more 

5 December, 2017
The Powerhouse Museum: Status of the Inquiry and Business Plan
On Channel 10 Eyewitness News, Catalina Florez interviews a range of people in tracing the sequence of events since the Premier’s confirmation in July that the Powerhouse Museum would move to Parramatta. She finds that as well as those opposed to the plan, who are arguing for a review of alternatives, the Parramatta business community is losing confidence in the government’s planning process. Florez also notes that the argument opposing the move is being reinforced by strong criticism of the cost of proposed sports stadiums instead of necessary health and education services. And while it appears that the extended business case will not now be completed until early 2018, member of the Upper House Inquiry, MP David Shoebridge, advises that it is expected that their committee will provide an interim report before the end of December. Read more 

1 December, 2017
Former Powerhouse Museum trustee calls for an end to uncertainty
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that: ‘A former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum has warned the institution will bleed large numbers of international visitors if the government proceeds with plans to relocate it to Parramatta. The prominent Sydney arts philanthropist, Dr Gene Sherman, said she would like to see the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ (MAAS) Centre for Fashion currently based in Ultimo remain in Sydney.’
While Sherman’s specific interest is in fashion [and the Powerhouse Museum Alliance reminds us there are many equally significant areas of the collection and audience interest that should remain in Ultimo], her comments echo those of many other audiences interested in different, and integrated, collections in the Museum. Morris continues: ‘Western Sydney deserved a “home grown” museum that could draw on the Powerhouse’s stored collection as well as travelling blockbuster exhibitions, Dr Sherman said. “It is a very good idea to build a museum in western Sydney, I think it is an excellent idea, but I think they need to split the [Powerhouse] museum into two or add a museum if they want to in western Sydney and I think they should make up their mind.” The extended business case for relocation is due to be completed next month. It was a question for the government “number crunchers” where in Sydney CBD the museum could be headquartered but given the expensive of moving objects, Dr Sherman said: “If I was guessing I would say, ‘just stay where you are for God’s sake’.”  Read more 

29 November, 2017
‘Powerhouse Unplugged’

Kylie Winkworth’s Opinion Piece, published by AltMedia on the third anniversary of former Premier Baird’s announcement that the Powerhouse Museum would be transplanted, makes perceptive observations of the current situation in anticipation of the extended business plan and Upper House Inquiry report. She says:  ‘Spare a thought for the poor Powerhouse Museum (PHM) this festive season. While its sister organisation the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) is rejoicing in the ministerial rubber stamp for the monster $344m Sydney Modern gallery on land belonging to the Royal Botanic Gardens, the PHM is desperately searching for dance partners to defend its ownership and right to stay in its architecturally significant buildings at Ultimo … There was not a peep out of the spruikers for cultural equity for Western Sydney when the Sydney Modern plans went on exhibition last week. It must have escaped … [notice] … that the Sydney Modern project will concentrate three public art museums in the city, while Parramatta, which is pitching itself as a creative city, is the only city in Western Sydney without an art gallery.’ Further discussion includes the implications of talks with UTS, concerns about the nature of a possible ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo and the effects of ‘remorseless budget cuts’.  Read more   

28 and 29 November, 2017
‘Exactly why are we spending $2 billion on new stadiums in Sydney?’ and Questions surround stadium spending spree’  (Sydney Morning Herald)
Both the SMH Editorial on 28 November and Peter FitzSimons on 29 November question not only the government’s priorities for spending, in this case for sporting facilities, but also the process for making decisions and the real beneficiaries.
These concerns have many similarities with those regarding the potential demolition of the Powerhouse Museum and its inappropriate transfer out of the city to a location that has other needs. Read more  and Read more ; Original announcement:  Read more  

24 November, 2017
‘November 28, 2017, Not a happy anniversary’
Representative of the Pyrmont History Group, Tom Lockley, summarises the three years of community efforts to save the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. He asks: ‘What is wrong with the Government’s project? Just about everything! For a start: there has been no consultation, the financial arrangements are horrific, PHM in its present building is a unique museum with irreplaceable heritage value and Parramatta wants a museum of its own choice!’ Lockley traces the history of the government’s proposal and the wide opposition to it, including the Upper House Inquiry and later limited government consultation and provides substantial references for further research. Read more: Anniversary Nov28

