For related letters to the editors of newspapers, see the PMA web site, ‘Letters to Editors’, here: Read more
6 December, 2018
‘Heritage listing process starts for Powerhouse after years of inaction’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports that: ‘The final step towards state heritage listing of the original Ultimo Powerhouse will begin next year following pressure from the National Trust, which has described three years of inaction after the building’s nomination as “inexplicable”.’ However, she also points out that: ‘… there are no plans to give heritage protection to the museum’s Sulman award-winning domed extension which constitutes the museum’s entry hall. And the Office of Environment and Heritage says any subsequent heritage protections imposed on the historic powerhouse and its interiors won’t impede government plans to either sell the site or relocate the museum to Parramatta.’
Morris quotes representatives of the Trust who are angry about the delay: In a letter to NSW Heritage Council dated November 5, (See: Powerhouse Museum SHR Nomination) the National Trust’s chief executive officer Ms Debbie Mills, ‘… said it was vital that the Powerhouse be given “the recognition it clearly merits and the protection of the NSW Heritage Act through any future development”.’ And ‘Graham Quint, National Trust (NSW) conservation director, said: “Due to its heritage significance, the [Powerhouse] building requires the protection of the NSW Heritage Act prior to any development proposals. When it was first adapted, it was considered to be in ‘good hands’, so state listing was never regarded as urgent. It is now. The National Trust (NSW) finds the continued delay in proceeding with the nomination to be inexplicable.” Morris cites minutes from 2016 which show: ‘In March 2016 the State Heritage Register Committee recommended that the potential industrial heritage significance of the Powerhouse be investigated for listing, according to minutes obtained by the Herald.’ But she points out that ‘research for the Powerhouse has yet to start.’ … ‘Lionel Glendenning, the government architect responsible for the 1988 award-winning museum design, said the heritage response was erroneous and lacked any understanding of the literature and history or consideration of its place on the major urban edge of the CBD.’ Similarly critical of the delay, ‘No tree, no park, no great landscape, no colonial precinct and no museum had any genuine heritage protection in NSW, said former trustee Kylie Winkworth. ”The NSW Heritage Council has been sitting on its hands for three years while the Powerhouse Museum is at risk, and they won’t stir themselves to get around to research until 2019. The building will be an empty ruin by the time they do anything.”’ Read more
25 November, 2018
‘Secret Sydney and the corporatisation of the arts’
In her regular Cultureheist blog, Judith White discusses a number of current issues: ‘The NSW government has given the green light to the $344m Sydney Modern building project at the AGNSW, but critics are unhappy and major issues remain – How secret deals are done in Sydney – Problems pile up at the Powerhouse – Why museums matter – Arts policies for 2019.’ Among other issues, she identifies: ‘Funding needs to focus on preserving heritage, developing best practice and ensuring public education, rather than on grandiose building projects… and …Governance must ensure that public institutions, while accountable to parliaments and the people, have the level of independence necessary to fulfil their objectives.’
Of the Powerhouse Museum she says: ‘But while the Government steamrollers through its plans, problems are piling up at the Powerhouse…Lisa Havilah has been appointed the new head of the Powerhouse, but she faces massive challenges when she takes up the post in January… Made CEO rather than Director, her brief is to oversee the much-contested move, and in a break from tradition she must report directly to the Minister rather than principally to the board.’
And of the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, she reports: ‘In more than two years since it was established, [the Inquiry] has been unable to ascertain just what developer deals have been done or are contemplated at the Ultimo and Parramatta sites. At its latest hearing on 16 November committee members questioned Professor Barney Glover, appointed chair of the board in 2016, and acting director Andrew Elliott. In a tense Inquiry session both Glover and Elliott appeared to have some difficulty providing answers about the budget for last year’s loss-making, scandal-plagued fashion ball, about funds for maintenance at Ultimo, about the appointment process for the new CEO and about the board’s failure to oppose the siting of developer tower blocks on the plot marked out for the new museum at Parramatta. Several questions were taken on notice.’
She concludes: ‘The full transcript (Read more) is worth reading. It’s an object lesson in the way politically-appointed boards of public institutions come to prostrate themselves before governments and their business advisers.’ Read more
21 November, 2018
12th Inquiry hearing: transcript on line
On 16th November, the Committee for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries interviewed two Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences representatives: Professor Barney Glover, President of Board of Trustees, and Andrew Elliott, Acting Director, Chief Financial Officer, and Director of Corporate Resources, at the Museum.
Key questions centred round issues of governance: their knowledge of and involvement in budgeting for Powerhouse Museum maintenance and events, and especially, the staff and Trustees’ involvement in the government’s decision to move the Museum to Parramatta, with a controversial ‘cultural presence’ remaining in Ultimo. It was clear to the many informed members in the audience that:
1) They were speaking to (familiar cliché-ridden) prepared notes and were reluctant to express personal points of view that may have been at odds with government decisions
2) As has been obvious over recent years, the Trustees have been very much sidelined by government from their legal and public responsibilities to the museum and its collection, and are merely ‘represented’ on the Create NSW committee, and ‘briefed’ on outcomes and progress, without apparent disputation of any proposals or decisions
3) Glover appeared to: have limited knowledge of the details of the ‘New Museum’ business plan, or any earlier plans; accept that Create NSW is managing the project (and Museum) for the Minister; be very personally focused on western Sydney audiences rather than those for a state (national and international) museum; and provide no evidence of considering viable alternatives in either location.
It is noted by Inquiry audiences, and this PMA website, that earlier reports indicate that the new CEO (director) will be similarly responsible directly to the Minister, and will provide an interface between Project committees and the Trustees. For the full transcript: Read more
Answers to questions on notice will appear on this link in ‘Other papers’ in due course.
21 November, 2018
‘Sydney Modern Project approved as critics appeased’
After a great deal of negotiation, criticism and concern about the takeover of public space, Linda Morris , in the Sydney Morning Herald, advises: ‘Excavation work will begin within months on the $344 million Sydney Modern expansion to the Art Gallery of NSW after the Berejiklian government granted final planning approval.. The series of pavilions to be built opposite the Royal Botanic Garden and cascading to Woolloomooloo will almost double the gallery’s exhibition space when completed in 2021 in time for the 150th anniversary of the gallery’s founding in 1871, and the 100th anniversary of the Archibald Prize.…Opponents of the development had worried about the loss of open public space in the Domain, lack of setback and visual prominence… Approval has been determined by the Department of Planning and welcomed by Arts Minister Don Harwin as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to increase gallery visitation to an expected two million people a year. The project had been assessed to inject over $1 billion into the NSW economy over 25 years, Mr Harwin said….The gallery will remain open as work begins. Conditions of approval governing construction, heritage, environment and transport are to be released Wednesday morning. Read more
16 November, 2018
‘…no cultural, economic or demographic justification for this move ‘
Prompted by the 9 November (see below) announcement of a new CEO for the Powerhouse Museum, art critic John McDonald says in his weekly newsletter: ‘This week’s announcement that Lisa Havilah will be the new CEO of the Powerhouse Museum brings another twist to this painful saga. We already know the decision to move the Powerhouse from its site in Ultimo to Parramatta – a distance of 25 kms at a cost of not less than $1.5 billion – is the worst, the stupidest, the most evil and destructive thing a state government has ever done to a cultural institution in this country. There is no cultural, economic or demographic justification for this move when it would be much simpler, cheaper and more effective to build a new museum from scratch. Why destroy an institution that is 129 years old and housed in an award-winning building?
Lisa Havilah has been extremely successful as the director of Carriageworks, turning a moribund venue into a thriving enterprise. The Powerhouse, however, will present a much bigger challenge. What does it mean, for instance, to be appointed as CEO rather than director? Perhaps the most important point is that Lisa will report directly to the Minister, Don Harwin, rather than the trustees of the museum. This is an unsavoury little detail that serves to centralise power in the hands of the government and lessen transparency.’ Read more: J McD 16 Nov 2018
13 November, 2018
‘World-leading theatre producer’s plan to save the Theatre Royal’
Following his 9 November report (below), Nathanael Cooper, in the Sydney Morning Herald, announces that Sir Howard Panter’s Trafalgar Entertainment Group is not only interested in purchasing the Theatre Royal (currently the subject of a petition to save it), but also in investing in Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre – and in operating the proposed theatre on the Powerhouse Museum’s Ultimo site!
He says: ‘Sir Howard Panter, who built Ambassador Theatre Group with his wife and business partner Rosemary Squire in 1992, going on to own the most theatres in the world and become one of the biggest producers, has since launched a new company. Sir Howard’s newest venture, Trafalgar Entertainment Group, is steadily growing through theatre ownership, new productions and cinema simulcasts of theatrical productions around the world.
Now he has his sights set on Sydney…But the Theatre Royal isn’t the only theatre he would like to run. Trafalgar has also commenced discussions with the operators of the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, to potentially invest in a larger theatre space and run the venue. “Western Sydney is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia but to an extent you have to build the infrastructure for the audience to come,” McFarlane said. …Sir Howard said the company would also be interested in operating the new venue that has been mooted for the current space occupied by the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.’ Read more
12 November, 2018
‘Architects Put NSW Government ‘On Notice’ After Powerhouse’
Ana Navarez reports in The Urban Developer that: ‘The NSW government is moving ahead with its controversial decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, making two major appointments to steer the final design of the new Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. On the banks of the Parramatta River on Friday, NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced the appointment of former Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah as chief executive, while global design competition consultancy firm Malcolm Reading was appointed to manage the design process.’
But she added that: ‘Friday’s announcement has attracted more scrutiny to the already controversial project, with the appointment of Malcolm Reading drawing the ire of some of Australia’s most well-known architects…In a letter addressed to acting NSW government architect Olivia Hyde, recent national architecture award winner Angelo Candalepas led a group of 22 architects criticising the appointment of the international consultancy to manage the design shortlist. The letter advises the government against pursuing a shortlist that prioritises big name global firms to use for political capital in the lead up to an election. “They have an impending election, they want a headline as they are moving into caretaker mode…And the headline will be used as publicity using taxpayer money.” A shortlist is expected to be finalised later this year, with early works commencing in 2019.’ Read more
12 November, 2018
‘DA withdrawn for North Parramatta heritage precinct’ (and Uni of Sydney one considered)
Following great local controversy about proposed over-development of the North Parramatta heritage precinct, where last November the Female Factory was officially listed on the National Heritage List, Maryanne Taouk reports in the Parramatta Advertiser that: ‘The NSW Government has made a promise not to build any apartments on the 7ha of heritage land at the centre of a $500 million development, but will revise their plan in a new application’ and that ‘A deal for a 25,000 student campus has helped UrbanGrowth NSW broaden their image of the North Parramatta heritage precinct. Barry Mann, chief executive of the development corporation, has recalled the previous development application made for the site and is instead looking at incorporating the University of Sydney announcement to create a “university town” into their own. Read more: 12 Nov Nth Parra DA plans
10 November, 2018
Michael Daley appointed leader of the NSW Labor Party, replacing Luke Foley.
In an emailed circular of 10 November, Daley thanked supporters and said:
‘A Government I lead will be built on four pillars:
1. World class health and education systems
2. Easing the cost of living
3. Jobs for the suburbs and jobs for the regions
4. Stopping over-development.’
[While he does not mention culture and heritage, it is hoped that his concern about ‘over-development’ includes issues associated with the proposed museum demolition in Ultimo and controversial relocation to Parramatta. Labor spokespeople to date, have opposed the government’s proposal.]
10 November, 2018
Michael Daley elected NSW Labor Party leader, promising to ‘press the reset button’
Lisa Visentin reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Maroubra MP Michael Daley has secured the leadership of the NSW Labor Party, and pledged to “fix the planning system in NSW” should he be elected Premier in March,’ and that ‘Penny Sharpe, an upper house member and Labor’s environment spokeswoman, was elected deputy unopposed.’ … ‘With just four months until the state election, Mr Daley’s speech resembled an election pitch. He declared there to be “something horribly wrong at the heart” of the NSW Liberal government, describing his opponents as “a government of bankers, by bankers, for bankers.”’ Read more
9 November, 2018
‘A great city deserves great theatres’: Campaign to save Sydney’s lost theatre
Linda Morris and Nathanael Cooper report in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian government and Lord Mayor Clover Moore have backed a campaign by leading theatre producers and performers to force the reopening of the Theatre Royal, warning that the viability of live theatre is at risk in Sydney… Amid rumours the owners want to hand over the theatre site to an upmarket retailer, supermarket or boutique hotel chain, the LPA’s president Andrew Kay said producers were turning away shows every month due to a lack of suitable venues in Sydney.’ Read more
[While supporting the reopening of the Theatre Royal, Powerhouse Museum Alliance supporters remain extremely concerned about Arts Minister, Don Harwin’s, expressed desire for a lyric theatre to replace the Powerhouse Museum.]
9 November, 2018
‘Former Carriageworks director to head Powerhouse move’
Maryanne Taouk, in the Parramatta Advertiser says ‘Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah has announced her move from the Eveleigh space to western Sydney- spearheading the move of the Powerhouse Museum. Her role will be to oversee the design, planning and construction of the Powerhouse’s $1.17 billion home on the banks of the Parramatta River…The design of the museum will match the programming, Mr Harwin has made a call to Australian and international architects and design firms to “think big” during the design competition.’
Read here: 9 Nov Parra Advertiser
9 November, 2018
‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum appoints Lisa Havilah from Carriageworks as first CEO’
ABC’s national reporter, Michaela Boland says: ‘Reporting directly to arts minister Don Harwin, Havilah will assume control of the state government’s planned $1.17 billion move to a new riverside site in Parramatta. In a statement, Arts Minister Don Harwin said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Lisa to this crucial role. There is no doubt her wealth of experience puts her in a class of her own.” … Ms Havilah said: “This is such a visionary project and I’m really looking forward to working with the government, the trust and with the staff of the Powerhouse.”
Havilah has since 2011 overseen significant expansion of the Carriageworks multi-arts hub in Redfern. Before that, she built her career in western Sydney as director of Campbelltown Arts Centre, after a period as deputy at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre…
Havilah will be the first chief executive to run the Powerhouse which, as a museum, has historically been run by a director. Dawn Casey left in 2013, at the end of her contract, after the role was advertised and she failed to be re-appointed. An untried director, Rose Hiscock, was appointed instead. Ms Hiscock re-named the Powerhouse as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, but resigned after two years after accepting the job to oversee a start-up Science Museum in Melbourne when the NSW government announced it intended to move the Powerhouse to western Sydney. Hiscock’s deputy Dolla Merrillees was appointed to the top job, but resigned earlier this year after the ABC revealed she approved museum funds be spent on a lavish fashion fundraiser which ended-up costing more than it raised.
The Powerhouse has existed for 129 years and been located at Ultimo, inner Sydney, since 1988. Four years after then-NSW premier Mike Baird announced an intention to sell the Ultimo site and relocate the Powerhouse to western Sydney, the move has not yet commenced… NSW Labor has expressed its opposition to the move, the announcement of which triggered a backlash. In June 2016, the NSW Legislative Council announced an inquiry into museums and galleries that would look into the Powerhouse Museum move. The inquiry is still underway and scheduled to meet next Friday, November 16.
Ms Havilah will report to the arts minister, rather than board chairman as per the previous structure, and her job description is heavily weighted towards managing the move and build of the new museum … MAAS’s operating expenditure in 2017 was $61 million and the chief executive is expected to have in-depth knowledge and understanding of the workings of museum collections and major exhibitions. None of Ms Havilah’s previous roles incorporated collections oversight. The chief executive salary is band three, which pays approximately $400,000.’ Read more or see 9 Nov ABC Boland
9 November, 2018
‘Powerhouse’s $1b woman’, on-line as ‘Meet the new head of the Powerhouse Museum’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times: ‘The director of Carriageworks, Lisa Havilah, has been appointed head of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to oversee the design, planning and construction of the Powerhouse’s $1.17 billion home on the banks of the Parramatta River … at a time when the museum has been mired in controversy, suffering from poor staff morale, loss of expertise and falling ticket revenue. Where critics see a poison chalice, however, Havilah regards the new position, which she will take up on January 7, as a ”massive opportunity” to bring the museum’s world-renowned collection to a much wider audience. ”I have a million ideas,” she told Fairfax Media…
One of her first priorities is building and developing programs that connect the museum’s 500,000 item collection with socially and culturally diverse communities across western Sydney, particularly Indian, Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities … As well as boosting audience numbers and widening the museum’s reach, Havilah’s key role is to find revenue sources and ”commercial opportunities” to fund activities.
But Havilah’s lack of museum experience is unlikely to impress opponents who claim the new museum is a toxic project that cannot be delivered for the money, or in the timeframe proposed, and is not supported by the community or independent museum experts. ”The new CEO will be the face of museum demolition, closing the museum, managing the end of Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences, handing over of the Powerhouse Museum’s land and buildings to developers, moving the collection into inferior and smaller storage, all to build a smaller less accessible museum on a flood-prone riverbank,” former trustee Kylie Winkworth said. ”The Parramatta community has said this is the wrong museum on the wrong site, but this is what the government’s new CEO will have to deliver, with no increase in staff or recurrent revenue.”
Arts Minister Don Harwin said … ”I think people sometimes get too caught up in an old-fashioned idea of what a museum is …I also sometimes am a bit perplexed by this idea that an art gallery isn’t a museum. Everywhere else in the world, people don’t call them art galleries, they call them art museums.” The announcement comes as the international design competition for the new Powerhouse Museum prepares to launch in early December, with the government to announce a winning design in the second half of 2019 … Having worked with Labor mayors and ministers, Havilah was untroubled by the prospect of a change in government. A Labor government is committed to keeping the Powerhouse at Ultimo and building new exhibition, cultural and museum facilities at Parramatta.’ Read more or Read more See also: Minister Harwin media alert
8 November, 2018
‘SOS for the Powerhouse Museum’s Collection’
Museum expert and former Powerhouse Museum trustee, Kylie Winkworth, writes in Altmedia about the foolishness of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and the better option of funding it properly to keep it in Ultimo. She says: ‘If the Powerhouse collection had a voice it would be sending out SOS distress signals. One of Australia’s most significant museum collections, including treasures of international significance, is under existential threat.’ After discussing implications of repairing a recent leak and protecting the collection (see 1 Nov, below), she continues: ‘The Public Service Association (PSA) has sounded the alarm on the loss of expert staff at every level of the museum’s operations, including the trade staff who knew the museum buildings and infrastructure inside out. Now the museum uses contractors, and employs managers to manage contracts. The museum’s buildings and exhibits are not being maintained, feeding the government’s narrative that the Powerhouse is too decrepit and must be closed. This is absurd … The Powerhouse just needs proper maintenance by skilled people, like any high traffic public building.’
But, as she points out, the government has been negligent in providing appropriate maintenance and operating support: ‘Last year MAAS posted a $10m deficit. Its management team is relatively new and has limited experience working with a major museum collection. Most of the senior management team have come from art galleries. The lack of deep museum experience in key positions matters in all kinds of ways, from collection development, exhibitions and community engagement, not to mention planning the risky move of the collection and the complete neglect of the museum’s major donors.’ She further discusses the issue that ‘… there is no one on the museum’s Trust who has any experience in museums or collections. The Trustees and past directors have driven a vicious redundancy program which has seen the museum’s staff shrink by nearly half. There has been no succession planning to retain critical skills and expertise. If a public company had four CEOs in just six years, a senior management team new to the company and the business, and a board with no industry experience, the shareholders would be revolting and the company would be in administration … But instead of re-building the museum’s staff numbers and capacity, the government is cutting $13m from the museum’s budget next year. Meanwhile, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is sitting on a money pile like Uncle Scrooge, gloating over the state’s $3.8b surplus … But when it comes to caring for the treasures of NSW, they are squeezing the museum till the pips squeal. That is the SOS we can hear. At this point the fate of a 135 year old museum hangs in the balance. The Powerhouse can and must be saved. Visit the Powerhouse this summer. Support the staff and volunteers. And put the Liberals last next March.’ Read more
5 November, 2018
Powerhouse Museum Buildings: nomination for Heritage Listing (a 3-year wait…)
Debbie Mills, Chief Executive Officer of the National Trust, writes to the Heritage Division of the NSW government, to ask why it has taken so long for their nomination in 2015 for the former Ultimo Powerhouse, adapted to house the Powerhouse Museum, to be considered for listing on the NSW State Heritage Register. After reiterating their many points of argument, she also says: ‘The non-listing of Ultimo was always a procedural anomaly, as it had been adapted for use as the Powerhouse Museum in 1988 and was considered to be ‘in good hands’, consequently its ‘State’ listing was not urgent. More recent debate regarding the possible repurposing of the building has, however, brought this status into question and consequently, the Trust believes that it is vital that the place be given the recognition it clearly merits and the protection of the NSW Heritage Act through any further development.’…The Trust finds the continuing delay in proceeding with the nomination to be inexplicable…The Trust notes that none of the members of the National Trust’s Industrial Heritage Committee have been approached for an assessment opinion, in any capacity …The Trust is well aware of the public furore regarding various proposals affecting the former Ultimo Power House … [and] would be pleased to hear your response in relation to these matters.’ Read the letter: Powerhouse Museum SHR Nomination
1 November, 2018
‘Staff steamed up over idle, damaged Powerhouse Museum objects’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the effects of inadequate government funding for staff and maintenance costs at the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘The world’s oldest working steam engine, a priceless object in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, has stopped running as questions mount over maintenance priorities at Ultimo ahead of the museum’s relocation to Parramatta. The Boulton and Watt Engine, said to have been one of most significant technological artefacts ever to reach Australia, has been inoperable since September 6, along with other steam objects on public display, following the replacement of the old Lucas boiler and redundancies of expert maintenance staff. Compounding staff concerns is a major water leak on August 24 that affected 25 objects from its renowned collection, two of them permanently, the Public Service Association said.’
She quotes Labor’s Walt Secord, who ‘said there had been a concentrated campaign of maintenance neglect of the Ultimo Powerhouse site to justify the forced Parramatta relocation. Budget papers show MAAS expenses were projected to fall from $62.1 million to $49.04 million this financial year. “Unfortunately, the continuing deterioration and decay of the existing Ultimo site endanger the value historic artefacts,” he said, calling on Arts Minister Don Harwin to drop plans to ”frog march staff and artefacts to Parramatta”.’ And former trustee, Kylie Winkworth said ‘the loss of expert maintenance staff meant contractors do not know the buildings and their systems. ”We know that vital maintenance contracts have not been renewed because it is in the government’s interest to suggest that the museum is in poor condition. Which it is not.” ‘ As well, ‘Senior industrial officer for the PSA, Kerrie Butson, said the advice of museum staff was ignored in consultations around the purchase of a new boiler. The ”low attendance” boiler, she said, is the incorrect type for the museum’s purposes… Ms Butson said the Powerhouse buildings were by no means “past their use by date” and the current issue was as a result of a program of attrition and redundancy that had adversely affected the maintenance staff. With no tradespeople directly employed in the facilities department to carry out maintenance, all repairs had been contracted out.’ Read more For comments from readers see: 1 Nov 2018 SMH Comments
26 October, 2018
The minister: ‘…a brilliant career or a brief career’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald reports on Nick Serota’s visit to Sydney to deliver an address on art education. ‘The former director of the Tate galleries, now head of the Arts Council, is an object lesson in leanness and austerity. There is an absolute focus with everything he says and does, with no wastage. One would imagine Serota’s personal style would fit him up to be an apologist for the cutbacks and belt-tightening that most governments around the world seem ready to inflict on the arts. Instead, he is a formidable advocate for art and art education, able to argue his case from an economic point-of-view, and from a broader cultural perspective.’ … ‘Speaking to the slogan formulated by artist, Bob and Roberta Smith – All Schools Should Be Art Schools – Serota noted that knowledge today can be obtained with the flick of a button, meaning that creativity and imagination should take priority in any meaningful education system. He quoted research that showed how students that excel in arts-based subjects tend to do better in other subjects as well.
All these arguments have been rehearsed many times in many parts of the world. The problem is getting narrow-minded politicians and bureaucracies to take them seriously. To this end it was amazing to hear the NSW Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, use words like “ontological” and “ heuristic” in a brief preliminary address. Mr Stokes also outlined a progressive – almost futuristic – vision for reforming the NSW education system. It was startling, to say the least, given this government’s appalling track record on supporting the arts, and the cultural vandalism apparent in the plan to move the Powerhouse Museum. One suspects Mr Stokes will have either a brilliant career or a brief career. As for his educational vision, I’ll believe it when I see it in action.’ Go to website to subscribe: www.johnmcdonald.net.au
24 October, 2018
Australian Museum bracing for ‘nine visitors every minute’
While the Powerhouse Museum suffers inadequate maintenance and operating costs in Ultimo, Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘The NSW government plans to spend $57.5 million to expand Australia’s oldest museum so it can stage the blockbuster Tutankhamun exhibition and accommodate peak predictions of nine new visitors every minute. … The renovation would also “significantly enhance its role as a world-class educational and cultural facility” and strengthen the museum’s financial independence by increasing its visitor capacity and upgrading ancillary income generating uses such as the cafe and shop… The report finds the proposal to expand the Crystal Hall, constructed in 2015, for a ticket office and wider entrance point to accommodate expected crowds will result in some loss of fabric and alteration to spaces assessed as being of medium-heritage significance, namely the six-storey Parkes Farmer Wing constructed along William Street. But the majority of works, the EIS said, affect fabric and spaces which had been assessed as being of low significance or intrusive. It is also noted some of the works proposed would allow greater appreciation of the internal facades of the Lewis, Barnett and Vernon Wings surrounding the atrium.’ Read more
[PMA asks: why privilege one museum and not another?]
Upper House Inquiry: announcement of a 12th hearing on November 16.
While the Committee for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has extended its completion date for its report until February 29, shortly before the NSW state election, it has announced another hearing. No names have yet been published, but no doubt the committee will be following up unanswered questions from the 11th hearing in September.
For schedules and transcripts of hearings: Read more
See also news report on 26 September, below, for report on 11th hearing.
20 October, 2018
‘The double act working to save a heritage precinct.’
In ‘Two of us’, in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine, Suzette Meade, from the North Parramatta Residents action Group, and Shane Withington, well-known actor and activist, describe their work in fighting to save the 77 heritage-listed buildings associated with the area around the Female Factory in Parramatta from over-development. Read more
11 October, 2018
‘Creative push for Parramatta’s heritage core’
(on-line as) ‘Parramatta Female Factory could host artists, start-ups, hackathons’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Megan Gorrey provides details of an idea outlined by chair of Western Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, where ‘Parramatta’s Female Factory is among convict-era buildings that would be transformed under a plan to turn a historic site in Sydney’s west into a lively hub for artists, creative industries and start-ups.’ … ‘Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project director Bonnie Djuric said the discussion paper was “a first conversation” but the creative community was “best-situated” to revive the site. “My hope is the organisations that show interest in activating the site do appreciate its history.” ‘
However, Gorrey also notes that ‘Conserving the heritage core is part of the state government’s $310 million Parramatta North urban renewal project that includes residential and retail development over the next decade. Plans to build thousands of dwellings as part of the project have drawn criticism from community groups who feared the development would compromise the heritage site. The government’s property development arm has emphasised there will be no residential development in the heritage core. UrbanGrowth NSW chief executive Barry Mann said the government wanted the area’s historic sites to stay in public hands. “Together with our partners and community, we can develop a shared vision for the heritage core that is future focused and respects the Indigenous, colonial and institutional stories of Parramatta north.” ‘ Read more See report here: Andrew Overton Nth Paramatta Report_Sep2018
[And, as a member of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group reminded PMA after reading the article, ‘This is just the 4 hectares of the sandstone buildings. It ignores the 77 state heritage listed buildings over the 19 hectares of open space that will be 4000 units.’]
12 October, 2018
‘Push for Museum on prison land’
In reporting on the proposal (above), The Daily Telegraph says: ‘It once housed the first criminals in Australia and a new report wants the heritage building and land to become a cultural and creative industries hub, including a space for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.’ Read more
28 September, 2018
‘From the President – Moving the Powerhouse Museum’
President of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Ian Sloane, wrote to members in their September Bulletin:
‘I want to share with you the fact that the Council of your Society has resolved to oppose the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta, believing that its historical links to Ultimo are of great importance, not to mention that it would be a colossal waste of money. Rather, it wants to see the Powerhouse Museum properly refurbished, and an outstanding new museum established in Parramatta. As a result of this decision, and with the help of former President Don Hector and modern technology, I wrote 134 individual letters to every member of the NSW Parliament, in both the Lower and Upper Houses. Here is a sample:
Dear Ms ….,
The Council of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Australia’s oldest scientific and cultural institution, wishes to express its strong opposition to the decision to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. At the same time, it wants to emphasise that it strongly supports the vision of an outstanding new museum in Western Sydney – it is the moving of the existing Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences that is opposed. The Powerhouse’s links to the Ultimo precinct are of fundamental historical importance to the development of the Australian economy and the Museum is, and should be, a major drawcard for overseas visitors. If the Museum has been allowed to run down then the solution is not removal, but rather a Government commitment to renewal of the present Museum. And moving the Museum’s many heavy exhibits is surely a great waste of public money. While the nature of a major new museum in Western Sydney should be very much in the hands of the region, the Council of the RSNSW is interested to contribute to the discussion. An exciting possibility is a new museum of science and technology at Parramatta with a special focus – a museum that differs from that of the Powerhouse at UItimo but is not of lower status, just as the various Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC are not of different standing. But the immediate need is to stop the tragic, irreversible destruction of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo. Etc.
