For related letters to the editors of newspapers, see the PMA web site here: Read more
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 agenda: Read 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 really cost to move the museum, with its vast collections of irreplaceable objects, and its substantial administration? The new site, central to Parramatta certainly, but beside a flood-prone river, and with problematic access – is it really the best place for a major cultural institution? Is it really better than the purpose-built campus at Ultimo? And what of the sale of the Ultimo site – government property now to be turned over for private purposes in the city centre where public space is hard to find? Even if it’s justifiable, will it bring in enough to cover all those costs?’
It continues: ‘Let us hope the decision is not yet final. It is clear the lightbulb moment was indeed just that: a flicker of inspiration unsupported by thorough analysis. The final decision on whether to move the Powerhouse should not have the same flaw. … A parliamentary inquiry has managed to prise some facts out from behind the wall of secrecy, but not many. This obscurantism is completely unwarranted. It suggests that the government knows it is in a mess of its own making but is too embarrassed to admit it. … The government needs a way out. So do Sydney and NSW, before irrevocable decisions are taken that may well degrade a world-class institution at enormous cost and for doubtful benefit. When governments are at a loss, they sometimes set up an inquiry. In this case, for once, an open, public inquiry might be a really good idea.’ Read more
2 September, 2017
‘Power Play: Whose idea was it to move the Powerhouse Museum in the first place?’
In The Sydney Morning Herald, Nick O’Malley and Linda Morris ask: ‘How did we get to the point where a government is ready to abandon a purpose-built museum just 30 years after it opened – without anyone knowing why? … Moving the Powerhouse Museum is a bold idea that touches upon everything that makes Sydney the city it is – huge wads of cash, sprawling plots of prime city real estate, developers, consultants, intrigue and political infighting.’ Referring to the recent 8th Upper House Inquiry hearing, they continue: ‘You might think then, that it would not be too hard to find out whose idea it actually was in the first place. You would be wrong. This week as the Upper House held yet another hearing into the Berejiklian government’s determination to move the Powerhouse, it became clear there is no guarantee that the end result will be a better museum, and indeed no complete business case to justify the move in the first place.’
Quoting a number of museum experts, they trace the story of the proposed relocation of the museum to Parramatta, from its first mention in a government document in 2014, through strong and consistent community opposition to the move including concerns about overturning existing proposals for the museum in its Ultimo site, secrecy of planning, inaccurate estimates of costs, danger to treasures in the collection, inappropriateness of the Parramatta site, and the lack of concern for the museum’s heritage in its current Ultimo site and the expectations of its contemporary audiences.
Moreover, they document by-passing of local suggestions: ‘One alternative to the riverbank site, supported by local heritage advocates, is to rehouse a satellite of the Powerhouse at the Fleet Street Heritage precinct marrying the restoration of the Francis Greenway-designed Female Factory – the oldest Australian female convict site, in desperate need of preservation – and the Cumberland Hospital with a gallery, theatre and museum precinct. But the parkland site was long ago ruled out by a preliminary business study, since shrouded in secrecy, because of its relative distance from Church Street and poor public transport links. Such a build faces the same heritage constraints as Ultimo and Urban Growth NSW has plans to build an adjacent commercial centre and 4100 residential apartments of up to 30-storeys.’
‘The upper house inquiry has now called for the former premier, Mike Baird and former arts minister Troy Grant to appear, as well as Premier Gladys Berejiklian herself. Hearings are expected to bleed into next year.’ Read more
2 September, 2017
‘Science of Sound’ (and reflecting on folly)
In his informative review in The Australian of the exhibition, This is a Voice, at the Powerhouse Museum, art critic Christopher Allen discusses many aspects of exploring ‘the human voice, in all its variations’. He notes that ‘The ultimate basis of all these phenomena is explored in a fascinating exhibition from the Wellcome Collection in London, itself part of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s greatest funders of medical research.’
But he also says of the experience: ‘And while you enjoy it, you can reflect again on the folly of moving the Powerhouse, as the NSW government seems determined to do in the face of almost universal opposition, to Parramatta in western Sydney. Would you travel there to see this show? Probably not.’ Read more
30 August, 2017
Ninth Inquiry Hearing announced for Monday 11 September 2017
The Upper House Inquiry website has listed a ninth hearing to take place between 9:00 and 17:00 on 11 September. Check for further details for agenda and witnesses: Read more (See 7 September for announcement of postponement)
30 August, 2017
Parramatta: overlooked priorities?
‘Culture and Our City: A Cultural Plan for Parramatta’s CBD Update’
On 30 August, the City of Parramatta Council wrote to contributors to its cultural plan for Parramatta CBD, through its Our City Your Say site (see below).
But it is noticeable that:
1) while the Cultural Plan acknowledges local concern for heritage sites, there has been strong community feedback criticising the over-development of the Fleet Street precinct, by both Council and state government
2) and while there is strong local support for a city art gallery in the CBD, this has been bypassed in favour of moving the Powerhouse Museum (presumably because it was offered with state government funding).
Neither were discussed as options in the 8th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry.
Heritage: See Cultural Plan, page 53:
‘You told us you want to ensure Parramatta’s heritage is a cornerstone of future development and a city which embraces its heritage legacy.’
Art Gallery: See Cultural Plan, page 91:
‘We heard you feel strongly that Parramatta needs a new art gallery and exhibition space. Along with redeveloping Riverside Theatres, a new art gallery and exhibition space is one of your top priorities for Parramatta’s cultural infrastructure. You believe a new gallery could be an opportunity for a distinctive piece of architecture that builds Parramatta’s reputation as an edgy, vibrant place. [To] establish another gallery of a larger scale … which would further landmark Parramatta as the hub of all that is new and emerging and excellent in the Australian art scene … Through our artist support initiatives such as Parramatta Artists Studios we have a growing alumnus of leading visual artists. The national and international success of our artists has contributed to generating demand for a new gallery and exhibition space. In response to your feedback, we have included the demand for major exhibition space in our CBD infrastructure requirements. In partnership with NSW State Government, cultural institutions, private investment, artist-run initiatives and creative organisations we will explore how best to meet the needs of a new exhibition space and gallery.’
From: Our City Your Say (Parramatta) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Subject: Culture and Our City: A Cultural Plan for Parramatta’s CBD Update
Thank you for your thoughts and contribution to the City of Parramatta’s Cultural Plan. The Cultural Plan was endorsed by Council on 10 July 2017 and we are very pleased to share some exciting developments. On Monday 31 July 2017, City of Parramatta Council and the NSW Government announced that an agreement has been reached to deliver a new arts and cultural precinct on a site next to the Parramatta River. This precinct will include the relocation of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), and a $100 million investment in a re-developed Riverside Theatres complex. $40 million has also been committed to delivering the actions in our Cultural Plan over the next 20 years. The announcement is an important step in helping us to realise the shared dreams and vision expressed through the development of this Cultural Plan.
You can read more about the announcement here: https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/culture-and-our-city
You can download our Cultural Plan here: https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/about-parramatta/cultural-plan
If you would like a paper copy of the plan please email CBDCulturalplan@cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au.
Yours sincerely, Our City Your Say
30 August, 2017
‘Deloittes sounded warning over Powerhouse Museum’s new home’
Following the 8th hearing of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Linda Morris reports in The Sydney Morning Herald on answers by Parramatta Council’s administrator, Amanda Chadwick, and Arts Minster Don Harwin, to questions of budgets, consultation and secrecy of government planning processes. Of a Council-commissioned Deloitte Economics report she noted: ‘There was a risk the new home of the Powerhouse Museum would not be a world class, architecturally beautiful building … Estimates by the museum’s founding director Lindsay Sharp … once capital expenditure, flood mitigation, moving expenses and inflation was factored into the decision dominated proceedings … [But] Asked if design compromises would have to be made to satisfy the needs of a commercial third party brought in to offset the project’s ballooning costs, Mr Harwin said it was the nature of such reports to look for risks.
Under questioning from committee chair, Robert Borsak, … Mr Harwin denied the government had entered into any formal or informal agreement with developers around future use of the Ultimo site … Throughout the minister’s evidence the government continued to send mixed messages. Announcing the purchase of the riverbank site on July 31, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “Let me be clear, there will be one Powerhouse Museum in NSW. It will be across the river here [in Parramatta].” But Mr Harwin maintained relocation would proceed subject to the finalisation of the government’s final business case expected at the end of 2017. The business case would consider “all options” to deliver a museum at Parramatta including a “flagship campus” and “continuing a cultural space in whole or part in the precinct at Ultimo”, he said.’ Read more
See also: a Channel 7 News report here: Read more
See also: MP David Shoebridge’s Facebook page, where he says: ‘Moving the Powerhouse has never made sense, politically or financially. The Premier backflipped on council amalgamations, it’s time to scrap this too.’ Read more
29 August, 2017
‘Billion-dollar Power trip. Museum relocation: Experts slam government secrecy’
Online as: ‘Excessive secrecy: Accusations fly over claimed $1.5b Powerhouse Museum blowout’
On the morning of the 8th hearing for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Nick O’Malley reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that: ’The state government stands accused of excessive secrecy over its decision to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta …’ and that ‘Opposition to the move and government’s refusal to release its business plan for the project is growing.’
He discusses concerns of members of the Inquiry committee Robert Borsak (chair) and David Shoebridge, as well as former director, Dr Lindsay Sharp, who said he believed: ‘the decision to move the museum had been made in haste and secrecy, without full consultation with the community or appropriate experts, by a government that was ideologically driven to encourage inner-city development.’
O’Malley notes further concern about the decision-making process: ‘When she became premier, Gladys Berejiklian appeared to be reconsidering the move and announced two public meetings to be held to discuss it. The first went ahead in Parramatta on July 26. But hours before the second was to be held at the Ultimo site, Ms Berejiklian announced a deal had been made with Parramatta council to buy a site on the Parramatta River to house the new museum.’
‘Another opponent of the plan, Kylie Winkworth, a museum consultant and former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, said evidence already presented to the upper house inquiry had “prompted incredulity and consternation” in museum circles. “There is not a single person working on the project who has any experience in museum planning.”’ Read more
Eighth hearing of the Upper House Inquiry announced
The eighth hearing of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries will take place at Parliament House on Tuesday 29 August 2017, from 14.45 to 16:15.
The agenda will be advised before the meeting. For details: Read more
22 August, 2017
‘The Powerhouse Scandal’
In her CultureHeist blog, author Judith White writes: ‘The people of New South Wales were promised community consultation about the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. But Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pre-empted the process – and the fascinating deliberations of an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into museums and galleries. One of the questions raised by its proceedings concerns the shadowy operations of private consultancy firms. Who are they, and how do they operate?’
She discusses her observations of the two public consultation meetings held in July, and the ongoing Upper House Inquiry, and concludes of perceived conflicting interests and secrecy: ‘This surely raises questions about the nexus between government, developers and consultants. It’s high time to inform the public of all the consultancy firms involved in the government’s cultural infrastructure projects, to release the amounts of public money expended on them, and to declare who are the “project influencers” with whom they have dealings.’ Read more
15 August, 2017
‘Extreme Weather Is Threatening Museums Around the Globe’
Discussing a topic of considerable relevance to the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to a floodprone site in Parramatta, Julia Halperin and Naomi Rea, in the global 24-hour online site, artnet News, document threats to museums through the effects of climate change.
Giving examples including the Louvre in Paris, various sites of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the Whitney Museum in New York, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and many others, they say ‘As tides and temperatures rise, museums are rallying to protect themselves … As scientists report increasingly troubling findings about the expected rise in extreme weather around the globe, from droughts in southern Europe to floods on the east coast of the US, a growing number of institutions are realizing that they need to start planning for an uncertain future today.’ They quote Andy Klemmer, the founder of the Paratus Group which manages the construction of cultural projects around the world, who said: ‘When I worked on Guggenheim Bilbao, we all mocked the requirement to accommodate the 100-year storm … Since then, 100-year storms seem to come along every five years … Every project we work on now tries to predict the worst-case scenario and to accommodate it.’ These scenarios include floods, storms, heatwaves and hurricanes. The authors continue: ‘Most experts agree that these kinds of concerns, barely discussed five or 10 years ago, are steadily making their way to the top of decision-makers’ minds … Nevertheless, some believe museums have still not tackled the issue as forcefully as they should. “There’s a disconnect between the daily practice of museum work and climate concerns,” says Sarah Sutton, the founder of Sustainable Museums, which consults museums on environmental sustainability.’ Read more
8 August, 2017
‘Powerhouse Museum shift to Parramatta defies all logic
Matthew Westwood, in The Australian, argues convincingly that there are better museum options for both the Powerhouse Museum and for Parramatta. Citing highly-regarded designer Marc Newson, whose work is in the museum’s collection and who said of the Parramatta proposal: ‘ “I for one would never go,” … adding his voice to the campaign to keep the Powerhouse at Ultimo’, Westwood continues: ‘If good design is based on the notion of rational analysis leading to optimal outcomes, then the NSW government’s plans for the Powerhouse Museum must be the antithesis of design thinking.’
Summarising how ‘the government has pushed ahead with the Parramatta idea while community consultation and the business case remain incomplete’, and how it has ‘has also been too impatient to wait for the conclusion of an upper house inquiry into the state’s museums’, he observes that: ‘debate over the Powerhouse has provoked vehement voices and media campaigns on both sides. People in western Sydney have very good reason to deplore the lack of cultural facilities in their area. Parramatta still does not have its own art gallery, unlike Penrith, Casula and Campbelltown’…or ‘a unique museum more closely tied to local history and stories…But there are very sound arguments for retaining the Powerhouse at Ultimo that have nothing to do with the city’s real or imagined cultural fault lines.’
‘The Powerhouse Museum has its origins in the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 and its spirit of inquiry and technological innovation… The museum belongs to the industrial heritage of Ultimo, with its long-time links to Sydney’s transportation networks, to technical and higher education, and to the pedestrian thoroughfare recently opened by the Goods Line. Heritage consultant Kylie Winkworth, a passionate critic of the Parramatta move, says.., “The building and the collections are indivisible from the Ultimo context, the last great relic of Darling Harbour, which was the industrial powerhouse of NSW.”’
After discussing a number of options proposed by others for both venues, Westwood concludes: ‘Given the government’s commitment to spend money on a significant cultural facility at Parramatta, there should be many options on the table for the most desirable outcome. What the Powerhouse’s supporters will not countenance is a downgrading of the Ultimo museum or the selling off of land or air space to property developers. And the people of western Sydney will not settle for a compromise or anything that looks like a second-best museum.’
Read more: M Westwood 8 Aug
4 August, 2017
A major cultural resource sacrificed to short-term political point-scoring
In the weekly newsletter attached to his website, Sydney Morning Herald art critic, John McDonald, said: ‘As I sat down to write this newsletter I read the latest news report on the Powerhouse Museum. After much confusion it seems the government have decided, yet again, that they are pushing through the relocation to Parramatta. The arguments against the move have been canvassed so many times it seems like sheer madness to persevere. Not the least imposing fact is the expense involved. Done properly there’d be no change from a billion dollars.
Which suggests it won’t be done properly. Expect the collection to be broken up. After much discussion about keeping a museum presence at the current site, expect that the government will bow to commercial reality and sell the lot to developers.
Should this government be turfed out, as appears likely, the Labor Party will then pick up the project, which augurs no better for the future of the museum. It’s appalling to watch a major cultural resource be sacrificed to short-term political point-scoring. I despair at the way this affair has kept stumbling along in the face of concerted, well-informed opposition.’
4 August, 2017 (print version 5 Aug)
‘Powerhouse in the state government firing line again’
Anne Summers, highly regarded journalist and author, asks in The Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Why does the state government hate the Powerhouse Museum? …What is it about the Powerhouse that has seen successive state governments determined to emasculate it with ruthless budget cuts, efficiency dividends and nonstop speculation about relocation that no other institution has to wear?
Can you imagine London bulldozing the power station that houses the Tate Modern? It’s only in Sydney that such brutal destruction could even be dreamed about. No one outside the government has a good word to say about this mad plan. Some…would go along with the Parramatta move so long as a “substantial presence” was retained in Ultimo, but this compromise is not the answer.