14 November, 2017
Powerhouse and University of Technology Sydney in partnership talks
Linda Morris revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum could strike a partnership with the University of Technology Sydney to allow the museum to retain a presence in Ultimo. The two institutions are holding talks and have canvassed the expansion of the university’s presence at the museum’s Harris Street site, including involvement in events, programs, exhibitions, joint appointments and the use of space for classrooms or studios.’ As the first public indication of what the ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo might be, she continues: ‘This could ultimately see the Powerhouse Museum’s curatorial expertise in science, technology, transport and engineering moved to its planned Parramatta site but decorative arts, fashion, design and architecture remain in some form at Ultimo.’ The Powerhouse’s founding director, Lindsay Sharp, argued that ‘all collections areas had a compelling inter-relationship and any attempt to break up the collection would be “contrary to reason”’ while a UTS spokeswoman ‘denied there were negotiations to purchase or lease the Harwood building, which houses the museum’s collection, to be redeveloped for classes, studios or student accommodation. But she confirmed the university was developing a memorandum of understanding to “facilitate further opportunities to work together closely” with the museum.’ Read more  or PHM and UTS

[While strongly supporting associations with education institutions, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance has issued a Statement of Concern about this particular proposal.
Statement ]

22 November, 2017
Interview: ‘Parramatta’s historic female factory named a historic site’
Following the announcement that Parramatta’s Female Factory site had received national heritage listing, Suzette Meade, President of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) was interviewed in The Daily, on 2SER 107.3 community radio. She discussed the significance of the site to Parramatta and to Australia, and NPRAG’s concerns for current Urban Growth plans for destructive over-development, as well as NPRAG’s long-term lobby for consideration of alternative proposals that would have cultural as well as business and tourism benefits.  Read more  and podcast:

15 November, 2017
‘Parramatta Female Factory named one of Australia’s most important heritage sites’
In reporting on the inclusion of Western Sydney’s Parramatta Female Factory precinct on the national heritage list, Nicole Hasham in the Sydney Morning Herald says: ‘The female factory precinct will become the nation’s 113th national heritage place and share the status and protection of other items on the list including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the Great Barrier Reef. The precinct has been at the centre of a battle between heritage advocates and the NSW government’s property development arm. As part of the North Parramatta Urban Transformation Program, UrbanGrowth NSW wants to build 3900 dwellings in buildings up to 30 storeys near the Female Factory site.’ Read more 

14 November, 2017
‘Parramatta Female Factory Finally Placed on National Heritage List’
A press release from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) says they were: ‘thrilled at the addition of the Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct on the National Heritage List today after years of community lobbying for this outcome.’ Staunch opponents of overdevelopment on the site, NPRAG has also been arguing for Parramatta to have its own museums. ‘NPRAG spokesperson Steve Brancatisano said “…This is a site of exceptional significance and fully deserves inclusion. We now call on bipartisan support from both State and Federal Government to immediately advocate for this site to ascribed UNESCO World Heritage status, and call for an immediate moratorium on development until a World Heritage listing is formally proposed”.’
‘The National Heritage listing also places a cloud over the Parramatta Council meeting held on 13 November 2017, during which some Councillors chose to vote down a motion to commission a report to investigate the economic benefits of alternative uses of the entire Fleet Street Heritage Precinct, including tourism, education and the arts.  Councillors also voted down a motion to meet with NPRAG and hear residents’ alternative vision over state government’s high density residential plans. “In light of this National Heritage Listing, why some Councillors wouldn’t want to explore the economic benefits of tourism, arts and culture for the Fleet Street  Heritage Precinct … is highly unusual”, NPRAG President Suzette Meade said.’  Read more 

16 November, 2017
New Sydney Modern project a ‘blueprint for one of the world’s great museums’
In a development project that expands access to contemporary art in the Sydney CBD and that has been contrasted with the lack of such a facility in Parramatta, James Robertson, in the Sydney Morning Herald, advises that on 22 November ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin will unveil the final design for the $344 million Sydney Modern project that will add a new standalone building to a 145-year-old gallery whose visitation has been declining. …The new project largely occupies space that is already under-used or disturbed, such as the land bridge overhanging the Eastern Distributor and disused WWII-era fuel tanks, the state government said.’ However: ‘… the announcement of the renovation sparked concerns from the Friends of the Botanic Gardens that the project amounted to a “land grab” of green space”.  Read more 