Another kind of museum for the Western Suburbs that would find strong support in Council is an Australian Museum of the First Peoples, if that should be the wish of Indigenous groups. Council has been following up in various ways, including interacting with individual parliamentarians. I hope that our Members and Fellows agree with Council on the decision and the actions taken. I welcome your feedback.’
Ian H. Sloan AO FAA FRSN, President, Royal Society of New South Wales.
26 September, 2018
‘Peak arts body calls for return of funding’
Arts Minister Don Harwin has been strongly criticised for taking funds intended for small to medium arts organisations, and giving them to projects of his own choice. Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, says: ‘Part of a $1 million one-off grant to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has come from a fund which supported small to medium-sized arts groups …The National Association for the Visual Arts called for the prompt return of the public funds to the artists who’ve earned them. ”Let’s be clear: artists have earned this money,” said NAVA’s executive director Esther Anatolitis. ”They’ve earned it through the hard work it took to reach the professional standing that made them such outstanding applicants, and they’ve also earned it by putting hundreds of hours into participating in this highly competitive funding process.”
So far just six projects have been funded this year to a value of $256,029 in what has been dubbed by the National Association for the Visual Arts as one of the poorest funding rounds in Australian history. More than 200 projects were not funded, representing a success rate of just 2.7 per cent. An independent panel had originally recommended 17 projects share a total budget of $660,000 but when its recommendations went to the minister, he directed savings of $400,000.
“These artists and organisations operate on a wafer-thin budget and utilise every single cent that they can muster. In short, they operate on a whiff of an oil rag,” [Labor arts spokesperson] Mr Secord said. “The arts minister is treating arts like his own personal fiefdom – favouring the large cultural institutions over the smaller ones.”
… Mr Harwin apologised to arts bodies who had experienced delays during the funding round and said the art funding unit, Create NSW, was surveying previous applicants and reviewing their responses to see how they could improve the process.’ Read more
26 September, 2018
Original 2014 Powerhouse Museum Renewal business case now available!
Following the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries on 12th September 2018, some extra papers were later supplied as answers to Questions on Notice. These include the ‘Final Business Case for the Renewal of the Powerhouse Museum’ and ‘Appendices’, dated 24 October, 2014, prepared by the Museum and presented to government at that time.
This business case had been researched to redress inadequate government funding over recent years, and aimed to renew and develop the Powerhouse Museum on site in Ultimo. While it had been expected that this would be agreed, the government suddenly announced that the museum would close on this site and move to Parramatta. Notable in the Business Case is that, while descriptions of the condition of the building have since been discussed as exaggerated, of the several options considered, none were to demolish the site and move the museum, and the recommended proposal argued strongly to keep both the Museum exhibition buildings and the adjacent Harwood building in the renewal proposal. See Other Papers here: Read more
Inquiry report: due date extended
After 11 hearings over a two year period, and after an interim report in June, 2018, the NSW Legislative Council (Upper House) committee inquiring into Museums and Galleries has announced an extended reporting date:
‘This inquiry was established on 23 June 2016 to inquire into and report on museums and galleries. The reporting date has been extended to 28 February 2019.’ Read more.
24 September, 2018
‘Consultants are a blight on government and business.’
Trevor Kennedy, writing in John Menadue’s blog, Pearls & Irritations, argues that ‘It is, at the very least, arguable that consultants have become toxic weeds in business and government in Australia.’ He continues: ‘Recently the NSW Auditor-General was just so right to question and criticize the role and costs of consultants to government. NSW is probably the greatest offender. It reached epidemic proportion under Baird who must qualify as one of the worst premiers in history. His thought-bubble and consultant – backed decisions involved disasters such as council amalgamations, greyhound racing, Powerhouse museum wrecking, Sydney Modern and various infrastructure projects, which have proven to be disastrous from a costing perspective…’
‘The most extraordinary bad move, of which I have some personal knowledge, is the Baird thought-bubble decision to shift the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Unusually, as far as we can gather no museum experts were consulted at the time—nor have they been since. The Powerhouse is a treasure in an appropriate precinct accessible to all. The proposal is to shift it to a flood prone site on the Parramatta River. There has been no consideration of what sort of art establishment would best suit Parramatta and regional museums and art galleries are busted.’ Also drawing attention to the danger to precious objects during transfer and the demolition of existing significant buildings to make way for high-rise development, he concludes: ‘Berejiklian and her arts minister, Harwin, have proven ridiculously unreceptive to listen to experts and alternatives. Thank goodness the government is unlikely to make a major move on this till after the next election. The whole thing makes a joke of the armies of bureaucrats in government and business who are paid to enable decisions to be made.’ Read more
23 September, 2018
‘Secrets of “cultural planning” unmasked’
In her Culture Heist blog, Judith White notes: ‘What a dark story emerges when the lid is lifted on the NSW Government’s much-vaunted “cultural infrastructure” spending! Evidence at the hearing on 12 September of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, held at Parliament House in Sydney, revealed a Kafkaesque scenario of arts and planning authorities entangled in a web of bad policy and political spin,’ and reminds us that: ‘It was only in June, after a prolonged tussle in which it attempted to defy an Upper House order, that the Government released a heavily redacted version of the business case for demolishing the Powerhouse Museum in Darling Harbour and moving part of its collection to Parramatta in Western Sydney. Since then concerned museum professionals have spent many hours of voluntary labour poring over thousands of pages of previously secret documents in an attempt to make sense of them.’
In ‘Realities of the Powerhouse move’, White summarises the Inquiry presentations made by ‘three of the most highly qualified professionals: Dr Lindsay Sharp, former director both of the Powerhouse and of London’s Science Museum …; Kylie Winkworth, widely considered one of the country’s most distinguished and knowledgeable museum consultants; and Andrew Grant, a transport heritage and engineering consultant who spent 33 years a curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) of which the Powerhouse is a part.’ This is followed by evidence from Arts Minister Don Harwin and Craig Limkin from the Department of Planning and the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO), which came under severe questioning …The Inquiry, which has been running for more than two years, has again extended its reporting date, to February 2019.’ Read more
21 September, 2018
‘…it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald says he is: ‘… it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum which has been on my mind ever since an exchange of emails with Kylie Winkworth, who’s … done something I haven’t had time to do: namely read through the state government’s “secret business papers… The papers reveal that no alternatives were considered. There was no cultural mapping, no proper costings, and only the flimsiest rationales put forward. Every basic tenet of museum planning has been ignored or trounced, and the result can only be a disaster… If the Brazilians have lost a priceless cultural asset through lack of attention, what should we make of the Berejiklian government, which is actively working to demolish an award-winning building and sell the site to developers while squeezing the Powerhouse collection into a much smaller, utterly inappropriate building 23 kms away, at a cost of more than $1.4 billion to the tax payer??
The plan is blatantly inappropriate – both for the existing institution and for Parramatta, which is not getting anything it wanted out of this deal. Instead of an arts facility the city will get a Disneyfied science museum and more towering commercial and residential space. It can’t be emphasised often enough that cultural heritage is not the private property of the government of the day. It belongs to the people of NSW. Our representatives have a sacred duty to preserve this legacy for future generations, not to sacrifice it for the sole purpose of helping your mates make a quick buck.’ He concludes: ‘Museum professionals in Britain and elsewhere are apparently expressing their dismay and incredulity about this project, which will make Sydney an international laughing stock. Do we want to look like barbarians in the eyes of the world?’ Read more
19 September, 2018
‘Why is the Powerhouse going?’
In AltMedia, Kylie Winkworth identifies that ‘There are many big questions begging answers from the Liberal Party,’ including the proposal/decision to move the Powerhouse Museum. She says ‘The case for moving the Powerhouse Museum has been a morass of contradictions since it was first announced by former Premier Mike Baird in November 2014. Infrastructure NSW stitched up the case for the Premier’s captain’s pick in its November 2014 State Infrastructure Strategy Update, claiming the Powerhouse was relatively remote, not in a cultural precinct, and should be urgently relocated to Parramatta. How things change. Now the Powerhouse site is back in a cultural precinct after the Arts Minister Don Harwin threw the idea of a creative industries precinct in Ultimo into the mess of justifications for demolishing the museum.’
She exposes the contradictions of ignoring the existing history of a cultural precinct in Ultimo, including the Museum, saying ‘When it comes to tourism and cultural life there is no equivalence between a major state museum, open 364 days a year, showing our stories and the treasures of NSW, and a lyric theatre for American musicals with tickets at $200 a pop….It is selling off our sandstone heritage buildings and demolishing a major state museum. This leaves a big unanswered question for the Liberal government: why is the Powerhouse being demolished?’ Read more
19 September, 2018
Save the Powerhouse says: ‘…you can’t get a quart into a pint pot’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook page reminds readers: ‘It’s been said many times before, and we are saying it again: the Parramatta Riverbank site is far too small for the Government’s grandiose MAAS Museum project. … Maybe someone should tell Gladys Berejiklian and the Arts Minister, who have so far studiously ignored a wealth of independent research by engineers and architects, and the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry supporting this argument.’ Suggesting ‘Let’s look at the facts’, the report leads us through an informative video, and asks pertinent questions about size, site limitations, heritage issues and competing development plans.
SEE video https://youtu.be/OhcvOmRZhKY )
Read more: Here or Here: 19 Sept – Save the Powerhouse
16 September, 2018
‘Review: Sydney Contemporary 2018’
John McDonald, in the Sydney Morning Herald, draws attention to Australia’s valuing of cultural heritage. In discussing the Sydney Contemporary art fair at Carriageworks in the context of other art fairs and biennales, he says ‘One of the signal purposes of Sydney Contemporary is to help build a local art market that is not completely overshadowed by its international counterparts … In countries such as the USA, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, contemporary art is big business, but there is also a much stronger sense of the value of cultural heritage.’
As an example he observes: ‘In Sydney that sense is so poor the state government is aggressively trying to dismantle a major cultural asset – the Powerhouse Museum – and sell the land to developers. It’s a project that makes no sense whatsoever. Apart from costing the taxpayer more than a billion dollars, it will not give Parramatta any new arts facilities, with the development being planned as a science museum. It promotes short-term private profit over long-term public value.’ Read more
14 September, 2018
‘Three convincing presentations; one clap-trap claim’
PMA reports that at the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry on 12th September, museum experts Kylie Winkworth, Andrew Grant and Dr Lindsay Sharp exposed major flaws in the business case documents finally supplied to Parliament, and argued that the Powerhouse Museum should remain as a long-standing state museum in Ultimo while Parramatta deserved its own museum. Reasons included insufficient consultation in both locations, risks to the collection, questionable governance arrangements, faulty financial assessments and comparative inequity with regional NSW. These applauded statements were followed by a presentation by Arts Minister Don Harwin, which was received by the audience as a public relations hype-speech, demonstrating his complete ignorance of all the issues involved and, moreover, what the Powerhouse Museum actually is.
Cross-examination by the Committee exposed, however, that while many decisions were being made there were no binding contracts in place that would inhibit a future government from changing the proposal. For transcripts of the hearing, Read more
14 September, 2018
‘Good news from Powerhouse inquiry’
In his regular newsletter, Greens MP Jamie Parker says: ‘It’s been clear from the start that the Powerhouse move isn’t about creating the best possible museum in Western Sydney, it’s about ripping off the public by letting property developers snatch up land in Ultimo. Yesterday we got another opportunity to unpack the government’s decision with the latest in a series of Powerhouse inquiry hearings at Parliament House … It’s clear that this inquiry and the swell of community support behind it have slowed the government’s plans. Now we need to make this a high profile issue in the run up to the state election to ensure whoever wins government will not go ahead with this destructive policy. Read more: JParker-14-9-18
13 September, 2018
‘Full steam ahead’ for Powerhouse Museum relocation – but there’s a catch’ (in print as: ‘Powerhouse fate not yet sealed’.)
Following the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, where three museum experts were interviewed (Kylie Winkworth, Andrew Grant and Dr Lindsay Sharp) followed by Arts Minister Don Harwin, Linda Morris reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The fate of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is far from sealed with the Berejiklian government conceding no binding contracts would be in place by the March election that will lock in a future government. … Harwin’s concession lays the groundwork for an election contest in western Sydney framed around vastly different positions on the provision of cultural infrastructure, with Labor arguing for the retention of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, and new exhibition, cultural and museum facilities at Parramatta, while the Coalition is promising to deliver on its new museum and planetarium project.’ … ‘Greens MP David Shoebridge put developers on notice that his party would also seek to overturn by legislation any option signed for residential or commercial redevelopment prior to the March election. The Upper House committee investigating the museum relocation heard from former museum director Lindsay Sharp who was critical of the “flimsy” business case justifying the dismantling of museum’s world-class collection…Former museum trustee Kylie Winkworth told the inquiry the $10 million cost of consultants’ fees could have built a new museum in regional NSW. ‘ Read more
9 September, 2018
‘Government’s bankers and burning museums…’
Judith White reminds us of risks to collections, saying ‘Brazil’s Museu Nacional has burned down and most of its 20-million object collection is lost. Couldn’t happen in Australia? Not the conflagration, perhaps, but collections ARE at risk, from what one report describes as “wilful neglect”. Government policies and corporatised boards are responsible.’ Amongst many examples across the arts, she says: ‘Watch out, Gladys. The Liberal Party has just lost the seat of Wagga Wagga after 61 years. A small contributing factor, missed by most analysts, came in the form of an advert placed in last week’s Wagga Advertiser by the normally mild-mannered museum professionals of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance. It warned that the closure of the Powerhouse is “a bad deal for NSW taxpayers. Only developers will profit. Regional visitors will miss out… The Powerhouse belongs to the people of NSW, not politicians.” ‘ Read more
5 September, 2018
‘Closing soon! The Powerhouse Museum
The Berejiklian government’s next development site’
In the lead-up to the critical by-election in Wagga Wagga on 8 September, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance placed an advertisement in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser. It drew attention to the implications for regional audiences, saying: ‘The NSW government intends to close the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and hand the site to property developers. The museum’s priceless collections will be evicted. A new museum half the size of the Powerhouse is planned for a flood prone riverbank at Parramatta, with no though for the impact on regional visitors. All this at a cost of more than $1.4b, just to move the museum 23ks west.’ Read more: (foot of page) WW advert Sept 2018
[Note: the seat was won by Independent Joe McGirr, with a 29% swing against the government]
6 September, 2018
‘Consultants must not take place of government’
The Sydney Morning Herald editorial brought together a common current concern, saying ‘There is nothing wrong with governments turning to external consultants for special expertise or fresh ideas on a tricky project. But the explosion in the use of external consultants, highlighted by the NSW auditor-general, will add to concerns that core areas of government are being outsourced and the state is losing the ability to think for itself… The state spent $327 million on consultants in 2016-17 … External consultants do not have the public service’s history of independent advice and can be motivated more by maximising fees than providing good advice. One particularly worrying issue is that consultants will provide the advice that their customers want to hear. Major consulting firms overseas have been embarrassed by fraudulent advice to governments. Ministers are already too dependent on political advice from their staff, rather than the more objective advice from career public servants. And while consultants can propose anything, they then disappear and it is public servants who have the burden of implementing them.’
Amongst many examples provided, the Business Case for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum could be easily included. Read more
5 September, 2018
‘Closing soon! The Powerhouse Museum
The Berejiklian government’s next development site’
In the lead-up to the critical by-election in Wagga Wagga on 8 September, The Powerhouse Museum Alliance placed an advertisement in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser. It drew attention to the implications for regional audiences, saying: ‘The NSW government intends to close the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and hand the site to property developers. The museum’s priceless collections will be evicted. A new museum half the size of the Powerhouse is planned for a flood prone riverbank at Parramatta, with no though for the impact on regional visitors. All this at a cost of more than $1.4b, just to move the museum 23ks west.’ Read more: (foot of page) WW advert Sept 2018
[Note: the seat was won by Independent Joe McGirr, with a 29% swing against the government]
22 August, 2018
‘Powerhouse Property Play’
Kylie Winkworth, writing for AltMedia’s City Hub, says of the recent advertisement for a chief executive for the Museum of Applied Arts Sciences (MAAS) that it ‘… should carry a career health warning. The successful applicant will be museum’s fourth director in just six years, a turnover that is unheard of in the museum sector. That alone should give intending applicants pause for thought, even before they start reading the 4,500 pages of the Final Business Case on moving the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) to Parramatta.’ She points out the many issues associated with cost, consultation, site risks, storage, governance and audience expectations, concluding that ‘The demolition and downsizing of the Powerhouse was always a nakedly political decision by a government that sees every project through the lens of property development.’ Read more
21 September, 2018
‘…it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald says he is: ‘… it’s hard to avoid the quagmire of the Powerhouse Museum which has been on my mind ever since an exchange of emails with Kylie Winkworth, who’s … done something I haven’t had time to do: namely read through the state government’s “secret business papers… The papers reveal that no alternatives were considered. There was no cultural mapping, no proper costings, and only the flimsiest rationales put forward. Every basic tenet of museum planning has been ignored or trounced, and the result can only be a disaster… If the Brazilians have lost a priceless cultural asset through lack of attention, what should we make of the Berejiklian government, which is actively working to demolish an award-winning building and sell the site to developers while squeezing the Powerhouse collection into a much smaller, utterly inappropriate building 23 kms away, at a cost of more than $1.4 billion to the tax payer??
The plan is blatantly inappropriate – both for the existing institution and for Parramatta, which is not getting anything it wanted out of this deal. Instead of an arts facility the city will get a Disneyfied science museum and more towering commercial and residential space. It can’t be emphasised often enough that cultural heritage is not the private property of the government of the day. It belongs to the people of NSW. Our representatives have a sacred duty to preserve this legacy for future generations, not to sacrifice it for the sole purpose of helping your mates make a quick buck.’ He concludes: ‘Museum professionals in Britain and elsewhere are apparently expressing their dismay and incredulity about this project, which will make Sydney an international laughing stock. Do we want to look like barbarians in the eyes of the world?’
16 August, 2018
‘NPRAG calls on Premier Berejiklian to stop destroying Australia’s second oldest city’
‘Seven months out from the crucial 2019 state election, the North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) calls on Premier Berejiklian to start listening to the community, stop destroying Australia’s heritage and history, and make seven urgent changes to her Government’s current policies’. These changes include protection of the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta, abandoning the State Government’s plan to destroy Willow Grove and the seven St Georges terraces to make way for two 50-storey tower blocks, retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and building a new museum in the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct.
Read more: NPRAG 16 Aug
15 August, 2018
‘Tick for Sydney Modern “Carwash” would show contempt for critics’
(in print as) ‘Gallery nod would show contempt for objectors’
Bruce Donald, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, discusses the government’s imminent decision to build an extension of the Art Gallery of NSW across part of the Botanic Gardens. Saying, ‘While I hope it isn’t so, it appears that with the stroke of a secret pen, following a secret assessment by the Planning Department of all those 200 or more public objections, the Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, may dismiss the lot of us and consign yet another 8000 square metres of our iconic Sydney Domain public land to a palace for the wealthy to hold receptions.’
And echoing similar issues about the government’s plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, he concludes: ‘Could the minister have transparently sent the matter for a full public examination by an Independent Planning Commission? Of course, he could have, but this is not a government which is about public inquiry and transparency. This is a government about pushing through decisions on public assets as secretly as possible unless the details can be wrung out of them at the very last minute after endless obstructive processes. When the government is contemptuous of its active citizenry and turns open process into a secret rubber stamp, it corrodes and ultimately destroys the very basis of an engaged, democratic society.’ Read more
14 August, 2018
Upper House Inquiry Committee continues report to Legislative Council
Hansard documents continuing reports from Portfolio Committee No. 4, for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in New South Wales, in a debate resumed from 22 May 2018.
The Hon. Robert Borsak (chair) and The Hon. Walt Secord continued their comments on their interim or First Report of the Inquiry, with Borsak saying ‘This inquiry should have been straightforward, but because of the lack of cooperation from this Government it has turned into a massive headache. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that a simple inquiry into museums and galleries would spark such controversy, with Ministers, Government members and senior public servants ducking for cover… The inquiry is ongoing and we expect to produce a final report later this year. However, the committee has issued this interim report in order for its recommendations to be considered by the Government alongside the final business case relating to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. What was the outcome? The Government continues to obfuscate and has done the exact opposite to what the interim report of this inquiry recommended.’ Secord added: ‘…The documents released showed that the Berejiklian Government had to cook the books and approve massive development towers at Parramatta to lift the benefit-cost ratio from 0.435 to more than one, resulting in so-called “super towers”… The committee also found that parts of the Powerhouse Museum will have to be demolished to remove the iconic exhibits and move them into storage or to the Parramatta site… While the portfolio committee canvassed challenges for rural and regional galleries and museums and the repeated failure by the current Minister for the Arts to listen to their concerns, the overwhelming evidence to the committee related to the Government’s decision to forcibly move the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. But in relation to general arts functioning, the disappointment surrounding the distribution of funds from the Regional Cultural Fund is overwhelming and palpable.’ For full record: Read more
12 August, 2018
‘Truth telling and cultural amnesia’
In her regular blog, commentator Judith White discusses ‘Truth telling’ as ‘the theme of this year’s Garma festival, held in northeast Arnhemland on the first weekend of August… Telling the truth should be a simple matter, shouldn’t it? Yet when it comes to the nation’s history, for those in positions of power it seems to be the hardest ask.’ Following several examples she also notes of ‘The culture heist in NSW’ and the Powerhouse Museum, that ‘Director Dolla Merrilees resigned, when Arts Minister Don Harwin should have, and his department announced that there would now be no director but instead a CEO with property and construction experience to oversee the hugely controversial move to Parramatta. Merrilees and the museum’s Trust bent over backwards to accommodate the NSW Government’s ambitions for the move. Now Merrilees has been sacrificed, the Trust has been sidelined and the needs of the priceless collection, which no longer has a qualified head of conservation, are completely ignored. A major museum has been effectively taken over by NSW Inc as a pawn in its property dealings. It’s hard to imagine this happening anywhere else but in real-estate- and money-obsessed Sydney where colonisation began in 1788…The well-informed professionals of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance continue to campaign against the ludicrous move, and the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has been asking all the right questions about what dirty property deals have been done, … But the reasons for the Government’s obstinacy, in the face of expert opinion and public condemnation, remain shrouded in secrecy. Truth telling? Not in Macquarie Street.’ Read more
Applications called for ‘Chief Executive Museum Of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS)’ closing date 21/08/2018
Following the resignation of the former director of MAAS, and the announcement that the subsequent position would be that of a CEO rather than a Director, this advertisement was placed. The task is to:
– Ensure efficient and effective management of all Museum operations
– Lead organisation through transformational change, including development of new Museum at Parramatta
– Develop and review policies and programs
-Establish major strategic direction
Read here for published details of this position, or here: Chief Executive MAAS
1 August, 2018
‘Powerhouse: Trust knew of losses caused by fashion ball’
on line as: ‘Powerhouse Museum trust knew of fashion ball losses’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on minutes of the Board of Trustees, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, which demonstrate the government’s intervention in the role and responsibilities of the Trust.
‘At its second meeting of the year in May , the board ”noted” a summary of the final budget breakdown for the black-tie event which was later revealed to have cost the museum $215,209.50…[but] made no recommendations. The trust was instead concerned by the government’s new ”governance” structure which is expected to reduce the board’s direct oversight of the $1.2 billion museum build on the Parramatta riverfront and redevelopment of the Ultimo site. … The Berejiklian government seems intent on instituting a new business management model to drive the relocation of the museum to western Sydney by 2023. In the final business case consultants, Johnstaff Projects, recommended a new Project Steering Committee, comprising mostly government bureaucrats and a single trust representative, be directly accountable for the Parramatta museum project. The trust would have an advisory capacity on key documentation and policy.
Former trust president, Nick Pappas, [said]… it was extraordinary that the board had not taken a more active role in defending the institution and its prized collection. While statutory trusts were established for the purpose of ”creating separation” between government and the institution, the trust minutes of May indicated the Department of Planning and Environment was driving the new museum project, he said.” Since when does a planning department tell a statutory trust of a cultural institution about its so-called new governance framework,” Mr Pappas said.… ”They are custodians of the museum’s collection representing the wishes of benefactors who have given their most prized artefacts over the last century …Now is the time for benefactors, museum staff and lovers of the Powerhouse Museum to make a stand. It is not too late.” ’ Read more
1 August, 2018
‘Libraries call for help balancing the books’’
(on-line as: ‘Renew our Libraries campaign: Councils’ plea for funding “crisis” fix’)
Reporting on a similar situation to that of regional – and state – museums, Megan Gorrey, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports of funding cuts to libraries, that they are: ‘…an amenity the NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW will fight to preserve amid insufficient funding they say threatens the viability of 360 public libraries across the state. They will urge both sides of politics to double spending and commit to a sustainable funding model for libraries in the lead-up to next year’s state election through the Renew our Libraries campaign. From Wednesday, public library users across NSW will be encouraged to sign a petition calling for a fairer funding model. Local Government NSW president Linda Scott – who is also a City of Sydney councillor – said funding for public libraries had reached “crisis point” and they were struggling to maintain services. She said the Berejiklian government slashed recurrent funding to libraries by 5 per cent in its most recent budget. It also cut off “much-needed” infrastructure funding, which is still available in regional areas, for metropolitan libraries, Cr Scott said.’ Read more
31 July, 2018
Arts bodies decry ‘one of poorest funding rounds in history’
Reflecting further examples of the government’s reduced funding of cultural organisations, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘In a rare move, 60 arts bodies have come together to criticise the latest round of project funding for small to medium arts bodies administered by Create NSW. Of 222 applications in round two of the NSW Arts and Cultural Projects fund, six projects were supported to a total value of $256,029, representing a success rate of just 2.7 per cent. Success rates of between 15 and 30 per cent are typical of these arts funding rounds, according to the executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Esther Anatolitis. In the previous round, 23 projects worth $886,341 were funded for a success rate of 17 per cent. In 2016, 41 projects were funded to the value of $1.5 million giving a success rate of 27 per cent. ”In terms of arts policy, project funding is where the adventurous risk-taking is and where you need to invest with courage,” Anatolitis said. ”It’s more than surprising, it’s shocking and deeply concerning that only six projects were supported. These are the only project rounds proposing to develop exciting new work for risk-taking audiences. Think of the size of NSW.”’ Read more
31 July, 2018
Culture experts deplore the latest ‘Powerhouse Move’ blunders’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook page, comments: ‘The “Powerhouse move” saga is rapidly reaching the level of high farce with revelations that a February “fundraising ball ” cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, followed by the unexplained dismissal of the …Museum Director, Dolla Merrillees.’ They say: ‘These latest examples of Government mismanagement have evoked scathing comment from museum and cultural experts associated with the Powerhouse Museum Alliance’, and provide quotes from leading museum specialist and former Powerhouse trustee, Kylie Winkworth, believes the Arts Minister should resign… “He has seen one of the most cynical and destructive processes in the cultural history of NSW …”; former deputy director Jennifer Sanders, who said ‘… I can only assume (the ball) was an ill-conceived, desperate measure to link in with some fashion elites and (the Minister) has now decided to have a fashion museum here. It won’t be a museum here, it will be some tiny gallery”;… [while] founding Director of the Powerhouse Museum, Dr Lindsay Sharp, … raises the question of whether Merrillees was simply a scapegoat; … [and] well-known cultural commentator Leo Schofield posted on his website “…Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her inept arts minister Don plough on, despite massive opposition…to wilfully destroy a splendid and much-loved cultural institution with a great history and irreplaceable collection. Is there no way to stop what is plainly an insane decision?” he concludes.’ And finally Save the Powerhouse says: ‘YES this madness CAN be stopped – by us, the people of NSW – at the ballot box in March 2019.’ Read more
28 July, 2018
In his weekly newsletter, art critic John McDonald comments on the implications of recent events at the Powerhouse Museum: ‘You know that feeling when you’ve no sooner arrived at your destination and you hear everything’s gone wrong at home? I experienced that the other night … The first news from home was that the Nine Network had just absorbed Fairfax Media, which publishes the newspapers I contribute to every week…
…Leaving one story hanging by its fingernails I then learned that Dolla Merrillees is resigning from the directorship of the Powerhouse Museum as a result of the ludicrous fashion ball (intended as a fund-raiser), that failed badly and ran up a bill. Well, it was a dumb idea, but not as dumb – or anywhere near as expensive – as the idea of moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta. The fashion ball looks like one of those desperate gambits somebody dreams up when a museum is floating in limbo. With the impending move – or should we simply say “destruction” – on the horizon, it’s hard to plan shows, make new acquisitions, attract donors and sponsors, and keep good staff. The ball was like the last fling on the Titanic… The real horror is that the government is using her resignation as an opportunity to remove the position of “director” and replace her with a “manager” that will oversee the relocation. We’ve seen many times that when a gallery or museum director is replaced by a manager, disaster soon follows.
