Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor: published and unpublished
These letters refer to news reports such as those in our News Chronology.
You are invited to add to this page by emailing copies of both published and unpublished letters to newspapers, to info@powerhousemuseumalliance.com .
Please identify your name, the newspaper, whether published or unpublished, and the date. The letter will be added to this chronology.

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24 September, 2017
‘No Need to Move’ (The Sun-Herald)
Surely the Powerhouse Museum does not need to move precious exhibits such as the Boulton and Watt Engine and the Catalina flying boat. It has more than enough material to sustain both the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and a new Museum at Parramatta (“The treasures of the Powerhouse no small challenge for the movers”, September 17). Two engineers in my family gave their time and expertise to bring these two exhibits to reality. My late great uncle Bill Bannister oversaw the resurrection of the Boulton and Watt engine and my late father George Austin oversaw that of the Catalina flying boat. If these installations are moved, with subsequent damage, it will negate the knowledge, credibility and contribution of past engineering experts. Judith Williams, Epping

22 September, 2017
Moving collections (Sydney Morning Herald, unpublished)
Readers of Linda Morris’s article about moving the Powerhouse objects to Parramatta (SMH 16-17 Sep) might have gained the impression that the proposed move poses few problems. But the idea of ‘moving the Powerhouse’ was always a poor one, carrying significant risks and huge costs.
The museum’s staff can competently move thousands of small objects, although some irreplaceable items have been lost, and fragile ones broken, in transit. Peter Denham’s advice to move them ‘carefully’ is sound, but all that care (and planning, checking and tracking) comes at a cost.
But care is not sufficient when it comes to large objects, where the problem is much more than Denham’s ‘weight and size’. There is real risk to both objects and people. One staff member was badly injured a few years ago when a normally very careful team moved a heavy object between stores, and smaller accidents have damaged large objects in transit.
Historic aeroplanes are unwieldy and easily damaged. Moving and re-hanging each one requires an engineer, riggers and heavy equipment as well as experienced conservators.
To move locomotives and other very heavy objects, cranes and air skates need to be hired and operated by specialists. Given the new museum’s proposed flood plain location, these objects could not be displayed at ground level. The building would need very strong upper floors to take the load, and the objects must be installed early in museum development.
The highly significant 1785 Boulton and Watt engine is not a single lump of metal. It must be moved in parts, necessitating weeks of work by experienced conservators. In addition to the awkward-to-move beam and flywheel, there are several other heavy metal parts and large support timbers. Yes, they have all been moved before, but it is still a costly – and risky – task.  Debbie Rudder, Maroubra

5 September, 2017
‘Moving Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta would reduce its accessibility for most’ (Sydney Morning Herald)

Some suggest that, because Parramatta is the population centre of Sydney (actually Ermington is the current centre), the Powerhouse Museum should be moved there (Letters, September 4). This ignores the nature of Sydney’s public transport system with the rail network radiating out from Central Station. This means that the Powerhouse is easily accessible to the entire population of Sydney by public transport. Removing the museum from Ultimo reduces its accessibility for most living in Sydney as well as those visiting Sydney from interstate and overseas. Peter Wotton, Pyrmont

I worked in Parramatta for more than 20 years and I can assure you that a cultural centre it ain’t. Just take a walk down Church Street. The Riverside Theatre was for years very poorly patronised and my guess is that its use was in the main related to the exorbitant hire charges levied by the Sydney and Chatswood venues. There’s very limited parking, narrow streets and the railway station isn’t within walking distance of the proposed museum. Tourists visiting Sydney wouldn’t want to spend their precious time travelling to Parramatta along congested roadways, and unless tour operators included it in their itinerary, the relocated museum could well end up morphing into yet another hotel or converted to apartment living. Jean Byrne, Eastwood

May I make a plea for St Georges Terrace in Parramatta to be saved and restored? My late mother was born in that hospital as the seventh child to an impoverished family who lived in the terrace. Kathleen Chivers, Vincentia

