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
21 December, 2016
Letter to SMH: ‘Powerhouse recognised’
Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, responds to criticism of the exclusion of the Powerhouse Museum and other sites from the proposed ‘cultural ribbon’, saying ‘… last week’s council resolution explicitly recognised the Powerhouse Museum as part of a future walk focused on the design/tech sector clustered in Pyrmont and Ultimo’, and that ‘I do not cave into government pressure – and the greatest challenge for the Powerhouse is the bipartisan Labor/Liberal agreement to destroy it.’ Read letter: dec-21-clover-moore
See also earlier council minute from Lord Mayor, in March 2015, confirming support for the Museum. 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
25 November, 2016
Letters: Sydney Morning Herald: Following CEO of UrbanGrowth NSW, David Pitchforth’s, defence of their planning proposals (see letter 24 November at end of page attached), a swarm of angry responses followed. Bob Edgar and Suzette Meade, defenders of the Cumberland Heritage site, criticise development without concerns for heritage in Parramatta, and five others condemn destructive development elsewhere, including Darling Harbour and the Powerhouse Museum. See: web-letters-25-nov
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.)
5 September, 2016
‘Powerhouse move to Parramatta could cost up to 1 Billion dollars.’
Andrew Taylor (SMH) reports on information provided in submissions to the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and on evidence given in the first day of public hearings. He cites comments on cost blow-out, poor government management with lack of collaboration and transparency, and apparent ‘slavish complicity of the current trustees’ to the proposition of moving the Powerhouse Museum. Read more
5-6 September, 2016
Upper House Inquiry: Museums and Galleries
Following receipt of 169 submissions to Legislative Council Standing Committee 4 for this Inquiry, public hearings took place on 5th and 6th September. These were followed by a committee visit to the Blue Mountains and Parramatta on 23rd September, and a further hearing at Parliament House on 4th October. The submissions, hearing agendas with participants, and transcripts of all discussion for these sessions can be found on the government website here: Read more. Open tabs for Submissions, Hearings and Transcripts.
6 August, 2016
In ‘The brutal truth: we’re trashing Sydney’s heritage’, Elizabeth Farrelly (SMH) writes ‘Whatever you call it, a culture that destroys its own treasures will end with no culture at all. And when the Heritage Minister explicitly places heritage below profit, it’s clear this endgame is in play.’ After documenting recent decisions to demolish significant buildings that should be heritage protected, she observes ‘ People are no longer nonchalant. They’re angry. What with Westconnex, the Anzac trees, the casino, coalmines, the Powerhouse, Parramatta, public housing sell-offs and CSG, I’ve never seen as many NSW-persons as angry as they are right now.’ Read more.
Call for Submissions to the Upper House Inquiry:
Following the announcement that there would be a NSW Government Upper House Inquiry into museums and galleries, including the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, and the possibility for better options for Parramatta, a call for submissions was made. Due date 14 August, 2016.
See Upper House Inquiry: Guidelines for Submission, on this website. Read more.
1 July, 2016
‘We’re starving our culture with cut after cut’. Elizabeth Farrelly (SMH) reminds us that, amongst other issues of concern: ‘The NAS occupies one of Australia’s most glorious architectural treasures, the old Darlinghurst Gaol. SCA’s home, Callan Park, is a gorgeous waterside acreage, lustily eyed by developers. Both were saved, 20 years ago, by prolonged and passionate protest.’ Read more.
28 June, 2016
Development and destruction? More historic buildings and organisations at risk:
As with the Powerhouse Museum, behind the announcement that Sydney College of the Arts will ‘merge’ with the UNSW School of Art and Design, and the possibility that the National Art School will be required to do the same, is the strong likelihood that the NSW Government will encourage ‘development’ on both historic sites. These are the Kirkbride buildings at Callan Park (SCA since 1998), and the old Darlinghurst Gaol (NAS since 1922). Criticism ranges from complaints about secrecy in decision-making to concerns about the loss of diversity in arts education and the lack of respect for historic sites.