Of course, it could be argued that the disaster has already happened, but until they start demolishing the building there must still be some hope that this ill-conceived, secretive, hugely expensive piece of bastardry can be stopped, or at least paused until Gladys’s team pay the ultimate price at the ballot box for the ruin they’ve inflicted on Sydney…’
Read more: 28 July John McD
27 July, 2018
‘Failed fashion ball claims Powerhouse Museum director’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, announces that: ‘Dolla Merrillees, the director of the Powerhouse Museum who presided over the institution’s failed fashion ball which caused the museum to spend three times more money than it raised, has stepped down. Ms Merrillees will not be returning to lead the museum’s relocation from Harris St, Ultimo to a new purpose-built building on the Parramatta Riverside…
Ms Merrillees’s departure comes as the museum has been haemorrhaging specialist expertise. The museum is without a manager of conservation, head of development and a senior audio-visual technician. The director of external affairs left soon after the fashion ball. The museum’s maintenance department is making all trades roles redundant – three electricians and three machine fitters – and these are expected to be replaced by external contracts. Those staff will leave in September. Curators are very concerned about the splitting of the collection given the disciplines are interconnected. The head of Sydney Observatory resigned in September 2017, and the head of the Museum’s Discovery Centre resigned last December…
The position of director, which Merrillees has held since April 2016, has been abolished and a new position of chief executive officer will be advertised by the government in the next week to supervise the museum’s relocation, site building works and transformation. Ms Merrillees had decided not to apply and will not return to the museum after an extended period of leave ends in September. “The department will be commencing a recruitment process for a new Chief Executive for the MAAS in the coming days.” Inquiry’s chairman, Mr Borsak said the new CEO position was about the government appointing a ”developer’s dog” to strong arm the development process and destroy the Powerhouse Museum once and for all. Former trustee, Kylie Winkworth, said the turnover of three directors in six years was a disaster and unheard of in the museum sector. ”Three museum directors have gone from a great museum under this government,” she said. ”Perhaps the problem at MAAS is not with the directors but the government’s museum demolition plans. ” ‘ Read more
26 July, 2018
‘Done like a dinner: Museum’s black-tie debacle’
… on-line as ‘She should go: Calls for Powerhouse Museum director to resign over fashion ball’
Following the release of documents through FOI, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, identifies the costs of running the Powerhouse Museum’s inaugural fashion ball in early 2018, compared with the minimal revenue raised. ‘The extravagance has been condemned by the chairman of the Upper House inquiry investigating the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to a new riverside location in Parramatta at a cost of more than a $1 billion.’ MLC Robert Borsak said of the director: ‘ “She should go … It’s an outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money, especially in these times when they are shifting the museum to Parramatta and are launching a fashion design gallery at the site where the Powerhouse should be kept.”’ Morris continues: ‘A dedicated fashion and design museum of 4000 square metres will be all that is left on site at Ultimo when the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is relocated to a purpose-built site at Parramatta by 2021.’…‘Despite the poor returns, the museum insists the event was successful and achieved its objectives by “introducing the Centre for Fashion to key stakeholders, building relationships with key corporate, industry and cultural partners, raising funding for the Australian Fashion Fund, increasing MAAS’ fashion collection and enhancing the reputation of MAAS as the leading public centre for fashion in Australia”.’
‘Former Powerhouse trustee, Kylie Winkworth, said the minister should also fall on his sword. “He has seen one of the most cynical and destructive processes in the cultural history of NSW, driving the demolition of a great public museum, endowed by generations of NSW taxpayers and philanthropists,” she said. “The minister’s ambition is to strip the museum of its land and purpose-designed buildings so the site can be handed to property developers. It is a grotesque betrayal of his responsibilities…The debacle of the MAAS fashion ball is just a sideshow in the sad shrinkage of the museum’s focus, collecting and capacity … As we have said since 2014, there is no need to demolish the PHM to build a new museum in Parramatta.”’ Read more
25 July, 2018
Powerhouse Museum director, Arts Minister ‘should resign’ over ‘ego trip’ fashion fundraiser, MP says
For ABC news, Michaela Boland and Alison Branley report that ‘The director of the Powerhouse Museum and NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin should step down over a lavish fundraiser that cost taxpayers almost three times what it raised, one state MP says.’ MLC Robert Borsak ‘described the event as a “fashion knees-up” and “ego trip” for Mr Harwin, who told Parliament earlier this year the event made more than $70,000 but failed to say the Powerhouse spent $215,000 in public funds to do so… On Tuesday, a spokesman for Mr Harwin said: “The responses given to parliament were based on advice received from the director of the museum…The MAAS [Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences] Ball was entirely organised by the MAAS Trust and MAAS staff.” Mr Borsak responded, saying it was Mr Harwin’s responsibility. “The reality is the Minister is the one responsible and he should take responsibility for this particular soiree and waste of taxpayers’ money and he should resign,” he said.
Former deputy director Jennifer Sanders said the ball that was billed as Australia’s answer to the Met Gala was “ill-conceived” and placed too much of the museum’s focus on fashion… She said the museum “didn’t need to throw a flashy ball to build a brand … I don’t know what’s going on. I can only assume it was an ill-conceived, desperate measure to link in with some fashion elites and clearly it caught the Minister’s attention because he’s now decided to have a fashion museum here. It won’t be a museum here, it will be some tiny gallery.” Ms Sanders said a museum should be wary of such an “expensive branding exercise”. Plans to move the cash-strapped Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta have been highly criticised during that inquiry, as has the Arts Minister.’ Read more
19 July, 2018
Mayor slams ‘mean and vicious group’
MaryAnne Taok in the Parramatta Advertiser reports that ‘The North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group has been slammed as “desperate” and “cruel” after attacks on the mayor over the State Government’s plan for Willow Grove heritage house.’ NPRAG had raised over 12,000 signatures in a petition to save this and other significant historical buildings from demolition to make way for the ‘new’ Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. Mayor Andrew Wilson, who had been controversially elected as Mayor of City of Parramatta Council in September 2017 (see SMH ’Secret deal hands independents mayoralty at Parramatta council’: Read more ) was proposing to send a letter to premier Gladys Berejiklian ‘as a follow-up to a previous one which councillors deemed “too soft”.’ But Wilson announced he would exclude NPRAG from consultation, although NPRAG President said Wilson said ‘Our fight is with the State Government that wants to destroy Australia’s glorious history by hook or by crook as long as there’s a dollar to be made’.
Read more or 19 July P-Advertiser
16 July, 2018
‘Going, going, gone – the final spiral of a cultural icon?’
In his regular blog, cultural researcher and writer, Stephen Cassidy, discusses his experience of the Powerhouse Museum: ‘Despite its fragmented nature, the Powerhouse Museum was a great design museum precisely because it was also a museum of science and technology – and a museum of social history, which could place it all in a historical and social context. In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. The current travails of the internationally renowned Powerhouse are a measure of a lack of strategic vision, including from successive governments which have never properly grasped the power of culture in shaping society and the need for the long-term substantial commitment to enable it.’ He describes his responses to two current exhibitions, Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015, and Common Good, an exhibition of work by designers from Australia and Asia that shows the vast range of ways design can be used to solve problems, asking of the changes proposed for the museum: ‘Where will exhibitions of this relevance and calibre be exhibited and, more importantly, developed, once these short-sighted changes have become real…[and] the continual fiddling with the Powerhouse is finished?’ Cassidy applauds that ‘In a bid to break free from the lack of transparency of the whole process, part of the campaign to halt the dismantling and relocation of the Powerhouse Museum has released the hitherto secret business case documents provided under pressure by the NSW government to its Upper House, the Legislative Council, about the proposal by the State Government to move the museum to western Sydney … The current travails of the Powerhouse Museum are a sad reflection of this shallow lack of understanding and vision.’ Read more
He concludes, about the continuing relevance of the museum: ‘With its extensive collection of design of all kinds, from engineering to fashion to ceramics and jewellery, and with its links to industry, I always had high hopes for the Powerhouse Museum.’ and refers to previous blogs:
‘The grand design of things: ..lost unrealised potential of the Powerhouse Museum‘: Read more
‘The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival’: Read more
‘Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy’: Read more
13 July, 2018
‘… Sydney museum move could be most expensive gallery relocation in history’
Tim Stone, in The Art Newspaper, an international online and print publication with offices in London and New York, draws attention to continuing dilemmas regarding the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum, including how ‘critics fear that plan will lead to parts of the … collection being sold off’. Noting that ‘The Powerhouse Museum incorporates a historic power station and a tram depot with a contemporary steel-and-glass structure, and won the Sulman Medal, Australia’s most prestigious architecture award’ he continues: ‘Despite the accolade, the Powerhouse Museum is not protected by heritage legislation, putting its historic buildings at risk once sold. “It did not have a heritage listing because no one would have thought in their wildest imaginings of pulling it down—you wouldn’t think of pulling down the Musee d’Orsay or the Louvre,” says [historian] Tom Lockley…’. And Stone quotes museum expert Kylie Winkworth who asks: ‘“What civilised government plans a A$1.2bn project to shrink a major state museum, make it less accessible to visitors… downgrading its facilities and putting the museum on a flood-prone riverbank?” Winkworth says. “It would be cheaper to keep the museum and build a new museum in Parramatta.” ’ Read more
9 July, 2018
Transcripts of Parramatta rally speeches
‘On Sunday 8 July 2018, North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) organised a protest against the destruction of the beautiful heritage listed 1870s villa, Willow Grove, and the seven St. Georges Terraces in Parramatta. On the back of our 12,500-signature petition, and supported by a network of community groups, we were thrilled that over 175 people attended to send a clear message to Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the State Member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee MP, that we completely oppose the destruction of Parramatta’s heritage – and Australia’s history – to make way for two 50-plus storey tower blocks and a basement museum. Please sign our petition:…
Speakers in order of appearance: 1. Aidan Anderson, NPRAG President 2. Brian Powyer, President of the National Trust of Australia – NSW Branch (speech pending approval for circulation) 3. Clr Michelle Garrard, Parramatta Council – Deputy Lord Mayor 4. Julia Finn MP, State Member for Granville, representing Luke Foley MP – LOP 5. Clr Donna Davis, Parramatta Council 6. Clr Phil Bradley, Parramatta Council 7. Liz Scully, candidate for state seat of Parramatta 8. Clr Paul Garrard, Cumberland Council. Read more
5 July, 2018
‘Suffocating Sydneysiders rise up against overdevelopment’
Aidan Anderson reports in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Look around Sydney and you’ll see battles being waged in nearly every suburb between residents’ action groups and the state government. From Penrith to Bondi the warzones are green spaces, heritage buildings and community facilities. The terms of conflict are consistent: the government is attempting to override local opposition to overdevelopment in underserviced suburbs.
A conflux of changes has contributed to the explosion of residents’ action groups [including the Baird/Berejiklian government’s decision] to forcibly merge councils and appoint administrators to oversee decision-making. Stripped of local representation, residents were forced to self-organise to oppose reckless developments. … The common refrain by those whose commercial interest is interrupted by these groups is to accuse them of NIMBYism, naive tree-huggers unaware of economic imperatives. Developers argue that they are responding to demand fuelled by Australia’s soaring population.
…The false dilemma of “houses or heritage” positions preservation of our history as an obstruction to progress. The question we must ask is whether the plan for a city is viable when liveability requires carnage. In Parramatta, the community’s answer is increasingly becoming “no”. When the community discovered that the plan to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta required the demolition of the 150-year-old Willow Grove and St George’s Terraces, to be replaced by two 50-plus storey tower blocks, local opposition exploded. The North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group petition secured more than 10,000 signatures in a week.
…A stone’s throw from Willow Grove, the 30-hectare Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta is home to 77 state heritage-listed buildings.. Set against this rich history, the location presents a unique opportunity to create contemporary arts and cultural precinct, infused with the continent’s colonial legacy and Indigenous history. Such a site would be special to the world.
Or it could be a human ant colony.’ Read more
5 July, 2018
‘Parramatta residents fight to save heritage buildings in the shadow of Powerhouse Museum move’
And Josh Harris writes on the same subject in Architectureau, saying: ‘…The business case documents released by the government in June contain cost projections for three possible scenarios for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum: a bare-bones “baseline” move which would deliver 5,650 square metres of gallery space and 12,180 metres square of net museum area for a cost of $454 million; a similar option with additional gallery space to be equivalent to the Powerhouse Museum; and a third option which would include a planetarium as well as additional function, events and education space. The report states that the third option, which will cost an estimated $674 million, is the preferred option since it is consistent with the government’s assertion that the new museum will be “bigger and better” than its Ultimo counterpart. All options would involve the demolition of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. The North Parramatta Residents Action Group is holding a protest at Willow Grove on 8 July to “send a message” to Berejiklian and the state member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee.’ Read more
27 June, 2018
Waltzing Matilda as ‘Let’s Save the Powerhouse’
‘Let’s Save the Powerhouse’ recorded live at the Gladstone Park Bowling Club in Balmain, Sydney. Original lyrics by Tim Glover, performed by Sue Lister and Tim Glover, published on sawmilqueen (To the tune of Waltzing Matilda, the lyrics trace the decision-making process in Parliament and the protests about moving the Powerhouse Museum.) Listen here on YouTube.
27 June, 2018
‘State wreckers hit Parramatta’
In Altmedia, Erika Echternach writes that a petition to save Parramatta’s Willow Grove received over 10,000 signatures in one week. ‘For as deep and rich as Parramatta’s history is, it has an equally long history of seeing its heritage sites demolished to for the sake of development. Most recently, freshly released State Government documents regarding the Powerhouse Museum move revealed that Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s wrecking ball is poised to strike again – this time aimed at Parramatta’s Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace heritage sites…
The petition was organised by the North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group … president, Aidan Anderson, said…“This has created a lot of community angst, a lot of community resentment,” ..[what] “People in Parramatta … see around them is basically State Government knocking everything down and replacing it with deals for developments.”
Donna Davis, a member of the City of Parramatta Council, explained that both the at-risk sites hold significant meaning for many members of the community, especially Willow Grove which used to serve as a maternity hospital…“We just can’t let these buildings on our watch, as the custodians of this city, be taken away from future generations.” … Cr Davis initiated a motion recommending the Council advises the NSW State Government on considering local heritage items within the design brief, hoping to preserve St George’s Terrace and Willow Grove and incorporate them into the design of any development on the Powerhouse Site…“The priority seems to be making money,” Cr Davis said. “And that is going to take precedence over the heritage.” Patricia Johnson, a member of the Ultimo Save the Powerhouse group, said everyone would win if the government did what the people wanted and kept the museum in Ultimo, but with the current plan to demolish historical sites everyone loses. “The move of the Powerhouse obviously involves destroying heritage,” Ms Johnson said … Mr Anderson suggested that rather than demolishing heritage sites to move a second rate, hatchet job version of the Powerhouse to a floodplain at the bottom of two 250 metre skyscraper towers, an arts and cultural precinct could be built at the 26-hectare Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta. But based on the government’s past decisions, Mr Anderson doubts it will alter any plans.’ Read more
25 June, 2018
City of Parramatta Council discusses issues of heritage buildings
Extracts from the minutes of a meeting of the City of Parramatta Council on 25 June, 2018, record submissions made by Councillors Donna Davis and Michelle Garrard, regarding the state government’s business reports advising that the properties Willow Grove and eight terrace buildings on St Georges Terrace form a portion of the land to be transferred to the NSW Government to deliver the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS). It was noted that a substantial petition had condemned the proposed use of this land, and that: ‘…It will ultimately be the decision of the state government as to whether the heritage buildings will be retained and they will need to seek planning approval for all development on the site.’ Among other resolutions, it was agreed to consult with both local constituents and the state government, and:
– that the Lord Mayor write to the Minister for the Arts and Minister for Planning regarding a strategic approach for the site and alternatives for the site that are more consistent with the City’s plans and vision for this site.
– that Council advises the NSW State Government that the relevant Council endorsed policies and strategies including the CBD Planning Strategy, River Strategy and Civic Link Plan are to be addressed within the design, to ensure that the MAAS development respects the site and its orientation to both the City and River.
– that Council issue a statement that corrects public misconceptions that a development application has been lodged for the demolition on either Willow Grove or St George’s Terrace. Read more: Minutes P Council 25 June 18
23 June, 2019
‘…demolishing significant Parramatta buildings to make way for the Museum’
Simon Marnie, on ABC Radio 702, interviews Suzette Meade, Secretary of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) about the recently released business plan for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, which includes demolishing significant Parramatta buildings to make way for the Museum and its adjacent towers. Read more
20 June, 2018
‘Premier loosens purse strings in NSW budget’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald comments on the NSW government budget, saying it was: ‘…delivering a budget that creates many winners, few losers and sets aside a small but creditable surplus. The state is awash with tens of billions in cash from an unprecedented privatisation program that has included the sale of ports, electricity businesses, the land titles office and the transfer of the state’s share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the federal government. Aside from its controversial plans for massive spending on sports stadiums and the baffling and expensive decision to move the Powerhouse Museum, the government has mostly resisted political urges to squander that war chest and the benefits of properly targeted spending are already being felt across the state…’ Read more
20 June, 2018
‘ANZ Stadium upgrade waits on business case’
Jacob Saulwick, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports that: ‘The source of funding for a revamped ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park will wait on a final business case for the project, while the government plies on with a $729 million new stadium for Moore Park.’ After further discussion about stadium options, he also noted that: ‘The budget also showed significant spending on capital works programs at cultural institutions, even as recurrent funding for some of those institutions is planned to be cut. For instance, the government has set aside $120 million over the next four years for the $240 million expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW. But expenses are due to fall by 3.5 per cent at the Museum next year. Expenses at the Australian Museum – where a new exhibition hall is to be built – is to drop 8 per cent next year, while the State Library’s expenses are to drop 4 per cent.’ Read more
20 June, 2018
‘Don’t Destroy Our Heritage’ (a petition)
The North Parramatta Residents Action group (NPRAG) organised a petition to save the heritage buildings listed to be demolished for the construction of the ‘new museum’ in Parramatta. Read more ‘The State Government wants to tear down the much loved state heritage listed 1870s Victorian Italianate villa, Willow Grove in Philip Street, Parramatta. Originally a private villa … Willow Grove was purchased by the City of Parramatta Council as part of plans for an open foreshore reserve. However, subsequently and while Council was under administration, plans were progressed by the government to relocate the Powerhouse to one of Parramatta’s most flood prone sites. More recently the business case was revealed. This indicates Willow Grove will be demolished as part of plans to relocate the Museum. …Enough is enough! Join us in calling on the Premier to stop the madness and from pushing ahead with the flawed business case for the Powerhouse Museum relocation.
Rather than build the Powerhouse Museum on a floodplain under a 250m high skyscraper towers with limited space, and demolish one of Parramatta’s most treasured buildings … the 26 ha Fleet Street Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta … could become a world class Arts & Cultural Precinct for Western Sydney celebrating the region’s unique heritage and diversity and thereby saving Willow Grove while retaining the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo. In short, a win for everyone.’
20 June, 2018
‘Historic buildings demolished if Powerhouse Museum relocation preferred option selected’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, follows up information revealed in the now-public Business Case papers saying: ‘Redacted State Government documents on the museum’s relocation to Parramatta were released this month. They reveal information that has remained a secret until now. It has been revealed two of the region’s historical sites are earmarked for demolition to make the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences museum “work”. Willow Grove, located at 34 Phillip St, was built in the 1870s and has been home to a hospital in many reincarnations. It is one of the at-risk sites. Residents and local groups are also rallying to save St George’s Terrace, located on the corner of Wilde Ave and Phillip St, from being gobbled up by the development… Adding weight to keeping the historic buildings is Parramatta Council’s 2017-2022 Cultural Plan which lists state significant heritage sites and significant archaeological sites, which both of the at-risk sites are included. The plan’s focus includes celebrating Parramatta’s history.’
And further: ‘To fight for council’s stance, Parramatta Labor councillor Donna Davis will put a motion forward at next Monday night’s meeting. She said the council needs a say in the museum, having stood by and watched the project unfold since its relocation was announced by the then-premier Mike Baird in 2015. “We need a seat at the table. We don’t have a seat but we deserve one,” Cr Davis said. “We were cut out of any involvement in the business case and that seems ludicrous.”’ In the Comments section, ‘North Parramatta Residents Action Group’s Suzette Meade, said: “Protecting Parramatta’s heritage should be a priority but it looks like the Berejiklian Government’s bulldozers are back in town.” Read more
18 June, 2018
‘Government response to Inquiry interim report’
We have been advised that ‘The government response to the Inquiry into museums and galleries is now available’. This is, in fact, the Interim report, because following the extra 9th and 10th hearings, the final report will be presented on 17 October, 2018.
See here for The Inquiry committee’s web location.
See here for the Government’s response.
16 June, 2018
‘Pity Parramatta, victim of an elitist land grab’
In The Sydney Morning Herald, Elizabeth Farrelly questions recent criticisms of the Vivid festival: ‘Elitist? Seriously? Exhortations to excellence aren’t elitist. Critiquing some popular art event is no more elitist than training people to swim fast or kick a decent goal. I’ll tell you what is elitist, though. Grabbing every damn thing for the wealthy and powerful. That’s elitist – and it’s destroying Sydney. You might think the Berejiklianistas are trashing inner and northern Sydney and you’d be right. They are. But spare a thought for the west. In particular, pity Parramatta. Supporters may call the Powerhouse move a “victory” for western Sydney but honestly, with victories like this you don’t need defeats.’ Amongst a number of examples she mentions: ‘First, Parramatta’s beautiful old hospital site is slated for an epidemic-size rash of resi-towers…Next, the Berejiklianistas close Parramatta’s much-loved public pool for a stadium that quarantines swathes of parkland to benefit huge commercial interests …
Then, the coup de grace. Even before the parliamentary inquiry was complete or the business case available, and despite immense public outcry, they decide to move Sydney’s … Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta…Did I say move? Calling the Powerhouse fiasco a “move” makes it sound simple, a timely and elegant rebalancing of the cultural scales. In fact it’s a billion-dollar knock down-rebuild that involves relocating hundreds of tonnes of priceless objects, selling off still more prime public land for mega-development and demolishing significant heritage buildings. What it’s moving, in short, is a great dollop of wealth from public to private. The so-called “business case” documents, which finally appeared this week, reveal even more bad news.’
Farrelly discusses in detail the destruction of the Riverbank site in Parramatta, including ‘eight listed heritage buildings and a possible archaeological site along Phillip Street …The Powerhouse will occupy a site currently owned by Parramatta Council, to be purchased by the state for an undisclosed sum (figure redacted). The heritage buildings, bought by the council with this (no doubt) in mind, will be demolished and part of the site sold-on for a super-tower.’ Two buildings, she says: ‘are listed on Schedule 5 as fine examples of the ancient fabric of our second-oldest settlement. Yet the “business case” says both must go. When former premier Mike Baird was grilled in the Upper House inquiry into museums and galleries last month it became very clear that the decision on the Powerhouse was taken first, and then the business case was constructed to justify it. If that justification demands flogging two major pieces of prime public land for a nasty private view-grabbing tower, demolishing eight 140-year old heritage-listed houses in public ownership then yes, elitist is precisely the word.’ Read more
16 June, 2018
‘Splash goes the cash for NSW’s pre-election budget’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald reviews some issues leading up to the forthcoming state budget: ‘NSW voters are being softened up for the 2018 state budget and the good news is coming thick and fast. (And once they’ve been suitably softened, they will get any bad news next Tuesday with the document itself.)’ As well as discussing funding to be provided for schools, ambulance services and incentives for businesses to set up in regional centres, it says: ‘All these initiatives are needed but they are not enough…TAFE, for example, needs restoration to its former health. Public transport needs to be expanded and not just in Sydney…The list goes on.
As the government races for the finish line – the state election next March – its progress would be a good deal faster if it had not placed large pieces of lead in its own saddlebags: the billions set aside for the dubious stadium projects and the expensive and baffling Powerhouse Museum move. This week we learned that not even government ministers – who had to sell the projects to a sceptical public – were given the business cases on which the decision to demolish and rebuild three stadiums was based. It says a lot, and none of it good … if the government could not even trust its own members to know what that case is. [Other examples show]… It is emerging as part of a pattern of waste and extravagance. If the government continues this loose way in the budget, it will deserve to lose the election. … The Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, boasts of his government’s strong economic management. It has been competent but some big decisions have been flawed. His budget must show the government has come to its senses, has given up its taste for expensive follies and is focusing resources where they are genuinely needed.’ Read more
14 June, 2018
‘Sydney has an insatiable appetite for culture but won’t share the spoils’
Andy Marks, assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University, writes in The Sydney Morning Herald about reported ‘overcrowding’ at the Sydney Vivid festival, and says: ‘How dreadful. Basking in the glow of all that culture has never been so gruelling. Meanwhile, in large areas of western Sydney, the closest we get to a light show is a mosquito sparking the insect zapper at the local chicken shop,’ and discusses arguments about comparative access to Parramatta and western Sydney. He claims that: ‘Culture doesn’t mysteriously evaporate at the point where Broadway becomes Parramatta Road. Nor should arts and cultural institutions be necessarily wedded to one spot. The Powerhouse, for instance, moved between three locations before settling at Ultimo and pending relocation to Parramatta. Changing the nature and location of our encounters with arts and culture is critical if we are to extend their capacity to enliven and shape our cities. In The Shock of the New, Hughes observed that the opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in the late 1800s marked a pronounced “change” in “the conditions for seeing. It wasn’t the view of the tower from the ground that counted, it was seeing the ground from the tower.… When we look to redress structural inequity in the arts, or even just capacity constraints, look first at the possibilities a changed view can bring. Otherwise, Sydney, “how would you like [your culture] served? All, uh, mixed up together in a bucket?” ’ Read more See also: Letters June 15
13 June, 2018
‘Demolition’ required to move Powerhouse collection
(in print 14 June: ‘Demolition’ required to move exhibits)
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘The herculean scale and complexity of shifting 338,000 heritage items from Ultimo is detailed in a comprehensive report developed as part of the new museum’s business case made public on Tuesday that underlines the risks of managing the largest museum move in modern memory… Parts of the Powerhouse Museum will need to be demolished to remove iconic exhibits from display and move them to storage or their new Parramatta riverside home.’ She notes: ‘The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences is the custodian of a collection of around 500,000 items, valued at more than $311.5 million, built up over 150 years and renowned throughout the state, Australia and the world…Most of the 338,000 items based at Ultimo, including 6000 on exhibition, will need to be relocated and stored until the new museum opens in 2023 …The cost of relocation is estimated at $65.7 million, revised from an original estimate of $85.9 million, with a further $9.5 million needed for special commercial climate-controlled temporary storage to house some of the 32 “very large objects” that cannot be fitted into expanded facilities at Castle Hill built at a cost of around $50 million. The Parramatta museum will have minimal storage space. “These objects will require extensive planning and risk analysis, as well as contractor resources and demolition of parts of the fabric of the Powerhouse Museum to move,” the report said.
The huge relocation was an opportunity to consider objects and materials in the collection that may no longer be required, though deaccession, the report said, should be undertaken with “great care”. Former Powerhouse Museum trustee, Kylie Winkworth, said donors and collectors were very concerned that the move would become an excuse for mass deaccessioning, given space pressures on what will be smaller storage facilities. “This is the time when museums make dreadful mistakes,” Ms Winkworth said. “In recent years MAAS has contracted its collecting to focus on a limited range of currently fashionable subjects. Many areas of the applied arts are no longer collected or on display. The museum has ceased collecting items of Australia history, an area where it has very significant collections that underpinned its popular social history exhibitions. “Will these collections be deaccessioned? What a disgrace that NSW is the only state in the country that does not a museum responsible for the history of this state.” ‘ Read more
13 June, 2018
‘Powerhouse museum will double entry fees at Parramatta site’
The Public Service Association of NSW reports on the proposed costs for visitors in the ‘new museum’ in Parramatta, saying: ‘It will not only cost taxpayers $1.1 billion to relocate, the end result will be a 400% increase in the cost of visiting the Museum, another example of the Government tearing down public amenities to sell them to property developers.’ In Comments, Nigel Miles adds: ‘ People of Western Sydney, do not be fooled by this government plan to move the Powerhouse Museum. This has nothing to do with giving you better access to cultural institutions. This is about selling off a public asset and allow property developers another opportunity to make millions out of a publicly owned asset.’ Read more
12 June, 2018
‘Powerhouse documents show Ultimo sell-off plan’
(in print 13 June: ‘Museum site was marked for housing’)
After going through the documents supplied to the Upper House in Parliament, Linda Morris (Sydney Morning Herald) reports on many issues of planning and costing where it appears that decisions have been made for economic rather than cultural reasons: ‘…A report for the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office discloses an investment case has already been prepared for the creation of the Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct once the inner-city museum site is decommissioned. The preferred option includes two to three storeys of office space, a fashion and design museum of 4426 square metres, a restaurant and bar, and the repurposing of existing heritage buildings as a 1500-seat lyric theatre … [In Parramatta] The final business case justifying the museum’s move benchmarked a museum general admission fee of $15 and a ticket price of $34 per adult, $26 per child for separate entry to the Planetarium. …Greens MLC David Shoebridge said a family of four would be more than $150 out of pocket for a single visit and this flew in the face of the government’s own analysis which warned new museum visitors would be extremely price sensitive …The final business case assumes a 20 per cent increase in sponsorship for the new museum quickly ramping up to 40 per cent and a fillip in attendances…But the government has been warned the decision to relocate the museum is not popular and unless properly marketed, the museum may not attract interstate and international visitors and inner-city communities in the same number. Labor’s arts spokesman, Walter Secord, said the documents made clear there was no case to move the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta and “the government was making it up as it moved along”. The withholding of key financial details indicated the government had failed to comply with the spirit of the parliamentary resolution. Read more
13 June, 2018
Development tower ‘powers museum move’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian, says of a released business case for the Powerhouse Museum move that it ‘spells out just how much development will have to occur to make the project economical.’ He discusses how ‘getting the move … above the BCR (benefit-cost ratio)of 1 is critical in that it allows Premier Gladys Berejiklian to plunder the Restart NSW Find, paid for by asset sales, to cover the $1 billion cost of the move.’ [an original estimate had a BCR of .435] He continues: ‘The documents point to the potential to develop up to 68 levels high on the Ultimo site…’. As well, of the Parramatta site: ‘the documents show that consultants told the government “The development of a stand-alone museum on this site would represent a significant under-utilisation of the property’s development potential’, [and recommended and opportunity for ] ‘an iconic, integrated mixed museum-private development”… Opposition spokesman Walt Secord said: “The only way the Berejiklian government could make the Powerhouse Museum move stack up was to allow overdevelopment of the Parramatta site. We will see Shanghai-style skyscrapers in Parramatta.”’ Read more: The Aust 13 June 2018
12 June, 2018
Powerhouse documents available for inspection
MP David Shoebridge’s office advised: ‘As you may be aware, on Friday afternoon the Government ‘voluntarily’ released a number of documents following our return to order. There are 10 volumes available for inspection at the Parliament. The documents are only available from 9-5. To arrange to see this we recommend contacting the table office on 9230 2749.’