It did appear for a short time that Gladys Berejiklian would at least modify her predecessor’s insane decision when she promised to retain the Ultimo site in addition to creating a new museum at Parramatta. Then last week…the Premier did the political equivalent of a triple somersault and proclaimed that she was back to Baird’s decision. “Once this relocation is complete, there will be one Powerhouse Museum and it will be in Parramatta,” she said on Monday.’ However, ‘… Consultations with residents in Parramatta last week revealed they don’t want an imposed Powerhouse (“keep your train!”) but favour a new museum that tells local stories: Indigenous, convict, migrant…
The government has to understand what a unique and precious institution the people of New South Wales have in the Ultimo Powerhouse and, as so many Sydneysiders and others around the world already do, they have to learn to love it. And, in order to show that appreciation, invest in it.’ Read more
2 August, 2017
‘Why I’m angry about the city I love’
In a keynote speech at the launch of the University of Sydney’s Festival of Urbanism iv on Monday, 31 July, Elizabeth Farrelly identified 10 urban planning issues that made her angry. One was: ‘UrbanGrowth’s proposal to put 2,700 apartments and office space for 2,000 in buildings up to 20 storeys on precinct with Female Factory, old Parramatta Goal and old Cumberland hospital. No discussion. No debate. No change from a predetermined course.’ Another referred to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum: ‘Six weeks before democracy is to be restored we are lulled into false sense of security. There was meant to be a meeting tonight (31 July) to “consult” the community. Instead an announcement was made today.’ Read more
2 August, 2017
‘NSW Premier skewers democracy again in service of developers’
Writing for Western Sydney Frontier, Katherine Knight criticises the process of consultancy associated with the public meetings held in Parramatta and Ultimo on 26 and 31 July, pointing out that hours before the second community consultation about the future of the Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, was due to begin,‘the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, abandoned all pretence at community consultation in government planning decisions.’ The Premier announced both the decision to develop a new MAAS facility in Parramatta, while considering an ‘arts and cultural presence’ in Ultimo [one that many fear is a token gesture.] Knight continued: ‘There had been media reports that former Premier Mike Baird’s developer driven thought bubble of selling the Powerhouse Museum, and relocating it to Parramatta had not withstood financial scrutiny and community pressure was forcing a rethink. In booking for the free event, people were invited to submit three key questions they would like answered in the consultations.’ However, those who had registered for the meeting she had attended in Parramatta were only asked two questions – about what they would like to see and experience in both venues. Knight reports on the overwhelming response requesting wider consultation and suggesting other options for Parramatta, and a commitment to leaving the Powerhouse museum where it is: ‘why dismantle a popular and well established cultural institution in the heart of Sydney?’ Read more
1 August, 2017
‘Premier’s Powerhouse plan short-changes Sydney’
Andrew Nimmo, NSW chapter president, Australian Institute of Architects, comments in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘The case for a new cultural facility in Parramatta is overwhelming’ and discusses the discrepancy of funding according to population, that needs to be addressed. He continues: ‘A purpose-built Parramatta museum would enable the Museum to display more of its huge collection. More important, it will enable it to play a quite different cultural role from the Ultimo Powerhouse, thoroughly in keeping with Parramatta’s aspiration as a centre for technology and innovation. But the sting in the tail of the Premier’s announcement on Monday is her statement that “the NSW government will retain an arts and cultural presence at the current Ultimo site following the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta”. This suggests the downgrading of the Powerhouse facility at Ultimo, with no assurance as to how the site will be used. This short-changes Sydney.’
He argues further that the Ultimo Powerhouse should stay: ‘Sydney needs MAAS Parramatta and MAAS Ultimo, not one or the other’, citing the award-winning adaptive reuse of the building’ and link provided by the Goods Line: ‘a conversion of the railway from a 19th century goods line to a 21st century leisure precinct tells you all you need to know about the transformation of Sydney’s economy in that time. Its access to the Powerhouse gives the museum the best entrance it’s ever had.’ He concludes: ‘What should be non-negotiable in this discussion is that the Ultimo Powerhouse site remains in public hands and retained for cultural uses. The Ultimo Powerhouse Museum has served the public well for nearly 30 years; there’s no reason why it cannot continue to play an essential part in Sydney’s cultural life for decades to come.’ Read more
1 August, 2017
‘Powerhouse Museum is officially moving west, but uncertainty over Ultimo site’
Also following up the Premier’s announcement about her commitment to moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, Lisa Visentin and Madeleine Murphy say in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The NSW government has confirmed Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum will be relocated to Parramatta, while conceding that the future redevelopment of the current inner city location will “potentially” include residential units… Arts Minister Don Harwin said the size and cost of the new facility would depend on the final business case for the redevelopment of the Ultimo site, which will be released later this year…However, the announcement – which only locks in the future purchase of the car park site – does little to resolve the uncertainty over the museum’s iconic Ultimo site in Harris Street.’ The reporters note that: ‘The announcement follows a substantial community backlash to the plan’; and that ‘The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences which operates the Powerhouse Museum, said on Monday it would use its negotiations with the state government to lobby to retain a strong presence at the site. “The board of trustees is very keen to see a substantial presence for the museum retained at Ultimo,” said the president of the museum’s board of trustees, Professor Barney Glover.’
Regarding the sale of the car-park site: ‘Amanda Chadwick, administrator of the City of Parramatta council, confirmed that future councillors, who will be elected in September, would be duty bound to honour the agreement. But the decision to commit to the sale of council assets so close to an election was criticised by at least one community group. “We are highly suspicious of a state government-appointed administrator selling major Parramatta council assets one week short of caretaker mode and six weeks before council elections,” said Suzette Meade, president of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group.’ Read more
1 August, 2017
Local business and political support: ‘Powerhouse Museum and Riverside Theatres upgrade to anchor Parramatta’s new arts and cultural precinct’
In the Parramatta Sun, Kylie Stevens reports on local business and political support for the Premiers announcement, saying: ‘It’s confirmed – the Powerhouse Museum will relocate to Parramatta, whether the critics like it or not. Premier Gladys Berejiklian ended rumours she would backflip on the move on Monday when Parramatta’s river foreshore was announced as the home to a new arts and cultural precinct in a $140 million agreement with Parramatta Council.’ She adds: ‘The museum move was never in doubt, according to Parramatta MP Geoff Lee. “I knew it was coming,” he told the Sun. “Not only will we have a world class science and technology museum, we’ll also get a world class 1200-1500 seat theatre, which has been waiting a long time for refurbishment,” adding “I’m still pushing for an arts and cultural precinct to be delivered in North Parramatta to make fantastic use of the heritage buildings there. ..Sydney Business Chamber western Sydney director David Borger [said] “Bring it on” … “We will be very happy to get rid of the ugliest car park on the Parramatta River in exchange for the best cultural museum in Australia.” Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils president Stephen Bali said “However we must not forget this is just the first step …We need a comprehensive plan for investment, not just in Parramatta, but for the vast and growing western Sydney region.”
It is notable that these leaders only identify the Powerhouse Museum with science and technology, and appear not to know about its equally substantial holdings of decorative arts and design, and social history. Nor do they appear to acknowledge that the Powerhouse Museum has a long-established identity and place in Ultimo, as they no doubt hope their institutions will have in Parramatta. Read more
26 and 31 July, 2017
Public consultation meetings: Parramatta and Ultimo
Long-awaited public consultation took place in late July at meetings organised by the Dept of Planning and Environment with MAAS: on 26 July in Parramatta, and 31 July in Ultimo. Attendees had been asked to register beforehand, and send in their ‘top three questions’. The purpose was to provide information to contribute to the extended business case for the proposed museum in Parramatta, as well as (now) to consider retaining a ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo. In each venue, a large audience was seated in groups at tables, each with a discussion facilitator. The Ultimo meeting felt confused about their role in consultation for the extended business case, as the Premier had made a surprise announcement that morning that the government had reached an agreement with the Parramatta Council to purchase the proposed riverside site, and move the museum there. After introductions by key people, the meetings continued with discussion at each table about two questions:
1) What would you like to see, do and experience at the new Museum in Western Sydney…?
2) If some Powerhouse Museum presence stays at Ultimo, what would you like to see, do and experience?
For more information about feedback and follow up see extended paper on this website: Community consultation meetings.
31 July, 2017
‘Powerhouse Museum’s future still unclear as Berejiklian pushes ahead with Parramatta move’
ABC state political reporter, Sarah Gerathy, says of the Premier’s announcement that the Powerhouse will move to Parramatta: ‘The future of the current Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo remains in limbo, despite the NSW Government pressing ahead with its plans to move the institution to Parramatta.NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced the Government is spending $140 million to buy the future site of the museum on the banks of the Parramatta River. “Let me be clear, there’ll be one Powerhouse Museum here, it will be across the river at Parramatta,” she said. But the Premier confirmed the Government would not proceed with her predecessor Mike Baird’s plan to sell off the entire existing Powerhouse site at Ultimo to fund the construction of the new museum. “I don’t just want it to be residential units,” Ms Berejiklian said. “If we can do something really creative with the Ultimo site, why shouldn’t we do it, why would we just take the easy option and sell it to developers?”
President of the museum’s Board of Trustees Professor Barney Glover said he believed the museum’s collection could be spread across both sites … The board is very keen to see a substantial presence for the museum retained at Ultimo … Professor Glover suggested touring exhibitions could be displayed at both Ultimo and Parramatta. Ms Berejiklian said decisions would not be made about the Ultimo site until the business case was finalised later this year. Opposition Leader Luke Foley said Ms Berejiklian is incapable of sticking to course on anything. “I just think whenever there’s a bit of controversy you can rely on this Premier to do a backflip,” he said.’ Read more
31 July, 2017
‘Powerhouse Museum: Berejiklian bungles another project – chopping and changing with no detail’
NSW Labor says ‘…the Berejiklian Government has bungled the Powerhouse Museum move from Ultimo to Parramatta at every step of the process – “continually chopping and changing” and providing no detail on the fate of the Ultimo site … Today’s announcement only related to buying the Parramatta land. This also gave rise to even more questions, putting further doubt into the community’s mind on the Government’s ultimate plans for the Ultimo site.
NSW Labor is calling on them to release the business case and detail the scale of the development plans at the Ultimo site … NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley [who has never supported retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo] and Shadow Minister for the Arts Walt Secord said the project has “lurched from thought bubble to thought bubble” – with each month revealing a new idea and new problem with the current site in Ultimo and the proposed site in Parramatta …There is clearly no plan and the Berejiklian Government is making it up as it goes along.
Mr Secord slammed the “cruel hoax” of $40 million in arts funding for Western Sydney – over 20 years, saying this amounts to a paltry $2 million a year when compared to the more than $600 million going to Sydney CBD arts organisations.’ Read more
31 July, 2017
Minister’s press release: ‘Parramatta’s cultural revolution – Powerhouse site secured, Riverside Theatre to be revamped’
This press release confirmed that an agreement has been reached about the purchase of land, but also notes that decisions about Ultimo are still to be made: ‘The NSW Government has reached an agreement with Parramatta Council for a massive investment in new cultural infrastructure in Parramatta, securing the first major step in the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Sydney’s west …Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the $140 million agreement laid the foundations for a vibrant arts and cultural precinct in Parramatta and secured the best site for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta … The $140 million in-principle agreement will see:
– The NSW Government purchasing the riverfront site for the Powerhouse Museum (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences).
– The City of Parramatta committing $40 million to fund and grow arts and culture in the community over the next 20 years.
– A partnership between the NSW Government and the Council for a $100 million redevelopment of the Riverside Theatre with the State taking a 50 per cent interest in the project.
….The NSW Government will retain an arts and cultural presence at the current Ultimo site following the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta…Consultation is in progress with the community on the development of the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. The NSW Government is undertaking a business case to determine the future of the current Ultimo site.’ Read more
31 July, 2017
Controversial announcement: Premier confirms relocation of Powerhouse Museum!
Despite all recent reports that no decisions would be made about the proposed move of the MAAS until after the Inquiry report and extended business case had been presented later in the year, Andrew Clennell reported in The Daily Telegraph that the Premier was about to announce that morning that the deal had been done.
‘Western Sydney has won the fight for the Powerhouse Museum — with Premier Gladys Berejiklian set to announce she has spent $140 million to secure a site on the banks of the Parramatta River. The Premier will announce that not only will the museum move from Ultimo to the Parramatta site but that it will be bigger and better than the current museum. There will only be a small arts or start-up presence left at Ultimo, which will not be part of the Powerhouse Museum. Under the terms of the deal to give Parramatta Council $140 million for the site on the old David Jones car park on the banks of Parramatta River, $100 million will be spent on upgrading the Riverside Theatre at Parramatta and $40 million dedicated for Western Sydney arts funding over the next 20 years. “Once this relocation is complete, there will be one Powerhouse Museum and it will be in Parramatta,” Ms Berejiklian said.’ Read: Tele news 31 July
Angry responses throughout the community followed as it became clear that:
– the ‘deal’ with the Parramatta Council had been made some time ago, in the face of local opposition and other options; see announcement posted on Council website, 31 July: Read more
– the future of the Ultimo site could be a trivial, token gesture of appeasement
– the decision was made in the midst of a ‘consultation process’ that the community thought the government was taking seriously: eg. on-line surveys and public meetings (Parramatta 26 July, and Ultimo 31 July – the day of the announcement!)
– President Barney Glover said to press: “The board of trustees is very keen to see a substantial presence for the museum retained at Ultimo”.
26 July, 2017
‘Powerhouse plans still in jeopardy’
Alex Eugene, in City Hub, summarises recent responses: ‘‘Last week’s media announcement that the Powerhouse Museum would stay at its Ultimo site was met with more trepidation than celebration by community members. Information that the museum would no longer be relocated to Parramatta, was prematurely leaked from a Ministers’ cabinet meeting… [although] A spokesperson for the Minister of the Arts, Don Harwin, told City Hub that “Nothing has changed from the Government announcement in April.” … But Dr Lindsay Sharp, the founding director of the Powerhouse Museum, said in his opinion the leaked information most likely did resemble what would be brought to Cabinet in coming weeks. “I am told that the Party Room will be asked to vote on Government’s enforced acquisition of the DJ’s Car Park site for a new museum in Parramatta,” he said… Experts say the site is dangerously prone to flooding –- making it a disastrous choice for a building expected to house rare and irreplaceable historic artefacts …Dr Sharp said he was also concerned that the promise of keeping the Ultimo museum site as a “cultural facility” was far too vague, and at worst, could mean anything from an art gallery to a kid’s playground. Kylie Winkworth, a heritage consultant and spokesperson for the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, said: “The concern with recent leaks on the government’s thinking is that it would seem they are still considering funding a new Parramatta museum by selling parts of the Powerhouse Museum site. This is not on.” … A museum for Parramatta should be a separate project made in consultation with locals in the area, and should not infringe in any way on the Ultimo Powerhouse site’s future, she said. Patricia Johnson from the Save the Powerhouse group was similarly suspicious about the leaked information….. She was also sceptical about the government’s sincerity in consulting the public, given that they had ignored “over 1000 public objections and 20 speeches in opposition” to high rise development plans recently approved by the Government-appointed Parramatta Council Administrator, for the heritage-rich Cumberland Hospital, according to Ms Johnson. Read more
The MAAS Project: Contribute to on-line survey
What is now called ‘The MAAS Project’ is not only offering opportunities for consultation and feedback through public meetings, but also has an on-line survey seeking comments about options for both a museum in Parramatta and on the current site in Ultimo.
On its ‘Consultation’ page, it says: ‘ Feedback from consultation will be considered in the development of the extended business case.’ To contribute to the survey, go to link at: https://new.maas.museum/consultation/ This will be accessible from Monday, 24 July until Friday 18 August.
19 July, 2017
‘Powerplay for Parra Arts Hub’
Andrew Clennell and Jason Tinn report in the Daily Telegraph on the proposal to upgrade the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, designed to appease critics upset that only part of the Powerhouse Museum might move to Parramatta. Arts Minister Don Harwin (who was not interviewed by Channel 9, below) is quoted as saying Cabinet would make decisions in the next two months [after considering the extended business case, following the Upper House Inquiry], and denying any decision had yet been made and that the government’s position had not changed. Read more: Tele 19 July
18 July, 2017
Welcome announcement: Powerhouse Museum to stay in Ultimo
‘Parramatta to get two new arts venues in NSW government deal’
Chris O’Keefe on Channel 9 News reported that ‘a lucrative deal is about to be struck’ regarding both the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and the Parramatta Riverside Theatre: ‘A Western Sydney Powerhouse Museum will be built on the old David Jones carpark site on the Parramatta River for roughly $500 million. The facility promises to be an iconic cultural precinct and will be operated by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Final discussions are also taking place between the NSW Government and City of Parramatta Council to redevelop the Riverside Theatre.’
Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that the existing Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo will remain there, with possible sale of ‘airspace’ (although it is not clear in this report where the main administration for the Museum will be located). Opposition leader Luke Foley is recorded as saying this decision is a second-rate option for Parramatta (and shows no support whatever for retaining the Museum in Ultimo). Listen to the interview and Read more
See also: Save the Powerhouse Facebook, ‘Powerhouse may survive in Ultimo, but at what price’: Read more
15 July, 2017
‘Resolved: Parramatta administrator Amanda Chadwick gives command performance’
In referring to planning processes that have relevance to the need for community consultation for cultural facilities in both Parramatta and Ultimo, Elizabeth Farrelly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on a meeting held by the Parramatta Council on 10 July, 2017, saying: ‘… what we see, here on the ground, is democratic government behaving increasingly like feudal overlords, raping and pillaging their way across our cityscape, trashing every shred of sweetness or charm, shoehorning us into an ugly world of dreary housing estates and ersatz shopping centres umbilically linked to soul-destroying work by congested mega-highways.’