See: Andrew Taylor (SMH) for National Art School: Read more. and for Sydney College of the Arts: Read more.
24 June, 2016
Upper House Inquiry into the Powerhouse relocation: Andrew Taylor reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that following submissions from a number of concerned groups and State Greens MP Jamie Parker, the NSW Legislative Council announced on June 23 that there would be an Upper House inquiry into the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, as part of a wider inquiry into NSW museums and galleries. Read more.
For submission details and terms of reference: Read more.
24 June, 2016
Despite the launch of the Upper House Inquiry into the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum – in response to widespread criticism about the lack of government consultation in Parramatta for the kind of cultural institution people might prefer, growing evidence of under-budgeting and secretive planning, and no concerns for the strong arguments for the Museum to remain in its current context – Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, and state Liberal MP, Geoff Lee, insist that the decision has been made and that the ‘haters’ should ‘get over it’.
20 June, 2016
NSW eTendering advertises a contract for the extensive work involved in planning to move the PHM collections from Ultimo. The work is to include seven ‘deliverables’: a collection relocation plan; program and timeline; storage analysis; relocation analysis, strategy and plan; capital and operating expenditure; risk assessment and procurement plan. The tender closed on 5 July 2016. Read more.
9 June, 2016
Following the experience of secret planning, ‘done deals’ and lack of consultation for the move of the Powerhouse Museum to make way for development in Ultimo, Melanie Kembrey reported that 13 private proposals for the development of the White Bay Power Station into a technology and innovation precinct were rejected, as the ‘NSW government seizes control…Apparent non-compliance of the brief raises questions of the clarity of the brief and “preferred model”.’
On June 10, Tarsha Finney suggested that non-compliance of the brief showed that ‘the private sector in NSW has lost its agency to deliver projects in the public interest,’ and noted that ‘a significant proportion of members of the architecture and planning professions in Sydney are bound to silence.’ Read more.
3 June, 2016
Paris and Parramatta: flood-prone sites?
On June 3, as the River Seine reached its highest levels in 35 years, curators at the Louvre ‘were scrambling to move some 250,000 artworks from basement storage areas at risk of flooding to safer areas upstairs.’ Read more.
Shortly after, over the weekend of 5-6 June, the Parramatta River burst its banks and flooded parts of the city including the proposed new site for the Powerhouse Museum, the former David Jones carpark. Read more. and Read more.
2 June, 2016
Lawrence Gibbons says the Powerhouse Museum is being shanghaied by Premier Baird: ‘the Liberal government’s plan to sell the current site to property developers and relocate the museum to riverbank in Parramatta has little to do with ensuring cultural equity for western Sydney and everything to do with transferring valuable public assets.’
1 June, 2016
Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Australia, argues that the development of a cultural institution in western Sydney should not be at the expense of the existing Powerhouse Museum: ‘…I am very disappointed to see the Baird government playing off one part of Sydney against another in this way.’
28 May, 2016
Protest rallies in Sydney for ‘Save the Powerhouse’.
On 28 May, the statewide Save the Powerhouse community campaign, based in Ultimo, mounted a second ‘Support the Powerhouse’ rally. A large crowd sheltered under umbrellas in driving rain to applaud speakers, and the campaign reported that following the event: ‘most of our speakers met to talk about the current position and ways forward for keeping the Powerhouse in Ultimo, while providing a new, world class museum in Parramatta’. See June 2 on: Read more.
The next day, May 29, the Save the Powerhouse campaign was also part of a 3000-strong protest at the Town Hall to protest about similar Baird government decisions that are affecting different parts of the community. Read more.
17 May, 2016
The release of FOI documents about the sale of the PHM reveals the museum collection could be split with a separate CBD venue for fashion and design. Other documents indicate that the overall cost of relocating the museum to Parramatta may be $450-500m, while the sale of the Ultimo site might raise just $130-250m.