11 June, 2018
‘Most NSW ministers did not see cabinet in confidence documents’
(Print: ‘Stadiums file kept away from ministers’)
Following the release of documents to the Legislative Council, Alexandra Smith (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that ‘Cabinet in confidence documents detailing the business cases for the state government’s controversial stadiums policy were never shown to the full cabinet. Government sources have confirmed that the full business cases prepared by KPMG – which the government has repeatedly refused to release – were never presented to a cabinet meeting, forcing ministers to publicly defend a policy when they hadn’t seen the detail… most ministers have not seen them and will only see them for the first time when they are released to the upper house.’
‘In an extraordinary backflip, the government last week surrendered to the upper house and agreed to release the business cases for Allianz and ANZ stadiums and the Powerhouse Museum relocation as well as a highly critical report into the state’s child protection system … Mr Harwin told the house he would release all the documents by 5pm Friday, but a letter from the secretary of Premier and Cabinet, Tim Reardon, said some would still be protected by privilege. …[and that] … the Government has decided to provide the documents sought to the Legislative Council on a voluntary basis, even though the Council has no power to require such production.”
But the leader of the Opposition in the upper house, Adam Searle, said the government may have scored a “legal own goal” by claiming privilege. “The only way a privilege claim can be recognised is if the government has been compelled to produce the documents by Parliament,” Mr Searle said. “If the government has voluntarily handed them over, legally it has surrendered any privilege claim it may have. “With no valid claim of privilege before it, the house is free to publish the whole documents to the public and, given their nature, may even be required to do so.” Questions about the privilege claim were sent to Mr Harwin’s office, who referred them to the Premier’s office. They did not respond.’ Read more
8 June, 2018
Government papers released to Legislative Council
Following the demand on 5 June from the Legislative Council that certain papers be made available by 5pm on Friday 8 June, documents were received and listed by the Clerk of Parliaments. These documents refer to the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Western Sydney, Sydney Stadiums and the Tune Report into out-of-home care.
Read letters and lists here: Read more
A covering letter from Premier and Cabinet says: ‘…I note that all of the documents referred to in the resolution are Cabinet documents, and that the Legislative Council has no power to require such documents to be produced. On this occasion, however, the Government has decided to provide the documents sought to the Legislative Council on a voluntary basis … I note that some information has been redacted from the documents where its disclosure could compromise the financial interests of taxpayers, including by adversely impacting ongoing commercial negotiations. The unredacted versions of these documents are provided on a confidential basis for inspection by members of the Legislative Council only.’
In relation to the Powerhouse Museum in Western Sydney a letter from the Department of Planning and Environment includes: ‘The Department is claiming privilege over some items in documents as the release of this information would impact on the people of NSW and prejudice their legitimate interests by potentially providing a commercial advantage to developers and construction companies. This information can be released at an appropriate time in the future once the Government has undertaken the procurement process. … Enclosed at Attachment A is submission in support of the claim for confidentiality and privilege.’
Attachment A lists documents in Volumes with attachments, identifying redacted pages. Some points to note:
– Presumably there are other documents without redacted pages. In this list there appears to be no specific record of earlier consultation with Council, Museum or community, or record of other options for the Ultimo site, including the previous director’s 2014 Business Plan.
– The proposed release date for these documents is June 2021.
– The only mentions of Ultimo (in Vol 7) are as ‘economic and investment’ cases.
8 June, 2018
‘An engaging week in the NSW parliament…’
In his weekly newsletter, art critic John McDonald discusses the Sydney Film Festival, the visitor numbers at the Art Gallery of NSW, and an exhibition at the White Rabbit Gallery, but also says:
‘It’s also been an engaging week in the NSW Parliament, with show pony Arts Minister, Don Harwin, almost being expelled for failing to produce business plans for pet government projects such as moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta and Oblivion. As we know, such projects have been approved in secret by an all-seeing, all-knowing government that chooses not to discuss its mystical rationales (or its relationships with property developers) with the unwashed masses. Previously we were told these business plans did not exist, but now they seem to have miraculously come to light. The contents still have to be made public but that should happen eventually. I’ll be surprised if there is anything that reveals a positive Costs-Benefits ratio.’
To subscribe: www.johnmcdonald.net.au
8 June, 2018
‘Take to the Banks’, and ‘Welcome to Westworld’
In three full pages, Rose Brennan, in The Daily Telegraph, expresses this newspaper’s support for the present government; it had hosted political and business leaders at a Project Sydney gala dinner, as part of its Fair Go For the West campaign. In a separate story, ‘Focus on building a prosperous west’, the premier mentioned a commitment to increasing employment and infrastructure, including ‘We have confirmed that we will relocate and expand the Powerhouse to give the west a science museum to rival the world’s best in the United States and Europe’. See more: 8 June, 2018 Daily T or 8 June, [PMA asks: ‘What about the extensive collections of applied arts, decorative arts and design, that go far beyond the suggested Fashion Museum in Ultimo; the significant collections associated with social history; and the ways these have always been integrated with science and engineering in this Museum?]
7 June, 2018
Soon we’ll know! The Hansard record for 7 June shows:
POWERHOUSE MUSEUM RELOCATION
‘The Hon. ROBERT BORSAK (15:04): My question is directed to Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Don Harwin. Would the Minister guarantee that the business case documents for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum that he will provide to the Parliament tomorrow will be complete documents—that is, not redacted, censored, or summarised?
The Hon. DON HARWIN (Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts) (15:04): I gave an answer to that question yesterday: The material that will be provided will be consistent with its status and the conventions of the House.’
7 June, 2018
‘Pressure builds for review of how infrastructure projects are assessed’
in print as ‘Regime change to reveal ‘real’ value of projects’
Matt Wade reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian Government is under pressure to review a key tool used to select new transport infrastructure after a parliamentary committee called for a reassessment of how projects are assessed. A report by the Upper House’s Standing Committee on State Development… has recommended the official “discount rate” used to evaluate the costs and benefits of major projects be reconsidered.’ As well as citing benefits for transport projects, he notes: ‘The committee’s recommendation to review the discount rate in NSW comes after months of political controversy over major infrastructure projects including questions over the government’s business case for moving the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. In March plans to demolish and rebuild two Sydney stadiums were watered down after a damaging political backlash. Labor’s shadow treasurer, Ryan Park, said a review of the discount rate “will ensure we get a more equal playing field for the assessment of public transport and private toll roads and of course regional and rural projects.” Read more
6 June 2018
Hansard record for provision of documents
Legislative Council records for request of doocuments for: SYDNEY STADIUMS; POWERHOUSE MUSEUM; OUT-OF-HOME CARE SERVICES, leading to agreement that they would be provided by 5pm on Friday 8 June:
5 June: Read more Pages 11-12, 14, 23-41 (motion p11, passed to provide by 6 June, p41)
6 June: Read more (agreed to provide by 5pm, 7 June)
6 June, 2018
‘State government surrenders, will hand over key stadium, Powerhouse documents’
(in print: ‘Powerhouse, stadium papers see light of day’)
Alexandra Smith reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘In a major backflip, the state government has surrendered to the demands of the upper house and will produce key documents relating to some of its most controversial policies.
The business cases for Sydney stadiums as well as the Powerhouse Museum relocation and a highly critical report into the state’s child protection system will be handed over by 5pm Friday [8 June]… Mr Harwin was spared from being kicked out of the chamber after he told parliament on Wednesday that the government would agree to the demands of the upper house… Labor’s leader in the upper house, Adam Searle, said the government had “capitulated”. He said until today, the government had refused to comply with the orders, claiming the upper house had no power to compel production of cabinet documents. “This is a complete surrender by the Berejiklian government .. It is now clear that the upper house does have the power to order production even of cabinet documents, as long as they do not disclose the internal workings and decisions of the cabinet.” Read more
6 June, 2018
‘NSW government caves in to pressure and agrees to release key documents’
Shortly after the Legislative Council met on the morning of June 6, Anne Davies reported in The Guardian that: ‘The New South Wales state government has bent to pressure to hand over three documents related to contentious policy decisions to the upper house, avoiding a showdown that could have seen one of the most senior members of the government ejected from parliament. In a spectacular about-face, the government agreed to hand the Tune report on out-of-home care for at risk children and the business cases underpinning stadium upgrades and the plan to move the Powerhouse museum from Sydney’s city to Parramatta to the Legislative Council by Friday [8 June] … This does not necessarily mean they will be made public – there may still be claims for privilege – but it is likely that each document will be made public in some form.’ Read more
6 June, 2018
‘NSW Government backflips to release controversial documents to save Don Harwin’
Among many TV and radio reports, ABC news recoorded ‘The NSW Government has caved to Parliament’s demands to release documents about some of its most controversial policies to save its Upper House leader Don Harwin from being suspended from the chamber… Mr Harwin surprised many in the Upper House this morning when he stood up and said the Government would deliver the documents requested by 5:00pm Friday. It had previously resisted all formal demands from the Upper House to produce the papers, arguing they were cabinet in confidence. Labor’s Upper House leader Adam Searle said it was the first time a NSW Coalition Government leader had been censured. “This is historic and is about the integrity of the Legislative Council to hold the Government to account,” Mr Searle said. He accused the Berejiklian Government of acting under a “cloak of secrecy” and said the Government’s backflip on the documents was a “win for democracy”.’ Read more
6 June, 2018
‘NSW parliament is finally challenging the culture of secrecy in government’
Greens MP, David Shoebridge, provides a rationale for demanding that critical papers be made available to the Legislative Council, saying: ‘For the last three decades power has shifted in the Australian political system from parliaments to the ministers and unelected bureaucrats who form the executive government. Most parliaments, state and federal, operate as little more than a rubber stamp to the decisions of the executive. So much so that most people see no real distinction between the government and parliament.’ But he argues: ‘Accountability starts with getting access to information. Since the mid-1990s the NSW upper house has been quietly developing a new set of constitutional norms that have confirmed it has the power to demand information and documents from the executive. This is often referred to as the “call for papers” power.’ With regard to the current demand for documents, including those for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, he says: ‘The long-suffering public should welcome this independent streak in the NSW parliament. Finally a parliament is striking back at executive overreach. Parliament is challenging the culture of secrecy that prevents real scrutiny of how government works and how billions of dollars of taxpayer funds are spent.’ Read more
6 June, 2018
‘Showdown looms as NSW government refuses to release three crucial reports’
Anne Davies says in The Guardian: ‘The New South Wales parliament is headed for a constitutional showdown over the Berejiklian government’s refusal to release three crucial reports, despite the upper house ordering their release… The crisis is testing the right of parliament to demand documents versus the right of the executive to claim documents are cabinet-in-confidence. The Greens, the Shooters and Fishers and the opposition are all supporting the censure motion this evening that requires the leader of the government in the upper house, Don Harwin, to … hand over the documents by tomorrow morning [June 6]. Sources said this was the precursor to a vote to expel Harwin from the chamber. Moving the motion, Labor’s Adam Searle said the government had shown “reckless indifference and thumbed its nose at the Council in a way we haven’t seen the 1990s.” Greens’ David Shoebridge said the job of parliament was to hold the government to account. That accountability starts with getting access to information,” he said. Read more
‘NSW in constitutional crisis as government MP crosses floor over secret reports’
In a separate report in The Guardian, Anne Davies continues, discussing issues of conscience votes and cabinet-in-confidence. ‘The expulsion of Harwin would make the numbers for the government in the Legislative Council even more precarious than they are now. It currently depends on the votes of one minor party member to pass legislation. The NSW opposition, the Greens, the Shooters and Fishers and Mason-Cox joined forces to issue an ultimatum to the government to either release the reports or face the expulsion of the leader… Over the last two months Mason-Cox, a former fair trading minister, has crossed the floor to demand that the reports be released. .. With the numbers in the NSW upper house on a knife edge, an expulsion from the house could dramatically alter the Berejiklian government’s ability to pass legislation.’ Read more
6 June, 2018
Minister Don Harwin censured in Parliament for refusal to release documents
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith reports that: ‘The state government’s most senior minister in the upper house, Don Harwin, faces being suspended from Parliament over his refusal to produce key documents. … Mr Harwin told Parliament last night that the release of some of the documents could “constrain and harm the government” commercially … Mr Harwin was censured over his refusal to release documents to the upper house, including the business cases for the rebuild and renovation of Sydney stadiums and the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. The government also refused to release a key report into the child protection system … Mr Harwin has until 9.30am on Wednesday to produce the documents …It is the first censure against a NSW Liberal government leader. The motion was moved by the leader of the opposition in the upper house, Adam Searle.’ Read more
And under ‘Minister could get the arts’ in the Daily Telegraph, Clarissa Bye says: ‘A state government front-bencher today faces being first minister kicked out of the NSW Parliament in almost two decades over an embarrassing constitutional showdown … Mr Harwin has been ordered to hand over key internal government documents … after the government lost an ALP censure motion by 21 votes to 20. … A coalition of the ALP, minor parties and maverick Liberal Matthew Mason Cox joined forces…’. Read more: Daily Telegraph 6 June
In ‘Untenable, repugnant’: Backbencher defies Premier to censure colleague’ in the New Daily, Rachel Eddie discusses how ‘A maverick New South Wales backbencher has defied Gladys Berejiklian … Matthew Mason-Cox crossed the floor anyway on Tuesday night to censure the leader of the government in the upper house, Arts Minister Don Harwin. … “It has been made clear to me today by the leader of the government and the premier that no conscience vote is permissible on this respective issue,” Mr Mason-Cox told parliament. “I accept the premier’s judgement, however apparently conscience votes are only permitted where the premier permits them. To me, that is untenable and completely repugnant to the whole nature of a conscience vote, which is by its very essence personal to the member.” Greens MLC David Shoebridge said there had been a “shroud of secrecy over almost every controversial decision made by the government. “Finally parliament is striking back at executive overreach.” Read more
5 June, 2018
‘Sydney’s flagship museum is entirely focused on building a costly extension. Why?’
John McDonald, in The Art Newspaper, discusses issues associated with the controversy over extending the Art Gallery of NSW with a Sydney Modern extension over part of the Botanic Gardens, saying that unless it begind to ‘focus more on exhibitions, there is every reason to believe that Sydney Modern will be a gigantic and costly flop.’
His comments have relevance to the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. He says: ‘Ever since 1997, when Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum turned Bilbao into an unlikely tourist magnet, there has been a belief that a “destination” building is the key to solving a gallery’s every problem. Alas, in most cases, there has been a surge of interest for the first few months, and then everything has returned to normal. Everything, that is, except the massive extra costs associated with staffing and maintaining the new addition. By now, one might imagine that the art museums of the world had lost faith in the idea: “Build it and they will come.” ’
He stresses the importance of adequate and continuing government funding, noting of the very successful National Gallery of Victoria developments: ‘Melbourne learned the hard way that a new building is no guarantee of success after opening a hugely expensive second branch in 2002. Eventually, the NGV had to close each building for one day a week to make ends meet.’ Read more
4 June, 2018
Transcripts of 9th and 10th Inquiry hearings: 28 May and 1 June, 2018
See below for links to the transcripts for the 9th and 10th hearings for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries particularly, in these sessions, about the original decisions and planning process for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum.
9th Hearing, 28 May:
GREG DYER, Former Chief Executive Officer, City of Parramatta Council
CRAIG BEECROFT, Former Chief Financial Officer, City of Parramatta Council
MICHAEL BRUCE BAIRD, Former Premier of New South Wales. Read more
10th Hearing, 1 June:
BAY WARBURTON, former Chief of Staff to Mr Mike Baird, former Premier. Read more
For all transcripts, including possible updated ones from these hearings: Read more
2 June, 2018
10th hearing: ‘Baird’s former staffer denies approach from developers in Powerhouse saga’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports of the 10th and probably final hearing of the Upper House Inquiry, that ‘The former chief of staff to Mike Baird, Bay Warburton, denied any property developers or commercial operators had approached him directly about the fate of either the Ultimo or Parramatta sites following the government’s election commitment in 2015. … His appearance was marked by several testy exchanges in which Green’s MLC David Shoebridge and Labor’s Walter Secord separately accused Mr Warburton of rubber-stamping a ”captain’s call”. … Mr Warburton conceded the sale of the 2.6-hectare inner-city site was clearly one option open to the government, with the original Infrastructure NSW report floating the idea of ”unlocking the value” of the Ultimo site in 2014 before the election commitment in February 2015. …But the former senior political adviser invoked cabinet in confidence when asked if he had any role in developing assumptions around the business case, which had not tested the comparative value of refurbishing the Powerhouse or moving it.
Mr Shoebridge: ”The proposition that many members of the community have raised is that this decision was made without any understanding of what the cost would be, without any consultation with the institution itself, and was a thought bubble designed for the election as opposed to a considered response to such a treasured cultural institution. What do you say to that?” ‘ Read more
2 June, 2018
Mike ‘the banker’ Baird, brazened it out…
In his weekly newsletter, John McDonald spoke about attending the National Art School Dinner where ‘NSW Arts Minister, Don Harwin, stole the show with a strident defence of the NAS and its embattled independence… If only the Minister would find the same energy and good will for the Powerhouse Museum … A little TLC towards the arts goes a long way.
There was nothing like that from the former Premier, Mike ‘the banker’ Baird, who brazened it out in front of an Upper House committee that accused him of being intent on flogging off the Powerhouse site to his developer mates. Not at all, said Magic Mike, he was “100 percent” concerned with providing a superior cultural experience for the people of Parramatta. I wonder if anyone asked him how this is to be achieved by carving up the existing Powerhouse and sending Parramatta citizens an unwanted science museum, when they might have expected something vaguely artistic. They may at least enjoy an absorbing spectacle when the building starts to fill with water during a big downpour.’ Read more: John McD 2 June 18
29 May, 2018
‘Lost in the debate’: Parramatta entitled to its own monument to recorded history
In his 2GB radio Breakfast Show Alan Jones asks if when Mike Baird said he was proud of his initiative to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, he should also have told us he was proud of other decisions such as forced Council amalgamations. Jones says the idea of a museum for Parramatta is unarguable but questions taking the Ultimo history to Parramatta. He observes that the debate is being dressed up as if those opposed to the move are opposed to arts and cultural facilities for Western Sydney, but argues that ‘this is nonsense’; the Powerhouse Museum should stay where it is, and that Parramatta is entitled to its own monument to recorded history. ‘But’ he says, ‘that seems to have been lost in the debate.’
Hear: https://youtu.be/5BD1oHwPpVU (courtesy Save the Powerhouse)
29 May, 2018
‘Former NSW premier makes return to politics’
Linda Morris reports in The Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘After giving up politics 19 months ago to become an investment banker, former NSW premier Mike Baird returned to Macquarie Street to face the Upper House committee critical of his government’s decision to shut down the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and shift it to Parramatta. Under questioning, Mr Baird said he took “full responsibility” for kick-starting plans to build a new dedicated museum with a domed planetarium on the Parramatta River, a project estimated by government to cost $1.17 billion, or $647 million once the revenue it is expected to generate is taken into account. He denied Greens MP’s David Shoebridge’s assertion that the relocation was about unlocking the “dollar value” of the Ultimo site or “privatising and flogging off the site”. His “100 per cent” motivation was about building a new cultural institution for western Sydney, the former premier said, in the face of chortles from the public gallery…
During initial discussions, Mr Baird disclosed the 2.6-hectare Ultimo site had been considered for residential development, a school, as well as space for start-ups and other cultural uses but options had been left to the business case to identify. In fact, a master plan and a final business case setting out the government’s financial investment options at Ultimo have only just begun.’ Read more
29 May, 2018
‘Former Premier Mike Baird faced off with critics over Powerhouse Museum move at inquiry’
In The Daily Telegraph, Danielle Le Messurier reported: ‘Mike Baird says anyone who cannot see the many benefits of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta “must be living in a parallel universe”. The former NSW premier made the bold statement yesterday as he stared down his critics during an often heated parliamentary inquiry into museums and galleries. Mr Baird faced off with Greens and Labor MPs who accused him of making “cavalier” decisions “all done on a thought bubble”, proclaiming his pride at his 2015 decision as anything else would have been a “second best” option for the west… During one a fierce exchange, Greens MP David Shoebridge criticised Mr Baird for not engaging with Parramatta Council prior to announcing the move. “You wouldn’t do something so cavalier as engaging in this kind of project without having that formal communication, would you?” he said, labelling it “a potentially wasteful and dangerous use of public money”. Read more: 29 May 2018 Daily T Baird
See also Editorial: ‘Baird down on museum critics’: 29 May Daily T editorial
29 May, 2018
‘I should have brought my mum’: Mike Baird faces tough crowd at Powerhouse inquiry
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, reports ‘The former NSW premier fronted a parliamentary inquiry – and a hostile public gallery – on Monday, 19 months after resigning from the top job. He announced the industrial science museum relocation in February 2015, one month before the state election. A summary business case was only released last month, after the government defied an upper house order for papers to produce the full business case. Mr Baird conceded a case took “longer than you might expect” to produce. But he rejected a suggestion from Labor’s Walt Secord that he made a “captain’s call” and was “going backwards from there”. “You had a thought bubble and now everyone is paying for it,” Mr Secord claimed.
Labor and the project’s fiercest critics in the Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party have called for Parramatta to instead get its own dedicated museum, which responds to the area’s unique Indigenous and migrant community. Mr Shoebridge asked why that possibility wasn’t tested in the business case before a decision was made.’ Read more
29 May, 2018
Bulletin 28, Tom Lockley: ‘After Inquiry hearing and general info’
In his regular Bulletin, Tom Lockley reports: ‘A “standing room only” crowd of 103 people attended yesterday’s Legislative Council hearing. Several came from Parramatta and the west, including ex-councillors; I recognised supporters of all major political parties … Mr Baird confirmed that there has never been any research into alternative means of meeting the government’s desire to improve the cultural facilities of Western Sydney: moving the Powerhouse has been the only option that the government has looked at. [And] …witnesses at last had to agree that the land chosen by the government has been purchased despite the wishes of the elected council who had earmarked it for an area with more open space … I had to explain [to one of the many newcomers] that despite the overwhelming evidence against the ‘move’ that the Inquiry had produced, its findings could be completely ignored by the government … All that the government now has to do is bulldoze aside the diehard protesters and trash our heritage in a process that will waste at least several hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ money. But we can still battle on to avoid this stupidity.’ Read more: TL Bulletin 28
28 May, 2018
‘Mike Baird Faces Powerhouse Inquiry’
Jamie Parker, MP for Balmain, reported to his constituents and supporters after the 9th Hearing, that: ‘… Mr Baird couldn’t say why his government committed to moving the Powerhouse before a business case was completed. He couldn’t say why the government didn’t consider creating a new custom museum at Parramatta instead of translocating the Powerhouse. He couldn’t name any consultation that occurred with local Council or local community groups before announcing the decision either… It’s clear that the Powerhouse move isn’t about creating the best possible museum in Western Sydney, it’s about short changing the public by letting greedy property developers snatch up land in Ultimo.’ Read more: Jamie P 28 May
28 May, 2018
9th Inquiry hearing: Contradictory statements
At the 9th Inquiry Hearing into Museums and Galleries, the committee interviewed Greg Dyer, former Chief Executive Officer, and Craig Becroft, former Chief Financial Officer, of Parramatta City Council. Both confirmed that they had not been involved in discussions about the Powerhouse move to Parramatta, and that apart from earlier speculation they first heard the announcement about the ‘decision’ in early 2015 in the Daily Telegraph.
They were followed by former Premier, Mike Baird, who claimed to have discussed widely with cultural groups – but could not name one group or person, other than David Borger, Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber. Contrary to earlier reports, where it was acknowledged he had followed advice from MCA director, Liz-Anne McGregor, he said the relocation had been Borger’s idea and that Infrastructure NSW had recommended the move.
At the same time, he maintained his commitment to an ‘iconic, world-class’ museum for ‘children and families from Western Sydney’ without once acknowledging that Parramatta could have its own museum and art gallery (as in other city centres) and that the Powerhouse is a state museum, with NSW, interstate and international audiences, which also comprise professional and informed designers, makers, scientists, engineers, researchers, historians, educators, collectors and members of the general public who are all interested in the stories that can be told through the collection. (GC for PMA)
For a record of the hearing: see 28 May ‘Transcript’ here (soon).
For an insightful report: see Save the Powerhouse Facebook page.
28 May 2018
Parramatta Council reviews decisions made by Administrator
In Item no: 13.15 of the Parramatta Council minutes of 28 May 2018, it was documented that on 9 October, 2017, the Parramatta Council had resolved to establish a Committee of Councillors to ‘review the actions undertaken by Council under the NSW Government appointed Administrator and produce a report to Council recommending which actions may require independent review.’ This Committee met on 13 March, 17 April and 8 May 2018.
Among the issues discussed was the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. It was resolved on 8 May that: ‘The next meeting of the Committee will be held on the 23 July 2018 and will take the form of a Councillor Workshop where all Councillors will be invited to attend,’ and that ‘At this meeting, the Committee will give consideration to the following shortlisted matters; [including] Consideration of the report and background information relating to the sale of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum).’ Read minutes here: Parra Council Review 2018
23 May, 2018
‘Glad the Impaler’s demolition plans’
In Altmedia, Kylie Winkworth summarises the current situation where ‘ Premier Berejiklian is pushing ahead with the government’s world first museum demolition plan. It will close the Powerhouse Museum next year. The government has spent three years and five months trying to justify Mike Baird’s captain’s pick to send the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. It has now released what it says is the Final Business Case Summary, a scant eight pages to justify an act of staggering cultural vandalism. The government spins its scheme to ‘move’ the Powerhouse Museum as cultural equity for western Sydney. The real reason, as always in Sydney, is the development opportunity in grabbing the PHM’s 2.6 hectare Ultimo site.’ Winkworth continues, identifying issues, evidence and other options, concluding ‘The community’s best hope to save the Powerhouse is to visit the museum, write to MPs and the premier, and think carefully about voting for the mob that’s promising museum demolition at the next election.’ Read more
24 May 2018:
‘The Powerhouse ‘Move’ – what next?’
Tom Lockley summarises issues of the government’s lack of research and consultation, poor budgeting, undemocratic choice of site and type of venue in Parramatta, and the many reasons for keeping the museum in Ultimo. He provides this as background for those who may attend Inquiry hearings on 28 May and 2 June. See: 24 May -What next – TL
19 May, 2018
Photo Festival v Stadia and Powerhouse: John McDonald compares funding allocations
In The Sydney Morning Herald, art critic John McDonald queries the minimal amount of state government funding provided for the 2018 Head On Photo Festival, compared with billions spent on sports stadia and ‘vandalising the Powerhouse’. He says: ‘We make a big fuss about the Sydney Biennale, we go wild for Vivid, we swarm over the Sydney foreshores during Sculpture by the Sea, but after ten years the Head On Photo Festival survives on a fraction of the resources devoted to other events. One might think that an annual spectacle that boasts 700 artists from 22 countries, spread across more than 100 exhibitions doesn’t have anything left to prove. This year the NSW Government and the Sydney City Council are listed as supporters, but as usual, Head On relies on volunteers and poorly-paid staffers to put together a photography festival with a worldwide reputation. One can’t get too excited about modest handouts from a state government that is willing to spend billions demolishing and rebuilding sports stadia or vandalising the Powerhouse…’ Read more
18 May, 2018
International Museum’s Day: a day of mourning for the Powerhouse Museum
In a statement from the Powerhouse Museum Alliance (PMA), Kylie Winkworth, Jennifer Sanders and Lindsay Sharp identify International Museum’s Day in 2018 as a day of mourning for the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) which is ‘set to close next year under the Berejiklian government’s world first museum demolition plan’. PMA ‘asks the community to visit the Powerhouse before the government flogs the museum to developers’.