4 September, 2017
‘Powerhouse has become a political football’ (print)
‘The reason recent premiers don’t like the Powerhouse Museum’ (online)
Letters to The Sydney Morning Herald: Read more 

About a month ago Anne Summers agonised about why the Coalition government is so full of hatred for a world famous, award-winning museum (“Powerhouse victim of another Sydney property grab”, August 5).
The simple answer is that it was created as the fulfilment of the vision of Neville Wran, one of the most outstanding premiers of NSW. I was frequently aware of political tribalism when I ran the place for 12 years. Regrettably, Wran’s heritage is now disregarded even by his Labor successors.
Present day Laborites are greedy for every west of Sydney vote they can get, but even more, they are bent on humiliating the Berejiklian government.  So the Powerhouse-to-Parramatta impasse has become a political football. It’s like one of the best Utopia scripts with ascending budgets but never any credible figures.
Arts Minister Don Harwin promises a world class iconic museum for the new riverside site. But how bizarre to shatter an existing world class iconic museum belonging to NSW to achieve his ends. If this phenomenal adaptation of a power station by a government architect, Lionel Glendenning, is vandalised, it will not go unnoticed across the world.
The solution, then, is simple. Parramatta apparently wants cultural enhancement beyond its theatre aspirations. So give it an art gallery. Make that “art museum” suit American trends.  Art museums are far less expensive in every way. Paintings are  easy to transport or store. Prints and drawings have special needs but these are easily and inexpensively met. Sculptures look heavy but over several decades, sculptors have developed synthetic techniques to fool the eye and mostly they are easily moved or stored.
Terence Measham, (former director, Powerhouse Museum), Umina Beach

Surely the answer to end the divisiveness would be to leave the Powerhouse in Ultimo and   provide  the growing western part of  Sydney with a truly relevant cultural institution:  a museum and research institute of multicultural Sydney (“Power play”, September 2-3). This  would be at the centre of multicultural Sydney, showcasing its long and rich history and what it means to the nation today. It could join the University of Western Sydney in  researching and studying  its  social implications and  advocating its benefits This could become a mecca for international visitors and  school visits from all over Australia. Don Beresford, Surry Hills

Arts Minister Don Harwin “insists”  that themed museums don’t get repeat visits. Museums, themed or not, get repeat visits because of changing temporary, including blockbuster exhibitions. For instance, the MCA and National Maritime Museum. Former premier Mike Baird ludicrously claimed last year that the Powerhouse at Parramatta would be “Australia’s answer to the Smithsonian”, which has 19 different museums and galleries on different sites (note: all themed). Treasury has ruled out spending one red cent on a Parramatta museum while large amounts will be spent upgrading the State Library and Art gallery and Australian Museum. Go figure! Great museums don’t demolish existing ones and transfer them to a new site. They add to them. Keith Parsons, Newcastle

I am disappointed by some of the commentary in the Herald on this issue. There are legitimate questions about costs and government secrecy, but objections about heritage, flood mitigation and engineering seem nothing more than furphies. The St George Terrace, referred to in one article as being under threat at the Parramatta site, is a sad row of neglected and commercially degraded terraces which would benefit immensely by being renovated and integrated into this project. The prospect of flooding has not stopped massive development along the river, and I can’t believe a 100-tonne loco has to be raised to the ceiling before some other solution is found. Indeed, I don’t see why the site can’t be built over the present robust above-ground car park.
Your feature article opines – “Parramatta is not Sydney’s west”. No, it is Sydney’s demographic centre, and the people of Sydney’s west – a vast and hungry audience, can breathe new life into this tried, underperforming institution. Social progressives should embrace this move, and not fall in behind inner-city elites. ​David Evans, Guildford

Regarding David Evans’ letter (04/09):  lnteresting proposal to build the museum on top of the existing car park. This would allow the ground floor of the museum to accommodate, two locos, three carriages, one tram, the Boulton & Watt and several other steam engines, the Satum 5 rocket engine and, of course the Catalina flying boat. The two nineteenth century cranes could then be used to move these objects about. lncidentally, I live in Pennant Hills not the inner city. Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills (unpublished)