21 April 2016
Elizabeth Farrelly asks does the government’s planned Powerhouse-to-Parramatta move make any sense at all, to anyone? She suggests it is the wrong museum move to the wrong site, arguing the Arts Gallery of NSW Sydney Modern extension should be built in Parramatta on the Cumberland Hospital site at North Parramatta.
16-17 April 2016
Analysis of visitor demographics for Sydney residents going to the Powerhouse Museum suggests that one in 15 people living in the city went to the museum, compared with one in 64 western Sydney residents. Urban planning expert Professor Paul James says a city the size of Sydney can sustain two museums. Premier Mike Baird believes that that a relocated Powerhouse Museum will attract one million visitors by 2030, although the business case to underpin this assertion has not been released.
15 April 2016
In one of her first interviews since she was appointed director of MAAS, Dolla Merrillees says she’s pretty confident of guiding the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, although she concedes she has not built a new museum, as the job advertisement outlined in the mix of skills and experience required for the position.
13 April 2016
Parramatta Council appears to backflip over the new Powerhouse museum being located on the DJs carpark riverside site.
12 April 2016
Everyone wants the Bilbao effect writes arts correspondent Matthew Westwood, who is sceptical of the proposed sale of the Ultimo Powerhouse museum and the move to Parramatta, noting the absence of costings, designs, and a business case.
12 April 2016
Premier Mike Baird defies opponents of the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta, saying he wants the shift to create a “Smithsonian” for Australia which would be the envy of the nation. Liberal MP for Parramatta Geoff Lee says it’s time for all those haters to get on board… David Borger says the new museum will be 40% bigger than the museum’s Ultimo site, while the government says it will have 40% more exhibits than the current Powerhouse.
11 April 2016
Writing in The Guardian, in a piece that attracted 491 comments, Paul Farrell says: to sell the museum’s land to developers is to sell off one of Sydney’s vital organs, like a cheap trafficker looking to make a buck…. It remains unclear why a new museum entirely couldn’t be constructed in Parramatta, while saving the Powerhouse site.
11 April 2016
Dolla Merrillees is appointed the new director of the Powerhouse Museum. She says I have been instrumental in and actively engaged in developing our vision for MAAS Parramatta as well as the business case to deliver a once in-a-generation opportunity to reinvent a museum for the future.
11 April 2016
Mike Baird refuses to guarantee the continued provision of cultural or community facilities at the site of the Powerhouse Museum, after nominating the new museum site on the banks of the Parramatta River.
11 April 2016
Announcing the site of the new museum, Arts Minister Troy Grant says the new Powerhouse Museum on the banks of the Parramatta River will be a major drawcard for local and international visitors and will increase the size of the collection on display by at least 40%.
11 April 2016
The Daily Telegraph announces the government’s decision to develop a new home for the Powerhouse Museum on the DJs carpark site on the Parramatta River, counting this decision as a major win in the paper’s `Fair go for the West’ campaign. The paper notes the move will cost hundreds of millions of dollars but the government would be expected to recoup much of that from the sale of the Ultimo site.
30 March 2016
Cultural and heritage groups from east and west meet in Parramatta, united in campaigning to save the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and working for Parramatta to have its own museum. North Parramatta Resident Action Group President Suzette Meade said “our government should be investing in a Museum of NSW prominently placed in the cradle of our modern nation – Parramatta”.
28 March 2016
The NSW Government is being urged to consider moving Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to a regional city instead of Parramatta. Orange City Council suggests the NSW Government consider relocating the museum to Orange. Noting the huge number of natural and cultural attractions in the region, Lucy White of Central NSW Tourism says it would be a great move for the State Government to invest in regional NSW.
11 March 2016
The Premier says the government is closing in on a location for the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. I say to the detractors, you can hate all you like but this is going to happen and it’s long, long overdue. Questioning the two museum site options North Parramatta Resident Action Group President Suzette Meade says, what a waste of taxpayers’ money to spend $10m researching two sites both local government and the community don’t believe the museum should be built on. It shows again the clear deficit in genuine community consultation by the state government.