The statement refers to inaccuracy of figures cited in the recently released business case summary, and critiques the secrecy around the plans to ‘move’ the museum to Parramatta, with Sharp saying: “The government’s scheme to appropriate the land and facilities of the Powerhouse is scam on NSW taxpayers and their investment in a great museum. The government plans a smaller museum in Parramatta, built on a flood prone site that puts visitors and the collections at risk”. It mentions inadequate and relatively inaccessible future storage at Castle Hill and notes that ‘The Benefit Cost Ratio for the museum move is far below accepted government guidelines’; while ‘The mooted “creative industries presence” to be left at Ultimo, with a so-called fashion and design museum, can only be the ghost what we already have in the PHM.’
It also reports on a statement issued by the International Council of Museums on the independence of museums, which is ‘pertinent to powerless position of the Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. MAAS is not the client in its own museum development project … The government is stripping the PHM’s land, assets and facilities from the hands of the trustees, and depriving them of the control and direction of the museum.’
It confirms that the PMA ‘has consistently supported the development of an iconic new museum in Parramatta, based on transparent community consultations’, adding ‘It is not clear that the proposed STEM museum is the No.1 cultural priority and preference of the Parramatta community’ and reminds us that ‘The Powerhouse Museum has suffered more than a decade of devastating budget cuts …The government must rebuild the museum’s staff numbers, skills, and capacity as the essential foundation for the museum’s future, serving the people of NSW as one of their treasured state cultural institutions. The Powerhouse Museum must remain open, and in full control of its historic site at Ultimo, its home since 1893.’ PMA statement IMDay 18 May 2018
10 May, 2018
‘Government scraps plan to buy Powerhouse’s Parramatta neighbour’
Carolyn Cummins, with Linda Morris in The Sydney Morning Herald report that: ‘The NSW government has ceased talks to buy a Parramatta office tower as part of its controversial plans to move the Powerhouse Museum to western Sydney.
Australian Unity Office Fund in February said it had been approached by the state government to sell the GE Building at 32 Phillip Street, Parramatta, which is adjacent to the planned site of the museum. On Thursday, it said it had been told the government wouldn’t proceed with the acquisition and negotiations had stopped. … Late last month, the NSW government said it had committed to moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta …But the government said a portion of the museum’s collection would be kept for exhibition in a design and fashion museum at the Ultimo site. As a result, it is understood it does not need as much space at Parramatta. Read more or SMH 10 May Parra tower
Hunters Hill Trust: ‘Save the Powerhouse’
In the May issue of their Journal (Vol 56, no 1, 2018), the Hunters Hill Trust expands on its earlier questions of 28 April, about demolishing the Powerhouse Museum, saying: ‘The Trust has supported the fight to Save the Powerhouse Museum and wrote to the Premier to express our concern over the NSW Government’s proposal to relocate the museum to Parramatta. Without doubt Parramatta deserves cultural facilities, but not at the expense of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. It should not be an either/or situation – pitting communities against each other. Despite sustained community objections, the expert advice on the horrendous cost and risk posed in moving the collections, the secrecy surrounding the business case and universal support for a new museum in Parramatta, the NSW Government appears to have signed off on the ‘move’ of the Powerhouse Museum from its Ultimo location …The most equitable and cost effective solution is to maintain the existing significant investment and build a second institution specifically for Parramatta.’ Read more (page 4)
9 May, 2018
Radio 702: Interview with David Throsby
On ABC 702 Breakfast Radio, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck interviewed well-known cultural economist, David Throsby, about the lack of mention of the arts in the recent federal budget. He also spoke strongly about the Powerhouse Museum, and was adamant it shouldn’t move from its established location. The interviewers also raised the question of mounting another lottery, as the Opera House one was so successful. Read more ; and an extract on his paper about lotteries in the Hunters Hill Trust Journal (above): Read more (page 4)
Granville MP Julia Finn slams Powerhouse Museum’s Parramatta move as ‘lame 70s throwback’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, cited Granville state Labor MP Julia Finn, who had berated the State Government’s decision to relocate a portion of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta and add a domed planetarium to the site’s drawcards, likening the planetarium announcement as “lame” much like Cartman did on a South Park episode. “We could be putting together something that really turns the cultural cringe elements of people’s thinking of art in western Sydney. Something that would probably be good to do is consultation with the community. It should be driven by the community. …I think there’s a ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ thought that when the government announces something, we fear that if we criticise it, it will be taken away because we never get anything.” She said it was a risk speaking up, but said she’d rather fight to get something that most people want than “accept something lame to point at and say ‘hey, we’ve got an arts and cultural centre’ .” Read more and 8 May P Advertiser
7 May, 2018
Alex Greenwich: ‘Powerhouse Games’
In his regular newsletter, Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, said that in Parliament where ‘the government continued to praise its decision to ‘relocate’ the Powerhouse to Parramatta … I spoke of my concern at its attempt to pit western Sydney against the inner city and east. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has an extensive collection that can be shared across the state. While I welcome retention of fashion and design and a planned new theatre at Ultimo, I am worried that the final decision is really an excuse to maximise private development on the existing Powerhouse site. My comments in Parliament are HERE. I’ve asked questions in Parliament to find out if any undertakings have been given to developers over the land, HERE.’ The questions he asked were: ‘(1) What undertakings, contracts or heads of agreements has the Government entered into with a developer or other party with regard to land or air space on the existing Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo? (2) What are the details of these arrangements including when discussions first took place and when agreements were made?’
4 May 2018
Afternoons with James Valentine: ‘The Even Greater Sydney Planning committee’
On ABC radio, James Valentine, joined by comedian commentator, HG Nelson, introduced the (fictional) Even Greater Sydney Planning committee: formed voluntarily when they realised they weren’t clear who was in charge of city planning.
‘Join co-executive chair of digital communications, HG Nelson, and executive co-chair, James Valentine, for more leading edge ideas and vision for Sydney planning.’ This organisation is concerned with ‘Building an infrastructure for today that is no use for tomorrow; of many organisations – we are the number one.’
Amongst other issues such as Westconnex and the stadiums, of the Powerhouse Museum proposal, they recommend a ‘Dunkirk-style’ removal system, saying they could teach France a thing or two, such as moving the Louvre to Lyons or Marseilles. They also suggest that if the Sirius building has to go, surely the MCA can move also. Theatre in Ultimo? Yes, they could have ‘Winks the musical’; the government has already pulled down perfectly good entertainment centre in Ultimo. Why not flatten the NSW Art Gallery; maybe high-rise, car-parks, cafes? and send it to Newcastle’s disused industrial space.
They say about the Powerhouse Museum: ‘get real…thousands donated money and treasures… all held in trust – these are not political pawns…’ Read more
3 May, 2018
John McDonald: ‘… not an act of cultural justice, it’s a piece of cultural imbecility. It’s vandalism disguised as largesse.’
In commenting on recent developments in the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum, art critic John McDonald says it is ‘increasingly important to speak out against the authoritarian tendencies at work in this state.’ … ‘The people of Parramatta are not even in the picture. They will get a second-hand science museum built on a floodplain when they may have expected a major arts venue. Meanwhile in Ultimo a site currently devoted to a public institution will be carved up and sold off to private developers, who will cram in as many apartments and retail outlets as possible. Public good is being brazenly traded for private profit.’ 3 May John McD
3 May, 2018
‘Berejiklian Government embarrassed by Major Error in Business Case Summary for Powerhouse Museum move’
In a press release, Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for the Arts, exposes an error in the government’s Business Case Summary. ‘NSW Arts Minster Don Harwin, who has faced repeated questions without notice in the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council admitted today (May 3) after further questioning that the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) discount rate was 7 and not 6.88 as published on the weekend.’ … ‘In response, Mr Harwin said Infrastructure NSW had corrected the error this morning and it was a “typo”. Secord 3 May
1 , 2, 3 May, 2018
Hansard record of questions on Relocation of Powerhouse Museum
In the NSW Legislative Council on 1st and 2nd May, the summary business case of the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, presented the week before, was discussed, with challenging questions and comments put to Arts Minister Don Harwin by Walt Secord, David Shoebridge, Robert Borsak, Adam Searle, Penny Sharpe, Matthew Mason-Cox and others. The Hansard record is on-line at the NSW Legislative Council, May 1,2,3 listed under Questions Without Notice: Powerhouse Museum Relocation (several sessions listed). Open here: May 1: Read more May 2: Read more May 3: Read more
2 May, 2018
‘Museum demolition; these are two words that don’t belong together’
Kylie Winkworth, museum expert and former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, points out that: ‘No government anywhere in the world has closed a major state museum to move it out of the city to a less accessible location. And no government has ever forced a major museum to give up its historic site, with purpose-designed infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities.
You don’t need to be a real estate genius to see the rip-off in swapping an expansive accessible 2.6 hectare city site, fully owned by the museum, for a smaller museum on a flood-prone riverbank at the base of a 50-storey apartment block. This is shameless asset stripping of cultural infrastructure, land and buildings that belong to the people of NSW, held in trust for current and future generations. And at a cost of $1.179billion, it is not even replacing like for like. Only in Sydney could the property of a major state museum be seen as a development opportunity.’
While supporting the provision of a museum in Parramatta, she points out: ‘But the government can’t explain why a new museum in Parramatta must entail closing the Powerhouse at Ultimo.’ … ‘More than a dozen major towns and cities across Sydney and regional NSW do not have fit-for-purpose museums with paid staff that can take travelling exhibitions, collect and exhibit their own heritage, or borrow significant objects from NSW state institutions. This includes Penrith, Campbelltown, Bankstown, Sutherland, Gosford, Wollongong, Port Macquarie, Tweed Heads, Lithgow, Bega, Goulburn and Maitland. Just 10 per cent of the cost of moving the Powerhouse would build 12 new regional museums at a cost of $10 million each. Read more or for longer version: 1 May 2018 Winkworth – long
2 May, 2018
‘Powerhouse relocation set in stone, international design competition forthcoming’
Linda Cheng, in ArchitectureAU.com, provides information about design opportunities in planning a new museum in Parramatta, saying: ‘After speculation that part of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum could stay at its current site in Ultimo, the New South Wales government has announced the Powerhouse Museum will relocate in its entirety to a purpose-built building by the Parramatta River in western Sydney.’ After noting the proposed dimensions and activities (focusing on science, technology and a planetarium, with brief mention of the arts), she says: ‘The government intends to conduct an international design competition for the design development of the project, [and had] initially refused to release the business case for the relocation but were forced do so after a motion was passed in state parliament’. She continued: ‘The relocation is a subject of a parliamentary inquiry into museums and galleries [whose] interim report, released in December 2017, … made a number of recommendations relating to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, including:
– That the business case prepared by the NSW Government consider establishing a Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences satellite site in Western Sydney
– That the NSW Government consider investing in a cultural precinct proposal for Western Sydney, such as a migration museum or cultural centre, to be identified during a community consultation process
– That the NSW Government consider a range of other Western Sydney sites for a cultural centre or precinct.
Architects Joe Agius of Cox Architecture and Rachel Neeson of Neeson Murcutt were part of a consortium that prepared a preliminary business case relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. Their work concluded in March 2016.’ Read more
1 May, 2018
‘NSW Government defies Parliament: Powerhouse to be vandalised’
On 29 April, 2018 author Judith White published an insightful summary and analysis of events, reports and comments leading to the Premier’s decision to move the Powerhouse Museum, and the debates about the implications of the move, in her Culture Heist blog: Read more
On 1 May, Grant Goldman, in his Breakfast show on Radio 2SM, broadcast White’s summary, saying: ‘The Berejiklian government’s outrageous most recent Power House Museum decision is utterly indefensible and must be opposed absolutely. Today, I share with listeners’ successful Aussie Author, Judith White’s excellent 29th of April’s updated and much considered defense of YOUR Ultimo Powerhouse Museum.’ For audio and text Read more
1 May, 2018
‘Virtual tour of Powerhouse Museum’s new Parramatta site’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, reports local business and political enthusiasm for the move of the Museum: ‘Now it’s official the Powerhouse Museum is relocating to Parramatta, there is a call to give western Sydney residents free access when it opens. Sydney Business Chamber, Western Sydney director David Borger likened the site to MONA in Tasmania and the National Portrait Gallery in London, where entry is free. “If you want attendance to increase, dropping the fees and making the money via eateries, shopping and other avenues on the site, would help,” he said. He said offering free entry removed a barrier. “People need access. We want people to be inspired,” he said. “The best thing about a museum is having a collection of objects and showing it in a new way.” Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee said the space would encourage kids to become scientists, researchers, engineers, mathematicians and astronauts. “It will inspire our kids to reach for the stars,” he said.
Parramatta Council was quick to get the ball rolling, advertising a project manager cultural infrastructure role.’ Read more: 1 May Parra Advertiser
1 May, 2018
‘Rogue NSW Liberal MP punished for crossing the floor’
Alexandra Smith reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Outspoken NSW Liberals MP Matthew Mason-Cox has been punished for his decision to cross the floor of Parliament and has been stripped of his position as chairman of a powerful committee [the privileges committee] … Before the final decision was made on the Powerhouse relocation, Mr Mason-Cox said it was another case where the government had failed “to do its homework”. But [he] said he accepted the Premier’s decision to remove him from the position. “This was a result of me exercising my conscience and I accept that,” …
There had been suggestions that Mr Mason-Cox could be suspended from the Liberal Party room when it meets on Tuesday ahead of a parliamentary sitting week. One senior Liberal source said: “Ultimately Matthew is still a conservative member of parliament but the reality is we can never be sure now what he will do on controversial issues. There is no doubt that this could be an issue for us in the next year.” Read more or 1 May, SMH M-Cox
Save the Powerhouse Facebook: a continuing record
This Ultimo-based community group with a wide-reaching following continues to document events and opinions associated with the controversial decision to move the museum, and leave remnants only in Ultimo. Read more
30 April, 4, 15 May, 2018
Issues of Access: on Twitter with Craig Hall
On April 30, Craig Hall, NSW State Director of the CDP (Christian Democratic Party), issued a photograph on Twitter saying: ‘With Parramatta Lord Mayor Andrew Wilson, celebrating Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta. Premier announced it at Parra on 28th April. A riverside site, plenty parking, access to public transport, ferry at the door – it just makes good sense.’ But a strong argument from reader, Helen Jacobsen, contradicts his rationale for leaving Ultimo and reveals his lack of knowledge about the issues involved. Craig Hall 30 April
30 April, 2018
‘RACISM, elitism and vandalism — politicians come out swinging over the latest Powerhouse Museum development.’
Maryanne Taouk, in The Parramatta Advertiser, says: ‘The war of the Powerhouse Museum has become heated, with local and state government along with the business chamber trading barbs after a decision to pull bipartisan support was made.
…Twitter was the chosen ground for Sydney Business Chamber, western Sydney director David Borger, calling out both sides of government, stating the west is paying for arts they are unable to access… “Keep the good bits for the white people of global Sydney and throw western Sydney a few crumbs,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr Foley called any talk of Mr Foley abandoning the west “laughable”. “Luke Foley remains absolutely committed to delivering for western Sydney on many fronts,” he said. “… so many of Labor’s policies are focused on helping the region grow and its residents thrive.”
…North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) president Suzette Meade said they are offering an alternative. “NPRAG have been in conversation with Sydney University’s architecture and planning faculty on alternative master plans for Cumberland hospital grounds in North Parramatta for a few years,” she said.
…Greens MP David Shoebridge said Fleet St at North Parramatta was one of the area’s extraordinary heritage precincts, alluding to the fact it should be capitalised on. “(A museum) would be a light bulb in the middle of these heritage precincts. It would be a huge welcome,” he said. Read more: 30 April Parra Advertiser
29 April, 2018
‘Costs of moving Powerhouse to western Sydney to top $1 billion’
Linda Morris, in The Sun-Herald, discusses the decision to move the Powerhouse museum, and advises that the ‘business case was prepared by Infrastructure NSW’ … and that ‘The analysis considered three options at Parramatta, two of which had a benefit-cost ratio above one, the point of which a project is deemed to have more value than cost.’ The biggest risks to the project were deemed to be the need to shift the MAAS’ collections from Ultimo to the museum’s new riverside location … Although Option 3 had greater construction costs with a planetarium and large amounts of exhibition and education spaces, it was deemed to have greater functionality and draw the greatest visitor numbers.’
‘Yesterday,’ she continued, ‘Public Service Association secretary Stewart Little said museum staff were shattered by the announcement. “They are genuinely worried that priceless artefacts, including the world’s only working Boulton and Watts Steam Engine, will be irreparably damaged during the move. “They believe other exhibitions will be locked away from easy public access. They love this institution, they see its value every day, and they cannot believe this government is seriously shutting it down.’ However, ‘Museum of Applied Arts and Science director Dolla Merrillees thought her staff would be “extraordinarily excited” at the opportunity.’
‘The government has put the “net cost” of the museum move at $645 million, once revenue sources are taken into account, but, according to the business case summary, the costs of land purchase and moving operations, including wages, is estimated to be $1.179 billion.’ Read more or Sun Herald 29 April 2018-1
‘Powerhouse Museum collection caught in version of beds-to-the-west’
In the same print issue of The Sun-Herald, Linda Morris recalls the decision to take maternity beds to the west in 1982, saying: ‘The NSW government has drawn a line under its own cultural version of beds to the west, announcing a dedicated science and innovation museum for the heart of Parramatta.’
But she adds: ‘The decision is both an exercise in political pragmatism and answer to historic public funding inequities in western Sydney. A big vision, it is also surprisingly vague around the future of Ultimo where clarity is necessary to assess the true value and costs of such an ambitious project, iconic or not.’
Comparing support being given to the Art Gallery of NSW, she suggests that ‘…Cabinet could well have opted to expand the flagship cultural institutions in western Sydney than go to the massive expense of relocating the Powerhouse. The Campbelltown Arts Centre is crying out and for a new 318-seat theatre, studios, rehearsal and workshop spaces. The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith could be expanded to include a Western Sydney Conservatorium.’… ‘And the defenders of the Powerhouse Museum’s collection will continue to remind the government that its cultural legacy is precious and should not be used as a political football.’ Read more or Sun Herald 29 April 2018 -2
29 April, 2018
‘Moving Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum: apartments for old site’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian, reports that ‘More than 100 apartments will be built where the Powerhouse Museum now stands in order to help fund the $645 million move of the museum to Parramatta …The Australian has learned that in order to help facilitate the controversial move from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta in Sydney’s west, the NSW government will look to rezone the site and build apartments, as well as keep a cultural space on site.
However, he notes that: ‘None of the three business cases were shown to state cabinet as ministers made their decisions,’ and in the one selected ‘State cabinet on Thursday approved Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s plan to move the museum but not without some concerns raised. The Australian understands among those to raise concerns with Ms Berejiklian in cabinet were Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Education Minister Rob Stokes. The Premier and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet are also understood to have been initially very concerned the cost of the project might balloon past $1 billion but are happier with what has emerged after the work of Arts Minister Don Harwin.’ Read more: The Australian 29 April 2018
28 April, 2018
After three years – a business case!
Read more: Powerhouse Business Case Summary
Associated with the announcement (below) from the Premier and Arts minister that the Powerhouse will relocate to Parramatta, a 9-page ‘Final Business Case Summary’ is at last available. Earlier, in response to a motion in the Legislative Council to table papers, various government departments said they did not hold the relevant papers. To see their letters of denial: Read more
But, as Andrew Clennell reports (above), while three business cases were prepared [and referred to in the summary], ‘None of the three business cases were shown to state cabinet as ministers made their decisions.’
The Introduction says:
‘This document summarises the Final Business Case (the Business Case) for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse to Parramatta.
The Powerhouse Museum in Western Sydney Project (“the Project”) entails relocating the core functions of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) from Ultimo to the Riverbank site in Parramatta. It involves decommissioning the existing Museum and collection storage, and creating a new MAAS headquarters focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) exhibits and new collection storage facilities at Castle Hill.
The Government plans to retain cultural space at Ultimo. It is separately considering the options for the Ultimo site, including the establishment of a Creative Industries Precinct and a plan for a Design and Fashion museum and a Broadway-style lyric theatre. Further work is being undertaken to complete a Final Business Case for Ultimo, which will enable financial investment decisions about that site to be taken by Government. A separate summary document for Ultimo will be released once that work is complete.’
28 April, 2018
‘MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) Project update’
Craig Limkin, Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, sent out the following message by email:
‘Today the NSW Government announced that the Powerhouse Museum will completely relocate to stunning new premises in Parramatta and accommodate Australia’s largest and most advanced planetarium.
The new and expanded world-class Powerhouse Museum will form the centrepiece of a new arts and cultural precinct on the banks of the Parramatta River, including a modernised Riverside Theatres complex, cafes, bars and public spaces.
Additionally, the NSW Government has confirmed it plans to retain cultural spaces at Ultimo, including plans for a new design and fashion museum and a Broadway-style lyric theatre.
The existing Powerhouse Museum will stay open for business before relocation, with an exciting array of international exhibitions and programs scheduled in the coming months.
The dedicated MAAS project website and responses to frequently asked questions are currently being updated to reflect the Government’s recent announcement. We will provide further updates in the future.
Attached to the message are:
1) Media Release: Gladys Berejiklian, Don Harwin
‘Western Sydney becomes a cultural powerhouse’
Gladys Berejiklian and Don Harwin med rel – Western Sydney becomes cultural powerhouse_
Includes statements such as:
– Powerhouse Museum will completely relocate to stunning new premises in Parramatta and accommodate Australia’s largest and most advanced planetarium, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced today.
– The new Powerhouse Museum will be the largest museum in NSW and its relocation to Parramatta marks the first time one of NSW’s five major cultural institutions will be entirely located in Western Sydney.
– The Government plans to retain cultural spaces at Ultimo, including plans for a new design and fashion museum and a Broadway-style lyric theatre.
2) Fact sheet: See Powerhouse factsheet
Includes information about the ‘MAAS project’:
– New Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta
– Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct
28 April, 2018
Premier announces ‘decisions’ for museum at Parramatta and Ultimo
Following considerable speculation Premier Berejiklian has announced government plans for the future of the Powerhouse Museum. This includes splitting the Museum into a science museum with a planetarium at Parramatta, leaving a fashion and design museum with a Broadway-style lyric theatre in Ultimo, with much of the property there to be sold. It is not at all clear where the considerable collections of decorative and applied arts, and social history, will be located, other than the relatively inaccessible storage facility at Castle Hill.
The Powerhouse Museum Alliance, which supports the idea of a museum and art gallery in Parramatta, for Parramatta – but not at the cost of demolishing an established state museum – says: ‘Good governments expand museum opportunities for the whole community. We expect responsible governments safeguard the cultural legacy of previous generations of taxpayers, and protect the endowment of thousands of donors and philanthropists. By treating the PHM as a disposable asset the Berejiklian government is breaking its most basic obligation to the community of NSW and the museum’s donors and supporters. The Powerhouse Museum Alliance asks the community to contact the Premier and their state MPs to object to the government’s reckless museum demolition plan. See Press Release: PMA press release 27 April 2018
28 April, 2018
Hunters Hill Trust: ‘Nowhere else in the world…’
The long-established community group, the Hunters Hill Trust, successful in having local heritage items listed, says: ‘No government anywhere in the world has ever moved a major state museum out of the city centre to a less accessible location. Despite sustained community objections, AND universal support for a new museum in Parramatta, the NSW government has reportedly signed off on the ‘move’ of the Powerhouse Museum from its Ultimo location. Why has the government refused to release the business case? In 2016-17 visitors to sporting events stayed for 2.6m visitor nights and contributed more than $909 million to the visitor economy. Cultural and heritage visitors stayed for 78.6 million nights and spent $12 billion. NSW has had 25 years of over-investment in under-used stadiums which do little for jobs in the visitor economy. The last time Sydney opened a major new museum was in 1988 when the Powerhouse opened. 30 years later, it is ready to demolish this museum. Why? Read more
28 April, 2018
‘Full steam ahead, at $645 million’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald describes the proposals and says: ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin is hoping his vision for a new Powerhouse Museum in a part of Sydney lacking a major cultural institutional drawcard will bring a new audience to the Powerhouse Museum.
But it is unlikely to silence the critics. A parliamentary inquiry has savaged the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, originally announced by the former NSW premier, Mike Baird, in 2015 as an ‘‘act of vandalism’’. With the government stalling the release of the final business case to justify the relocation, opponents yesterday condemned the secrecy surrounding the museum’s eviction. Mr Harwin had broken his undertaking to release the business case before making a decision on the fate of the Powerhouse Museum, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance said. The government’s refusal to release the business case all but confirmed that this was ‘‘a bad deal for NSW taxpayers and museum lovers’’ …‘‘This is shameless asset stripping of award-winning, purpose-designed museum facilities that were built and endowed by previous generations of NSW taxpayers,’’ the statement released yesterday said. ‘‘The Powerhouse Museum is not a redundant asset or a development opportunity. It is a much-loved family museum that for the last 30 years has brought joy and wonder to millions of visitors from across Sydney, regional NSW, interstate and the overseas.’’ Read more or SMH 28 April, 2018
28 April, 2018
‘Parramatta to get some star Power: Relocated museum rivals global icons’
Without addressing the widely-discussed critiques of the proposal, Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph, says: ‘The state government will today detail its plans to completely relocate the museum to a dramatic presence on the Parramatta River, complete with bars, cafes, shopping and function spaces as well as a modernised Riverside Theatres complex. It is understood the government also intends to include a residential presence on the new site. It will be five years before the museum opens in 2023, with the project budgeted to cost $645 million. Initial work on the site will begin early next year, before the state election in March.’ Read more or Daily T 28 April 2018
27 April, 2018
‘Interview with David Shoebridge’
On Breakfast radio, ABC702, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck follow up reports that expected documents about the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum were not made available to the Legislative Council as had been required. They interview Greens MP and deputy-chair of the Inquiry, David Shoebridge, who had moved the motion to table the papers, about the government’s announcement on 26 April to withhold them. [See here for letters from government departments saying they did not hold the relevant papers Read more ]
Shoebridge explains the reasons for asking to see the papers; the implications for the government making decisions without fully knowing cost;, the other options that should be considered and the contradictions between government statements of having received a business case in December 2017 and having no available papers now. Hear interview (from 1:00:54 to 1:09:23) at: Read more
27 April, 2018
The Premier’s announcement on Twitter causes comment:
On her Twitter page the Premier announced: ‘Powerhouse Museum is moving to Parramatta, the geographic heart of Sydney, so that more families across Greater Sydney can enjoy its extraordinary collections.’
Over the following days dozens of correspondents from many locations responded, disagreeing with the rationale for the proposal, and commenting on issues such as the motives behind the decision and the reality of access. Read more
27 April, 2018
Museum to move despite ‘missing business case’
Andrew Clennell, in The Australian, elaborates on earlier reports by saying: ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has given the final sign-off to move the Powerhouse Museum from Sydney city to Parramatta after getting the proposal through state cabinet, with the project to be announced as early as today.’ After tracing the path of recent events, and the successful vote demanding tabling of documents relating to the business case for re-location, he notes that ‘letters were tabled [from various government offices] denying the government held the documents.’ He cited criticism by Greens MP David Shoebridge who said the government was ‘getting to the point of farce’; and Labor arts spokesman, Walt Secord, who said ‘the failure to produce documents was “arrogant” and “contemptuous”.’ Read more: The Australian 27 April 2018 [See also letters of denial produced in Parliament: Read more ]
27 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse Museum move despite missing business case’
Stacy Thomas, in the Parramatta Advertiser, provides some contradictory opinions from Parramatta about the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. After documenting recent events she says: ‘The Powerhouse Museum is moving to Parramatta and the State Government is expected to announce full details of the plan in days…’
As well, she says that ‘A planetarium is also being considered as part of the Parramatta development. It’s understood the western Sydney museum will have a focus on science and technology. But that goes against everything the western Sydney community wants, according to one local group. “Create NSW have still not released the consultation carried out last year in Parramatta of what museum the community wanted,” North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) president Suzette Meade said. “I attended and not one resident coveted the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo. They all called for our own museum and heritage to be celebrated. The State Government own 30 hectares of land containing the national heritage listed female factory and sacred indigenous history just 800 metres away with a proposed light rail stop… Why isn’t Gladys listening to what the people of western Sydney have told them they want?”
However, [not demonstrating any understanding of wide audience expectations for state collections] ‘Sydney Business Chamber’s Western Sydney Director David Borger said the museum could be the most iconic building in the area. “You’re replacing the ugliest building with the best building,” he said. “The business case is done, now we can proceed with the design, which should go to a design competition.” … [And continuing in the same vein] ‘The NSW government is moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta and we are proud to be giving families in Western Sydney greater access to one of the city’s great cultural icons,” a spokesman for Arts Minister Don Harwin said this week.
[But] Wendy Harmer on ABC breakfast radio this morning refused to read out Don Harwin’s three-sentence statement saying she “wasn’t his copy girl”. People took to Twitter congratulating the presenter. “Good on you Wendy Harmer for not reading out govt spin. Let them do their own dirty work,” one said.