Despite 26 contradictory papers given, Council administrator Amanda Chadwick pushed through decisions about ‘New light rail…; New aquatic centre (old one demolished for private footy stadium)…; New Parramatta Cultural Plan…; Oh, and the item on everybody’s lips: the new development control plan enabling UrbanGrowth’s massive, 20-storey resi-velopment of the area euphemistically dubbed the Parramatta North Urban Transformation Precinct.’ Other well-argued options for this area to be developed as a cultural and museum precinct were ignored. Read more
‘Culture and our City: A Cultural Plan for Parramatta’s CBD 2017 – 2022’
Within its extensive cultural plan for Parramatta’s CBD, mention is made of both a gallery exhibition space and a museum. See the plan here: Read more
(Proposals for the Fleet Street precinct of heritage buildings are considered separately.)
Gallery and exhibition space: page 74:
‘Imagine an iconic gallery and exhibition space to rival that of any of the leading cities with inspiring installations, works of reflection and energetic public programs. Where you could experience the best of local, national and international visual artists and blockbuster touring exhibitions without having to leave the City. A place that excites, challenges and inspires. A place that expresses our diversity through an international lens. Parramatta is the only City in Western Sydney that does not have a gallery or exhibition space.’
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS): page 84
‘Our City is set to welcome a world-class museum that celebrates human ingenuity and sits proud on a revitalised, connected, and activated Parramatta River foreshore.
– How can we capitalise on this open platform for learning and enjoyment.
– How should we incorporate this museum of excellence and inspiration, and a new hub for innovation, arts, design and invention into the fabric of our City?’
13 July, 2017
Comments on consultation in Parramatta, and ‘Community Forum: Book now to save the Powerhouse’
Sydney-based campaign group Save the Powerhouse circulated the following notice:
‘Last week the Berejiklian team displayed its true colours in a so-called “consultation process” when the Government- appointed Parramatta Council administrator, Amanda Chadwick, approved Urban Growth’s high-rise development plan (DCP) for the Cumberland hospital site, even though a decision on the site’s heritage listing is pending, and council elections are due in September. http://bit.ly/2uSS34f Calls to defer the decision from leading organisations represented at the council meeting were ignored. So were the over 1000 public submissions that were received opposing the plan, and the twenty people who spoke against it at the meeting, supported by around 200 spectators. This complete betrayal of Parramatta’s right to a “fair go” must be a wake-up call and warning for all of us.
It is clear that all the Berejiklian team’s glib platitudes about being “a government that listens” were so much hot air. If the Parramatta example is a precedent they obviously view the community with utter contempt. How much are Don Harwin’s soothing words about “community engagement over the coming months” now worth if the “consultation processes” are all purely cosmetic, and the Government proceeds exactly as intended, despite the strength of community opposition?
Nonetheless, a “consultation forum” at the Powerhouse has been announced for 31 July and we must seize this opportunity to make the case – coherently, intelligently, forcefully – for keeping the Powerhouse in Ultimo and assuring its future. Register early to make sure of your place!’ Read more
12 July, 2017
Attending Consultation meetings : Parramatta and Ultimo
Craig Limkin, Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, advises that public meetings will be held in Parramatta on 26 July, and in Ultimo on 31 July. (Registrations close 5pm, 21 July.)
– Parramatta, Wednesday 26 July : 6:30pm – 8:00pm (Registration from 6pm)
PARKROYAL Parramatta; RSVP essential via Eventbrite
– Ultimo, Monday 31 July: 6:30pm – 8:00pm (Registration from 6pm)
Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Ultimo; RSVP essential via Eventbrite
– Register with CreateNSW for further info by email newsletter here: Read more
– Register to attend a meeting and submit 3 questions: (see above)
– If you can’t attend a meeting, send in your 3 questions: (see below) to to email@example.com
In a message to those registered via Create NSW, Limkin says: ‘I am writing to you because you have expressed an interest in receiving updates on The MAAS Project. The NSW Government is working with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to build a truly iconic museum in Western Sydney. 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. I invite you to continue the conversation … The public meetings will be an opportunity to hear firsthand from the project team and to ask them questions. Can’t make it? We are interested in understanding the areas of The MAAS Project you are most curious about. Please email your top three questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. These will be answered in the FAQs on the website over the coming weeks. Consultation will continue in the following ways: Completing an online survey; Attending public meetings; Chatting to us at pop ups in shopping precincts and cultural centres. For updates on The MAAS Project and ongoing community consultation visit new.maas.museum . (Note: the information is also on the Museums & Galleries NSW site: Read more )
(PMA expresses concerns that:
– despite considering ‘all options’, it is still implied that the MAAS will move as a main venue to Parramatta
– ‘some MAAS presence’ at the current Powerhouse Museum site could be no more than convenient tokenism, and that keeping it there is not being seriously considered
– the ‘truly iconic museum in Western Sydney’ does not seem to consider an arts and heritage centre specific to Parramatta’s history and demographic, and to which city institutions could contribute
– ‘consultation’ through the proposed public meetings appears designed to ‘tell’ concerned audiences of current plans, rather than interview them in smaller focus groups about their informed concerns and suggestions.)
11 July, 2017
‘Fleet Street tick despite heritage-listing bid’
Of the site that has been suggested as a future museum and cultural centre for Parramatta, Tony Bosworth writes in the Parramatta Advertiser: ‘Parramatta Council administrator Amanda Chadwick has been accused of rushing through plans for a massive residential development at North Parramatta before a heritage assessment of the colonial-era site has been completed. The site of the Female Factory was assessed by the Heritage Council on June 22. An application for the precinct to be granted national heritage listing, which could put the brakes on the high-rise development, was then sent to federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg. A decision is imminent, but Ms Chadwick approved the development control plan (DCP) to facilitate the precinct’s development on Monday, saying the plan would be reviewed if heritage status were granted’.
Kerrie Kenton gave a ‘moving speech about the importance of the precinct to the Darug people. She said the site had a deep cultural value to her people and should not see high-rise development. UrbanGrowth NSW’s plans have 2700 high-rise apartments towering over the precinct [and] North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said the decision should have been put on hold until the outcome of the national heritage listing was known’ but her request to ‘defer the decision to an extraordinary meeting to allow time for the community to respond to the 400-page report’ was refused. [She] was one of 20 people to speak in opposition to the plan at Monday night’s council meeting and the crowd of just under 200 refused to stop applauding after each speaker, despite the administrator asking them to wait until the final speaker.’ Read more
9 July, 2017
What about promises for consultation?
A survey: In April (see news chronology April 21) Arts Minister Don Harwin announced that a survey would be conducted to see what Western Sydney residents wanted for a new museum, and asked that interested people register with Create NSW (here: Read more ). The introduction to this register focuses on consultation in western Sydney, saying: ‘The museum will be the flagship campus for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, on the cutting edge of science and innovation and bring the very best to a booming Western Sydney. ‘ No mention is made about consultation for other options for Ultimo; or whether western Sydney has other options they may suggest. It is also noted that so far no communication has been made with any of those that have registered to date.
Questions on notice: During the 7th Inquiry hearing on 6 June, (for transcript Read more ) several reassurances were made by Minister Don Harwin and his staff, regarding further consultations with professionals who could advise on the development of the extended business plan, and provide other options, both for the Powerhouse site in Ultimo, and for Parramatta. Answers to some of these questions on notice have now been provided: Read more
Forum for consultation in Ultimo in late July: Following Harwin’s assent in the Inquiry hearing that consultation about Ultimo options could take place, in the answers to questions on notice (p 2 above), Craig Limkin, Acting Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, Department of Planning and Environment, confirms that: ‘After consultation with the Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the Department of Planning and Environment will hold a forum for community consultation at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in late July 2017.’ It is suggested that all interested parties register at the same Create NSW site: Read more
29 June, 2017
‘Opinion: Lack of arts funding in western Sydney neglected again’
In the Parramatta Sun, Professor Phillip O’Neill, director of the Centre for Western Sydney at Western Sydney University, documented the lack of arts funding for western Sydney in the recent state budget. Amongst other details he recommends alternatives to a transplanted Powerhouse Museum, saying:
‘Yet where are the plans for a proper suite of arts facilities for Australia’s fastest growing urban region? Moreover, vague promises about a relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta are starting to look hollow.
There are good arguments for a contemporary arts museum, instead of the Powerhouse in a removals van, a quality new facility to promote and showcase local artists and provide excellent gallery space for visiting exhibitions.
In parallel, we need a world-class performing arts centre with a combination of small sized spaces busy with classes and workshops and a great big theatre for headline performances. Then we need to continue the roll-out of district level facilities, reproducing what was started in the 1980s. And why not a collection of cultural history museums celebrating and nurturing our rich heritage: the Australian indigenous peoples, the British, Irish, Lebanese, Italians, Indians, Vietnamese, Filipino and so on?’ Read more
21 June, 2017
‘UTS in talks with NSW government to buy the Powerhouse Museum’
In the Australian Financial Review, Su-Lin Tan reports that ‘The University of Technology Sydney is in private discussions with the NSW government to buy the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’s Ultimo, as residential developers eye the site for residential development.’ While Arts Minister Don Harwin has recently acknowledged that ‘the Ultimo site could remain a “cultural space” but would not reveal plans for the site,’ the report continues: ’This is not the first time the NSW government has entertained unsolicited public proposals for public assets…’ and ‘A private developer has expressed concern that a private sale without a public tender would not recover the best value for the state.’ Read more
(Lobby groups such as PMA continue to argue that the government should maintain the Powerhouse Museum on its Ultimo site and consider informed options to further develop it there, while contributing with other city institutions to a new facility in Parramatta.)
14 June, 2017
Powerhouse Museum Alliance members comment on recent announcements about the Sydney Modern extension, and Regional NSW funding:
PMA is committed to retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo as the primary site of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, while supporting the development of an art and museum centre in Parramatta, relevant to local interests and to which other institutions can contribute. It is not clear where the budget announcements identified on 14 June (below) leave the decision-making processes still taking place around retaining the Ultimo Powerhouse museum site as a meaningful (rather than token ) presence in Ultimo, and the development of relevant gallery and museum institutions for Parramatta.
PMA members argue that alongside the claims that the funding-approved Sydney Modern will boost visitor numbers to the major state gallery, AGNSW, there must equally be studies carried out regarding the impetus a revitalised Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo must continue to offer to the city. A number of visionary and affordable options for development on site are available for consideration, and there should also be studies into the implications of moving it, in loss of benefactors and sponsors. It is not apparent that these are being researched.
Minister Don Harwin’s insistence on moving the management centre of MAAS to Parramatta, and his description of an undefined ‘cultural space’ in Ultimo, are at odds with all his parallel arguments for extending the AGNSW on its primary site.
14 June, 2017
Art Gallery of NSW gets $244m for Sydney Modern ‘global museum of the future’
Sean Nicholls (SMH) reports that in the NSW Budget to be presented to State Parliament on Tuesday 20 June: ‘The Art Gallery of NSW’s ambitious Sydney Modern expansion is being given the go ahead by the state government via a $244 million funding injection for the controversial project. The plan will see the gallery double its floor space, with construction starting by 2019 and completed in time for its 150th anniversary … in 2021. Arts minister Don Harwin said the money will ensure “Australia’s best art gallery is right here in Sydney…For too long NSW has lost out to Melbourne and even Brisbane when it comes to attracting major international art exhibitions but that will change now,” he said.’
Also in the budget will be $100 million for a new Regional Cultural Fund to support construction or upgrade of galleries, theatres, libraries, museums and halls as well as “repurposing” existing infrastructure for arts, screen, culture or heritage use. Read more
‘City can afford to dream large on Sydney Modern’
SMH Editorial: Lisa Davies Read more
‘Sydney Modern battles for supremacy with Art Gallery of NSW expansion’
Julie Power, Sydney Morning Herald Read more
‘Art Gallery of NSW scores major funding windfall from government’
Jason Tin, The Daily Telegraph Read more
8 June, 2017
Draft transcript of 7th Inquiry hearing of 6 June posted on line: Read more
8 June, 2017
‘Latest Inquiry Hearing produces nothing New
The Save the Powerhouse community group advises that: ‘Yesterday’s seventh Inquiry hearing was subdued compared with previous lively sessions, and little real progress was made.
Arts Minister Don Harwin, principal witness in a panel of four, remained affable throughout. While making no attempt to duck questions, he competently fielded all relating directly to the future of the Powerhouse in Ultimo, or details of the “new museum” planned for Parramatta.
His opening statement emphasised that the scope of the final business case, to be completed by the end of 2017, was expanded in April to include “a range of options”. These will be analysed by expert consultants, who will make a recommendation to Government, he said.
He confirmed that building the new museum in Parramatta while also optimizing the Powerhouse in Ultimo, will be one of the options, although when asked if these will include NOT moving the Powerhouse at all, he just said “it’s all in the business case”..
Harwin reaffirmed earlier statements that he completely supports moving the (undefined) “MAAS headquarters” to Parramatta, because it represents a “once in a generation” opportunity to develop an arts and culture sector for Western Sydney ….
Faced with sensitive questions on other points he simply repeated that the information requested will not be available until the final business case is completed
To “How will you pay for the new Museum”, for example, he replied only that “we will be a bit flexible”, declining to elaborate.
And asked why Government is committed to building the new museum on a flood-prone, undersized, riverbank site? ‘It was “a decision by the previous Government.”
He dismissed the North Parramatta Residents Action Group’s excellent proposal for developing a cultural precinct on the Cumberland Hospital site as “interesting”
Nonetheless, a couple of interesting new points emerged.
Previously Harwin has talked only of leaving a possible Powerhouse “presence” in Ultimo. The popular theory was that the Old Power Station building, with objects too massive to move, would remain, and the Harwood building would be sold to UTS for student accommodation.
Yesterday, though, he mentioned for the first time possibly leaving “ part or ALL” of the Powerhouse intact, although without details, and that it would be a cultural “space” – again undefined.
Second, when the panel was pressured about the lack of community consultation to date, especially in Inner Sydney, Craig Limkin, Executive Director of the Government’s Arts and Culture division, agreed to hold a public meeting at the Powerhouse –at last an opportunity to be heard!
Finally, Harwin made a positive gesture by saying how pleased he was, as Minister for the Arts, that the Inquiry was being held and that public attendance at the hearing was so high, both demonstrating that arts and culture in NSW deserved more support. No-one will argue with that:. Read more ; See Hearing transcript: Read more
7 June, 2017
‘Minister Don Harwin mum on plans for old Powerhouse Museum site’
Following the 7th Upper House inquiry hearing on 6 June, Michaela Boland reports in The Australian : ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin has confirmed that his government will move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta in the city’s west but the current site in Sydney’s inner-city Ultimo could remain a “cultural space”.
An upper house inquiry into art galleries and museums tried, without success, to get the minister to reveal what the government planned to do with the existing Powerhouse site.
Mr Harwin said the plan would be contained in the latest business case now being prepared. “The NSW government has taken the decision to develop a first-class museum in Parramatta. I think it’s the right decision … and I am delighted to be associated with it,’’ he said. He said there had been flaws in the Baird government’s original plan. Among them was a failure to obtain a risk assessment on moving the Powerhouse’s collection of historical artefacts to a flood-prone site adjacent to the Parramatta River. The new business case would include a risk assessment.
The acting executive director of cultural infrastructure within the Planning Department, Craig Limkin, said former art gallery director Doug Hall had been appointed to peer-assess the business plan. Mr Hall founded Brisbane’s popular Gallery of Modern Art when was director of Queensland Art Gallery, which is also in a flood zone.
Mr Harwin said Mr Hall’s art gallery expertise was equivalent to museum expertise. Former Powerhouse Museum deputy director Jennifer Sanders rejected this notion. “Doug Hall is an eminent former art gallery director but the Powerhouse Museum is a much more complicated organisation than an art gallery,” she said. “They really do need to have highly museum literate people advising them and they don’t,” she said.’
7 June, 2017
‘Project Sydney: Powerhouse Museum’s Parra to the people’
Jason Tin, in The Daily Telegraph, reports of the 7th Inquiry hearing: ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin believes the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta will serve as an “anchor” for a growing cultural scene in Western Sydney. He yesterday fronted a parliamentary committee and reiterated the government’s commitment to a “new world-class iconic museum at Parramatta”. The state government is yet to determine whether a presence will remain at the Ultimo site and what form that would take. “To me, that could have a museum usage, it could have a gallery usage, it could be a performance space — I’m not limiting it,” Mr Harwin nsaid.