11 March 2016
The mayor of Dubbo councillor Mathew Dickerson says that giving money to western Sydney for culture and the arts isn’t as important as giving it to regional areas. Western Sydney residents can still get to arts facilities in the city, while residents in regional NSW face major barriers. Noting the government’s promise to relocate the Powerhouse Museum he said when regional people are coming to Sydney they’re usually coming for services and facilities in Sydney, not in western Sydney.
5-6 March 2016
Commenting on why the Art Gallery of NSW extension should not be built on the Domain, eminent architect Andrew Andersons suggests that rather than moving the Powerhouse, the architects of Sydney Modern could design a satellite AGNSW West at Parramatta.
3 March 2015
Former Powerhouse Museum trustee and benefactor Leo Schofield slams the government’s plan to sell off the Powerhouse Museum site as ludicrous … it’s a land grab. It couldn’t survive the move.
2 March 2015
Eminent architect Philip Thalis criticises the proposed sell-off of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while supporting a new museum in Western Sydney. Calling the decision a mishmash of wedge politics and bad policy. He notes that the Powerhouse’s rare grandeur makes it manifestly unsuited to conversion [for apartments]. It’s ideal for its current purpose as a major museum…
29 February 2016
International planning expert Professor Paul Rees criticises the government’s planning for secondary CBDs, and the urban environment of Parramatta. Commenting on the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum he noted that transport and other issues needed fixing before building a magnificent cultural project.
25 February 2016
Parliamentary debate prompted by 10,000 signatures from citizens across Sydney and regional NSW, which called on the government to expand museum services to other parts of NSW but retain the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Alex Greenwich, Independent member for Sydney calls for an internationally significant museum that celebrates Western Sydney, not a downsized Powerhouse Museum that the Government does not even have a site for.
Read the speeches for and against here.
24 February 2016
Both sides in the cultural debate support a new museum in Western Sydney. Andrew Taylor outlines five options for a new museum that don’t involve selling off the Powerhouse at Ultimo.
19 February 2016
Daily Telegraph lambasts those who signed the letter supporting a new museum in Parramatta as city elites. Lobbyist and former arts minister Peter Collins says going west was logical given the Powerhouse Museum was easily transferable and would allow the museum to showcase its entire collection.
18 February 2016
Sydney Business Chamber Western Sydney director David Borger calls the open letter an “up yours to western Sydney”.
17 February 2016
Open letter signed by 178 leading figures in Sydney’s arts and business community calls on the government to reconsider its plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum, while supporting a distinctive cultural beacon in Parramatta.
16 February 2016
A summit at Parliament House organised by the Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich and Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker, brings together community representatives from Ultimo and Parramatta, and museum experts.
30 January 2016
Christopher Allen reviews the PHM’s Disobedient Objects exhibition, and describes the proposal to move the museum as little more than political expediency. He notes the impact the move to Parramatta will have on visitor numbers and access, and the potential of other options such as a multipurpose museum and exhibition space for use by all the cultural institutions, which would potentially have a more diverse program.
22 January 2016
The Arts Minister Troy Grant casts doubt over whether the state government will fund upgrades to cultural facilities in western Sydney and regional NSW, suggesting it is the primary responsibility of local government. This appears to be at odds with commitments in the 2014 Rebuilding NSW State Infrastructure Strategy that promised access to the $600m Cultural Infrastructure fund and co-investment in arts infrastructure with local government. Read more.
20 January 2016
Parramatta City councillors are unanimous in vetoing the DJs car park site as an option for the relocated Powerhouse Museum, claiming the government had not properly consulted with council about the location options for the new museum. North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said the government’s plan to move the Powerhouse out of Ultimo to Parramatta was nothing more than a cash-grab to sell another public asset and a gift to developers… NPRAG would like to see Parramatta house the Museum of NSW celebrating our cultural diversity from indigenous beginnings through to our rich migration history with nearly half our residents born overseas…The Fleet Street Heritage Precinct could see the creation of a cultural precinct with museums, art galleries and theatres married with the Female Factory.