Committee Chair … Robert Borsak said …“I am baffled by the extreme lengths the government appears to be taking to hide this decision from public scrutiny.” Mr Borsak said the relocation announcement was made before a preliminary business case, including the cost and rationale, had been prepared.’ Read more or see: Parra Advertiser 27 April 2018
27 April, 2018
‘Contemptuous’ Powerhouse business case remains shrouded in secrecy
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris and Lisa Visentin report that ‘The Berejiklian government has evaded a parliamentary order requiring it to produce the business case that justifies the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Coalition backbencher Matthew Mason-Cox risked suspension from the Liberal Party room to cross the floor of the Upper House in support of a Greens’ motion to have the critical set of documents released within 14 days.’…
They point out that: ‘This seems at odds with Arts Minister Don Harwin’s own statement to the Herald earlier this month in which, through a spokesman, he said: “The business case was delivered to the government in December, and has since been going through a number of assurance processes that need to be completed before an informed decision can be made.”
… Labor attacked the government’s move as “contemptuous”. “Either this is a massive cover-up, or worse, there is no business case at all,” opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord said. Greens MP David Shoebridge said the battle to force transparency on the government would now return to the Upper House next week where ”the government’s contempt for transparency will again be tested”… Chairman of the Upper House inquiry into the Powerhouse move, Robert Borsak, said it was astounding that no documents had been produced by the government when the matter was before Cabinet. ”The government said they received a business case before December so they must have it or you have to call them liars,” he said. Justifying his decision to vote against his own party two weeks ago, Mr Mason-Cox said the state government had developed a “perverse culture of secrecy” that had threatened the public’s confidence in its decision making.’
But Mr Harwin, through a spokesman, said:’… “It has been a thorough process and we will have more to say about this project in the near future.” Read more
27 April 2018
‘Parra has the power’: the Powerhouse Museum is on its way to Parramatta.
In The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell reports on the government’s statement: ‘The Powerhouse will move to Parramatta under a plan signed off by the Berejiklian Cabinet yesterday to deliver a “bigger and better” museum in the west. It is understood a major planetarium is also being considered as part of the Parramatta development, which will have a science and technology focus. The government is still finalising what it will do with the Ultimo site, although there is a desire to establish a cultural precinct in the space in a nod to those who have fiercely opposed the move. The Daily Telegraph has previously reported the government’s preferred plan was to keep a fashion and creative collection at Ultimo.
It is understood Cabinet yesterday discussed the need to undertake more business planning around the future of the precinct. The government is expected to announce full details of the plan within days, and will release a summary of the business case for the relocation when it makes the announcement. … The Powerhouse Museum will get an upgrade and redevelopment as part of the move.
Despite committing to the relocation, the government last night refused to comply with a parliamentary order to table papers relating to the business case for the move. “The government said they received a business case before December so they must have it or you have to call them liars,” Shooters and Fishers MP Rob Borsak, who chaired the upper house inquiry into the Powerhouse relocation, said.’Daily Tele 27 April 2018
Editorial: ‘More power to the West’
With what has become an increasingly shaky rationale, the editorial in The Daily Telegraph says: ‘Few museums on earth have as evocative a name as Powerhouse. And few places on earth are such a looming economic powerhouse as Western Sydney. That is one reason why moving the Powerhouse Museum to a new Parramatta location is so wonderfully appropriate. But there are other reasons, too, including a much larger exhibit space. Also, those mourning the move from Ultimo might actually enjoy the novelty of typing the word “Parramatta” into their GPS for the first time. To the future!’DailyT edit 27 April 2018
26 April, 2018
Job advertised: Parramatta City Council: Project Manager – Cultural Infrastructure (TEMPORARY)
Even before the Premier officially announced that the Powerhouse Museum would definitely move to Parramatta (See Media Release above, 28 April), the Parramatta City Council advertised this position. It said ‘This position is responsible for major cultural infrastructure, including projects such as the Riverside Theatres redevelopment and the proposed new Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Parramatta.’ They must have been well-prepared! Read more
26 April, 2018
‘NSW government fails to produce Powerhouse Museum business case’
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, reports: ‘The NSW Berejiklian government has failed to hand over a business case for its controversial Powerhouse Museum relocation, two weeks after its own MP crossed the floor to force its release… But the government on Thursday claimed to have no preliminary or final business case, nor advice, relevant to the order to explain the move from Sydney’s Ultimo to Parramatta in the western suburbs. [See also letters of denial produced in Parliament: Read more ]
The New Daily understands Labor, the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) will continue voting together to put pressure on the government when Parliament resumes next week. Greens MLC David Shoebridge, who moved the order for papers earlier this month, told The New Daily the next move could include hitting the “nuclear button”. Earlier this month he said that “dot points … summarised by a government keen to chop out inconvenient detail” would not be acceptable…
SFF leader Robert Borsak – who is chair of a parliamentary inquiry into the relocation, with Mr Shoebridge as deputy chair – called on the government to come clean. “When we’re hearing privately that the Powerhouse Museum relocation decision is before cabinet, it astounds me that there are no documents being produced by the government in response to the call for papers by the upper house,” Mr Borsak said…’
Eddie reminds us: ‘Former premier Mike Baird is expected to give evidence to the inquiry next month’ and says ‘Labor’s shadow minister for the arts Walt Secord described the government as “arrogant and contemptuous”. “Either this is a massive cover-up, or worse, there is no business case at all…”.
The Greens motion, passed earlier this month with the support of Labor and SFF, called for “the preliminary and final business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta”. It also called for “any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House”. The Department of Premier and Cabinet, Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office, Mr Harwin’s office, the Planning and Environment Department and Infrastructure NSW all said they had no such documents in their “possession, custody or control”. Mr Shoebridge said the government was “getting to the point of farce”…
Earlier on Thursday, an open letter arranged by the Sydney Business Chamber urged Ms Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Luke Foley to continue with the project. It was signed by more than 30 organisations based in Western Sydney.
The fiercest opponents of the relocation – in the Greens and SFF – want to build Western Sydney a dedicated culture centre at a different site in Parramatta, instead of moving the Powerhouse. That dedicated centre would respond to the area’s “unique Aboriginal, colonial, and migrant history”, Mr Shoebridge told The New Daily earlier this month..’. Read more
26 April, 2018
‘Western Sydney urges government to stand ground on Powerhouse Museum’ (on-line)
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarises reports of a current push from Western Sydney to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, through letters sent to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Luke Foley which said: ‘ ”We believe the establishment of a reinvigorated tier-one cultural institution is critical to the artistic and recreational development of western Sydney and Parramatta”.’ She continues: ‘The state government was confident of bipartisan support for its relocation plans until two weeks ago when the opposition announced it would not move the museum from Ultimo and instead build a dedicated performance and exhibition space in Parramatta where blockbuster exhibitions could roll through. On the same day, the government was left embarrassed when one of its MPs crossed the floor of Parliament on the issue forcing the release of the business case justifying relocation. That deadline expires today (Thursday).’ At the same time, ‘With an announcement thought to be imminent, Museums Australia, the national peak advocacy body representing museums and galleries, also released a statement expressing renewed concern for the safety and accessibility of the museum’s valuable collections.’ Read more or see: SMH April 25 2018
26 April, 2018
Elizabeth Fortescue, arts writer for The Daily Telegraph, says on her personal Facebook page: ‘The Powerhouse Museum upping stumps and moving to Parramatta (by no means a fait accompli) is developing into a giant political football, which is sad and shameful for Sydney’s cultural scene.
It could all be fixed so easily. I would leave the Powerhouse in its admirably central location. And I would give Western Sydney the facility it deserves: a purpose-built, state-of-the-art building where a new permanent collection could be housed, and where touring shows could be staged. As the new gallery gained its own history and traction, it would shape its own identity and fulfil the needs of its constituency without help from the “big end of town”.
And that would be cheaper than the billions it would reportedly cost to drag out the Powerhouse by its roots and transplant it to a new location.’ Read more (26 April)
26 April, 2018
‘Cranking up power’ (on-line as ‘Sydney’s top business and education influencers get political over Powerhouse Museum move’)
With the full business case for the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta expected in Parliament by 5pm on this day, Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph, advises that ‘A powerful group of Sydney’s biggest influencers in business and education has fired off a strongly worded letter urging Labor leader Luke Foley to back the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta’ and has ‘has also sent the letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, urging her not to take her foot off the pedal.’ Read more: Daily T 26 April 2018-1 and from David Borger: Daily Tele 26 April-2
25 April, 2018
‘Great gallery divide’
In the Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell argues that ‘Sydney’s great cultural divide has been laid bare by new data that reveals how the Powerhouse Museum is the centre of the inner city elite’. Identifying that about 25% of visitors come from its immediate location, she does not appear to recognise the value of 75% of visitors coming from elsewhere in NSW, other states in Australia and overseas, as may be expected from a state museum. Read more: DailyT 25 April 2018
25 April, 2018
‘Art Gallery’s Sydney Modern adds trees, open space and softens look to address critics’
Julie Power, in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarises issues raised in the 291 submissions from the public, government and other organisations, about the development of a new Sydney Modern wing at the Art Gallery of NSW, and the director’s responses. Read more
‘Alternative locations, future funding not seriously considered’
Judith White comments: ‘The Art Gallery of NSW has now responded to the raft of submissions opposing its Development Application (DA) for the Sydney Modern project … Its 126-page response report, prepared by Architectus, the Sydney firm consulting on the project, focuses on “addressing submissions requesting changes” by introducing minor modifications to the design. There will be no re-examination of the entire project.’
She also identifies similarities in the process of developing a business case with that of the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘When he took a stand on 12 April against moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, Opposition Leader Luke Foley backed the eminently sensible idea of building a Western Sydney space for performance and exhibitions from all the central Sydney cultural institutions. Both Labor and the Greens ought to be ready to pursue the idea when the business case for the Powerhouse move is released, which should be by the end of this week. It’s thanks to Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox, who earlier this month crossed the floor to support a Greens motion, that the business case is being released at all. He slammed the Government’s “perverse culture of secrecy” and said: “Governments invariably make poor decisions when they don’t do their homework before making an announcement, fail to properly consult those affected and don’t really listen”.’ Read more
And in considering one aspect from the Gallery’s rebuttal document: AGNSW rebuttal April 2018 , that of of alternative venues, a Powerhouse Museum Alliance colleague points out: ‘But it is interesting to see the arguments advanced for why Sydney Modern can’t be at a “remote” location like Walsh Bay, let alone Parramatta. The AGNSW argues that an alternate location will reduce visitation, funding and philanthropy, exacerbate inefficiencies, and lower financial viability and the cost benefit ratio! … We’re supposed to believe that visitation, philanthropy, and the efficiency of the gallery will be damaged if it is built in a “remote location”, but the same arguments are discounted when it comes to spending $1.2b to move the PHM 23ks west for no net increase in cultural facilities.’
18 April, 2018
Editorial: ‘Museum move makes sense’
Summarising arguments made in reports elsewhere in this issue of The Daily Telegraph, the editorial traces some of the history of the Powerhouse Museum, and refers to recent extracts from a report from 2014 and an opinion piece by Anna Caldwell. It insists that: ‘Yet the latest and most sensible shift yet, to Parramatta, is furiously resisted by some who seem hostile to any form of positive change.’ (See reports below)
18 April, 2018
Powerhouse Museum move: Labor’s backflip is a sellout to inner-city’s privileged interests’ (in print as ‘The West deserves best:’
Seemingly ignoring the strong support for a museum and gallery in Parramatta from critics of the total move of the Powerhouse Museum, Anna Caldwell, in The Daily Telegraph argues that: ‘Wresting a prized museum from the inner-city elite for the battlers of Western Sydney was never going to be easy. But it’s the type of task that will define precisely what kind of city we want to be. Is it the kind of city that holds its cultural prizes hostage in the domain of the privileged? Surely we’re better than that…This is, unequivocally, a state that knows the value of the suburbs and the regions. We talk about spreading the benefits of the boom in health, education and infrastructure. And — newsflash — culture and art should be no different.’ She continues: ‘Labor’s backflip to instead say a “performance space” is a “better plan” for Western Sydney is bizarre, given Foley’s backing for the region he represents in his own electorate. He’ll need to be careful not to overreach in his opposition to a permanent Powerhouse collection for the west because voters can smell a disingenuous policy a mile off’. Read More: 18 April Daily T Anna C
18 April, 2018
‘Renovation nightmare ‘
(on line as: ‘Secret 2014 report warned NSW government the Powerhouse Museum needed a major overhaul’)
In The Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell cites selected extracts where ‘A secret report warned the government the Powerhouse Museum was riddled with problems including water leaks, mould, compliance issues and an inability to secure “blockbuster” exhibitions that meant its core functions would be “compromised” without a major overhaul,’ and claims that ‘The Daily Telegraph can reveal that it was this explosive report — outlining the full list of defects at the Ultimo facility and the cost of associated repairs — that informed the government’s decision to move the museum to a new site at Parramatta.’ 18 April Daily T Anna C report
[The Powerhouse Museum Alliance advises that much of the cited information is inaccurate; that reduced administrative funding has affected all institutions; and that this would have been one of a number of reports leading to the then director’s proposal for development on-site and which was approved in 2014, and then overturned by Premier Baird.]
17 April, 2018
‘Museum move cost to be tabled’
Andrew Clennell reports in The Australian: ‘The cost of moving the Powerhouse Museum from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta in Sydney’s west is about $700 million and the benefit cost ratio of the project has been put at about 1.1 …Next week, the full business case for the controversial move, put at various times as high as $1 billion, will be available to the NSW upper house after government MP Matthew Mason-Cox crossed the floor and voted for a “call for papers” to release the documents.
Sources said the business case is damaging for the government but the BCR of the project is higher than either the government’s stadiums builds, valued at $2bn. … The government requires a project’s BCR to be greater than one in order to access funds from its Restart NSW fund…. The government has already spent more than $100m buying a site on the banks of the Parramatta River to build the new museum, amid warnings the area is flood-prone.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley last week did a backflip on the project, after previously championing the movement of the centre to Western Sydney.
Part of the Parramatta plan involves the use of a Castle Hill site for storage, with some of the Ultimo site expected to be sold off and the remainder to contain an arts and cultural space. The final approval for the relocation of the Powerhouse — a 2015 state election commitment from former premier Mike Baird — is expected to go to cabinet soon. Arts Minister Don Harwin, who is managing the move, declined to comment yesterday.’ Read more
16 April, 2018
Museums Galleries Australia: Update on the Powerhouse Museum
Alex Marsden, national director of Museums Galleries Australia, provides members with an update on MGA’s position regarding the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. She says of their contribution to the Upper House Inquiry and later developments: ‘We stand by our recommendations in the submission, are concerned for the safety and accessibility of the museum collections, and would support more recent proposals for enlarging the cultural infrastructure of the state rather than relocating it. The Smithsonian model of different museums and galleries under the one organisational structure (such as a new purpose-designed museum for Western Sydney and a well-funded Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo) has been suggested by many and has significant support.’ Read more
16 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse stoush adds more fuel to cultural fire’
Andy Marks, in the Sydney Morning Herald, questions the proposal to build a new incinerator at Eastern Creek. But he criticises it in the context of “cultural vandalism” in moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. ‘Sure, what do we know about art and stuff out West. We’d probably burn it, right? Bit risky. Best keep the good china in town, away from the savages.’ … ‘As a kid growing up in Western Sydney, the biggest act of “cultural vandalism” was that which was inflicted on the region by the stark absence of arts and cultural institutions. That’s changing…’ [but] ‘Despite the groundswell, Australia’s fastest growing and most populous region still attracts only about 5 per cent of state government arts funding and just 1 per cent from the Commonwealth.’ He continues: ‘Critics of the Powerhouse move or other measures to redress the astounding level of arts investment inequity across Greater Sydney might want to consider the potential going up in smoke out West …If we are to make the most of the wonderful infusion of creativity they bring to all facets of life then we need to ensure they have more than an incinerator for inspiration.’ Read more
14 April, 2018
Editorial: ‘NSW government: good at big ideas, not the follow-through’
In its Editorial on 14 April, the Sydney Morning Herald considers a number of current development projects – including that of the Powerhouse Museum – and suggests: ‘Instead of its former can-do image, the Berejiklian government looks good at big ideas, not so hot at the follow-through. The government can – and should – expect its way of doing things to come into question.’
It used as examples: ‘…the light rail project to connect the south-eastern suburbs to the heart of Sydney with high-volume public transport has ground to a halt because of a dispute between the state government and one of the contractors, Acciona.’…’Other major projects have also hit controversy. We need not return to the stadium issue, except to say that the apparent backdown to public pressure over its excessive scale will probably convince few people.’…’A third issue along the same lines has been the state’s privatised ports. A consultants’ report commissioned by the Port of Newcastle this week drew attention to an arrangement which favours Port Botany…As often happens in privatisations, the secret condition, which the government – again – long denied existed, was introduced to boost price received for the transaction.’
‘Equally baffling has been the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The government had wanted to sit on the business case justifying this plan until three months after its decision had been announced – and then to release only a summary. But this week the Legislative Council voted to order it to publish the full document within 14 days. Matthew Mason-Cox, the rebel Liberal who supported the Greens’ motion, is right: the state government does have a perverse culture of secrecy and it is leading to some bad decisions. Like the stadiums, the Powerhouse move increasingly looks like more pointless churn: one perfectly good, readily accessible heritage-listed facility sold off to developers for a relatively small gain and, at enormously greater expense, another built somewhere else equally accessible, but slightly smaller, slightly inferior, and in a highly dubious flood-prone site beside the Parramatta River, to do the same thing. …
Labor has now withdrawn its support for the move. Its motives are no doubt strategic – to prepare an attack on government waste for the next election – but it has to be said that through its secrecy and poor thinking the government has handed it the ammunition….
In all this, part of the problem will be the long-term decline of public service independence. Once, career public servants could give advice impartially; now, their function appears to facilitate whatever whim a minister expresses. Poor process leads to poor outcomes – and the public pays. … But this government should be trying to fix it – and there is no sign that it wants to try.’ Read more
14 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse: Labor still wants to keep museum near CBD
In the Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell reports: ‘A 30,000-piece fashion and creative industries art collection will remain at Ultimo under the state government’s plans to shift the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The Saturday Telegraph has learnt key details of the favoured plan, which is yet to be signed off by Cabinet, as Labor ramps up its attempts to block the museum’s relocation.
Government insiders see maintaining an Ultimo exhibition as a nod to inner west groups who have opposed the Powerhouse plan. The government has previously flagged there may be some arts presence retained there but there has been no detail until now.… Labor has backflipped on its support for the Powerhouse’s Parramatta move, with Mr Foley instead favouring only a performance space be built in the region, saying he didn’t want “Neville Wran’s gift to the state chopped into three pieces”.’ Read more: 14 April, Daily T Anna C
13 April, 2018
John McDonald: ‘…surely they can see that electoral disaster looms’
In his weekly personal newsletter, John McDonald, art critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, comments on his concerns about the move of the Powerhouse. ‘I’d been informed we were on the verge of some very bad news, which probably entailed the break-up of the museum and selling off of the land in Ultimo – a consummate act of cultural vandalism … All of a sudden, Liberal MP, Matthew Mason-Cox crossed the floor to help force his own party to release the “business case” for the Powerhouse relocation … It seems it took Mr. Mason-Cox’s courageous stand to convince the Labor Party that their opportunism was misplaced. Their backflip is the first sensible initiative we’ve had from the Opposition re the arts. By now it may be too much to expect the government to give up its strong-arm tactics, its profligate waste of tax-payers’ money, its cosy, secretive deals with developers and favoured companies, but surely they can see that electoral disaster looms.’ John McD 13 April
13 April, 2018
‘Rogue MP angers Libs as Labor backflips’
Sydney Morning Herald, in print as single story; on-line as two stories by Alexandra Smith, with Lisa Visentin (see below):
‘Foley reveals Powerhouse policy as government is left red-faced’
‘NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has abandoned his support for moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta as the state government was left red-faced when one of its MPs crossed the floor of parliament on the issue. In a significant shift, Mr Foley outlined the policy he would take to the election, saying he would not move the museum from Ultimo and would build a dedicated performance and exhibition space in Parramatta. His position on the museum comes as rogue Liberal MP, Matthew Mason-Cox, crossed the floor of the upper house yesterday to support a Greens motion calling for a release of the full business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse. The business case will have to be released within 14 days. The parliamentary order comes less than a fortnight after the government committed to releasing only a summary, and not until 90 days after its investment decision had been made.
Mr Mason-Cox, who is also a vocal opponent of the government’s stadiums policy, said the state government had developed a “perverse culture of secrecy”. “The key problem with the Powerhouse decision is that the decision came first, followed by the business case and a pretend consultation process,”…
The government has been considering the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse since December, and has repeatedly said it would announce its fate “in the near future”… But Mr Foley said he could not support the “dismembering of a great cultural institution”. “Western Sydney deserves its own cultural institution not the leftovers from the Powerhouse Museum, which I understand will be strewn across Sydney” …“multiple sources from within the government” had told him that the government would abandon its plans to move the Powerhouse “in its entirety” to Parramatta. He said it was his understanding that the government would keep some of the collection at Ultimo, as well as at the Castle Hill Discovery Centre and a new Parramatta space. It would then sell off a portion of the Ultimo site to developers, Mr Foley understands … Mr Foley said western Sydney deserved a dedicated space for performances and exhibitions. “Why should the Art Gallery, and the Australian Museum and the MCA not be required to take exhibitions to western Sydney when they finish their season in the city,” Mr Foley said. Read more
‘Rogue Liberal MP crosses the floor, forcing release of documents’
Rogue Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox has forced his government into releasing the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, in a move that could see him suspended from the party room. In what has been described as an unprecedented step, Mr Mason-Cox crossed the floor of parliament to support a Greens’ motion to have the business case released within 14 days.
The parliamentary order comes less than a fortnight after the government committed to releasing only a summary of the business case, and not until 90 days after its investment decision had been made. A senior Liberal source said the upper house MP’s decision to cross the floor could see a push to have him suspended from the Liberal party room … Another said: “This is very unhelpful when we are trying to win an election.” The source said that while the Liberal party has a non-binding caucus, and members are free to vote on matters of conscience, an MP is expected to support the government on procedural matters, which would include a vote on the release of papers. Mr Mason-Cox, a former fair trading minister, has become a vocal opponent of some of the government’s major policies, including stadiums. Earlier this week, he said the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum was another example of the government “failing to do its homework”.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said his motion “embarrassed” the government into releasing the documents. “If the government wants to spend $1.5 billion blowing up the Powerhouse and moving it to Parramatta, it needs to publicly release the business case before any decision is finalised,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“The government now has 14 days to end the secrecy, release the full business and show the people of NSW why it thinks this is a good idea.” Read more
13 April, 2018
Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta floodplain is ‘crazy’ and ‘risks loss of life’, flood expert warns
(ABC News with Michaela Boland and Alison Branley)
‘… Hydrologist John Macintosh, who advised the inquiry into Queensland’s deadly Grantham flood, said building a museum at the chosen site adjacent to Parramatta River would create a “flood hazard”. “Speaking plainly, I think it’s crazy, it’s a crazy proposal to put the museum in that location, pure and simple,” he said. Dr Macintosh’s submission to the Upper House inquiry investigating the proposed museum move is the 17th paper to raise concerns about flooding…
Jewellery expert Anne Schofield, who has donated hundreds of jewels and costumes to the Powerhouse, is so worried about the risk of moisture and floods she will ask the museum to return everything she has donated. “I don’t want them to go to Parramatta frankly. I’d like to be able to ask for them back if the plan goes ahead, because I didn’t donate them to a museum in Parramatta, I donated them to a museum in Harris Street, Ultimo and that’s where I’d want them to stay. “If they’re not staying there I’ll donate them somewhere else.”
Trustees of the Powerhouse Museum have conditionally supported the move. One of those conditions is that “the new site is fit for purpose and appropriate to the construction of a museum”, according to chairman Barney Glover. Professor Glover would not say if Dr Macintosh’s report would lead the trust to withdraw its support. He said …”The Trust looks forward to the Government decision on the Powerhouse Museum relocation. Until a Government announcement is made the Trust is not in a position to comment.”
On Thursday afternoon, Greens MP David Shoebridge’s motion to compel the Government to release its business case for the move was passed by the Upper House. Outspoken Liberals backbencher Matthew Mason Cox crossed the floor to vote for the motion. Also on Thursday, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to the move. It’s expected to announce more details of the plan any day.’ Read more
13 April, 2018
Media Release from Luke Foley, Leader of Opposition: ‘Labor withdraws bipartisan support’
‘…The Berejiklian Government plan for the Powerhouse Museum is “half-baked” and does not deliver a full cultural institution to Western Sydney.
Instead, NSW Labor will propose a multi-purpose performance and cultural exhibition space at the Parramatta site – and increased funding for arts and cultural activity, ongoing programs and infrastructure across Western Sydney. Full details will be announced before the State election – and in conjunction with Western Sydney State MPs and relevant arts and cultural organisations and stakeholders.’ And Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord said: “Western Sydney deserves its own cultural institution to be proud of: Far better to deliver a new facility in Parramatta capable of holding large scale exhibitions and performances, than a half-baked move of the Powerhouse’s leftovers.” Read more and 180413 FOLEY powerhouse
12 April, 2018
See also: Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily: Read more
12 April, 2018
Motion passed in NSW Legislative Council to release business papers for proposed Museum move
Hansard documents the debate in Parliament, where Greens MP David Shoebridge moved:
‘That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within seven days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents in the possession, custody or control of the Premier, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Minister for the Arts, Create NSW, the Department of Planning and Environment or Infrastructure NSW:
(a) the preliminary and final or current versions of the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta; and
(b) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House.
For compilation of the record in Hansard see: Hansard April 12 2018
12 April, 2018
Jill Wran ‘crushed’ by plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald reports: ‘The widow of the former NSW Premier Neville Wran has made a rare intervention in state politics to criticise plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to Parramatta. With a final announcement on the fate of the Powerhouse imminent, Jill Wran said she was ”absolutely crushed” that the legacy of a man ”whose contribution right across the cultural lines of NSW was itself monumental” might be dismantled and that the cultural relevance of the institution responsible for a world-renowned collection would be so undermined.
It was ”hurtful” too … that there had not been a ”stronger response” from Labor, which has been in lock step with the government … though it is reviewing its support… As premier, Neville Wran appointed himself minister for the arts and oversaw the building of the Powerhouse Museum and the Wharf Theatre, as well as the restoration of Parliament House, Hyde Park Barracks and the Mint. ‘The logic of removing one world-class institution on the perfect site for what is a unique collection to build another on flood-prone land for a purpose still very ill-defined defeats most thinking people, or people I know,” she said.
But the director of the Campbelltown Arts Centre, Michael Dagostino, said western Sydney deserved its own state cultural institution with its own identity, vision and daring ambitions. ”It’s important to locate a museum where people live, adding to the cultural vibrancy that already exists in western Sydney,” he said… “Cultural activity should be embedded in the everyday and when a major institution is 30 or 50 kilometres away how can that be possible?”
…Ms Wran said she wholeheartedly agreed western Sydney deserved cultural resources and programming. ”Why can’t we leave the Powerhouse intact and have a wonderful new different museum in the west? I would love to see an institution with an enterprising director who invites all the other leading galleries and museums to show their best in innovatively curated exhibitions on a revolving basis. Visiting blockbusters could also be scheduled so whether they are coming to Sydney, Melbourne or Darwin they could … include a period in this western Sydney gallery or museum. That way the people of western Sydney get the very best we have got. They don’t get a standing display that is permanent and once they’ve seen it they may not see it too often.” ’ Read more
11 April, 2018
‘Perverse culture of secrecy’: Liberal MP slams Powerhouse decision
Alexandra Smith, (Sydney Morning Herald) announces: ‘Outspoken NSW Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox says the state government has developed a “perverse culture of secrecy” that threatens the public’s confidence in its decision making. Mr Mason-Cox … said the controversial decision to relocate the city’s Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was another poor decision where the government had failed “to do its homework”… it was the government’s “latest long running, self-inflicted saga”.
“Good process is characterised by wide consultation, the preparation of a strong business case and finally a decision informed by these facts,” Mr Mason-Cox said. “The key problem with the Powerhouse decision is that the decision came first followed by the business case and a pretend consultation process.”
The government has been considering the business case for the relocation of the Ultimo museum since December, but says it will make an announcement “in the near future”. It is expected to build a dedicated science and innovation museum in Parramatta and the Ultimo site’s two permanent galleries will be emptied and possibly turned into performance spaces. But the government has said it will withhold the business case for three months after the final decision is made… Mr Mason-Cox said the government “used to pride ourselves as transparent and accountable government”. “Lately, this has been replaced by a perverse culture of secrecy, undermining public confidence in government decision-making,” he said… Mr Mason-Cox, who does not face re-election in the upper house at next year’s election, said he had an obligation to publicly raise important issues.
“As a member of the Liberal Party I have a right, indeed a duty, to speak out on important matters of public policy where I strongly disagree on the position taken by the government,” Mr Mason-Cox said.’ Read more
11 April, 2018
Powerhouse plan needs a rethink
Matthew Mason-Cox, a Liberal member of the NSW Legislative Council, writes in an opinion piece the Sydney Morning Herald, that ‘Sadly, poor implementation is becoming the curse of the NSW government’ … and that ‘the latest instance of poor implementation is the long-running plan to uproot the Powerhouse Museum from its purpose-built premises in Ultimo to a new flood-prone site beside the Parramatta River.’ He discusses how the decision was announced prior to commissioning a preliminary business case, and that a final decision is expected shortly but will not be released for 90 days, as well as the way the inquiry by a Legislative Council committee had been ‘appalled’ at the procedures. He concludes that ‘It would be much wiser to just leave the existing Powerhouse where it is’ and build another museum in Parramatta.