9 November, 2017
‘Powerhouse flying machines make way for Sydney Design Festival installation’ (web) and ‘Time to take off…a new idea has landed’ (print)
In the tense period of waiting for the extended business report on the future of the Powerhouse Museum (expected later in 2017) and the forthcoming report of the Upper House Inquiry committee (expected in March 2018), Linda Morris records in the Sydney Morning Herald the current removal of two significant aircraft previously suspended from the ceiling of the Turbine Hall at the Powerhouse Museum. These are to be replaced with ‘four multi-storied hanging periscopes … to launch the design festival in 2018, in its 20th year’.
Moving the now disassembled Transavia aircraft and autogyro to storage at Castle Hill is seen by some as the forerunner of implied future relocation, and ‘another step in the gradual attrition of the identity of the Powerhouse as a museum’, while the Museum representative, Peter Denman, said  “people these days are excepting an immersive, changing experience and we want very much to be part of contemporary Sydney.” Significantly, he referred to the government’s role in future plans: “Yes, there is the new museum project. Yes, we have to do the work around [about] what does that mean for the collection but we are doing that at the invitation of government, on the instruction of government.”  Read more 

29 October, 2017
Upper House Inquiry: ‘Message of Hope’
The Save the Powerhouse group reports that: ‘So-called opinion surveys and community consultations in both locations even raised, temporarily, the possibility that the government was finally listening to voters. But since then? Nothing.’ However, ‘Upper House Inquiry Vice-Chair David Shoebridge offers a welcome note of optimism in a period of frustrating government silence: “I remain committed to getting to the bottom of the Powerhouse fiasco and this includes questioning former Premier Baird”.’ With the due date of the Inquiry Report now extended until 1 March, 2018, Shoebridge says: “I am hopeful that over November and December we will find a date when the committee can hold those further hearings and give the public the answers they need. You have not been forgotten!” Read more  (29 October, 2017)

27 October, 2017
Parramatta project: questions of ownership, management and development procedure
Following the publication of the advertisement below, Craig Limkin, Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, who is managing the government office for the ‘new MAAS Museum’, wrote: ‘I can confirm that the NSW Government is not responsible for the recent job adverts managed by Capstone Recruitment for Senior Development Managers for a Theatre and Museum. Nor has the Government held any discussions with property developers in relation to this matter. We understand that the advertisements were placed by the City of Parramatta Council. The Council advised us that they reviewed their personnel needs and commenced recruiting two Senior Development Managers to assist the Council in relation to the new museum and the redevelopment of the theatre.’
This raises questions of future ownership, authority and development processes of whatever is decided for a museum in Parramatta. For more background, and for further responses from Limkin about the process  Read more: Parramatta questions Oct 2017

25 October, 2017
Senior Development Officer: Museum Expert position advertised for Parramatta
For all those waiting in anticipation for the report on the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and for the extended business plan to be completed regarding the future of the Powerhouse Museum, it was a shock to see that in the last few days a position has already been advertised to ‘take the lead for the development and delivery of a major $700m Museum development project’, for a client described as ‘a private development team within a larger corporate’. As far as we all know there are no published decisions about exactly what is proposed for Parramatta, or what is proposed for the Ultimo site of the existing Museum. Read more:  AdDevManagerOct2017

9 October, 2017
Project Sydney: ‘Dear Premier … don’t leave Sydney half built’
In the Daily Telegraph, a letter to the Premier from (mainly) 26 business people, commends the government’s spending on city infrastructure of nearly $73 billion over the next four years, saying it ‘…will help catapult our already wonderful city to a global powerhouse…’. Referring to protests about over-development and destruction of heritage and environment, it also says ‘It feels like a rough road at times, too. Opposition from NIMBY’S and naysayers has flared…’. Read more: Project Sydney_DT_9 Oct 2017

17 September, 2017
‘Moving exhibits: Curators tasked with handling Powerhouse Museum treasures’
During the period of waiting for the ‘extended business case’ for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, and the possible maintenance of a ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo, Linda Morris in the Sun Herald follows her earlier articles such as ‘Whose idea was it to move the Powerhouse Museum in the first place’ (September 1, 2017) with a detailed investigation into the complexity of moving the extensive collection.
She interviews curatorial director Peter Denham about the scope, scale, process and cost, asking how will they deal with ‘the herculean effort facing the 14 conservators, 22 curators and 14 registration staff of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences as the NSW government pursues its business case to shift the museum to its preferred site on the banks of the Parramatta River.’? “Carefully,” curatorial director Peter Denham said. “Very large objects are the most complex to move in terms of weight and size but small objects can have equal significance and with these objects you don’t want to lose them either.”
Morris concludes: ‘As part of business case preparations for the relocation, “additional collections focused work” is being undertaken, reportedly scoping the collection and the complicated logistics of removal and storage. As with all information prepared for the business case this is considered to be cabinet in confidence.’ Read more  or  SMH 17 Sep 2017