He would not comment on which museum items would move or stay, saying “that would be micromanaging to a degree which I think would be inappropriate for a minister”. However, he was insistent on the significance of the broader move. “It will, in my very strong view, become the anchor for a broader arts and cultural precinct for the region,” Mr Harwin said. “It’s something I believe Western Sydney well and truly deserves. This takes time and proper planning.” At one point, Mr Harwin was asked whether having “two primary sites” was among them. “Yes, it is one of the options,” he said. Read more
6 June, 2017
Report: 7th Upper House inquiry hearing
After listening to Minister Don Harwin’s responses to questions, members of the audience remained concerned that he appeared fully committed, despite earlier press releases, to moving the main venue and management of the Powerhouse Museum (MAAS) to Parramatta. Other issues include the inadequacy of the consultation process in both locations; that realistic options for both locations were not being pursued widely by the staff working on the extended business plan, because the decision has already been made; the fear that the possible ‘cultural space’ in Ultimo will be a weak compromise; comparison of costs in relation to other regional areas who had (unlike Parramatta) have invested in the own local museums and galleries. Hansard transcripts are available here: Read more
2 June, 2017
7th Hearing for Upper House Inquiry scheduled for 6 June, 2017
Following considerable debate associated with the appointment of a new Premier and Arts Minister, and their reported consideration for reviewing the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum while considering alternatives for Parramatta, a seventh hearing has been announced for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, which started on 23 June 2016. This hearing will be held from 12.30 – 4.00pm, on Tuesday 6 June 2017 in the Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney.
The notice of hearing also includes an announcement that the reporting date has been extended to 25 August, 2017. Speakers on the agenda are:
– The Hon Don Harwin MLC Minister for Arts, and Minister for Resources and for Energy and Utilities, Vice-President of the Executive Council
– Ms Carolyn McNally Secretary, Department of Planning and Environment
– Ms Alex O’Mara Acting Deputy Secretary, Arts and Culture Division, Department of Planning and Environment
– Mr Craig Limkin Acting Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, Arts and Culture Division, Department of Planning and Environment
To see Committee hearing schedule: Read more Transcripts will be added to the website in due course.
2 June, 2017
Powerhouse opens Sherlock exhibition, while looking for clues to its own future
Michaela Boland, in The Weekend Australian, used the occasion of the opening of an exhibition about detective, Sherlock Holmes, at the Powerhouse Museum, to announce that Arts Minister, Don Harwin, is to be asked about the museum’s future at a further hearing on 6 June, of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries. In summarising the progress of the Inquiry she noted that its committee ‘is now trying to ascertain what the government’s intentions are after Premier Gladys Berejiklian indicated that the move was off but a Powerhouse offshoot would still be built in Sydney’s west.’ The new hearing date has meant the inquiry has changed its reporting for a fifth time, and now plans to report on August 25. Read more (with subscription)
‘Culture Heist: Art versus Money’
Judith White’s controversial publication, Culture Heist: Art versus Money, (Brandl & Schlesinger, Blackheath) was launched in May, 2017. Apart from discussing in detail the current management systems within The Art Gallery of NSW, where for 12 years she had been director of the members’ organisation, the Art Gallery Society of NSW, the author refers to very thorough research into governance of other museums and galleries around the world, and especially in Australia. Of relevance to the Powerhouse/Parramatta debate, is her clear exposé of the shifts in government and bureaucratic values from benefits to audiences and concern for collections, to economic and political returns. She refers to the Upper House Inquiry several times, quotes some of those who spoke at the Inquiry and asks why the AGNSW’s proposed Sydney Modern extension was not included in the Inquiry. She proves herself very conversant with of the issues shared by all institutions to do with current government funding, consultancy, planning and staffing. Read more and Read more
For comments on budget announcements for Sydney Modern: Read more
Parramatta: local opposition to development on heritage precinct
Over recent years, a number of groups in Parramatta have argued for cultural facilities that represent their own contemporary community, history and heritage, rather than transplanting institutions from elsewhere. In May 2017, the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, Read more, mounted a strong campaign objecting to development plans at the heritage precinct in Parramatta, (ie. the Parramatta North Draft DCP and Urban Growth NSW’s DA/1124/2016). They argued that the plans were not in the public interest. Objections included : ‘The precinct needs to be preserved in its entirety given its significance in terms of its colonial legacy…; The plans propose to demolish over 50% of the heritage buildings…; The aboriginal archaeology study/report is not completed…; A National Heritage Listing Assessment is currently underway…;The [proposal] would see the precinct dominated by high-rise apartment blocks…;It would also prevent the precinct from achieving a UNESCO World Heritage Listing which is currently being prepared.’ To read their submission: Read more
30 April, 2017
Controversy: ‘Funding for North Parramatta development’
Channel 9 news reports: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced $310 million for a controversial North Parramatta development, to some heckling from locals angered about the proposed construction of more than 2000 apartments.
The 30-hectare site has a rich indigenous heritage and is home to several historic buildings including the colonial-era Parramatta Female Factory, the former Catholic Orphan School and Parramatta Gaol. Urban Growth NSW’s proposed plan for the site would see the restoration and conservation of historically significant buildings, the creation of public open spaces, and the construction of about 2700 new apartments…
But North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group president Suzette Meade … said the construction of multi-storey apartments would destroy any opportunity for the site’s convict buildings to achieve national or World Heritage listing. “We can make this the biggest arts and cultural precinct in Australia,” she said. “We can have heritage tourism, arts and culture, we can have artists’ studios, museums, cafes, a sculpture park.” Read more and Read more .
24 April, 2017
Sydney Museum Alliance says moving Powerhouse Museum collection to Parramatta ‘absolute madness’
Australasian Leisure magazine follows up the ABC news report (below), saying ‘Representatives of Sydney’s museum community say selling and relocating the Powerhouse Museum from the inner city suburb of Ultimo to Western Sydney will kill the cultural precinct … However, according to the ABC, the NSW Government is reconsidering its plan, first announced in 2015, saying last week that it is considering keeping “some Powerhouse presence at the current site in Ultimo”. Nonetheless, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance remains concerned that relocating or sharing the museum’s collection would see the exhibition lose its allure.
While western Sydney businesses have thrown their support behind the proposal, there are calls for Parramatta to establish its own cultural institution. Patricia Johnson from the Save the Powerhouse lobby group, added “Parramatta has some of the oldest colonial buildings, its unique immigration past and Aboriginal history in New South Wales – its diverse community deserves its own.” ’ Read more
21 April, 2017
Tanya Plibersek supports NSW Govt review and argues to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and look at further options in Parramatta
Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition and Labor Member for Sydney, conducted an encouraging media interview in Sydney, with supporting comments from Patricia Johnson (Save the Powerhouse) and Grace Cochrane (Powerhouse Museum Alliance). See ABC news report.
Read the full transcript of interviews: Plibersek media 21 April 2017
Tanya Plibersek says: ‘I wanted to come out this morning … to say how pleased we were to see yesterday that the State Government is now considering leaving the Powerhouse Museum right here, where it belongs, as well as building a first-class cultural facility for western Sydney. The people who support the Powerhouse Museum have never said that this museum should be at the expense of the people of western Sydney having a cultural institution of their own.’ See Facebook page (25 April, 2017): Read more
Patricia Johnson from the Sydney-based campaign, Save the Powerhouse, supported her comments, and added: ‘I’d describe our position now as cautiously optimistic … We must be satisfied with that for the moment, because we know that this government is waiting on two key things, two key documents – that is the final business case which has been prepared over the past year, which will probably remain confidential but we can always hope that it will be released, and also the report of the upper house inquiry.’ For Facebook page: Read more
Grace Cochrane agreed with the decision to look at other options: ‘Museums … have deep roots in the society and the environment in which they are developed. And that applies to both here in Ultimo, with the Powerhouse Museum which has been here for over a hundred years, and also in Parramatta which … has its own significant history. And city museums and galleries, like the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and others, can certainly contribute to those in Parramatta, as they do elsewhere, without total relocation.’
21 April, 2017
Opinion poll: ‘Should the full Powerhouse Museum be relocated to Parramatta?’
Kylie Stevens reports in The Parramatta Sun on arts minister Don Harwin’s recent announcement on reconsidering the total relocation of the Powerhouse Museum in order to develop a new museum in Parramatta, with a final business case to be released later this year that will expand on options for both sites. At the same time, she noted strong arguments from business interests in Parramatta to move the entire museum, rather than have it contribute to a Parramatta institution. For example, Parramatta Council general manager, Greg Dyer, said: ‘Parramatta is Sydney’s economic powerhouse, our jobs powerhouse and our growth powerhouse, and what would be truly transformational for our region is the Powerhouse Museum …We are confident that any business case will show that from a geographical, population and financial perspective, moving the whole Powerhouse to the west is the best option.’
A survey: However, it has been clear that other options have not been considered for either site, and Minister Don Harwin also announced that a survey would be conducted to see what Western Sydney residents wanted. To register for the survey: Read more
An opinion poll: At the same time, Fairfax Media offered a separate poll to help gauge public opinion on the extent of the Powerhouse Museum’s presence in Parramatta asking whether all, part or nothing, should be moved. To respond, and see progressive results: Read more
21 April, 2017
Jamie Parker: ‘Cautious optimism on Powerhouse’
Jamie Parker, Greens Member for Balmain, commented in his regular bulletin about the government’s announcement: ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin said the Government would consider retaining the current building at Ultimo as a “cultural space”. The government will soon begin public consultation on the plans with a final business case to be released later this year. This is a real step forward in our campaign to stop the sell off of the Powerhouse. Minister Harwin said the government was still committed to delivering a museum for Western Sydney but that selling the current site was not essential to funding the Parramatta development. This is a reason to be cautiously optimistic …The Technological Museum opened in Ultimo over 120 years ago, and the Powerhouse identity is manifestly linked to the historic Ultimo Power Station. Western Sydney residents deserve a museum which reflects their unique cultural and historic heritage, and Ultimo residents deserve to keep their 100 year old museum site out of the hands of developers…We will be launching a campaign to ensure that we can secure the future of the Powerhouse in the coming weeks and will keep you informed.’ Read more
21 April, 2017
Alex Greenwich: ‘Potential Powerhouse Win-Win’
In his regular bulletin, Update 214, Alex Greenwich, Independent Member for Sydney, reports: ‘I welcome the announcement that the Ultimo Powerhouse could be retained along with a new museum in Parramatta. This could be a Powerhouse Museum win-win. The Powerhouse has 400,000 artefacts, 95 per cent of which are in storage. This huge collection could easily be shared across several sites – there is no need to close the Ultimo museum. The two big museums could leverage off each other, with more exhibitions, more on display and more special events.
Supporters of the Ultimo Powerhouse agree that Western Sydney needs its own internationally recognised museum that celebrates Western Sydney and its contribution to modern Australia. This should not come at the expense of a well-supported and established inner city institution that is an important destination for tourists, students, and locals. With positive leadership last financial year, visitors to the Ultimo Powerhouse increased by 12 per cent and sponsorship increased by 51 per cent. A Parramatta museum adds profile and capacity to the existing sites at Ultimo, Castle Hill and Observatory Hill. Attempts to turn the government’s consultation process into an inner-city vs western Sydney battle do not serve any of us well. Information HERE.’
20 April, 2017
Alan Jones ‘came out swinging’ to support the Powerhouse:
The active Save the Powerhouse lobby group reports that: ‘Alan Jones came out swinging yesterday [19 April] on 2GB, reinforcing his earlier forthright messages with a seven-minute tirade on why the Powerhouse museum must stay in Ultimo. While giving Premier Berejiklian “credit for listening” and applauding her current “indecision”, he issued stern warnings about the consequences of trying to move an “immoveable” museum, and was scathing about the still-awaited business case for the move because “there IS no business case for shifting the Powerhouse.” He was equally passionate in promoting Western Sydney’s right to have a museum of its own, and advised the Government, if it wants to win the next election, to “listen to those who know”.’
To hear the comment: Read more Save the Powerhouse full story: Read more
20 April, 2017
Interview with Arts Minister, Don Harwin
On 30 April, Sydney- based campaign group, Save the Powerhouse, posted a 2GB radio interview with Arts Minister Don Harwin, saying it: ‘shed a little more light on the possible future of the Powerhouse Museum in a recent 2GB radio interview.’ Listen here: Read more
‘Speaking to presenter Luke Grant on 20 April, his overall message continued to be encouraging. He repeated yet again that the Government is fully committed to building an “iconic, world-class museum in Parramatta,” also confirming that it (probably) will not be necessary to demolish the Ultimo Power Station and sell the site, in order to help finance a new western Sydney museum. They were he said, “flexible about payment…and about not having to sell all or part of the existing Powerhouse”. He reiterated that the new museum will be managed by MAAS, will be “based on” the current Powerhouse collections, and will focus on science, technology, engineering, design and mathematics. None of that was new. At the same time, you’ll note that he did not say that the entire current collection will be moved to Parramatta. While Government may be genuinely undecided about the future role of the existing Powerhouse, our message to Minister Harwin is that the Powerhouse must remain in its Ultimo home, with increased resources, while enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with the new MAAS museum in Parramatta.’
19/20 April, 2017
Media responses to Arts Minister’s announcement about further consultation:
James Robertson: ‘Government hints Powerhouse Museum may stay at Ultimo site’
Reinforcing the strong informed lobby that has argued for broader consultation about museum development in both Ultimo and Parramatta, James Robertson reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The state government has given its strongest indication yet that the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo could remain open in some form, a move that has concerned some of those backing its relocation to Parramatta.’ He noted comments praising and criticising the decision to seek further consultation, concluding ‘Mr Harwin said a final business case for the move would be released later this year and expand on options for the Parramatta move, with additional public consultation also to open soon…’. Robertson reminded readers that ‘ The state government was criticised for the degree of secrecy on the project at a recent parliamentary inquiry into the sale at which the state government did not produce the preliminary business case for the project.’ Read more
Andrew Clennell: ‘Parra power under threat’
Andrew Clennell in The Daily Telegraph notes that while Arts Minister Don Harwin said that the move of the Powerhouse was confirmed, he also ‘said he was also moving away from ex-premier Mike Baird’s idea of using the old Powerhouse site for apartments to help pay for the project. Instead, he is considering retaining a small portion of the museum at the Pyrmont site — or “cultural space”.’ (It is not clear whether Harwin just means the buildings or the venue as a museum. PMA) While recording dissent from NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, Clennell also reported that Harwin told him: ‘The other thing is you have got to remember a lot of people feel it’s great we have another museum in Parramatta but why shut another one? That’s the difference in the way Mike saw it and the way that (Premier Gladys Berejiklian) and I see it. We are prepared to be flexible.’ At the same time MAAS Trust chairman Barney Glover said the expanded business case showed the importance of the arts and culture to the state’ and that ‘The MAAS Trust remains committed to working with government to realise investment in MAAS and deliver on the vision for world-class facilities in Parramatta.’ (It is hoped that includes Glover’s positive view on the future of the Ultimo site as a museum. PMA) Read more
19 April, 2017
Labor opposition: ‘Western Sydney betrayed – Liberals set to walk away from Powerhouse promise’
Following Don Harwin’s welcome announcement to extend consultation and consider other options, the Labor Party opposition leader Luke Foley and shadow arts minister Walt Secord (member of Upper House Inquiry) circulated a critical comment. Despite all evidence to support the change of plan, the paper said: ‘NSW Labor Leader, Luke Foley, says the Berejiklian government is walking away from a major election promise to Western Sydney businesses and families to relocate the Powerhouse Museum from the CBD to Parramatta.’ However, Foley’s comments have attracted strong criticism on his own Facebook page: Read more
19 April, 2017
Arts Minister announces consultation to take place!
‘Tell us what you want from Parramatta Powerhouse’
Following many months of criticism of the former Premier for lack of consultation about the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, new Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced that public consultation would now take place for an extended business case than may see the Powerhouse remaining in Ultimo, with a new museum in Parramatta: ‘A final business case to be released later this year will expand on options for the new Parramatta museum. This could include keeping some Powerhouse presence at the current site in Ultimo … Museum of Applied Arts and Science Trust chairman Professor Barney Glover said the expanded business case showed the importance of the arts and culture to the NSW Government. “The MAAS Trust remains committed to working with Government to realise investment in MAAS and deliver on the vision for world class facilities in Parramatta and across all MAAS venues, now and into the future,” Professor Glover said.’ For the Press release: Read more: Don Harwin med rel – Tell us what you want from Parramatta Powerhouse
Taking part in the survey:
As part of the process Create NSW (formerly Arts NSW and Screen NSW) provides the opportunity to register to participate in a survey a survey for what the new museum in Parramatta should be. To register: Read more
(Note that this appears not to include comments on what should stay in Ultimo and what the connections between the sites could be. PMA).