11 April, 2018
‘Power play for Parramatta’
Addie Morton, in Altmedia, records that ‘Community outrage continues to grow over the NSW Government’s decision to move the iconic Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to a flood-prone site on the Parramatta River… Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain in the NSW Parliament, isn’t sold on the relocation. “This proposal was always a real estate deal rather than any type of cultural decision,” Since Parramatta is a marginal seat for the government, Parker also sees the relocation as a political move. “It’s a seat they have to win, and they thought they could buy votes in Parramatta by moving the Powerhouse Museum into their community… The people of Parramatta and Western Sydney deserve a museum or a cultural space that actually speaks to the spirit of that community rather than just relocating and dumping the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta for a short-term political fix.”
Despite promises to release a preliminary business plan for the move in March, secrecy still surrounds the case as the release has been pushed back three months. Lindsay Sharp, Founding Powerhouse Museum Director, believes the excessive secrecy could be the government’s fear of someone finding a better solution. “Why would they delay their business plan for 90 days? Because people questioning the move would inevitably arise,” Sharp said. … Since exact costs and details of the relocation are still unknown, it seems the decision was made without any genuine consultation to either community. The heritages of both areas are being pushed aside and not being recognised.
Instead of moving the Powerhouse Museum … Parker believes the government should go back to the drawing board and recognise that an entirely new museum should be built in Parramatta instead of an enormous relocation of the Powerhouse. “That’s what the government should be looking at rather than trying to make a quick buck, which they have now realised it is very difficult to do with this site,” Parker said.
Kylie Winkworth, a museum and heritage consultant and former Powerhouse Museum trustee, worries about the state of the museum during the relocation process. “They’re going to pack up all of the treasures and we won’t see those treasures for another 10 years,” Winkworth said. “The Powerhouse Museum took 10 years in developing and planning…”. She added that great museums are not planned through secrecy, and the proposal of the move has breached trust with donors and supporters and puts the future of the museum at risk… Efforts of those opposed to the relocation are now geared towards not wasting tax money, preserving irreplaceable artefacts that are connected to the community and keeping the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.’ Read more
10 April, 2018
Frantic battle under way to save the Powerhouse
(Linda Morris, Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Frenzied last-minute lobbying is under way to save the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo as the NSW cabinet is poised to ratify plans to build a dedicated science and innovation museum in Parramatta. Three years after the former premier Mike Baird announced plans to move the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ inner-city site to Parramatta, opposition and government MPs have received personal pleas for intervention from museum supporters, while Labor’s Luke Foley is under sustained pressure from within to recant the party’s support for Ultimo’s closure.
Government options for the site include a staged decommissioning starting with the emptying of the Powerhouse’s two permanent galleries, the Turbine and Boiler Halls, and refitting them as new cultural or performance spaces…The museum’s planned shutdown has been declared an act of cultural vandalism by the upper house parliamentary inquiry that is investigating the original Baird decision, and a ”wilful demolition of a world-class museum” by former museum trustee and consultant curator Kylie Winkworth.
Members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance have rushed out letters to all MPs, including Mr Foley, who announced last week he was reviewing Labor’s support for the museum’s relocation to Parramatta. ”It would be bitter indeed if Labor in government inherits the demolition of one of its signature cultural achievements,” Winkworth wrote, ”to build a cut-down version of the museum in Parramatta, on a site which is not just at risk of flood, but whose themes and content bear no relation to Parramatta’s stated cultural priorities or notable cultural opportunities.”
Opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord said support for the Powerhouse Museum move was “rapidly evaporating”… “Rather than creating a world-class cultural institution in western Sydney, the Powerhouse Museum move has turned into a feast for greedy property developers wanting to get their hands on the land and airspace in Ultimo. The Berejiklian government has the wrong priorities.”…
General secretary of the Public Service Association, Stewart Little said a national icon like the Powerhouse Museum should never be treated so shabbily. “Staff have been left completely demoralised by the shambolic way the state government has approached this issue from day one,” he said. …“The passionate and dedicated custodians of so much history deserve far better than the treatment they have received from this government.” Read more
8 April, 2018
City investigates Powerhouse complaint
(Linda Morris, The Sun Herald)
‘The City of Sydney council is investigating a complaint that the conversion of exhibition space at the Powerhouse Museum for a university classroom breaches planning laws as NSW cabinet is expected to decide the fate of the Ultimo site as early as this week. [See below: 23 March, 2018)
Part of the Powerhouse Museum’s main temporary gallery space has been renovated as a flexible learning space for up to 400 students of the University of Technology Sydney until the university’s contemporary student hub along Parramatta Road opens next year…The City of Sydney confirmed it had requested further information from the museum following receipt of a complaint about alleged unauthorised works and change of use.
In its defence, the university said it had proceeded with work after being advised by external consultants that a development application was not required.
The move comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made it clear on Friday that there would be no back-down on plans to shift the Museum of Applied Arts and Science headquarters at the old Powerhouse site in Ultimo to a new location in Parramatta… The City of Sydney approves all work valued below $30 million.
“The city will review the documentation to determine the extent of works involved in the creation of this space and whether they would have required development consent,” a spokesperson said.
The city council can impose fines, make enforcement orders for retrospective changes or take court action where development has been deemed to have been carried out without consent…’ Read more
6 April, 2018
‘Labor backs away from support for Powerhouse move’
Following an ABC radio interview with Opposition Leader Luke Foley on 5 April (see below) Linda Morris (SMH) reported that he was ‘reviewing his party’s support of NSW government plans to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta … a year out from the state election, Mr Foley said he was ”increasingly sceptical” of the proposal, now before NSW cabinet, given evidence before a parliamentary inquiry that the new museum could cost more than $1 billion…While Mr Foley conceded he had given the original proposal his in-principle support, he had to consider if a new museum was the wisest use of taxpayer money. ”We all want to do more for arts and culture in western Sydney and I sit down with artists and cultural leaders of western Sydney, and leaders of some of those institutions, very regularly and I’m far from convinced that spending up to $2000 million to move not all, but part of the Powerhouse, is the best thing we can do for arts and culture in western Sydney, not convinced at all.” … While Labor risks disappointing western Sydney voters, a change of heart would enable the opposition to prosecute an election pitch, honed during the stadium redevelopment furore, that it is the party to deliver on airconditioned classrooms, reduced hospital waiting lists, and a western Sydney metro line between Westmead and the CBD. Behind the scenes, too, Labor sentimentalists have argued that commercial redevelopment of the Ultimo site trashes the legacy of former premier Neville Wran, who announced the redevelopment of the old Ultimo Power House in 1979 and presided over the opening of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ new site in 1988.’
Morris reported disagreement from Arts Minister Don Harwin and Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger. But ‘apart from skyrocketing costs, a former museum trustee, Kylie Winkworth, predicted the new Parramatta museum would face major hurdles in building community support, if it entailed the destruction of a much-loved museum, part of the cultural history of Sydney and NSW, and the memories of generations of families and museum visitors.’ Read more
6 April, 2018
ABC Breakfast radio with Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer
Following interview with Foley, interview with Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who says ‘100% it is going to happen – absolutely’, while retaining a level of culture on the site in Ultimo. (starts at 58:10) http://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/breakfast/breakfast/9606408
5 April, 2018
ABC Breakfast radio with Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer
Interview with Luke Foley, Opposition Labor leader, who says he is ‘increasingly sceptical’ and ‘far from convinced’ about the cost of moving the museum. (starts at 1:10:42) http://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/breakfast/breakfast/9604588
6 April, 2018
Local groups help decide fate of Parramatta North’s heritage core
The Parramatta Advertiser reports: ‘Five local groups will weigh in on the future of the Parramatta North heritage precinct, but there are two organisations feeling bitter about not being included. North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said leaving their group off the UrbanGrowth NSW list was not a surprise, but they are still angered by the move. “Clearly they don’t want representatives on their committee that vehemently disagree with putting thousands of units on this sacred site,” she said. “You have to wonder, what is the real purpose of this committee if the State Government developer has secretly hand-picked members, instead of calling for public invitations.” While National Trust of Australia (NSW) president Brian Powyer said sometimes without friction there’s no fire. “A view shouldn’t be absent from the table because it’s different,” he said. Mr Powyer said the Trust’s inclusion would add to the group’s legitimacy. “You need people who can see that next stage so the planning will accommodate that growth and potential,” he said.
… An UrbanGrowth spokesman said groups were chosen for their significant cultural and historical links to the site. “As part of our ongoing conversation with the community, we are open to further partnerships with groups who have close historical connections to the site, and who can bring constructive and meaningful ideas to the table,” he said. The collaboration framework agreement has selected organisations playing a key role in determining the future of the Parramatta North heritage precinct. They are Parramatta Council, Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council, Parragirls, Parramatta Female Factory Friends and Parramatta District Men’s Shed.
… The Parramatta Female Factory, which forms part of the heritage core, was added to the National Heritage List in November 2017. It is Australia’s 113th national heritage place and is one of only a handful of sites west of the Sydney CBD on the list…’ Read more
5 April, 2018
‘Former premier Baird’s Powerhouse inquiry appearance delayed’
[Will the decision be made before the Inquiry report?]
In discussing the postponement of the appearance of Mike Baird and his former chief of staff to the Inquiry, Linda Morris says in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘But the evidence of both men, key figures in the government’s decision to shift the museum to Parramatta before completion of a fully costed business plan, are likely to post-date a public announcement on the museum’s fate. The business case is currently being considered by NSW Cabinet including options for commercial development with a cultural presence at Ultimo, and a new science and technology museum at Parramatta. “The business case was delivered to the government in December and has since been going through a number of assurance processes that need to be completed before an informed decision can be made,” a spokesman for Arts minister Don Harwin said last week.
Inquiry chairman, Robert Borsak, … said Mr Baird and Mr Warburton would be asked to explain how they had reached their decision to relocate the museum before even costing the proposal, …[and] … also criticised the government’s intention to delay the release of a summary of the business case until 90 days after the government’s final decision. The conversion of Powerhouse exhibition space into a University of Technology classroom suggested the government was going ahead with its relocation plan and mocked its assurances of public transparency. “With the dismantling of the Powerhouse Museum, it’s obvious the decision has been made,” Mr Borsak said.’ Read more
2 April, 2018
Relocation plan: ‘Powerhouse business case secret for 90 days’
Lisa Visentin (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that over the Easter weekend, Arts Minister Don Harwin ‘gave the strongest indication yet that the government had reached the final stages of the decision-making process’ about the controversial relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. But he also made it clear that ‘The NSW government will with-hold the business case … for three months after the final decision is made.’ A spokesman for Harwin said: ‘The business case was delivered to the government in December, and has since been going through a number of assurance processes…’. However, ‘The Labor opposition, which has repeatedly called for the government to financially justify its Powerhouse relocation plan, said delaying the disclosure until after the investment decision had been made meant the process continued to “lack any measure of accountability”.’ Visentin reminds us that ‘The decision to move the Powerhouse Museum from its heritage-listed premises in Ultimo to Parramatta has been mired in controversy since it was first announced by then-Premier Mike Baird in February 2015 as part of an election pitch …’, and quotes Labor’s arts spokesman, Walt Secord, who said “What is the point of releasing the financial criteria after the massive expenditure?”
Read More: SMH PHM secret plan 2 April 18
See also: News Chronology below: 2 February, 2018, Don Harwin: ‘That is not the limit of my ambition’: One-on-one with the Arts Minister.
March 2018, undated
NSW Cultural Infrastructure reports: have they been listening?
(Report from the Powerhouse Museum Alliance.)
In an undated letter received by PMA in March, and apparently written in January, 2018, Graham Bradley AM, Chair of Infrastructure NSW, wrote to Don Harwin, Minister for the Arts, to update him on their NSW Cultural Infrastructure Strategy of October 2016. Read more Here, he said they had submitted: ‘… advice on the infrastructure investment priorities to enhance the State’s cultural sector over the next 10-20 years,’ and continued, saying of the 2018 update: ‘Since our report was submitted, the Government has made substantial progress on cultural infrastructure investments, all of which are in line with the direction recommended in our report.’ It is notable that this 2018 letter still listed among recent commitments: ‘Heads of Agreement have been reached with the City of Parramatta Council to acquire land for a New Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and to establish a joint venture for the Riverside Theatres Redevelopment …’
The two cultural infrastructure reports for 2016 and 2018 can be found on the Create NSW website. https://www.create.nsw.gov.au/ Established in April 2017, Create NSW ‘has responsibility for many of the functions previously undertaken by Arts NSW and Screen NSW’. Within it, the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) was formed ‘to enable a sector-wide coordinated response to Cultural Infrastructure in NSW.’ https://www.create.nsw.gov.au/category/cultural-infrastructure/ The office says: ‘To learn more download the Cultural Infrastructure Action Plan 2018. Infrastructure NSW’s Cultural Infrastructure Strategy 2016 – Advice to the NSW Government is a starting point for the development of our Plan.’
Despite an extensive 3½ year debate about the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and an extended Upper House Inquiry regarding the secretive and badly-researched and costed proposal, as well as other options that could be considered for both locations, no change has been made to the original strategy. The 2018 plan says (on P.4) of Priority Projects already committed: ‘Western Sydney – Parramatta Cultural Precinct: The NSW Government has committed to building a New Museum in Western Sydney, which will be the flagship campus of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences …’.
Create NSW’s Cultural Infrastructure link includes the MAAS Museum project, https://new.maas.museum/ where, using by now well-worn clichés of significance, it says: ‘The NSW Government is working with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to build a truly iconic museum in Western Sydney. The New Museum in Parramatta will become the flagship MAAS campus, offering a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a purpose-built Museum to welcome people from across NSW and around the world to experience the MAAS collection. The New Museum will be designed with community input and will be on the cutting edge of science and innovation.’
However, significantly, it does reflect the pressure to consider a better business case and further consideration for the Ultimo site: ‘To deliver the best possible Museum, a business case has been established to ensure all options are investigated, tested and analysed. The business case has been expanded to include an arts and cultural space in Ultimo that considers keeping some MAAS presence at the current Powerhouse Museum site.’
But – what will this cultural presence be?
30 March, 2018
‘Producers push for new lyric theatre in Sydney’
[On 31 July 2017 a press release from Arts Minister Don Harwin said that associated with the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, ‘The NSW Government will retain an arts and cultural presence at the current Ultimo site.’ Considerable public concern has followed about exactly what this ‘presence’ might be, at the expense of losing a valued state museum. This question is raised again associated with the following report.]
In reporting on 30 March, 2018 that ‘Leading theatre producers have called for investment in a lyric theatre with capacity for between 1500 and 1700 patrons to bring long-running productions to Sydney from Broadway and the West End’, Linda Morris in The Sydney Morning Herald says: ‘Despite the work of Destinations NSW, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said it was no secret Sydney was missing out on major theatre productions. ”I hear all the time from the sector about the need for a new lyric theatre – something the NSW’s Cultural Infrastructure Strategy identifies very clearly. A lively theatre scene puts the spotlight on a city bringing huge benefits to the local economy.” Morris continues: ‘The need for a new lyric theatre was first identified by the Cultural Infrastructure Strategy developed by Infrastructure NSW in 2016 and underlined by uncertainty around the reopening of the 1100-seat Theatre Royal.’ Read more
29 March, 2018
‘NSW government abandons plan to knock down ANZ Stadium’
After considerable controversy about the amount of funds to be spent on sports stadiums at the expense of other community priorities, and a recent poll which found almost 60 per cent of voters opposed the government’s stadiums policy’, Alexandra Smith, in The Sydney Morning Herald, announced: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has abandoned plans to knock down and rebuild ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park but will go ahead with a proposal for Allianz Stadium at Moore Park. … “I’m not going to deny this is a complicated issue, it’s been a complicated issue for years,” Ms Berejiklian said. “The difference today is we have done our homework … we don’t apologise for listening to the community.” … The decision comes after sustained pressure on the government to back down on its $2.5 billion stadiums policy. “We’ve never before considered the business cases, done by an independent authority like Infrastructure NSW … the homework hasn’t been done,” Ms Berejiklian said. Coalition MPs have been privately expressing their concern over the policy, which has had the backing of the Premier and Sports Minister Stuart Ayres. Read more
28 March, 2018
‘New Parliamentary committees may benefit Powerhouse Inquiry’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook page draws our attention to how: ‘The heroic work of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee into Museums and Galleries has been hampered from the outset by Government’s refusals to disclose vital information.’ However, it points out, ‘Now, two new Parliamentary committees, established last week to investigate capital works projects and state finances, could help to pierce the veil of secrecy that has clouded the Powerhouse issue. In an unlikely alliance, the Fishers, Shooters and Farmers Party, with the support of Labor and the crossbench, introduced the Public Accountability Committee( https://bit.ly/2GkXUEI ) and the Public Works Committee ( https://bit.ly/2J251nC ) on 15 March .. Their powers and reach are considerable, and should significantly strengthen the parliament’s existing mechanisms to procure so-called ‘Cabinet-in-Confidence’ documents… With former Premier Baird due to testify at the next Powerhouse Inquiry hearings … scrutiny from these committees could make it much harder for Berejiklian to hide unpalatable truths in order to force her “Powerhouse move” project through.’ Read more
23 March, 2018
Powerhouse exhibition space converted to university classroom
Fears that plans are already under way for the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to eventually occupy the buildings of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, are documented by Linda Morris in the Sydney Morning Herald. She says: ‘Part of the Powerhouse Museum’s main temporary gallery space has been leased out as a classroom for up to 400 university students in a move the state government denies is confirmation the museum is to be relocated.’ UTS has been using an existing lecture theatre during 2017, while ‘a ”purpose-designed learning space” for the university opens this month under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UTS and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) in December.’ However, ‘At 1800 sqm, the hall is one of the largest exhibition spaces in Sydney and forms part of the Wran Building opened in 1988 and renovated at a cost of $25 million six years ago.’ It has housed many significant exhibitions in the past, and concerns are expressed that such important exhibition space is being sacrificed. Morris continues: ‘A former trustee, Kylie Winkworth, a heritage and museum consultant, said MAAS management seemed intent on closing the inner city Powerhouse Museum, one of MAAS’ three sites, ”by stealth”. Chairman of the Upper House inquiry into the Parramatta relocation plans, Robert Borsak, asked: ”Would we expect the same behaviour by the management of the Smithsonian Museum or the Louvre? No.” But the NSW Arts Minister, Don Harwin, said UTS and MAAS had a proud history of collaboration and the development of a purpose-designed learning space was yet another exciting step for the partnership.’ However, ‘“Trading a public museum for an indeterminate cultural presence and university classroom constituted a ”world-first museum demolition plan”, Winkworth said. ”It is an insult to the architect Lionel Glendenning that a museum that is supposed to care about design can partition a Sulman award-winning building into a generic teaching space.’ Borsak also warned: ‘it looked like ”a death by a thousand cuts. Since my inquiry has not yet been presented with a business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, either the government is still keeping it secret, or the museum is acting unilaterally.” ’ Read more
16 March, 2018
Upper House Inquiry: dates changed again!!
It has just been brought to our attention that, in the on-line Inquiry schedule, the date of 4 April for the 9th hearing has been changed again! In its place are two hearings, one on Monday, 28 May (3 hours), and another on Friday, 1 June (2 hours). There is no information as yet about who will be interviewed, although we know that the former Premier was one of those to be summonsed to attend. For more details as they appear, check: Read more
12 March, 2018
‘GPT leads listed push into Parramatta hub’
In The Australian, Ben Wilmot identifies development projects being pursued in Parramatta by the GPT Group, Mirvac, Dexus, Charter Hall and many others, quoting GPT head of office and logistics, Matthew Faddy, as saying of the GPT tower, for which it has just received approval: ‘This project will create a major iconic landmark and add energy to the transformation of Parramatta into a world-class commercial and cultural centre’. Wilmot adds: ‘… the area is benefiting from a NSW government push to shift public servants to the western suburbs’, and that the GPT development ‘…is near the Parramatta Transport Interchange and planned $1.2 billion Riverbank cultural precinct which is slated to house the new Powerhouse Museum, despite uncertainty about whether it will shift from its Ultimo home in Sydney’s inner suburbs.’ Read more
10 March, 2018
‘Culture Heist: Scandals of Sydney’s Museums’
Following reports of ‘an alleged drunken after-party following the $1,000-a-seat Fashion Ball at the Powerhouse last month’, Judith White documents that: ‘according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (7 March), it was enraged professional staff who blew the whistle on the drunken gathering, and Mr Borsak has asked Minister Harwin for an “iron-clad guarantee” that the whistleblowers will not be subjected to a witchhunt. Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little weighed in to the controversy, saying it appeared museum management was undermining its staff and not pushing for retention of the Ultimo site.’
With reference to issues about the Development Application (DA) for Sydney Modern at the Art Gallery of NSW where ‘some of the most highly-qualified people and organisations among the huge number of objectors – 178 individuals and 17 organisations’ have written to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, she asks: ‘What is happening to our much-loved public cultural sector? It’s embarrassing and shameful. To me the affair is yet another symptom of the corporatisation of our cultural institutions, under the impact of many factors: governments cutting budgets, arts boards dominated by corporate heavyweights who are major political donors or dependent on government contracts, and managements hiring ever more marketing and fund-raising executives alienated from the core mission of caring for collections.’ Read more
8 March, 2018
‘Powerhouse Museum’s Fashion Ball is all play, no cash’
Linda Morris (Sydney Morning Herald) enlarges on her report of 7 March, to comment on the cash benefit of the event, despite its ‘success in terms of publicity and engagement with the fashion community’. For the revised report: Read more or see: SMH PHM fundraiser 8March18
See also ‘Inside the inaugural MAAS Ball in Sydney’ by Melissa Hoyer in Vogue Australia on 2 February, for some of the identities attending the inaugural fashion ball at MAAS on 1 February: Read more
7 March, 2018
‘Minister wants answers over Powerhouse Museum fundraiser allegations’
(by Linda Morris, on-line version in the Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Very Big Night at the Museum; claims a big blight on the museum’
(by Clarissa Bye, Daily Telegraph)
These reports document a question asked of Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, in the NSW Legislative Council on 6 March, by Chair of Upper House Inquiry committee, Robert Borsak. He referred to an after-party held for senior staff at the museum following a recent fundraising event, on 1 February, the inaugural Fashion Ball, where it was claimed that excessive alcohol was drunk in the presence of ‘white powder’. He asked if the Minister planned to investigate the claims.
Clarissa Bye reports that the minister’s office advised ‘ The minister has requested a full report into the incident.’ Read more: PHM Ball DT 7 March 2018
And Linda Morris says: ‘The controversy couldn’t come at a worse time for the museum with NSW Cabinet considering the business case to shift the Powerhouse from its Ultimo site to a new riverside location in Parramatta at a potential cost of more than $1 billion. Morale, said one insider, was “rock bottom”. While Museum staff were supportive of a museum in Western Sydney, and confident that the collection and the staff expertise would ensure a great museum was run at Parramatta and sites its Ultimo, Sydney Observatory and Castle Hill they could see no reason to de-commission the Ultimo site. Staff fear this alleged incident will only give the government greater impetus to ”start again”. Stewart Little, PSA general secretary, said he worried museum management was undermining the best efforts of its staff whose jobs are under threat from cutbacks and possible closure, and not forcefully pushing the case for retention of the Ultimo site. ”It’s like being on the Titanic and they want to get off,” he said. ”Do you think they are concerned about staff or their own futures, given the uncertainty?”’ Read more: SMH PHM party 7March18
7 March, 2018
‘Disneyland for developers: Is Parramatta losing its soul?’
Alan Mascarenhas, Parramatta resident and former adviser to NSW Labor leaders Luke Foley and John Robertson, writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about over-development at the cost of losing Parramatta’s ‘soul’, saying: ‘A who’s who of developers – Crown, Meriton, Walker Corporation – are reshaping the skyline.’ Among many examples of destroying cultural treasures, he mentions ‘the Female Factory, Australia’s first institution for convict women. The site merits UNESCO World Heritage Listing. Incredibly, however, there are proposals to flood the area with 3,000 apartments’ … ‘And the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation, without a published business case, has become shrouded in mystery. Former Premier Mike Baird has been summoned to appear before a NSW upper house inquiry on April 4.’
He concludes: ‘Today, Parramatta stands at a crucial moment. As the Greater Sydney Commission reimagines Parramatta as Sydney’s central city, it is vital to save it from becoming a Disneyland for developers … As Parramatta grows, its fundamental character must be retained …Today, there are good people focused on delivering the new Parramatta. However, key debates are occurring behind closed doors and essential voices remain unheard …In the end, a city’s destiny belongs not with developers or vested interests, but with its people. There’s never been a better time to ask: what will Parramatta’s future be?’ Read more or see: 7 March 2018 Parramatta as Disneyland
28 February, 2018
‘MP dubious over inquiry’
In its Fastlane news column, the Parramatta Advertiser reports: ‘Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee has lambasted the inquiry into museums and galleries, labelling the hearing “bullsh*t”. “This is a politically motivated inquiry,” Mr Lee said. “All they’re trying to do is bash up the whole thing.” Mr Lee was adamant that not only will the move of the Powerhouse Museum continue, but it will be the flagship museum for Sydney. “This is a commitment that was made and we’re not backing down from that.” ’
27 February, 2018
‘Parramatta Female Factory world heritage listing push’
In the Parramatta Advertiser, Stacy Thomas reports that ‘Three months after securing national heritage listing for the Parramatta Female Factory, the push is now on for global recognition … North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) wants to set up a coalition to push for the listing. “The coalition should be made up of heritage experts, community members, prominent Australians and other local community and industry groups,” NPRAG vice president Steve Brancatisano said. [But] while getting the site on the national list was a big win, it would not stop Urban Growth NSW from building unit blocks around the heritage components. He was certain world heritage listing would curb what NPRAG considers to be an “inappropriate development”…
Urban Growth NSW, is planning on building up to 2700 residential units surrounding the site. The developer said if both the state and federal governments proposed a World Heritage listing, it would support it … Mr Brancatisano said their push for world heritage listing wouldn’t happen overnight. “This is probably a five to 10 year fight and we believe there should be no development on the site until a decision is made,” he said. Read more or Read: PFF Heritage push Feb 2018
21 February, 2018
Call for Expressions of Interest for Western Sydney Art, Screen and Culture Roundtable: closing 5 March
PMA has discovered that the government office, Create NSW, is calling for expressions of interest from ‘emerging and established practitioners and workers’ from a range of backgrounds, with a view to establishing a shortlist of potential ‘roundtable’ advisers. These people are to ‘contribute to strategic policymaking for the Arts, Screen and Culture Division, Create NSW and the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIMPO)’, for Western Sydney. Read more
While the emphasis is on opportunities for Western Sydney, it is noted that the last item on the list of considerations remains ‘The New Museum in Parramatta will become the flagship MAAS campus…’ where ‘…a business case has been established to ensure all options are investigated, tested and analysed…’ (We have still to see this business case.)
The callout concludes:
‘To find out more, please download a copy of the Western Sydney Arts, Screen and Culture Roundtable Terms of Reference. Applications to the Western Sydney Art, Screen and Culture Roundtable are reviewed by Create NSW Directors to determine a shortlist recommendation to the Create NSW Chief Executive Officer. Members will be appointed from the 6 April to the 31 December 2018. Submissions close: 5 March 2018 (Midnight, AEDT – Sydney time)’
19 February 2018
New dates: 9th hearing and Inquiry report further delayed; Former Premier to be issued with summons
In a media release: ‘Next steps for Museums and Galleries Inquiry’, Committee Chair Robert Borsak says: ‘The Upper House committee inquiry into museums and galleries has received responses from Mr Baird and Mr Warburton regarding the committee’s invitation to give evidence at the hearing scheduled for 23 February 2018. Both Mr Baird and Mr Warburton have again declined to attend the hearing. The committee will now issue Mr Baird and Mr Warburton with a summons to attend to give evidence on the Powerhouse Museum issue at a hearing to be held on 4 April 2018. The hearing will take place in the Jubilee Room, at Parliament House, Sydney. The hearing scheduled for 23 February 2018 has been postponed until 4 April 2018.
The committee has also extended the reporting date to 28 June 2018.’