7 September, 2017
Postponed: Ninth Inquiry Hearing announced for Monday 11 September 2017
On 30 August, the Upper House Inquiry website  listed a ninth hearing to take place between 9:00 and 17:00 on 11 September, where it was understood the committee would call Premier Gladys Berejiklian, former premier, Mike Baird, and the former arts minister Troy Grant as witnesses, among others. On 7 September it was announced that the hearing was being postponed. Check here later to find new date and agendaRead more 

6 September, 2017
‘Museum move might damage artifacts’
In reporting on the issues discussed in the 8th Inquiry hearing, Alec Smart says in CityHub: ‘Confusion surrounds the NSW Government’s plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta, with concern that priceless exhibits will be irreparably damaged in transit. Meanwhile the public remains unaware of who will finance the estimated $1.5 billion costs… The hearing studied an Economic Impact Assessment submitted by Deloitte Economics and commissioned by Parramatta Council…’, and Inquiry committee member David Shoebridge MLC said, ‘Parramatta Council has had a close look at this project and their consultants say there is a real risk the museum might not be “world class, architecturally beautiful or suitable for the current location.” The closer you look at this the more you realise it’s far more about getting development on prime land at Ultimo, rather than building a world class museum at Parramatta.’ Read more

6 September 2017
‘TRUST ACTION: Save the Powerhouse Museum!’
Angela Le Sueur, editor of the NSW National Trust Magazine, writes: ‘The National Trust encourages the creation of a new museum at Parramatta, but one which reflects that city’s own unique indigenous, colonial and multi-cultural heritage and which is not at the expense of the Powerhouse and all it means for Sydney. Backed by a huge and growing groundswell of support from heritage professionals, curators and the community at large, the Trust is determined to do everything in its power to prevent the further decimation of the Powerhouse collection … and the inevitable consequences for the significant Ultimo buildings and their central Sydney site.’  Saying: ‘While the concept of creating a museum along the lines of the Powerhouse in the Western Sydney city has been generally welcomed, the proposal to move the existing museum from Ultimo is not’, she discusses in detail issues of the cost factor, the importance of the collections, the highly significant buildings and the high value placed on the Museum by the public.’
Tracing the Museum’s history from its origins in 1879, she concludes: ‘The Powerhouse Museum as it is today was opened in 1988, Australia’s Bicentenary, a celebration of Australia’s advancement as a nation. It evolved and grew from a site and an ethos which played a leading role in the growth of modern Sydney and beyond. It encapsulates the raw energy and sophisticated innovation of Australia now, while also looking forward in ways that catch and inspire the imagination of people of all ages. It cannot be allowed to fade.’ See: National Trust

4 September, 2017
‘Lessons from the Powerhouse debacle’
After attending the 8th Inquiry hearing with witnesses Arts Minister Don Harwin and Parramatta Council administrator Amanda Chadwick, author Judith White writes in her September newsletter, that ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Coalition government is under fire over its arts policy following the latest hearing by the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries. The public inquiry, which has again postponed its reporting date (now it’s November 30), is finding a lot that doesn’t add up in the vandalising of the Powerhouse Museum which the government wants to move from Ultimo to Parramatta.’
In summarising ‘Pointed questions at the parliamentary inquiry’, she elaborates on issues including: ‘Heads of agreement or done deal?’ and ‘Culture-bereft planning’, concluding: ‘It’s not hard, on this evidence, to sum up the Berejiklian Government’s method of arts planning. It is to have a cultural strategy with no cultural criteria, a consultation process with no meaningful consultation, and a business plan with no transparency.’ Read more

2 September, 2017
‘What price Powerhouse in Parramatta? Let’s get to the facts on the Powerhouse move’
The Editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald (print and on-line titles above) summarises current doubts about the wisdom of relocating the Powerhouse Museum, saying: ‘Announced just weeks before the last state election, this lightbulb moment in the mind of the then premier, Mike Baird, helped to light up the image of a progressive, can-do government in a key electoral region … Since then, though, doubts have started to creep in. How much will it really cost to acquire a site, and build a new specialist building from scratch in central Parramatta? What will it