16 April, 2017 (on line 7 April)
‘Why Sydneysiders are swapping inner-city living for Parramatta’
Sue Williams, in the Sun Herald’s Domain, discusses why people are moving to live in Parramatta, citing its public transport, proximity to major roads and growing retail sector. ‘Among other improvements on the way for Parramatta are the West Metro, the West Connex, the M4 extension, the Parramatta stadium, the first high-rise high school, the new University of Western Sydney tower and, possibly, the Powerhouse Museum which is still in planning limbo.’ Notable, following recent reports, is her reference to indecision about a museum for Parramatta. Read more
11 April, 2017
Alex Greenwich: ‘Powerhouse Museum Plan Questioned’
Alex Greenwich, Independent Member for Sydney, has called on the government to release full details of the plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, saying: ‘It is unclear whether the government’s plan is viable, has the support of the local Parramatta community, or whether the required recurrent funding for the new museum is in place. No information on the relocation cost has been announced, Western Sydney community support for the new site and museum is questionable, and the government has previously indicated that the local council should be responsible for recurrent funding. I’ve met with Parramatta resident groups and it’s clear they want a museum that celebrates Western Sydney and not one the government tells them they should have.’ Read more
3 April, 2017
Peter Collins: ‘Powerhouse Museum’s place in the heart of the city’
Former NSW Premier, Peter Collins, wrote a lengthy story for the Daily Telegraph, supporting the move of the Powerhouse Museum to ‘heart of the city’, ie. Parramatta. He quoted figures from an economic impact study commissioned by the City of Parramatta which ‘says the new museum will generate more than $800 million in economic activity and create thousands of jobs’, but made no comments about wider audiences, history, heritage, culture and society, either in Parramatta or in Ultimo where the Museum has been for most of its existence. He seems to forget he is discussing a state institution.
He argues: ‘Shifting costly government resources to follow population growth is what politics is all about. So the Baird government decision to send one — just one — of our state’s cultural institutions to Sydney’s west should get a standing ovation. About time … In response, some Opening Nighters who should know better are having a hissy fit: in their minds, the Barbarians are at the gates. Hardly …The only completely movable cultural institution is the Powerhouse. Over the next decade, others should look at satellite museums in the west. This promise, when delivered, will be one of the most significant policy decisions ever made for people living outside the inner ring of Sydney’s suburbia.’ (Describing it as a ‘science museum’, without acknowledging its comprehensive related collecting areas of technology, decorative arts and design and social history, he claims that ‘This was a considered decision based on evidence and good judgement …’ . However, it has been acknowledged for a considerable time throughout the Upper House Inquiry that the decision was hastily made before any informed business plan was commissioned or completed, and without wider informed consultation. PMA)
1 April, 2017
New ‘clusters’: NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet Governance Arrangements Chart
Following the NSW state election, ministerial portfolios were rearranged and published on April 1. The Minister for the Arts has moved from the Justice ‘cluster’ to that of Planning and Environment, and the Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences are now listed in this cluster as an executive agency. Read more and Read more
22 March, 2017
‘Millions at stake in Powerhouse Museum negotiations’
Tony Bosworth, in the Parramatta Advertiser, announces that a new report produced for the Parramatta Council by a specialist consultancy indicates that ‘at stake is an expected $42.5 million in additional revenue for Parramatta businesses and more than 2,320 jobs a year during construction of the museum’, if ‘the axe falls on the State Government’s plans to move the Powerhouse Museum … Parramatta is at risk of losing $803 million in economic activity’. Parramatta Council’s (interim) general manager, Greg Dyer, ‘has come out fighting in his council’s support of the Powerhouse moving to Parramatta’, questioning the cited costs of moving the entire museum.
However, while Dyer says ‘Our recently released cultural plan is indicative of a city which deserves a world class museum’, his arguments appear to be based solely on related economic returns, and not on well-argued alternative solutions for cultural benefits at either location. Read more
17 March, 2017
‘Public anger forces Powerhouse move backdown’
Jill McIlroy documents in the Green Left Weekly that ‘Widespread community opposition has reportedly pushed the NSW Coalition government to prepare to back down on its plan to move the iconic Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo westward to Parramatta…A public campaign against the move and sale of the museum drew widespread community support, as well as statements of opposition from many prominent figures in the arts and other sectors of Sydney society.’ They also cited Balmain state Greens MP, Jamie Parker, who agreed that the proposed move was not viable: “The type of museum that is built in Parramatta is a question for the people of Parramatta to decide. Many people I’ve spoken to want Western Sydney to have a museum of its own that reflects the rich culture and history of the area, rather than simply having the Powerhouse Museum transplanted there.” ’ Read more
15 March, 2017
‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian examining possibility of second Powerhouse for Parramatta’
Following the radio interview with Wendy Harmer on 14 March, SMH reports that ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has left open the possibility of two Powerhouse museums – one for the city and one for the west – as controversy over the institution’s move to Parramatta gathers pace. Appearing on the ABC radio … Ms Berejiklian re-affirmed the NSW government’s commitment to “a Powerhouse museum” in Parramatta, but said all options were on the table as the government considered the business case for the move: “I don’t know if I’ve said this publicly but I’m looking at the costings to see how we can deliver this in the best way and to see what opportunities exist.” ’ Read more
14 March, 2017
Premier interviewed about plans for Museums
Jean-Pierre Alexandre records Wendy Harmer’s interview with Premier Gladys Berejiklian on ABC Radio 702. Read more
7 March, 2017
‘Power to the people as museum set to stay.’
Tony Bosworth and Jillian McKee say in the Inner West Courier that ‘Public outrage has led the State Government to reconsider the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta … well-placed sources revealed last week the Government believes taking down the current Powerhouse and selling the land to developers is so unpopular that it has decided to can the move.’ Read more
7 March, 2017
‘Gladys, please don’t take our Powerhouse’
Following up on MP Stuart Ayres’s suggestions from 4 March (below), the Parramatta Advertiser reported that ‘A spokesman for Mr Ayres categorically denied those reports on Monday … At a face-to-face with Minister Ayres last week, the Advertiser was told Parramatta would get a museum. But Mr Ayres refused to say whether the Powerhouse would remain at Ultimo. The business case for the move is now before Cabinet who are also waiting on the final report from the Parliamentary inquiry into museums. A decision is expected soon … An alternative being considered by Cabinet is for a pared-back Parramatta museum costing around $400 million and the current Powerhouse remaining where it is in Ultimo.’ Read more
4 March, 2017
‘Minister in secret push to split Powerhouse museum’
Andrew McLennell (Daily Telegraph) reports that ‘Western Sydney Minister Stuart Ayres has been pushing to overturn the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta. Instead Mr Ayres wants the museum broken into bits with some housed in Penrith, some in Parramatta and some in other centres such as Liverpool … “As Minister for Western Sydney I’ll be advocating to expand cultural offerings across the region.” ‘
However, a letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, ‘backing the existing plan, was sent by Sydney Business Chamber Western Sydney director and former Labor minister David Borger, with 40 co-signatories including the bosses of Western Sydney Local Health District, Royal Agricultural Society, Ramsay Health, Olympic Park Business Association, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Australian Racing Drivers Club, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sydney Zoo, Sydney Markets and Western Sydney Wanderers.’
(It should be noted that none of these are cultural organisations, and neither Ayres nor the opposing letter appear to acknowledge well-documented alternatives for Parramatta, or the Powerhouse.) Read more
See Alex Hart’s 7 News TV report, for a range of opinions: Read more
3 March, 2017
‘Powerhouse sell-off update’
MP Jamie Parker reports in his newsletter: ‘I asked the Premier a question in Parliament last sitting, and she indicated that she is reviewing the business case, but that the Government’s position is that “Parramatta will have a Powerhouse Museum”. I’m sure that when reviewing the business case and seeing a possible cost of $100m per kilometre for moving the existing Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, any fair minded person would see that this is a colossal waste of money and cannot go ahead.
The type of museum that is built in Parramatta is a question for the people of Parramatta to decide. Many people I’ve spoken to want Western Sydney to have a museum of its own that reflects the rich culture and history of the area, rather than simply having the Powerhouse Museum transplanted there… Some of the Powerhouse’s enormous collection of exhibits … could be looked at for use in a new Parramatta museum.
The people of our area want the current Powerhouse Museum to stay on its site in Ultimo. They want the government to reconsider the move, and to consult with the people of Western Sydney to establish a museum that reflects the unique history and spirit of that community. Read more
2 March, 2017
‘State of the arts in a safe pair of hands with Don Harwin’
Michaela Boland reports in The Australian that: ‘[Don] Harwin takes over the arts portfolio at a pivotal juncture with a Legislative Council committee probing former premier Mike Baird’s decision to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta at a cost of what has been revealed to be at least $1.5 billion. Baird’s decision to sell off electricity assets, the so-called poles and wires, has delivered a windfall to the arts of $600 million, of which almost half is not yet allocated but already fiercely contested by, among others, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Australian Museum, which both have expansion aspirations.
Harwin dismisses the expectation the museums inquiry committee will vote to compel cabinet to release the preliminary business case prepared for the Powerhouse move to Parramatta … “It’s been an interesting inquiry … (but) they’d be better off finalising their report and making some recommendations.” Harwin repeats the Premier’s recent statement that the government remains committed to the Powerhouse move, labelled a land grab by critics, and expects to see a final business case this month.’
1 March, 2017
‘Don Harwin’s arts start has been a relative breeze’
Despite new arts minister Don Harwin’s assurances in Parliament on 22 February that ‘The Government’s decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is being informed by a business case that is being developed that will closely examine viable options for the proposed site’, on 1 March Peter Munro (SMH) reports him as saying ‘We are absolutely committed to having an iconic cultural institution in western Sydney and the one that makes sense is moving the Powerhouse.’ Read more
It is hoped that rather than repeating such well-worn cliches, the Minister will carefully consider the many arguments supported by thousands of people across NSW, Australia and overseas, to leave the Powerhouse Museum where it is and develop the cultural institutions in Parramatta that its residents are asking for.
23-25 February, 2017
Sydney Morning Herald: Readers poll (76% against), and more letters from readers
As part of the measure of public opinion about moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta, the SMH Readers Panel graph on 25 February showed overwhelming support at 76% for keeping it in Ultimo. Letters from 23 – 25 February elaborate on this position, from: Bob Edgar, Westmead; Geoffrey Briot, Stanmore; John Bunyan, Campbelltown; Tony Walbran, Dee Why; Patrick Longfield, Randwick. For graph of poll, and letters, see: smh-23-25-february-2017
24 February, 2017
‘Ten more things we should move to Parramatta along with the Powerhouse Museum’
Town planner Chris Brown wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘These are heady times for Sydney. For the past six years the city has been reeling from a development frenzy, with each passing week seeming to bring news of a new motorway, rail line, casino, airport or some other large, intrusive thing …’. Of the expected cost of up to $2 billion to move the Powerhouse Museum he counselled ‘… relax – it’s actually a bargain and the only reason you can’t see that is because you are not a visionary planning genius like the Urban Einsteins running NSW.’ He provides ten suggestions for ‘Other Stuff That Should Be Relocated To Parramatta At Great Expense And For No Reason Whatsoever’ including the Big Banana from Coffs Harbour, the whole of Darling Harbour, Bankstown airport, NSW Parliament, Taronga and Western Plains Zoos, Bondi Beach and the Trump tower! Read more
24 February, 2017
Museum relocation shortfall no ‘tall order’
Andrew Clennell reported in the Daily Telegraph that, despite the shortfall in anticipated funds to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, the Berejiklian government is ‘still vowing to push on’. He noted that the Government was waiting for an Infrastructure NSW business case which should identify costs. In the sixth Upper House Inquiry hearing, this information had been withheld as information held in confidence. Nonetheless, Premier Berejiklian and arts minister Don Harwin reaffirmed their determination to move the museum. Read more: 22-feb-dtele-ac
23 February, 2017
Jamie Parker questions Premier about museum plans for Parramatta
In Parliament, MP Jamie Parker asked the Premier: ‘Given reports that to move the Powerhouse Museum may cost in excess of $1.5 billion, will the Government reconsider and focus on a new museum in Western Sydney that reflects the unique history and spirit of the community?’ Premier Gladys Berejiklian responded that she was excited that ‘Parramatta will have a Powerhouse Museum’, and that ‘I want to allay any concerns the member for Balmain may have. We will look at the final business case for the Powerhouse Museum. We will make sure that not only do we build this fine cultural institution but also that we spend billions of dollars in infrastructure across New South Wales.’ Read more
22 February, 2017
New minister’s response to questions in House: Hansard record, Legislative Council
New arts minister, Don Harwin, responded to questions about the government’s current plans for the Powerhouse Museum, following the 6th Upper House Inquiry hearing on 17 February. Asked by Labor member Lynda Voltz if the Government was prepared to ‘backflip on its promise’, he said: ‘The New South Wales Government will deliver on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a new museum for the future in Western Sydney, which will provide a vibrant new cultural destination for the whole of New South Wales. The Government’s decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is being informed by a business case that is being developed that will closely examine viable options for the proposed site. Further announcements regarding this will be made once the final business case for the site has been received and looked at by me and considered by Cabinet. Then an appropriate announcement will be made.’ Read more
22 February, 2017
Chair of Inquiry, Robert Borsak, admits relocation proposal could be ‘dead in the water’
In an interview with Wendy Harmer on ABC 702 radio, Robert Borsak expressed the Committee of Inquiry’s continuing interest in providing a significant cultural institution in Parramatta. However because of audience responses to moving the Powerhouse from Ultimo; the lack of consideration of other options; increasing evidence of greater relocation costs; and continuing secrecy of the planning process, he thought the Government was losing heart and the scheme may be ‘dead in the water’. He also noted that the Committee had further deliberations to make before writing their report. Read more
22 February, 2017
Parramatta Advertiser: Powerhouse move to Parramatta on shaky ground
Following evidence on costing and planning processes from the 6th Upper House Inquiry hearing, Tony Bosworth documented that ‘Well placed sources have told the Advertiser the government believes the public is so unhappy with taking down the current Powerhouse to sell the land to developers it has decided to can the move.’
Committee member, Greens MP David Shoebridge said: ‘My view is that it would be terrific to get a world class museum at Parramatta but without the loss of the Powerhouse. Something quite wonderful could be built on the site [on the river at Parramatta]. We could get something truly fabulous.’ Meanwhile, ‘a spokeswoman for Arts Minister Don Harwin did not dispute the $2 billion price tag to move the museum. “[W]e are carefully considering all aspects of moving the new museum, and negotiations are progressing as expected.” ’ Bosworth continued: ‘State Opposition leader and Auburn Labor MP Luke Foley said the government had turned its back on western Sydney and he suspected the Powerhouse decision would be next on the chopping block.’ However, it was evident to readers that Foley did not acknowledge awareness of other options for both Ultimo and Parramatta. Read more
22 February, 2017
SMH: Report on 6th hearing for Upper House inquiry
Andrew Taylor reported on the response of architects, accountants and consultants contracted to work on the proposal to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta, to questions of working to briefs, budgets, sites and relocation issues. It is noted that the cost of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta could blow out to almost $2 billion – 10 times the estimated sale price of the museum’s Ultimo site. Read more
16 February, 2017
Transcript for final 6th hearing of Upper House inquiry
The 6th hearing of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Museums and Galleries was held on Friday 17 February in the Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, 9.30am to 12.30pm. Those interviewed included architects, consultants and senior Museum staff, who have worked on plans and the business study for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. For schedule, and transcripts: Read more
15 February, 2017
Delay with agenda for final hearing of Upper House inquiry
The Save the Powerhouse lobby group reports: ‘Yesterday we shared in good faith a story published by the Sydney Morning Herald that named possible witnesses invited to testify at Friday’s Inquiry hearing, but whose attendance had not yet been confirmed. Today we – and many of you – discovered that this information is no longer accessible on SMH’s website … Nonetheless, a point has been made. It’s widely acknowledged that skilled interrogation by this Inquiry Committee has successfully extracted critical information from previous reluctant witnesses.’ Read more
14 February, 2017
‘Powerhouse Museum architects, consultants face penalties for defying Upper House Inquiry’
A report on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website noted that architects and consultants working on the controversial proposal to relocate the Powerhouse Museum ‘risk penalties for refusing to appear before a parliamentary committee into the NSW Government’s plan to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.’ This report was subsequently withdrawn. Read more
8 February, 2017
Parramatta Heritage precinct: Plan should be world class
While the North Parramatta Residents Action Group fears the Fleet Street heritage site ‘will be “Barangarooed” by UrbanGrowth NSW’s Parramatta North Urban Transformation Program’, Parramatta Chamber of Commerce president Michael Mekhitarian says ‘A world class precinct could be developed in North Parramatta if groups can put their differences aside.’ Read more
1 February, 2017
Parramatta: an alternative vision
The North Parramatta Residents Action Group presents its alternative vision for the Fleet Street Heritage precinct as an arts and cultural hub, and compares it with the plan for residential over-development proposed by the state government’s department of Urban Growth. Read more
1 February, 2017
‘Museum move on its way’
Kylie Stevens, writing for the Parramatta Sun, identifies contradictory opinions about the proposed Powerhouse relocation to Parramatta, saying it ‘is under threat: if you believe the cynics’; ‘Parramatta Council administrator Amanda Chadwick, Parramatta MP Geoff Lee and Arts NSW have denied any truth to speculation the move is in doubt’, with Chadwick saying the City of Parramatta ‘has been negotiating towards the sale of council’s land by the river to be the new site of the museum’. New Arts Minister, Don Harwin, directed queries to Arts NSW who said ‘The final business case for the project is in development and will be considered by government as soon as possible.’ But former Parramatta councillor Lorraine Wearne believes the Riverbank site was inappropriate for a museum, warning the council to be careful in its negotiations: ‘The council administrator is doing a good job but she is working for a state government that’s on the nose.’ Read more
1 February, 2017
Change to departmental cluster groups:
It is understood that the Arts Ministry (which includes the Powerhouse Museum, Arts NSW and others) will move out of the current departmental cluster of Justice, and into Planning and Environment (which currently includes National Parks and Sydney Living Museums). However, as of 1 February no public statement appears to have been made about this, and (on 16 February) the government’s web reference is currently unavailable.