For information about the inquiry and next hearing, go to the committee’s website: Read more For media release: Read more
16 February, 2018
9th Hearing announced for Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: 23 February
The committee of Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has scheduled its 9th hearing, deferred from late 2017, to take place from 10.00am – 13.00 on 23 February. It also confirms that the ‘reporting date has been extended to 1 March 2018’. Read more
16 February, 2018
‘Former premier Mike Baird, Mirvac officials to be called to give evidence in Powerhouse inquiry’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that, as one of three prominent business leaders who have been given 24 hours to reconsider their refusal to front the Upper House inquiry ‘has given the former NSW premier Mike Baird an ultimatum: either appear before it or be forced.’ Morris points out ‘The move suggests the committee … may be pursuing information around any commercial plans for the existing Ultimo site or the museum’s proposed riverside home in Parramatta.’ She quotes from comments by MLC Robert Borsak , chair of the committee, in the Inquiry’s interim report (see news report 18 December, 2017): ‘From the very start of this inquiry the Government has obfuscated and [refused] to release details of the business case for relocating the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta,’ Mr Borsak said. ‘Nobody has provided a straight answer on why this decision was made before the Government knew how much it would cost, how they could move the Powerhouse Museum or whether the plan is even value for money. The public has a right to know the reason for such secrecy.’ Morris also notes that: ‘The Powerhouse business case, belatedly commissioned last year, is understood to be complete and is expected to be presented to NSW Cabinet within days. The committee has also sought advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments to access Cabinet documents which have been withheld from public scrutiny.’ Read more or Read more: SMH Baird 16 February
2 February, 2018
Don Harwin: ‘That is not the limit of my ambition’: One-on-one with the Arts Minister
Gina Fairley from ArtsHub ‘sat down this week with NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin in a checklist conversation that tackled funding, priorities and vision.’ She said: ‘This is a Minister who, in just 12 months, has dealt with some of the most contentious decisions surrounding the State’s arts and culture infrastructure, and its funding, including a State Inquiry into its museums sector; the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum; a Masterplan for a cultural precinct at Walsh Bay; the Sydney Modern Project, and the refurbishment of Australia’s cultural icon, the Sydney Opera House – all big vision, big budget projects that have been the subject of intense professional and public scrutiny. Meanwhile, the arts portfolio under Minister Harwin’s tenure has seen a significant injection of funding to arts and culture infrastructure in the State, possibly the largest such increase since the bicentenary … ‘And that is not the limit of my ambition, but don’t tell the Treasurer,’ Harwin added with a smile.’ It seems that ‘Establishing the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) was a personal initiative of the Minister’s. “It is going to make a huge difference in terms of completely changing the whole programmatic approach to expenditure on arts and culture – that possibly will be the big win; the most important win while I am Minister,” said Harwin.’
Regarding the issue of the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum being considered by the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, he said “The Government will announce what it will be doing quite separately from whatever the Inquiry proposes. I disagree with their interim recommendation about that museum. We will agree to disagree with them on that,” and continued “My vision is a new museum at Parramatta that is bigger and better and has far more exhibition space than the museum at Ultimo [a claim that has been contested by experts in the field], but to ensure the retention of a cultural space in the heritage precinct at Ultimo.” […a ‘cultural space’ that has not been satisfactorily explained in relation to the Powerhouse Museum’s long contribution to that location.] Read more
27 January, 2018
‘I have watched and mourned as NSW national parks have been run into the ground’
Michael McFadyen, long-time worker for National Parks and Wildlife Services, includes the destruction of museums in his criticism of the current government. He says, in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘I have watched and mourned as the NPWS has been squeezed so hard over the past 15 years that every bit of life has been extracted from it. In 1986, the NSW NPWS was lauded as “one of the top five national park agencies in the world”. Today, it would not even be the in the top five in Australia.’ Documenting the effects of reduced funding, staff redundancies and pay cuts in national park services across the state, and the detrimental effects on both the environment and tourism, he concludes: ‘The government and opposition must make a tangible commitment to increase funding and staffing to at least previous levels and make the NPWS a standalone department once again … The fact that the Liberal government is happy to waste money on knocking down and rebuilding perfectly good concert venues, exhibition centres, stadiums and museums makes it even harder to understand why this important part of NSW’s heritage has been abandoned.’ Read more
25 January, 2018
Luke Foley questions government’s plans for Powerhouse in Parramatta
On ABC Breakfast radio, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck replayed an interview with Premier Berejiklian, who had confirmed that Parramatta would be Sydney’s central city (of three), and that the relocation of the Museum would contribute with an ‘iconic’ institution to ‘sharing the arts around’ with Western Sydney and those in the bush. In response, Opposition leader Luke Foley said that he shared ambitions for cultural facilities in western Sydney but was increasingly concerned through the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry about the government’s shambolic process, with a cost probably 100 times greater than originally announced. He added that the community was increasingly sceptical about the government’s possible decision to relocate part of the Museum but not all, saying that ‘providing a satellite won’t cut it’ and that more options needed to be looked at. He advised that he would wait for the final Inquiry report and would then outline Labor’s intentions. To hear: Read more (courtesy Save the Powerhouse) or Read more (ABC link, starts at 1:28m)
9 January, 2018
Opinion: ‘A biased and flawed process’ or (on line) ‘Fast track to a rort’
In questioning the privatisation process of the F6 Freeway, the Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald raised issues pertinent to other government planning processes. It says: ‘the 2015 state election … showed that an able politician such as Mike Baird could get elected while promising to sell off public assets if the proceeds are to be used for a public purpose.’ However, it continues: ‘First, it would appear the NSW public service lacks sufficient expertise to negotiate privatised deals in ways that benefit the public it is supposed to be serving’ and that ‘… in return for colossal fees … An entire industry of private advisers has grown up to replace the bureaucrats who once decided these questions impartially in the public interest… Second, it reveals another example of the obvious and familiar flaw in the process of privatisation: government functions that are to be privatised are routinely given monopoly characteristics to entice investors to pay premium prices for them. But once they are sold, those monopoly characteristics can be used to exclude competitors and defeat the public interest. Here, public benefits in the form of a share of excess profits, are planned to be sold off to the highest bidder.’
There are echoes here of the process of decision-making about the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Who really benefits? Read more
1 January, 2018
‘New Year in the culture wars’
Judith White summarises some of the issues about the NSW government’s planning for museums and galleries that were still being addressed as we entered 2018.
Firstly, she says: ‘On 15 December submissions closed concerning the Development Application (DA) for the Sydney Modern Project at the Art Gallery of NSW. Published on the Department of Planning website, the submissions are overwhelmingly objections, numbering many more than the 25 required for the project to be referred for further assessment.’ Then: ‘on 18 December the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries delivered its interim report, concerned principally with the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse from Ultimo to Parramatta.’
White discusses in considerable detail, arguments for better consideration for concerns for destruction of state cultural assets and alternatives for each project. She refers to papers received from experts such as museum specialist, Kylie Winkworth, and architect, Andrew Andersons, and points out: ‘Secrecy, cost overruns and a lack of genuine consultation? Sounds familiar. They have become hallmarks of the modus operandi of the Berejiklian government’s infrastructure spend.’
As well, in critiquing Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s support for unpopular spending on new sports stadiums, White refers to Opposition leader Luke Foley’s comment that ‘the Premier “has bent the knee to relentless lobbying by unelected powerbrokers”.’ But, she asks, ‘When will Mr Foley draw the same conclusion about the boards of cultural institutions and business chamber lobby groups, and take a firm stand on arts policy? … In the year to come, vigilant supporters of cultural institutions will be looking critically at their response, and at the arts policies of all political parties at both State and Federal levels.’ Read more
19 December, 2017
Radio interviews with Inquiry Chair and Arts Minister:
Following the release of the Interim Report for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Mark Fennel, on Breakfast, ABC 702, interviews Robert Borsak (at 8.36 am), Chair of the Committee of Inquiry, and Arts Minister Don Harwin (at 8.45am). (Downloads courtesy Save the Powerhouse: https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse/)
Borsak confirms the Committee’s concerns about lack of transparency in not releasing the business plan for moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta before any final decisions are made, or demonstrating consideration of other options: Hear/Read more
Harwin reinforces his commitment to ‘a brand new, world class, iconic, institution’ in the ‘centre’ of Sydney, without mentioning Parramatta’s local needs, or understanding the need to keep the main venue of a state museum in the axial centre of a capital city. Hear/Read more
19 December, 2017
Parliamentary inquiry finds Powerhouse Museum move ‘an act of vandalism’
(Print: ‘Act of Vandalism: move under attack’)
Lisa Visentin, (SMH) discusses the findings of the Inquiry’s interim report tabled on 18 December, saying it has ‘savaged the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to western Sydney before developing a business case, calling it an “act of vandalism by this government”.’ She continues: ‘Instead of relocating the Powerhouse Museum, the committee recommended the government consider investing in alternative proposals for western Sydney … and that a different site be considered’ and reports that ‘Labor’s acting spokeswoman for the arts, Penny Sharpe, slammed the museum’s relocation as a “beleaguered project mired in scandal and secrecy”.’ Despite this, Visentin notes that Premier Berejiklian and western Sydney director of the NSW Business Chamber David Borger remain committed to the move. Read more
18 December, 2017
‘Gig’s up’: Mike Baird could be forced to give evidence on Powerhouse Museum relocation
Rachel Eddie, in The New Daily, reports: ‘Former New South Wales premier Mike Baird could be forced to give evidence to explain his “thought bubble” to relocate the Powerhouse Museum. An upper house committee on Monday released a scathing interim report into the proposed relocation from Ultimo in central Sydney to Parramatta, at a projected cost of up to $1.5 billion. The inquiry’s deputy chair David Shoebridge, Greens MLC, said Mr Baird and his successor, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, had refused to give evidence. But … He hoped Mr Baird would voluntarily give evidence to explain “what on earth led to his thought bubble”…The Sydney Business Chamber’s western wing said it was “outrageous” the inquiry had failed to address the long-running inequality of cultural spending between the city’s east and west … Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the government was working to create a “working class museum in Parramatta”. Labor’s acting spokesperson for the arts Penny Sharpe said the Premier and Mr Baird ought to co-operate with the inquiry, release the business case and justify the decision to move the museum. “The government’s refusal to release the business case just continues the cloak of secrecy over this bungled project,” she said in a statement.’ Read more
18 December, 2017
‘Former New South Wales premier Mike Baird could be compelled to give evidence over plans to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta in Sydney’s west.’
In reporting on the release of the interim report for the Inquiry, Jackson Vernon, for ABC news, reminds us that: ‘The proposal was announced under Mike Baird’s leadership in 2015 as part of the development of an arts and cultural precinct in Western Sydney. Deputy chair David Shoebridge said the committee previously asked Mr Baird to front the inquiry and would extend another invitation. “Now that he’s a private citizen, if he doesn’t come and present voluntarily the committee now has the power to compel him,” he said.’ Vernon continues: ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin did not say when the [extended business] report would be released but said the Government had received it. “At first blush I’m really impressed with what’s been studied by the consultants and their proposal, but with all of these business cases they need to go through a checking process that’s undertaken by Infrastructure NSW and Treasury before the final decision is made to allocate the money,” he said.’ Read more
18 December, 2017
Upper House Inquiry: tabling of Interim Report on Museums and Galleries
For a full copy of the committee’s interim report, summary of recommendations and other inquiry documents see the committee’s webpage: Read more
While the full report of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries is expected early in 2018, a press release from the committee announced on 18 December: ‘The Upper House committee inquiring into museums and galleries in New South Wales has today tabled an interim report, urging the NSW Government to release the full business case for the Powerhouse Museum and all assessed proposals to the committee and the community for full public consultation before making its final decision. The Chair of the committee, the Hon Robert Borsak MLC, said: “The committee has issued this report in order for its recommendations to be considered by the government alongside the final business case relating to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum”. The report examines the proposal to relocate the Powerhouse Museum and concerns related to the costs, rationale, logistics and issues with the proposed new site. It also discusses other cultural investment options for Western Sydney. Mr Borsak said: “It is appalling that the decision to move the Powerhouse Museum was announced before either the preliminary or final business cases were prepared, and the exact costs and details of the move being known. This decision was made without any genuine consultation with the community or arts and cultural sector”.
15 December, 2016
‘Cultural Infrastructure Survey’ for NSW
A few days before the release of the Interim Report on the Museums and Galleries Inquiry, this invitation from the Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office (CIPMO) on 15 December to contribute to a survey, eventually filtered through into the new year of 2018. After an explanation of ‘cultural infrastructure’, two brief on-line questionnaires offered opportunity to comment by 11 February 2018.
However, while emphasis was on an infrastructure for important local arts activity, there was no mention of constituents’ needs and expectations for regional, or state museums and galleries. In fact, the only mention of ‘collections’ was in relation to whether there were local facilities, eg. warehouses, for storing artworks! Fortunately, a couple of open questions offered a chance to make wider needs and issues known. For access to the survey: Read more
5 December, 2017
The Powerhouse Museum: Status of the Inquiry and Business Plan
On Channel 10 Eyewitness News, Catalina Florez interviews a range of people in tracing the sequence of events since the Premier’s confirmation in July that the Powerhouse Museum would move to Parramatta. She finds that as well as those opposed to the plan, who are arguing for a review of alternatives, the Parramatta business community is losing confidence in the government’s planning process. Florez also notes that the argument opposing the move is being reinforced by strong criticism of the cost of proposed sports stadiums instead of necessary health and education services. And while it appears that the extended business case will not now be completed until early 2018, member of the Upper House Inquiry, MP David Shoebridge, advises that it is expected that their committee will provide an interim report before the end of December. Read more
1 December, 2017
Former Powerhouse Museum trustee calls for an end to uncertainty
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that: ‘A former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum has warned the institution will bleed large numbers of international visitors if the government proceeds with plans to relocate it to Parramatta. The prominent Sydney arts philanthropist, Dr Gene Sherman, said she would like to see the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ (MAAS) Centre for Fashion currently based in Ultimo remain in Sydney.’
While Sherman’s specific interest is in fashion [and the Powerhouse Museum Alliance reminds us there are many equally significant areas of the collection and audience interest that should remain in Ultimo], her comments echo those of many other audiences interested in different, and integrated, collections in the Museum. Morris continues: ‘Western Sydney deserved a “home grown” museum that could draw on the Powerhouse’s stored collection as well as travelling blockbuster exhibitions, Dr Sherman said. “It is a very good idea to build a museum in western Sydney, I think it is an excellent idea, but I think they need to split the [Powerhouse] museum into two or add a museum if they want to in western Sydney and I think they should make up their mind.” The extended business case for relocation is due to be completed next month. It was a question for the government “number crunchers” where in Sydney CBD the museum could be headquartered but given the expensive of moving objects, Dr Sherman said: “If I was guessing I would say, ‘just stay where you are for God’s sake’.” Read more
29 November, 2017
Kylie Winkworth’s Opinion Piece, published by AltMedia on the third anniversary of former Premier Baird’s announcement that the Powerhouse Museum would be transplanted, makes perceptive observations of the current situation in anticipation of the extended business plan and Upper House Inquiry report. She says: ‘Spare a thought for the poor Powerhouse Museum (PHM) this festive season. While its sister organisation the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) is rejoicing in the ministerial rubber stamp for the monster $344m Sydney Modern gallery on land belonging to the Royal Botanic Gardens, the PHM is desperately searching for dance partners to defend its ownership and right to stay in its architecturally significant buildings at Ultimo … There was not a peep out of the spruikers for cultural equity for Western Sydney when the Sydney Modern plans went on exhibition last week. It must have escaped … [notice] … that the Sydney Modern project will concentrate three public art museums in the city, while Parramatta, which is pitching itself as a creative city, is the only city in Western Sydney without an art gallery.’ Further discussion includes the implications of talks with UTS, concerns about the nature of a possible ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo and the effects of ‘remorseless budget cuts’. Read more
28 and 29 November, 2017
‘Exactly why are we spending $2 billion on new stadiums in Sydney?’ and ‘Questions surround stadium spending spree’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
Both the SMH Editorial on 28 November and Peter FitzSimons on 29 November question not only the government’s priorities for spending, in this case for sporting facilities, but also the process for making decisions and the real beneficiaries.
These concerns have many similarities with those regarding the potential demolition of the Powerhouse Museum and its inappropriate transfer out of the city to a location that has other needs. Read more and Read more ; Original announcement: Read more
24 November, 2017
‘November 28, 2017, Not a happy anniversary’
Representative of the Pyrmont History Group, Tom Lockley, summarises the three years of community efforts to save the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. He asks: ‘What is wrong with the Government’s project? Just about everything! For a start: there has been no consultation, the financial arrangements are horrific, PHM in its present building is a unique museum with irreplaceable heritage value and Parramatta wants a museum of its own choice!’ Lockley traces the history of the government’s proposal and the wide opposition to it, including the Upper House Inquiry and later limited government consultation and provides substantial references for further research. Read more: Anniversary Nov28
14 November, 2017
Powerhouse and University of Technology Sydney in partnership talks
Linda Morris revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum could strike a partnership with the University of Technology Sydney to allow the museum to retain a presence in Ultimo. The two institutions are holding talks and have canvassed the expansion of the university’s presence at the museum’s Harris Street site, including involvement in events, programs, exhibitions, joint appointments and the use of space for classrooms or studios.’ As the first public indication of what the ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo might be, she continues: ‘This could ultimately see the Powerhouse Museum’s curatorial expertise in science, technology, transport and engineering moved to its planned Parramatta site but decorative arts, fashion, design and architecture remain in some form at Ultimo.’ The Powerhouse’s founding director, Lindsay Sharp, argued that ‘all collections areas had a compelling inter-relationship and any attempt to break up the collection would be “contrary to reason”’ while a UTS spokeswoman ‘denied there were negotiations to purchase or lease the Harwood building, which houses the museum’s collection, to be redeveloped for classes, studios or student accommodation. But she confirmed the university was developing a memorandum of understanding to “facilitate further opportunities to work together closely” with the museum.’ Read more or PHM and UTS
[While strongly supporting associations with education institutions, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance has issued a Statement of Concern about this particular proposal.
Read more: Statement ]
22 November, 2017
Interview: ‘Parramatta’s historic female factory named a historic site’
Following the announcement that Parramatta’s Female Factory site had received national heritage listing, Suzette Meade, President of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) was interviewed in The Daily, on 2SER 107.3 community radio. She discussed the significance of the site to Parramatta and to Australia, and NPRAG’s concerns for current Urban Growth plans for destructive over-development, as well as NPRAG’s long-term lobby for consideration of alternative proposals that would have cultural as well as business and tourism benefits. Read more and podcast: http://bit.ly/2B0tlBg
15 November, 2017
‘Parramatta Female Factory named one of Australia’s most important heritage sites’
In reporting on the inclusion of Western Sydney’s Parramatta Female Factory precinct on the national heritage list, Nicole Hasham in the Sydney Morning Herald says: ‘The female factory precinct will become the nation’s 113th national heritage place and share the status and protection of other items on the list including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the Great Barrier Reef. The precinct has been at the centre of a battle between heritage advocates and the NSW government’s property development arm. As part of the North Parramatta Urban Transformation Program, UrbanGrowth NSW wants to build 3900 dwellings in buildings up to 30 storeys near the Female Factory site.’ Read more
14 November, 2017
‘Parramatta Female Factory Finally Placed on National Heritage List’
A press release from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) says they were: ‘thrilled at the addition of the Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct on the National Heritage List today after years of community lobbying for this outcome.’ Staunch opponents of overdevelopment on the site, NPRAG has also been arguing for Parramatta to have its own museums. ‘NPRAG spokesperson Steve Brancatisano said “…This is a site of exceptional significance and fully deserves inclusion. We now call on bipartisan support from both State and Federal Government to immediately advocate for this site to ascribed UNESCO World Heritage status, and call for an immediate moratorium on development until a World Heritage listing is formally proposed”.’
‘The National Heritage listing also places a cloud over the Parramatta Council meeting held on 13 November 2017, during which some Councillors chose to vote down a motion to commission a report to investigate the economic benefits of alternative uses of the entire Fleet Street Heritage Precinct, including tourism, education and the arts. Councillors also voted down a motion to meet with NPRAG and hear residents’ alternative vision over state government’s high density residential plans. “In light of this National Heritage Listing, why some Councillors wouldn’t want to explore the economic benefits of tourism, arts and culture for the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct … is highly unusual”, NPRAG President Suzette Meade said.’ Read more
16 November, 2017
New Sydney Modern project a ‘blueprint for one of the world’s great museums’
In a development project that expands access to contemporary art in the Sydney CBD and that has been contrasted with the lack of such a facility in Parramatta, James Robertson, in the Sydney Morning Herald, advises that on 22 November ‘Arts Minister Don Harwin will unveil the final design for the $344 million Sydney Modern project that will add a new standalone building to a 145-year-old gallery whose visitation has been declining. …The new project largely occupies space that is already under-used or disturbed, such as the land bridge overhanging the Eastern Distributor and disused WWII-era fuel tanks, the state government said.’ However: ‘… the announcement of the renovation sparked concerns from the Friends of the Botanic Gardens that the project amounted to a “land grab” of green space”. Read more
9 November, 2017
‘Powerhouse flying machines make way for Sydney Design Festival installation’ (web) and ‘Time to take off…a new idea has landed’ (print)
In the tense period of waiting for the extended business report on the future of the Powerhouse Museum (expected later in 2017) and the forthcoming report of the Upper House Inquiry committee (expected in March 2018), Linda Morris records in the Sydney Morning Herald the current removal of two significant aircraft previously suspended from the ceiling of the Turbine Hall at the Powerhouse Museum. These are to be replaced with ‘four multi-storied hanging periscopes … to launch the design festival in 2018, in its 20th year’.
Moving the now disassembled Transavia aircraft and autogyro to storage at Castle Hill is seen by some as the forerunner of implied future relocation, and ‘another step in the gradual attrition of the identity of the Powerhouse as a museum’, while the Museum representative, Peter Denman, said “people these days are excepting an immersive, changing experience and we want very much to be part of contemporary Sydney.” Significantly, he referred to the government’s role in future plans: “Yes, there is the new museum project. Yes, we have to do the work around [about] what does that mean for the collection but we are doing that at the invitation of government, on the instruction of government.” Read more
29 October, 2017
Upper House Inquiry: ‘Message of Hope’
The Save the Powerhouse group reports that: ‘So-called opinion surveys and community consultations in both locations even raised, temporarily, the possibility that the government was finally listening to voters. But since then? Nothing.’ However, ‘Upper House Inquiry Vice-Chair David Shoebridge offers a welcome note of optimism in a period of frustrating government silence: “I remain committed to getting to the bottom of the Powerhouse fiasco and this includes questioning former Premier Baird”.’ With the due date of the Inquiry Report now extended until 1 March, 2018, Shoebridge says: “I am hopeful that over November and December we will find a date when the committee can hold those further hearings and give the public the answers they need. You have not been forgotten!” Read more (29 October, 2017)
27 October, 2017
Parramatta project: questions of ownership, management and development procedure
Following the publication of the advertisement below, Craig Limkin, Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, who is managing the government office for the ‘new MAAS Museum’, wrote: ‘I can confirm that the NSW Government is not responsible for the recent job adverts managed by Capstone Recruitment for Senior Development Managers for a Theatre and Museum. Nor has the Government held any discussions with property developers in relation to this matter. We understand that the advertisements were placed by the City of Parramatta Council. The Council advised us that they reviewed their personnel needs and commenced recruiting two Senior Development Managers to assist the Council in relation to the new museum and the redevelopment of the theatre.’
This raises questions of future ownership, authority and development processes of whatever is decided for a museum in Parramatta. For more background, and for further responses from Limkin about the process Read more: Parramatta questions Oct 2017
25 October, 2017
Senior Development Officer: Museum Expert position advertised for Parramatta
For all those waiting in anticipation for the report on the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and for the extended business plan to be completed regarding the future of the Powerhouse Museum, it was a shock to see that in the last few days a position has already been advertised to ‘take the lead for the development and delivery of a major $700m Museum development project’, for a client described as ‘a private development team within a larger corporate’. As far as we all know there are no published decisions about exactly what is proposed for Parramatta, or what is proposed for the Ultimo site of the existing Museum. Read more: AdDevManagerOct2017
9 October, 2017
Project Sydney: ‘Dear Premier … don’t leave Sydney half built’
In the Daily Telegraph, a letter to the Premier from (mainly) 26 business people, commends the government’s spending on city infrastructure of nearly $73 billion over the next four years, saying it ‘…will help catapult our already wonderful city to a global powerhouse…’. Referring to protests about over-development and destruction of heritage and environment, it also says ‘It feels like a rough road at times, too. Opposition from NIMBY’S and naysayers has flared…’. Read more: Project Sydney_DT_9 Oct 2017
17 September, 2017
‘Moving exhibits: Curators tasked with handling Powerhouse Museum treasures’
During the period of waiting for the ‘extended business case’ for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, and the possible maintenance of a ‘cultural presence’ in Ultimo, Linda Morris in the Sun Herald follows her earlier articles such as ‘Whose idea was it to move the Powerhouse Museum in the first place’ (September 1, 2017) with a detailed investigation into the complexity of moving the extensive collection.
She interviews curatorial director Peter Denham about the scope, scale, process and cost, asking how will they deal with ‘the herculean effort facing the 14 conservators, 22 curators and 14 registration staff of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences as the NSW government pursues its business case to shift the museum to its preferred site on the banks of the Parramatta River.’? “Carefully,” curatorial director Peter Denham said. “Very large objects are the most complex to move in terms of weight and size but small objects can have equal significance and with these objects you don’t want to lose them either.”
Morris concludes: ‘As part of business case preparations for the relocation, “additional collections focused work” is being undertaken, reportedly scoping the collection and the complicated logistics of removal and storage. As with all information prepared for the business case this is considered to be cabinet in confidence.’ Read more or SMH 17 Sep 2017
7 September, 2017
Postponed: Ninth Inquiry Hearing announced for Monday 11 September 2017
On 30 August, the Upper House Inquiry website listed a ninth hearing to take place between 9:00 and 17:00 on 11 September, where it was understood the committee would call Premier Gladys Berejiklian, former premier, Mike Baird, and the former arts minister Troy Grant as witnesses, among others. On 7 September it was announced that the hearing was being postponed. Check here later to find new date and 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) <email@example.com>
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”.
27 July, 2017
‘Support from Western Sydney to keep the Powerhouse’
Linda Morris reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that at the first of two public forums: ‘A gathering of western Sydney residents has rejected the closure of the Powerhouse and expressed support for maintaining iconic world-class museums in Parramatta and the city… Ideas for the new riverbank museum raised by attendees included space for touring blockbuster exhibitions, a science and astronomy complex and a dedicated museum representing the city’s Indigenous heritage and its early convict history.’
While ‘Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber David Borger favoured total relocation’ … ‘Among resident groups, however, there seemed to be little mood for the downgrading of the Ultimo site. One attendee said: “I wouldn’t like to see it diminished in any way. The whole thing is constructed to sell off the site to their mates, to developers, so they can make squillions. I’m dead against that.” … and … ‘Heritage activist Phil Bradley said it should not be case of either or. The United States’ Smithsonian Institution consists of nineteen museums and galleries as well as a zoological park. “Western Sydney residents don’t support the wholesale removal of a world class museum from Ultimo just as western Sydney residents recognise that we deserve to have one as well,” he said.’ Read more
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com. 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
‘Powerhouse set to stay open but government promises Parramatta will get a world class museum’
Tony Bosworth, in The Parramatta Advertiser, announced of Harwin’s media release that: ‘The state government has all but confirmed the Powerhouse Museum will not be closed down in Ultimo and only some of its exhibits are likely to be sent to a new museum planned for Parramatta. Parramatta Council’s general manager Greg Dyer has previously told the Advertiser if the museum were not moved lock stock and barrel to Parramatta it would not be a good outcome. Minister Harwin said the government wanted to ensure what he called “the new world-class museum in Parramatta” was designed with input from the people of western Sydney … MP for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the expanded business case would ensure western Sydney was getting the best possible museum.’ 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.
5 June, 2016
Saying ‘For those who haven’t been outside today, it’s raining…’, Morris Short posts footage on his Facebook site showing torrents of water rushing under Lennox Bridge in Parramatta. Watch it here: 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. Read more: DT Article_PHM_19 Feb 2016
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.
Parramatta Pulse: ‘…plan to be fit for the future; vision brings new life to…river’.
In Parramatta Council’s Community Newsletter, July-September, 2015, the Parramatta Council confirms that (contrary to the wishes of neighbouring Auburn, Holroyd, Ryde and Hills Shire councils), it is supportive of amalgamating local councils as an ‘opportunity for Parramatta to move from being a well-run suburban council to a strong regional council at the centre of the largest growth corridor in Sydney’, with the capacity to ‘be a true partner to the State and Federal Governments…’.
At the same time, in ‘Vision brings new life to Parramatta River’, a plan ‘adopted by the Parramatta City Council’ proposes the development of the river foreshore as a public precinct for ‘walking, cycling, picnicking and hosting major events’. ‘This long-term vision will enhance the amenity and usability of the foreshore…’. Read more: Parramatta Pulse 2015
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.
2 March, 2015
‘Sydney risks becoming a dumb, disposable city for the rich’
Architect and urban design specialist, Philip Thalis, said in The Conversation:
‘The New South Wales government has announced plans to sell off the Ultimo site of the Powerhouse Museum, part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, and use the money to fund a new museum in western Sydney. The last part is positive – the rest would be a mistake.
It is commendable that the government is proposing major cultural institutions in western Sydney, particularly in centres like Parramatta … there has been chronic underinvestment in the city’s populous west. But to sell the Ultimo Powerhouse is wrong-headed – a mishmash of wedge politics and bad policy. Governments should understand that cities take decades and centuries to evolve, and that such rash decisions are at the expense of future generations.
Look at the smash-up at Darling Harbour. Why fashion a dumb, disposable city, where speculation is prioritised and where a slew of major public facilities are treated as discount commodities? As the best contemporary urban projects demonstrate, building a vibrant city balances economic decisions with thought-through cultural, social and environmental priorities.’ Read more
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.