Read more in the news and from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group.
11 January 2016
Joe Aston in the Financial Review notes there is no precedent for relocating a whole museum from the city centre, while there are many examples of major museums opening new branches or satellites.
23 December 2015
Liz Ann Mcgregor 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 Mcgregor says that it was about time the west had a fair go. She says the move of the Powerhouse is a fantastic opportunity to rethink the institution… It needs to go through changes and Parramatta isn’t that far…. Arts Minister Troy Grant says visitor numbers at the Powerhouse have dropped 180,000 between 2008 and 2014.
16 November 2015
Rally outside the Powerhouse Museum to protest plans for its relocation. Independent Alex Greenwich announces a Parliamentary debate in February 2016, prompted by 10,000 signatures on a petition supporting more museums in NSW, and asking the government to rethink its plans to move the museum. Arts Minster Troy Grant cites a drop in school groups and visitors as reasons to move the museum.
13 November 2015
Marcus Strom examines where the controversial idea to relocate the Powerhouse Museum came from. The resignation of Rose Hiscock prompts calls from museum experts for a rethink of the government’s plans to move the museum. But the president of the museum’s board Professor John Shine says Hiscock and the board are 100% behind the move to Parramatta.
10 November 2015
Rose Hiscock director of the Powerhouse Museum resigns just two years into a five year contract. While she thanks staff and volunteers, partners, members and visitors, she notably does not express support for the museum’s move to Parramatta. Read more.
Her resignation prompts calls for a rethink of the government’s decision. Read more.
17 September 2015
The Design Institute of Australia criticises the proposed move of the PHM to Parramatta. Noting the downgrading of design in the museum and the closure of the design gallery, leading industry figures argue the relocation will remove the PHM from design networks and make it even less relevant.
9 September 2015
The Arts Minister Troy Grant announces a short list of two sites for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta: the golf course on part of Parramatta Park near Westmead, or the former DJs car park site on the river.
Read more in the Arts Minister’s media release and in the news.
The National Trust of Australia (NSW ) declares that Sydney’s Ultimo Powerhouse Museum is threatened with closure, demolition and re-development. The Trust strongly opposes the sale by the NSW Government of the Powerhouse Museum for redevelopment and would also strongly oppose any demolition of the existing historic structure; the purpose built 1988 extension and extant components that demonstrate the Powerhouse’s original use. The Trust supports the establishment of a Parramatta branch of the museum with its own distinctive function and style…
5 August 2015
Powerhouse Museum is moving while opposition from museum supporters grows. President of the museum’s board professor John Shine says they are focussed on the unique opportunity to establish an iconic museum in Parramatta. He notes the only commitment we’ve been provided is that all proceeds from the urban renewal of the existing Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo will be committed towards funding the new museum at Parramatta.
15 June 2015
Trevor Kennedy writes in The Australian that we don’t need to put a bulldozer through the Powerhouse to support cultural development in Western Sydney. Surely there are better ways of handling GWS cultural needs than a greedy land grab.
25 March 2015
Western Sydney arts leaders question the government’s commitment to the West. Even the Powerhouse proposal is premised on a sale of the existing asset – what does that indicate’ asks Hania Radvan CEO of Penrith Performing and Visual Arts; we’ll only invest in the west if it costs us nothing. So far none of the government’s $600m cultural infrastructure fund is allocated to Western Sydney.
20 March 2015
‘Save the Powerhouse’ community campaign formed at a meeting at the Ultimo Community Centre, followed by the Save the Powerhouse Facebook page launched on the 30 March, now with a weekly post reach of nearly 25,000.