30 January, 2017
New arts minister in NSW: Don Harwin
The new NSW Ministry for the Berejiklian Government was sworn in today at Government House, Sydney. Read more
Among the appointments affecting the arts and heritage sectors are the following ministerial changes: Don Harwin: Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, Minister for the Arts, and Vice-President of the Executive Council; Anthony Roberts: Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing, and Special Minister of State; Gabrielle Upton: Minister for the Environment, Minister for Local Government, and Minister for Heritage.
29 January, 2017
Government reaffirms Powerhouse promise
The Parramatta Advertiser reported that ‘Newly appointed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has thrown her weight behind all major infrastructure projects earmarked for Parramatta including the multi-billion light rail, $10 billion Sydney Metro West link, $300 million new stadium, and the $1 billion move of the Powerhouse Museum…There had been fears the new premier would rein in spending with sources close to government saying the expensive Powerhouse move was definitely on the block and other projects would be closely scrutinised.’ However Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee confirmed ‘It’s business as usual’, and that the lease of the state’s poles and wires had underscored the necessary finance. Read more
23 January, 2017
Doubts raised over Powerhouse Move to Parramatta
Tony Bosworth in the Parramatta Advertiser recorded that ‘As new Premier Gladys Berejiklian sweeps into power questions are being asked about the future of major infrastructure projects with the $1 billion Powerhouse move to Parramatta in jeopardy.’ He advised that ‘Behind the scenes, Parramatta Council has been trying to drive a hard bargain for the land which the Powerhouse would sit on…’, and that former Parramatta councillor Shahadat Chowdhury had said that ‘while it would be good to have the Powerhouse, if a major project had to be scrapped it should be the museum in preference to the planned light rail or the promised Metro rail. “If something had to go it should probably be the new stadium”, Mr Chowdhury said.’ Read more
23 January, 2017
Gladys Berejiklian to become NSW Premier
Gladys Berejiklian was elected unopposed as the leader of the NSW Liberal party and the state’s Premier. ‘The party’s deputy leader and treasurer was elected at a party room meeting in Sydney on Monday morning following the shock retirement of Mike Baird. With no competitors for the role, no vote was held to appoint the 45th premier of NSW. Read more
19 January, 2017
Mike Baird: ‘How NSW Premier went from popular to political scrapheap’
‘The conviction politician who had been admired for making unpopular decisions if they were right for the state was labelled an arrogant leader who did not listen to his constituents.’ Read more
19 January, 2017
Premier Mike Baird announces retirement
NSW Premier Mike Baird announced his retirement from politics, saying he needed to spend time with his family and help his parents and sister through serious health challenges. Read more At the same time, many saw his resignation as a response to continuing criticism (among other issues) of his perceived pursuit of over-development at the cost of cultural heritage including destruction of public land, buildings and institutions. This criticism of ‘Vandal Mike’ included the sale of the Ultimo Powerhouse building for development, the inappropriate relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta and the over-development of the historic precinct in Parramatta – all without informed consultation and transparent costing and planning processes.
6 January, 2017
MP Geoff Lee predicts big things for Parramatta in 2017
Despite continuing criticism of the development planned for Parramatta that has not been collaborative, MP for Parramatta, Geoff Lee, still includes the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum in his forecast for 2017, saying: ‘No area has secured more state government investment than Parramatta. Projects include light rail, a new stadium, three new schools, $1 billion Westmead Hospital upgrade and the Powerhouse Museum. He also says: ‘We will invest millions into restoring the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct so Parramatta is known and celebrated for its national heritage significance.’ Read more
19 December, 2016
‘Cate Blanchett’s ‘cultural ribbon’ torn to shreds by City of Sydney’.
Andrew Taylor (SMH) follows up criticism about leaving out the Powerhouse Museum from the proposed harbourside walk, especially from Labor councillor Linda Scott. This is countered by a spokesperson for the Lord Mayor, who said the council had not given up its efforts to stop the relocation of the museum, and confirmed the council’s intent to create a series of cultural walks in the city. Museum consultant Kylie Winkworth expressed concern that the current cultural ribbon strategy had been developed by the government’s property arms, bypassing expertise of Arts NSW. Read more
14 December, 2016
‘Powerhouse push: protesters demand the move be stopped.’
Lani Otway, (City News), summarises the arguments put forward by speakers at the Rally on 10 December, and reports on concerns about the Powerhouse being excluded from the proposed ‘cultural ribbon’ in the city. Read more
See also Save the Powerhouse, 14 December: ‘Cultural Ribbon Strategy Concerns: Some Facts’, for further background. Read more
12 December, 2016
Sydney City Council approves strategy for ‘Sydney Harbour’s nature and culture walk’’.
At a Sydney City Council meeting, following the 10 December rally, a strategy to support ‘Sydney Harbour’s nature and culture walk’, was passed. See draft strategy and attachments here at Item 4: Read more
First proposed as a ‘cultural ribbon’ in 2008, the strategy had been modified in the 2012 and 2014 State Infrastructure Strategies and later by Properties NSW. The City Council had sought feedback over previous months for its role in the project.
Concern was expressed that, as well as leaving out the cultural institutions in Macquarie Street, the Powerhouse Museum was also excluded from the plan. However, the accepted Council strategy forecast (Item 4, page 1): ‘…additional actions to investigate the development of parallel “cultural walks’’ and partnerships with cultural organisations to improve connectivity and joint programming as part of the City’s broader City Centre cultural precinct planning …’
10 December, 2016
Protest Rally at Powerhouse Museum, MAAS
At a further protest rally organised by the Save the Powerhouse lobby group held on the forecourt of the Powerhouse venue of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, eleven speakers discussed a range of compelling arguments for keeping the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while looking at better options for Parramatta and western Sydney.
Critical issues were: lack of consultation with all constituents; need for cultural institutions to reflect their own communities and histories; cost blowouts; secrecy of planning; inappropriateness of proposed site; lack of concern for audience needs. Also discussed was the proposed city foreshore ‘cultural ribbon’ which excludes the Powerhouse Museum, as well as cultural institutions in Macquarie Street.
To see videos of speeches: 10-december-rally-speeches
15 December, 2016
‘Overcoming Challenges in Community Advocacy’
The Royal Australian Heritage Society publishes a recording of a speech by Suzette Meade, which was originally presented at a RAHS conference on 22 October 2016. Read more . Suzette Meade has been President of North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) since its inception in early 2015; sits on Parramatta City Council’s heritage advisory panel; and has been invited to join the leadership group of the NSW Better Planning Network. The Society says: ‘Heritage forms part of communal DNA; it is therefore part of who we are as a community. Heritage advocates are now not only being forced to prove why a place is historically significant but also to produce evidence of its fiscal merit to the government that would rather sell it for development. Considering this, it is paramount that heritage and community groups are working together. Maintaining a constant surge of momentum in partnership with local resident engagement is imperative to being heard … Suzette Meade discusses how NPRAG has, in 18 months, developed strong community coalitions, as well as continuing to create solution-seeking strategies for the future to protect and promote Parramatta’s heritage… .’
11 December, 2016
Parra Matters: Need for better consultation
North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) holds a public meeting at the Parramatta Town Hall to ‘Show the state government that you are not happy that your concerns are being ignored.’ Issues included the proposed demolition of the public swimming pool to make way for a sports stadium, and the proposed high-rise over-development of a significant Cumberland/Fleet Street Heritage Precinct, as well as the total relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, instead of projects that reflect community needs and preferences. Read more
See also NPRAG’s website Read more for the group’s campaign against the state government UrbanGrowth NSW’s plans for the Parramatta North Urban Transformation Project (PNUT): Read more , and recommendations for the more appropriate development of a Fleet Street Heritage Precinct : Read more
25 November, 2016
Demolished Sydney: exhibition echoes today’s loss of heritage
In her review (in The Australian) of the Museum of Sydney’s exhibition, Demolished Sydney, which documents the demolition, over time, of some important heritage buildings, Michaela Boland discusses with the curator, Nicola Teffer, and Brian Scarsbrick and Clive Lucas (National Trust), current issues regarding recent similar decisions and proposals for sale or demolition being made in 2016. These include the Sirius building, 193 former maritime workers houses in the Rocks – and the Ultimo Powerhouse building. She says: ‘Sydney is a city divided along heritage battlelines. On one side the NSW government and its development partners are pushing through a swath of “state significant” projects … Lining up on the other side is a chorus of heritage advocates determined to speak for the trees, for the history-rich homes and for the city’s iconic buildings and institutions.’ Read more
25 November, 2016
Surging popularity at Powerhouse Museum rebuts ‘reckless’ move to Parramatta
A 33 per cent increase increase in visitor numbers to the Powerhouse Museum in 2015-16 has ‘countered repeated claims by Arts Minister Troy Grant that the museum was in “rapid decline” and must be moved west because fewer people were using it … Greens MP David Shoebridge, who is deputy chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into museums and galleries, said the Powerhouse’s soaring patronage showed the government should scrap the controversial move. Former Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson said in March that visitors from regional NSW came to Sydney for services and facilities in and around the city, rather than in the west.’ Read more
22 November, 2016
Cultural Funding to flow out of Sydney
(on line as: ‘Millions promised to arts in western Sydney, regional NSW, but will it make the toilets flush?’ SMH )
Following further submissions to the 5th and final hearing of the Upper House Inquiry that drew attention to inadequate funding available for regional museums, Arts Minister Troy Grant is reported as devising a proposal for western Sydney and regional NSW that ‘involves new funding worth millions of dollars to build or expand museums and arts centres in partnership with local governments and organisations. The funding would be in addition to the cost of relocating the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta – a distance of 20 kilometres.’ Greens MP David Shoebridge said of every witness at the inquiry from regional NSW: “They can’t believe the Baird government is planning to spend a billion dollars or more just to move the Powerhouse 20 kilometres across Sydney.” Read more
22 November, 2016
Western Sydney asks for a fair share of arts funding
In a report (SMH) noting that ‘Arts Minister Troy Grant will not have to search hard to find cultural infrastructure projects to fund in western Sydney’, CEOs of Arts Centres in Campbelltown and Penrith explain their longstanding proposals for development. The government’s 2014 State Infrastructure Strategy included a commitment to ‘engage with western Sydney councils, particularly in Liverpool, Penrith and Campbelltown, to identify co-investment proposals for cultural infrastructure’. But Grant said in January: “Local government has primary responsibility for providing local cultural infrastructure.” Read more
17 November, 2016
Powerhouse Museum forced to share new building in Parramatta, while Ultimo site may be rezoned. (SMH )
A report on the 5th hearing of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries on 14 November notes issues including: unresolved options for the Powerhouse site in Ultimo; further concerns about the proposed site at Parramatta; obligations of MAAS Trustees; and necessary support for NSW regional museums, within a coherent museums policy. Read more
See also: letter from Kevin Farrell:
‘Mike Baird’s attack on the ICAC, his consultation-free amalgamation of councils, his desecration of Sydney’s heritage buildings and streetscapes and his unilateral decision to sell off the Powerhouse Museum and erect a pathetic image of it at Parramatta are all signals that he does what he is told and that the long-term interests of the people of NSW are far down his list of priorities as a politician’. Kevin Farrell, Beelbangera
17 November, 2016
Relocated Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta could share space with big business
(Parramatta Advertiser) In their local paper, Parramatta residents read issues associated with the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, as raised in the recent final hearing of the Upper House Inquiry. Read more
15 November, 2016
Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: Fifth hearing
The fifth hearing for this Inquiry was held at NSW Parliament House on 14 November, 2016. Further information was sought from Samantha Torres, Department of Justice Services, Arts and Culture, and former president of MAAS Board of Trustees, John Shine, as well as seven museum professionals associated with regional museum services, as well as issues to do with the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.
The Standing Committee will now prepare a report for Parliament. For agenda and transcript of hearing: Read more
12 November, 2016
Letters: Another sell-off, another sellout
In separate letters, Kylie Winkworth, Michael Ockwell and Alan Morris respond to the State Government’s recent announcement of a 103-year lease to a hotel developer, of the historic Lands and Education buildings in the Sydney CBD. They condemn the decision, which adds to the list of other proposed sell-offs, including the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and the Fleet Street heritage precinct in Parramatta. See: 12-nov-x-3
Sept – Nov, 2016
Recent letters: Powerhouse to Parramatta
Since the hearings began for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, with submissions and transcriptions published online, many comments have been made. See also continuing observations on the Open Letter page on this website.
Among many letters submitted to newspapers, some published examples follow:
7 September: Powerhouse proposal a monumental folly; former trustee and benefactor, Leo Schofield, describes the move as an ‘absurd and profligate proposal’, and Peter Diamond compares it with a proposal to move the British Museum from central London to Watford. ‘Except for one thing. That would never happen …’.See: 7-sept-schofield-diamond
23 October: Plans for the west make no sense; Michael Wilson notes the implications for costs, tourism, and loss of experienced staff. See:23-oct-wilson
27 October: Powerhouse problems; Leo Schofield identifies further issues of poor government policy and planning. See:27-oct-schofield
3 November: Museum Vision; Barney Glover, president, MAAS board of trustees, explains the need for cabinet-in-confidence in developing a business plan for ‘a new, iconic world-class museum in Parramatta’. See:3-nov-glover
4 November: Little confidence in cabinet secrets; Bill Tango and Robin Humphrey refer to Schofield’s points (Oct 27) and scoff at Glover’s faith in a business plan that is ‘cabinet-in-confidence’, beside Cathy Wilcox’s cartoon. See:4-nov-tango-humphrey-wilcox
5-6 November: Gobbledygook masks the true colours of museum scheme; founding Museum director, Lindsay Sharp, criticises Glover’s statement, saying ‘… Board hides behind the disingenuous skirts of a rotting, secretive government.’ See:5-6-nov-sharp
7 November: Labor no Powerhouse; Marina Garlick adds that the NSW Opposition leader is also at fault, and ‘has resolutely refused to oppose the move, claiming that Labor will wait for the business case before deciding.’ See:7-nov-garlick
26 October, 2016
And now a proposal to also move the NSW Parliament to Parramatta!
Greater Sydney Chief Commissioner, Lucy Turnbull, released a proposal for Parramatta to become identified as Greater Parramatta and Olympic Peninsula (GPOP), where the city of Sydney would be in three parts: GOPA as the Central city; current Sydney CBD and environs as the Eastern city; and Badgery’s Creek as the Western city. This proposal also includes the move of the NSW Parliament to Old Government House in Parramatta.
Read more (Open cover for Wednesday October 26, go to page 8)
26 October, 2016
Radio interview with Chair of Inquiry, and community followup
Wendy Harmer (ABC 702) interviewed Robert Borsak, Chair of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries about the recent recall of Dolla Merrillees, Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, and President of its Board of Trustees, Professor Barney Glover, to provide further evidence at an extra hearing in the Inquiry. Borsak confirmed the Committee’s concern that the Government was not providing enough information about its decision to move the Powerhouse Museum including its consultation, costing and schedules; and that Merrillees and Glover were not able to adequately provide information classified as cabinet-in-confidence. Borsak said that an inquiry is the only way to examine such issues, saying: ‘It would be good if the Government elucidates…’. He also talked about long-term financial degradation of this museum and others through the impact of the ‘efficiency dividend’; the need for touring programs and for more space on the current site; the needs of museums in regional NSW; and the needs of Parramatta that deserved more than ‘handmedowns’. For interview: Read more
The ABC702 Facebook page published a response to this interview in the form of a statement supplied by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, followed by, to date, 723 comments about the interview. Almost all condemned the proposed move, and many recommended a new cultural facility appropriate for Parramatta, which may include a branch of the MAAS. Read more (While there is a photo link to Andrew Taylor’s SMH story at the top, to read the comments scroll down to the same image on 25th October.)
Patricia Johnson from the Ultimo-based Save the Powerhouse group, said of the interview: ‘It was heartening to hear Inquiry Chairman Robert Borsak publicly voicing his frustrations with the Government’s complete lack of transparency. He was talking … about his Inquiry Committee’s determined efforts to uncover the truth surrounding the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and Government’s equal determination to hide it.’ Read more
26 October, 2016
Comments on the extra Upper House Inquiry hearing, 19 October
Kristen Tsiamis reports on further responses to the extra hearing. State Independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, said that he believed that both Ultimo and Parramatta deserve world class cultural institutions: ‘I think what is happening is the government’s ill thought out plan is being exposed – I think also what is happening is a really important discussion for arts and infrastructure in western Sydney, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of the city. Using that much money would be better spent for a museum and arts infrastructure that celebrates Parramatta and its role in Western Sydney.’ Read more
26 October, 2016
‘Size and costings of Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta questioned’
Following the extra hearing in the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Melissa Yeo reported that ‘concerns have been raised as to the size and costings of the proposed site for the Powerhouse Museum as Parramatta Council continues to negotiate with Property NSW over the location.’ The Director of the Museum, Dolla Merrillees, had told the Inquiry that ‘it was not possible to nominate the overall project cost until site selection and a full business case have been completed’, while the President of the MAAS Board of Trustees, Professor Barney Glover, continued to approve the relocation but rejected private investment in the site to ‘shore up the build’. At a separate local meeting, State Liberal MP Geoff Lee rejected the findings of critics in the Inquiry, and their suggestions for alternative proposals, saying: ‘… For all those people who don’t want to move it, well bad luck. Western Sydney needs its own toys too.’ Read more (Also reported as ‘Size of site for museum plan raises eyebrows, scope of Powerhouse project raises worries’, in Parramatta Advertiser. Read more (Open cover for Wednesday October 26, open P. 11.)
25 October, 2016
‘Doubts raised over Powerhouse move to Parramatta as director admits cost is unknown’
During the extra hearing in the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries on 19 October, the Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Dolla Merrillees, and President of Trustees, Professor Barney Glover, were recalled to provide further evidence of costs, space, schedules and decision-making processes, much of which was again described as Cabinet-in-confidence. Andrew Taylor reports that ‘Mr Borsak, the chairman of the Inquiry, said that [government] secrecy surrounding the proposal to relocate the museum raised serious concerns.’ Borsak ‘also questioned whether the museum’s director Dolla Merrillees had the sufficient skills and experience to deliver a new museum as she told a parliamentary inquiry that the cost of the controversial project was unknown.’ Labor’s Arts spokesman Walt Secord pointed out community concern about ‘a cloak of secrecy’ over the Powerhouse relocation. Under questioning from Greens MP, David Shoebridge, Professor Glover, who is an advocate for the proposal, ‘said the MAAS board would only support the move if there was sufficient funding to build an improved museum and the new site was not compromised by other commercial developments.’ Read more
23 October, 2016
A new Office of Culture, Arts and Screen.
‘Gretel Packer, David Gonski join Sydney’s new captains of culture’
Amid considerable controversy about the State Government’s handling of cultural policies, and the 2015 decision to include Arts and Culture in the Justice Department, Deputy Premier Troy Grant ‘complained that the arts “bureaucracy” has become disconnected from its purpose’. He has now appointed a 15-member advisory committee of business people, philanthropists, arts industry participants, and the chairs of major cultural institutions to oversee a proposed single agency, the Office of Culture, Arts and Screen, resulting from the merger of Screen NSW and Arts NSW. Read more and Read more
This proposal had been anticipated earlier, on 7 September, where it was reported as: ‘Future of Arts NSW and Screen NSW under cloud as merger and job cuts mooted’. Read more
19 October, 2016
On 19 October the NSW Legislative Council’s Committee responsible for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries recalled Ms Dolla Merrillees, director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, and Professor Barney Glover, President of the Board of Trustees, to clarify and add to evidence considered inadequate when provided to the committee in an earlier hearing. Questions included the effectiveness of their working relationships with the Premier, Deputy-Premier and Deputy Secretary, Justice Services, Arts and Culture as, months after the controversial announcement, the business plan for the proposed relocation is being developed. For agenda: Read more For transcript of hearing: Read more
17 October, 2016
An announcement was recently made that a special hearing for the Museums and Galleries Inquiry will take place on Wednesday, 19 October, from 1.00-2.00pm. This hearing is specifically to speak again to the Director and President of Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences . For the agenda and attached paper see: Read more
Note that a further hearing is scheduled for 14 November.
14 October, 2016
The Powerhouse Museum has been accused by Labor arts spokesperson Walt Secord of trying to circumvent FOI laws by charging exorbitant fees of $1020 for information on overseas travel by MAAS staff. In a notable policy change, the SMH highlights what is now bipartisan support for moving the PHM to Parramatta. Mr Secord noted the NSW Labor leader Luke Foley’s public support for moving the museum, expressed in a speech on April 11, and said “For the record I have personally supported the relocation since 2010.” Read more And read what Luke Foley actually said on April 11 2016: Read more
5 October, 2016
The common denominator: Greyhound tracks? Low-income housing? The Powerhouse Museum?
In questioning of NSW Premier Baird’s motives in closing the greyhound racing industry, Anne Summers (SMH) draws attention to other options that had been recommended in a report , as well as similar issues in the horse-racing industry that had been by-passed. She said: ‘To me this is just one more example of Mike Baird waging war on the city’s working class. Just as he had when he sold off the terraces of Miller’s Point to millionaires, displacing a working-class community that had been there for decades. As he also wants to do with the low-income people who live in the Sirius apartments just under the Bridge. And the residents of the Waterloo towers fear this will also be their fate.
And what is the common denominator in all these actions? Sydney gold, of course.
Real estate. Wentworth Park is prime inner-city real estate. The government says it will not sell Wentworth Park to developers. They need to be held to that but – call me cynical – would a government that is prepared to sell a beloved museum, the Powerhouse, to developers have qualms about offloading a dog track?’ Read more
4 October, 2016
NSW Museums have fallen behind Victoria and Queensland Powerhouse Inquiry told
Des Griffin criticises the current proposal to relocate the Powerhouse Museum as “one of the most ridiculous proposals concerning cultural institutions in the history of this state … its rationale and costing are more than seriously flawed, the promoted reasons are laughable and the major considerations which the government has addressed have been concealed.” In his withering assessment of the state of museums in NSW, contained in his submission to the parliamentary inquiry, Des Griffin identifies poor leadership and governance, and the impact of the efficiency dividend as key causes of the underperformance of NSW museums. Read more
Read Dr Griffin’s Inquiry submission No 132 at Read more
3 October, 2016
The Future of the Powerhouse Museum
In the October newsletter (Vol 9 no 3, pp 3-6) of the Australian Society for History of Engineering and Technology (ASHET), Ian Arthur brings members up to date on current debates about the future of the Powerhouse Museum. Following a comprehensive history of the Museum, and details of the significance of a number of its important engineering exhibits, he concludes by saying ‘The weight of expert opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of keeping and developing the Powerhouse Museum on its existing Ultimo site, along with establishing a museum presence in Parramatta.’ ASHET was a signatory to the PHM Alliance’s open letter, and made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry. Read more
30 September, 2016
‘Efficiency Dividend a Blunt Instrument Harming Museums…’
The Parliamentary Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has been told by the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) that ‘that the efficiency dividend, an annual budget cut imposed on cultural institutions, is inefficient, inequitable and a “blunt instrument”‘. Comments from this CAMD and other submissions describe the impact of the efficiency dividend through loss of staff expertise and cuts to exhibition and education programs, on visitor numbers, long-term strategic planning, and digital and regional access. Read more Read CAMD’s submission 41 and Museums Australia 42 here: Read more
27 September, 2016
Regional NSW ‘a cultural ghetto of poverty’
Andrew Taylor (SMH) follows up issues raised in submissions to the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, by exposing the inadequate funding support given by the NSW government to regional museums and galleries. Comparing provisions made for such institutions in Victoria and Queensland, museum consultant Kylie Winkworth said ‘the most glaring inequality in arts funding was not between inner city and western Sydney, but between Sydney and regional NSW’. Also mentioned are concerns about the effects of local council amalgamations and the impact on museum management and programs. Read more
19 September, 2016
‘Relocation of Powerhouse Museum enters deep water.’
Alex Mitchell writes in Come the Revolution, that in recent days, ‘it has become painfully obvious that the proposal has hit a brick wall’. Drawing on submissions to the Upper House Inquiry and interviews during the hearings, he provides many quotes that confirm the government’s proposal as a flawed plan. Read more
19 September, 2016
‘Alan Jones and Museum Expert Blast Powerhouse Move’
Patricia Johnson, from the Save the Powerhouse community group Read more ,reports on a radio interview by Alan Jones on 2GB with founding Powerhouse Museum director, Lindsay Sharp, saying: ‘… In another piercing analysis of this insane proposal, Jones observed that The Premier, he said, the “man who knows everything…had simply lost his marbles”. Not a single qualified museum expert nor interested organisation in NSW supports the move, he said, least of all the people of Western Sydney, who want and deserve their OWN museum. Today’s interview with Lindsay Sharp, the Powerhouse Museum’s founding director, focused on the current Upper House Inquiry and its potential outcomes. Sharp agreed that events to date have been a complete farce, “I’ve never seen a mess like it! The Premier has just got it all wrong.” Nonetheless, he hoped the Inquiry would result in the Premier and Deputy Premier agreeing to “put the project on hold” while a full, independent review is conducted. Meanwhile, he said, the Government now seems vague about whether the Ultimo site will be sold. If it is not –then where will the $1 billion cost of the Powerhouse move come from? “This is not finished,” Jones concluded, “but we’ll keep at it!” Read more
7 September, 2016
‘Future of Arts NSW and Screen NSW under cloud as merger and job cuts mooted’.
Following the 2015 decision to include Arts and Culture in the Justice Department, it was reported here that: ‘The arts sector is facing more upheaval with a potential restructure of Arts NSW and Screen NSW. A new arts and culture agency, given the working title Create NSW, could be created within the Department of Justice, replacing the two policy and funding bodies.’ Read more (This was followed by a further announcement on 23 October of the formation of a body to be called Office of Culture, Arts and Screen. Read more and Read more.)
6 September, 2016
‘Powerhouse director and chairman recalled to clarify irregularities in evidence’
Following the first hearing of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Andrew Taylor reports that ‘Two senior leaders of the Powerhouse Museum will be asked to appear again at a NSW parliamentary inquiry to answer further questions about the costs of moving the museum to Parramatta.
Inquiry chairman Robert Borsak of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party confirmed that Powerhouse director Dolla Merrillees and board chairman Barney Glover would be invited back to “clarify” their evidence that they did not know the costs of the controversial plan… Professor Glover and Ms Merrillees told the inquiry on Monday they did not know the value of the Powerhouse’s site at Ultimo, which the NSW government planned to sell off to developers. Read more
5 September, 2016
‘Powerhouse move to Parramatta could cost up to 1 Billion dollars.’
Andrew Taylor (SMH) reports on information provided in submissions to the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and on evidence given in the first day of public hearings. He cites comments on cost blow-out, poor government management with lack of collaboration and transparency, and apparent ‘slavish complicity of the current trustees’ to the proposition of moving the Powerhouse Museum. Read more
5-6 September, 2016
Upper House Inquiry: Museums and Galleries
Following receipt of 169 submissions to Legislative Council Standing Committee 4 for this Inquiry, public hearings took place on 5th and 6th September. These were followed by a committee visit to the Blue Mountains and Parramatta on 23rd September, and a further hearing at Parliament House on 4th October. The submissions, hearing agendas with participants, and transcripts of all discussion for these sessions can be found on the government website here: Read more. Open tabs for Submissions, Hearings and Transcripts.
6 August, 2016
In ‘The brutal truth: we’re trashing Sydney’s heritage’, Elizabeth Farrelly (SMH) writes ‘Whatever you call it, a culture that destroys its own treasures will end with no culture at all. And when the Heritage Minister explicitly places heritage below profit, it’s clear this endgame is in play.’ After documenting recent decisions to demolish significant buildings that should be heritage protected, she observes ‘ People are no longer nonchalant. They’re angry. What with Westconnex, the Anzac trees, the casino, coalmines, the Powerhouse, Parramatta, public housing sell-offs and CSG, I’ve never seen as many NSW-persons as angry as they are right now.’ Read more.
Call for Submissions to the Upper House Inquiry:
Following the announcement that there would be a NSW Government Upper House Inquiry into museums and galleries, including the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, and the possibility for better options for Parramatta, a call for submissions was made. Due date 14 August, 2016.
See Upper House Inquiry: Guidelines for Submission, on this website. Read more.
1 July, 2016
‘We’re starving our culture with cut after cut’. Elizabeth Farrelly (SMH) reminds us that, amongst other issues of concern: ‘The NAS occupies one of Australia’s most glorious architectural treasures, the old Darlinghurst Gaol. SCA’s home, Callan Park, is a gorgeous waterside acreage, lustily eyed by developers. Both were saved, 20 years ago, by prolonged and passionate protest.’ Read more.
28 June, 2016
Development and destruction? More historic buildings and organisations at risk:
As with the Powerhouse Museum, behind the announcement that Sydney College of the Arts will ‘merge’ with the UNSW School of Art and Design, and the possibility that the National Art School will be required to do the same, is the strong likelihood that the NSW Government will encourage ‘development’ on both historic sites. These are the Kirkbride buildings at Callan Park (SCA since 1998), and the old Darlinghurst Gaol (NAS since 1922). Criticism ranges from complaints about secrecy in decision-making to concerns about the loss of diversity in arts education and the lack of respect for historic sites.
See: Andrew Taylor (SMH) for National Art School: Read more. and for Sydney College of the Arts: Read more.
24 June, 2016
Upper House Inquiry into the Powerhouse relocation: Andrew Taylor reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that following submissions from a number of concerned groups and State Greens MP Jamie Parker, the NSW Legislative Council announced on June 23 that there would be an Upper House inquiry into the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, as part of a wider inquiry into NSW museums and galleries. Read more.
For submission details and terms of reference: Read more.
24 June, 2016
Despite the launch of the Upper House Inquiry into the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum – in response to widespread criticism about the lack of government consultation in Parramatta for the kind of cultural institution people might prefer, growing evidence of under-budgeting and secretive planning, and no concerns for the strong arguments for the Museum to remain in its current context – Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, and state Liberal MP, Geoff Lee, insist that the decision has been made and that the ‘haters’ should ‘get over it’.
20 June, 2016
NSW eTendering advertises a contract for the extensive work involved in planning to move the PHM collections from Ultimo. The work is to include seven ‘deliverables’: a collection relocation plan; program and timeline; storage analysis; relocation analysis, strategy and plan; capital and operating expenditure; risk assessment and procurement plan. The tender closed on 5 July 2016. Read more.
9 June, 2016
Following the experience of secret planning, ‘done deals’ and lack of consultation for the move of the Powerhouse Museum to make way for development in Ultimo, Melanie Kembrey reported that 13 private proposals for the development of the White Bay Power Station into a technology and innovation precinct were rejected, as the ‘NSW government seizes control…Apparent non-compliance of the brief raises questions of the clarity of the brief and “preferred model”.’
On June 10, Tarsha Finney suggested that non-compliance of the brief showed that ‘the private sector in NSW has lost its agency to deliver projects in the public interest,’ and noted that ‘a significant proportion of members of the architecture and planning professions in Sydney are bound to silence.’ Read more.
3 June, 2016
Paris and Parramatta: flood-prone sites?
On June 3, as the River Seine reached its highest levels in 35 years, curators at the Louvre ‘were scrambling to move some 250,000 artworks from basement storage areas at risk of flooding to safer areas upstairs.’ Read more.
Shortly after, over the weekend of 5-6 June, the Parramatta River burst its banks and flooded parts of the city including the proposed new site for the Powerhouse Museum, the former David Jones carpark. Read more. and Read more.
2 June, 2016
Lawrence Gibbons says the Powerhouse Museum is being shanghaied by Premier Baird: ‘the Liberal government’s plan to sell the current site to property developers and relocate the museum to riverbank in Parramatta has little to do with ensuring cultural equity for western Sydney and everything to do with transferring valuable public assets.’
1 June, 2016
Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Australia, argues that the development of a cultural institution in western Sydney should not be at the expense of the existing Powerhouse Museum: ‘…I am very disappointed to see the Baird government playing off one part of Sydney against another in this way.’
28 May, 2016
Protest rallies in Sydney for ‘Save the Powerhouse’.
On 28 May, the statewide Save the Powerhouse community campaign, based in Ultimo, mounted a second ‘Support the Powerhouse’ rally. A large crowd sheltered under umbrellas in driving rain to applaud speakers, and the campaign reported that following the event: ‘most of our speakers met to talk about the current position and ways forward for keeping the Powerhouse in Ultimo, while providing a new, world class museum in Parramatta’. See June 2 on: Read more.
The next day, May 29, the Save the Powerhouse campaign was also part of a 3000-strong protest at the Town Hall to protest about similar Baird government decisions that are affecting different parts of the community. Read more.
17 May, 2016
The release of FOI documents about the sale of the PHM reveals the museum collection could be split with a separate CBD venue for fashion and design. Other documents indicate that the overall cost of relocating the museum to Parramatta may be $450-500m, while the sale of the Ultimo site might raise just $130-250m.