19 March 2015
The Powerhouse needs a revamp not a knockdown writes Elizabeth Farrelly in a commentary on the sale of public assets in NSW. Certainly Parramatta should have a major art institution…..Cultural institutions are city’s eye teeth, giving shape and personality. Noting the vibrant neighbourhood around the PHM, she says that Sydney doesn’t have so many creative precincts that it can afford to play fast and loose.
1 March 2015
Kirsty Needham asks why does the city have to lose a cultural icon to reinvigorate culture in the west? Using the Transport NSW website she calculates the trip to the new museum in Parramatta will be one hour and 20 minutes from Botany, and two hours and 20 minutes from Wollongong.
26 February 2015
Powerhouse Museum site to be sold to developers, expected to raise $150-200m. Rose Hiscock director of the Powerhouse Museums says she and her team are looking forward to building a world-class museum from the ground up.
25 February 2015
Daily Telegraph announces a win for their ‘Fair Go for the West’ campaign, with an exclusive on the Premier’s commitment to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The Premier will commit $10m towards relocating the Powerhouse to Parramatta, to be used to develop a business case for the move. The article lists four possible sites for the new museum, not including the golf course in Parramatta Park.
24 February 2015
‘Fair Go for the West’ Daily Telegraph campaign led by Liz Ann Mcgregor calls for museums to be moved west, the Powerhouse she says is the obvious candidate’.
Create in NSW Arts and Cultural Policy Framework launched. The policy includes a commitment to investigating the PHM to Parramatta move, although the Premier already announced the museum is moving in November 2014.
Building Western Sydney’s Cultural Arts Economy, prepared for Sydney Business Chamber by Deloittes urges the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Western Sydney, recommending that the relocation involves the full sale proceeds of the existing Powerhouse site in Eastern Sydney being quarantined to establish the new Museum in Western Sydney — with any surpluses used to fund future Powerhouse Museum programs in Western Sydney.
Read more in the report and in the news.
28 November 2014
Following the Infrastructure NSW report, Rose Hiscock director of the Powerhouse softens her position on relocating the PHM to Parramatta, putting out a statement that the museum welcomes the opportunity to be part of renewed cultural infrastructure in Western Sydney. We look forward to participating in the investigation into possible options. Michaela Boland in The Australian.
26 November 2014
Not waiting for a feasibility study, Premier Mike Baird announces the Powerhouse Museum will move to Parramatta.
Update to the 20 Year Infrastructure Strategy promises to:
- Plan for and prioritise investment in a new Parramatta Cultural Precinct, based around the Riverside Theatre Complex, the old David Jones site, Parramatta Stadium and the old Kings School
- Urgently consider relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to the Parramatta Cultural Precinct
- Promote sharing of collections from CBD-based institutions (such as the Australian Museum) with the Parramatta Cultural Precinct
29 October 2014
The Premier hints at more cultural funding for Western Sydney. Parramatta’s Lord Mayor Scott Lloyd says of the Powerhouse: The money they would get for selling their land in the city would definitely pay for a … wonderful building here in Parramatta that would actually have some room to grow.
29 October 2014
Infrastructure NSW, the body responsible for setting the direction for major projects across the state, wants to uproot at least some of the museum’s collection from its current Ultimo base, under a 20-year plan to be handed to the state government next month. The idea is being resisted by the museum, which is putting the final touches on a masterplan to redevelop the existing building to better integrate it with Darling Harbour. You can’t just pick up a museum and move it, said its director Rose Hiscock. We would be really open to considering something [in western Sydney], but it would need to be a satellite from this site, and a feasibility [study] needs to be done on what that might be.
The government releases the Rebuilding NSW State Infrastructure Strategy. Strategy includes the promise that the government will investigate the relocation of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection to Parramatta. CBD collections will be shared with new facilities at Parramatta and across Western Sydney. It also promises that the government will identify co-investment proposals for cultural infrastructure in Western Sydney and that engagement will commence immediately.
4 June 2014
Liz Ann Mcgregor, 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.