21 April 2016
Elizabeth Farrelly asks does the government’s planned Powerhouse-to-Parramatta move make any sense at all, to anyone? She suggests it is the wrong museum move to the wrong site, arguing the Arts Gallery of NSW Sydney Modern extension should be built in Parramatta on the Cumberland Hospital site at North Parramatta.
16-17 April 2016
Analysis of visitor demographics for Sydney residents going to the Powerhouse Museum suggests that one in 15 people living in the city went to the museum, compared with one in 64 western Sydney residents. Urban planning expert Professor Paul James says a city the size of Sydney can sustain two museums. Premier Mike Baird believes that that a relocated Powerhouse Museum will attract one million visitors by 2030, although the business case to underpin this assertion has not been released.
15 April 2016
In one of her first interviews since she was appointed director of MAAS, Dolla Merrillees says she’s pretty confident of guiding the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, although she concedes she has not built a new museum, as the job advertisement outlined in the mix of skills and experience required for the position.
13 April 2016
Parramatta Council appears to backflip over the new Powerhouse museum being located on the DJs carpark riverside site.
12 April 2016
Everyone wants the Bilbao effect writes arts correspondent Matthew Westwood, who is sceptical of the proposed sale of the Ultimo Powerhouse museum and the move to Parramatta, noting the absence of costings, designs, and a business case.
12 April 2016
Premier Mike Baird defies opponents of the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta, saying he wants the shift to create a “Smithsonian” for Australia which would be the envy of the nation. Liberal MP for Parramatta Geoff Lee says it’s time for all those haters to get on board… David Borger says the new museum will be 40% bigger than the museum’s Ultimo site, while the government says it will have 40% more exhibits than the current Powerhouse.
11 April 2016
Writing in The Guardian, in a piece that attracted 491 comments, Paul Farrell says: to sell the museum’s land to developers is to sell off one of Sydney’s vital organs, like a cheap trafficker looking to make a buck…. It remains unclear why a new museum entirely couldn’t be constructed in Parramatta, while saving the Powerhouse site.
11 April 2016
Dolla Merrillees is appointed the new director of the Powerhouse Museum. She says I have been instrumental in and actively engaged in developing our vision for MAAS Parramatta as well as the business case to deliver a once in-a-generation opportunity to reinvent a museum for the future.
11 April 2016
Mike Baird refuses to guarantee the continued provision of cultural or community facilities at the site of the Powerhouse Museum, after nominating the new museum site on the banks of the Parramatta River.
11 April 2016
Announcing the site of the new museum, Arts Minister Troy Grant says the new Powerhouse Museum on the banks of the Parramatta River will be a major drawcard for local and international visitors and will increase the size of the collection on display by at least 40%.
11 April 2016
The Daily Telegraph announces the government’s decision to develop a new home for the Powerhouse Museum on the DJs carpark site on the Parramatta River, counting this decision as a major win in the paper’s `Fair go for the West’ campaign. The paper notes the move will cost hundreds of millions of dollars but the government would be expected to recoup much of that from the sale of the Ultimo site.
30 March 2016
Cultural and heritage groups from east and west meet in Parramatta, united in campaigning to save the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and working for Parramatta to have its own museum. North Parramatta Resident Action Group President Suzette Meade said “our government should be investing in a Museum of NSW prominently placed in the cradle of our modern nation – Parramatta”.
28 March 2016
The NSW Government is being urged to consider moving Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to a regional city instead of Parramatta. Orange City Council suggests the NSW Government consider relocating the museum to Orange. Noting the huge number of natural and cultural attractions in the region, Lucy White of Central NSW Tourism says it would be a great move for the State Government to invest in regional NSW.
11 March 2016
The Premier says the government is closing in on a location for the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. I say to the detractors, you can hate all you like but this is going to happen and it’s long, long overdue. Questioning the two museum site options North Parramatta Resident Action Group President Suzette Meade says, what a waste of taxpayers’ money to spend $10m researching two sites both local government and the community don’t believe the museum should be built on. It shows again the clear deficit in genuine community consultation by the state government.
11 March 2016
The mayor of Dubbo councillor Mathew Dickerson says that giving money to western Sydney for culture and the arts isn’t as important as giving it to regional areas. Western Sydney residents can still get to arts facilities in the city, while residents in regional NSW face major barriers. Noting the government’s promise to relocate the Powerhouse Museum he said when regional people are coming to Sydney they’re usually coming for services and facilities in Sydney, not in western Sydney.
5-6 March 2016
Commenting on why the Art Gallery of NSW extension should not be built on the Domain, eminent architect Andrew Andersons suggests that rather than moving the Powerhouse, the architects of Sydney Modern could design a satellite AGNSW West at Parramatta.
3 March 2015
Former Powerhouse Museum trustee and benefactor Leo Schofield slams the government’s plan to sell off the Powerhouse Museum site as ludicrous … it’s a land grab. It couldn’t survive the move.
2 March 2015
Eminent architect Philip Thalis criticises the proposed sell-off of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while supporting a new museum in Western Sydney. Calling the decision a mishmash of wedge politics and bad policy. He notes that the Powerhouse’s rare grandeur makes it manifestly unsuited to conversion [for apartments]. It’s ideal for its current purpose as a major museum…
29 February 2016
International planning expert Professor Paul Rees criticises the government’s planning for secondary CBDs, and the urban environment of Parramatta. Commenting on the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum he noted that transport and other issues needed fixing before building a magnificent cultural project.
25 February 2016
Parliamentary debate prompted by 10,000 signatures from citizens across Sydney and regional NSW, which called on the government to expand museum services to other parts of NSW but retain the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Alex Greenwich, Independent member for Sydney calls for an internationally significant museum that celebrates Western Sydney, not a downsized Powerhouse Museum that the Government does not even have a site for.
Read the speeches for and against here.
24 February 2016
Both sides in the cultural debate support a new museum in Western Sydney. Andrew Taylor outlines five options for a new museum that don’t involve selling off the Powerhouse at Ultimo.
19 February 2016
Daily Telegraph lambasts those who signed the letter supporting a new museum in Parramatta as city elites. Lobbyist and former arts minister Peter Collins says going west was logical given the Powerhouse Museum was easily transferable and would allow the museum to showcase its entire collection.
18 February 2016
Sydney Business Chamber Western Sydney director David Borger calls the open letter an “up yours to western Sydney”.
17 February 2016
Open letter signed by 178 leading figures in Sydney’s arts and business community calls on the government to reconsider its plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, while supporting a distinctive cultural beacon in Parramatta.
16 February 2016
A summit at Parliament House organised by the Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich and Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker, brings together community representatives from Ultimo and Parramatta, and museum experts.
30 January 2016
Christopher Allen reviews the PHM’s Disobedient Objects exhibition, and describes the proposal to move the museum as little more than political expediency. He notes the impact the move to Parramatta will have on visitor numbers and access, and the potential of other options such as a multipurpose museum and exhibition space for use by all the cultural institutions, which would potentially have a more diverse program.
22 January 2016
The Arts Minister Troy Grant casts doubt over whether the state government will fund upgrades to cultural facilities in western Sydney and regional NSW, suggesting it is the primary responsibility of local government. This appears to be at odds with commitments in the 2014 Rebuilding NSW State Infrastructure Strategy that promised access to the $600m Cultural Infrastructure fund and co-investment in arts infrastructure with local government. Read more.
20 January 2016
Parramatta City councillors are unanimous in vetoing the DJs car park site as an option for the relocated Powerhouse Museum, claiming the government had not properly consulted with council about the location options for the new museum. North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said the government’s plan to move the Powerhouse out of Ultimo to Parramatta was nothing more than a cash-grab to sell another public asset and a gift to developers… NPRAG would like to see Parramatta house the Museum of NSW celebrating our cultural diversity from indigenous beginnings through to our rich migration history with nearly half our residents born overseas…The Fleet Street Heritage Precinct could see the creation of a cultural precinct with museums, art galleries and theatres married with the Female Factory.
Read more in the news and from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group.
11 January 2016
Joe Aston in the Financial Review notes there is no precedent for relocating a whole museum from the city centre, while there are many examples of major museums opening new branches or satellites.
23 December 2015
Liz Ann Macgregor says the Powerhouse is a victim of bad planning, adversely affected by the redevelopment of Darling Harbour and needs a `re-think’, while former curator Debbie Rudder warns of the risks and high costs of moving the collection.
22 December 2015
Former PHM curator of science and technology Debbie Rudder warns of the risks and costs of moving the PHM collection. I am sure it would exceed $200 million. She says a huge investment has been made in the Ultimo site by NSW taxpayers. Most of this investment would be lost under Premier [Mike] Baird’s plan. Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences spokeswoman Rebekah Waite says a “business case” for the museum’s relocation to Parramatta will provide details of size requirements.
22 November 2015
The Powerhouse Museum sees a 12% increase in visitors in 2014-15. The growth in visitors came despite the closure of the footbridge to Darling Harbour. One quarter of visitors are now using the new entrance on the Goods Line.
17 November 2015
In the Daily Telegraph Liz Ann Macgregor says that it was about time the west had a fair go. She says the move of the Powerhouse is a fantastic opportunity to rethink the institution… It needs to go through changes and Parramatta isn’t that far…. Arts Minister Troy Grant says visitor numbers at the Powerhouse have dropped 180,000 between 2008 and 2014.
16 November 2015
Rally outside the Powerhouse Museum to protest plans for its relocation. Independent Alex Greenwich announces a Parliamentary debate in February 2016, prompted by 10,000 signatures on a petition supporting more museums in NSW, and asking the government to rethink its plans to move the museum. Arts Minster Troy Grant cites a drop in school groups and visitors as reasons to move the museum.
13 November 2015
Marcus Strom examines where the controversial idea to relocate the Powerhouse Museum came from. The resignation of Rose Hiscock prompts calls from museum experts for a rethink of the government’s plans to move the museum. But the president of the museum’s board Professor John Shine says Hiscock and the board are 100% behind the move to Parramatta.
10 November 2015
Rose Hiscock director of the Powerhouse Museum resigns just two years into a five year contract. While she thanks staff and volunteers, partners, members and visitors, she notably does not express support for the museum’s move to Parramatta. Read more.
Her resignation prompts calls for a rethink of the government’s decision. Read more.
17 September 2015
The Design Institute of Australia criticises the proposed move of the PHM to Parramatta. Noting the downgrading of design in the museum and the closure of the design gallery, leading industry figures argue the relocation will remove the PHM from design networks and make it even less relevant.
9 September 2015
The Arts Minister Troy Grant announces a short list of two sites for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta: the golf course on part of Parramatta Park near Westmead, or the former DJs car park site on the river.
Read more in the Arts Minister’s media release and in the news.
The National Trust of Australia (NSW ) declares that Sydney’s Ultimo Powerhouse Museum is threatened with closure, demolition and re-development. The Trust strongly opposes the sale by the NSW Government of the Powerhouse Museum for redevelopment and would also strongly oppose any demolition of the existing historic structure; the purpose built 1988 extension and extant components that demonstrate the Powerhouse’s original use. The Trust supports the establishment of a Parramatta branch of the museum with its own distinctive function and style…
5 August 2015
Powerhouse Museum is moving while opposition from museum supporters grows. President of the museum’s board professor John Shine says they are focussed on the unique opportunity to establish an iconic museum in Parramatta. He notes the only commitment we’ve been provided is that all proceeds from the urban renewal of the existing Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo will be committed towards funding the new museum at Parramatta.
15 June 2015
Trevor Kennedy writes in The Australian that we don’t need to put a bulldozer through the Powerhouse to support cultural development in Western Sydney. Surely there are better ways of handling GWS cultural needs than a greedy land grab.
25 March 2015
Western Sydney arts leaders question the government’s commitment to the West. Even the Powerhouse proposal is premised on a sale of the existing asset – what does that indicate’ asks Hania Radvan CEO of Penrith Performing and Visual Arts; we’ll only invest in the west if it costs us nothing. So far none of the government’s $600m cultural infrastructure fund is allocated to Western Sydney.
20 March 2015
‘Save the Powerhouse’ community campaign formed at a meeting at the Ultimo Community Centre, followed by the Save the Powerhouse Facebook page launched on the 30 March, now with a weekly post reach of nearly 25,000.
19 March 2015
The Powerhouse needs a revamp not a knockdown writes Elizabeth Farrelly in a commentary on the sale of public assets in NSW. Certainly Parramatta should have a major art institution…..Cultural institutions are city’s eye teeth, giving shape and personality. Noting the vibrant neighbourhood around the PHM, she says that Sydney doesn’t have so many creative precincts that it can afford to play fast and loose.
1 March 2015
Kirsty Needham asks why does the city have to lose a cultural icon to reinvigorate culture in the west? Using the Transport NSW website she calculates the trip to the new museum in Parramatta will be one hour and 20 minutes from Botany, and two hours and 20 minutes from Wollongong.
26 February 2015
Powerhouse Museum site to be sold to developers, expected to raise $150-200m. Rose Hiscock director of the Powerhouse Museums says she and her team are looking forward to building a world-class museum from the ground up.
25 February 2015
Daily Telegraph announces a win for their ‘Fair Go for the West’ campaign, with an exclusive on the Premier’s commitment to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The Premier will commit $10m towards relocating the Powerhouse to Parramatta, to be used to develop a business case for the move. The article lists four possible sites for the new museum, not including the golf course in Parramatta Park.
24 February 2015
‘Fair Go for the West’ Daily Telegraph campaign led by Liz Ann Mcgregor calls for museums to be moved west, the Powerhouse she says is the obvious candidate’.
Create in NSW Arts and Cultural Policy Framework launched. The policy includes a commitment to investigating the PHM to Parramatta move, although the Premier already announced the museum is moving in November 2014.
Building Western Sydney’s Cultural Arts Economy, prepared for Sydney Business Chamber by Deloittes urges the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Western Sydney, recommending that the relocation involves the full sale proceeds of the existing Powerhouse site in Eastern Sydney being quarantined to establish the new Museum in Western Sydney — with any surpluses used to fund future Powerhouse Museum programs in Western Sydney.
Read more in the report and in the news.
28 November 2014
Following the Infrastructure NSW report, Rose Hiscock director of the Powerhouse softens her position on relocating the PHM to Parramatta, putting out a statement that the museum welcomes the opportunity to be part of renewed cultural infrastructure in Western Sydney. We look forward to participating in the investigation into possible options. Michaela Boland in The Australian.
26 November 2014
Not waiting for a feasibility study, Premier Mike Baird announces the Powerhouse Museum will move to Parramatta.
Update to the 20 Year Infrastructure Strategy promises to:
- Plan for and prioritise investment in a new Parramatta Cultural Precinct, based around the Riverside Theatre Complex, the old David Jones site, Parramatta Stadium and the old Kings School
- Urgently consider relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to the Parramatta Cultural Precinct
- Promote sharing of collections from CBD-based institutions (such as the Australian Museum) with the Parramatta Cultural Precinct
29 October 2014
The Premier hints at more cultural funding for Western Sydney. Parramatta’s Lord Mayor Scott Lloyd says of the Powerhouse: The money they would get for selling their land in the city would definitely pay for a … wonderful building here in Parramatta that would actually have some room to grow.
29 October 2014
Infrastructure NSW, the body responsible for setting the direction for major projects across the state, wants to uproot at least some of the museum’s collection from its current Ultimo base, under a 20-year plan to be handed to the state government next month. The idea is being resisted by the museum, which is putting the final touches on a masterplan to redevelop the existing building to better integrate it with Darling Harbour. You can’t just pick up a museum and move it, said its director Rose Hiscock. We would be really open to considering something [in western Sydney], but it would need to be a satellite from this site, and a feasibility [study] needs to be done on what that might be.
The government releases the Rebuilding NSW State Infrastructure Strategy. Strategy includes the promise that the government will investigate the relocation of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection to Parramatta. CBD collections will be shared with new facilities at Parramatta and across Western Sydney. It also promises that the government will identify co-investment proposals for cultural infrastructure in Western Sydney and that engagement will commence immediately.
4 June 2014
Liz Ann Macgregor, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, is appointed as the state government’s “cultural champion” for Western Sydney, with responsibility to promote artists and artistic programs in Western Sydney.
26 May 2014
Museum powered by volunteer army; headlines article in The Australian. Michaela Boland writes that the latest staff cuts at the Powerhouse will leave the museum with less than half the staff it had 13 years ago, and with an army of volunteers taking on more responsibility.
5 May 2014
Rose Hiscock announces she wants to double visitors in five years by focussing on schools, tertiary students and young people as part of her vision to revitalise the museum.
2 May 2014
The troubled Powerhouse Museum will be getting rid of one fifth of its staff under a major restructure announced by director Rose Hiscock. She described the move to save $5m a year as a day for the museum to consider its future and put a structure in place to achieve that.
Featured photo by Photo by Sydney – City and Suburbs Photo Blog.