Premier, please leave the Powerhouse Museum where it is. Simply commission a superb building at Parramatta. And move the majority of the Powerhouse’s unshown collection there. This could save millions of dollars. The real estate value of the Powerhouse site is “piddling” in comparison. Does Wran’s vision annoy this government? Christopher Davis, Boorowa

The Baird and Berejiklian governments’ secretive dealings with developers over the Powerhouse Museum relocation are shameful. The neglected heritage buildings at Cumberland Hospital would make a fine branch museum but it appears that UrbanGrowth NSW has vetoed museum use at this location to allow high-rise development. The proposed light rail through North Parramatta will provide good transport links.
Tony Simons, Balmain

 4 September: (Sydney Morning Herald, unpublished)
It was very brave of the SMH (Sept 3) to admit that it may have overreached a bit in its earlier support of shifting the Powerhouse to the West. The big question now is whether the government and Labor have the guts to do the same. The evidence of the absurdity of the costs involved and destruction of an iconic institution is overwhelming.
There is no good reason why a sensible discussion about the best way to satisfy the West’s  cultural deficit can’t be conducted with the help of many of the experts who have emerged during the debate—and know much more than the hugely expensive “consultants” currently  engaged. I am sure that both Don Harwin and Walt Secord, having been intimately involved in the investigations, will agree. It just needs Berejiklian and Foley to take a sensible view as well.
A backflip, if that’s what it has to be, makes goods political and economic sense if it is that right thing to do. Labor seems transfixed about taking political advantage of a revised decision rather than presenting sensible alternatives. Surely we are getting to a point where good sense should transcend politics—or is that just too much expect from both sides in this debate?
Trevor Kennedy, Millers Point.

Parramatta: listen to the community (Sydney Morning Herald, unpublished)
Alongside the recurring issues of secrecy and misinformation regarding costs, planning and consultation about the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, it should be noted that the large city of Parramatta, with its very diverse population, is the only one of the larger cities in greater Sydney that has NO art gallery. An arts cultural centre is a key element in any city, offering opportunity for local engagement as well as for touring exhibitions and, in Parramatta, for interaction with significant local history.
The City of Parramatta Council cultural plan shows that people want their own museums and their own city art gallery, to complement their theatre complex. They didn’t ask for a long-established state museum to be moved. Yet any expression of interest in a Parramatta gallery or museum has been overshadowed by the political attractions of state funding and ‘beating the CBD’ prestige. By the time the Council started ‘consulting’ the community (other than business leaders), the government’s offer of the Powerhouse was already offered on a plate and accepted. Many community responses could only reflect the leading questions that were asked after the relocation was announced. It is time to listen to people properly: there are better options for both locations. Grace Cochrane, Summer Hill

30 August, 2017
Letters: (Sydney Morning Herald)
Following a news report on 29 August, and the 8th hearing of the Upper House Inquiry, readers responded:
‘Following money in Powerhouse deal impossible’
There is a well-worn saying “Follow the money”. The secrecy surrounding the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum makes that impossible (“Billion dollar Power trip”, August 29). Who is breathing down the government’s and Gladys’ neck to get their hands on that land? Who and what favours are owed them or what kickback are they getting? Are the interests of the public, let alone faith in democratic processes already wafer thin, to be sacrificed so that some payback obligation can be met? It is a slippery slope indeed when politicians get into bed with big developers. Rosemary McDonald, Beecroft

Why is no consideration ever given to the artefacts and treasures presently stored out west and not on display? Why not create at Parramatta a museum that is an adjunct to our Powerhouse? It is not a matter of personal pride, Gladys Berejiklian, it is a matter of common sense. For once just say “no” to the developers. Nola Tucker, Kiama

So it goes on. The construction of Sydney’s light rail and the WestConnex are causing major disruption but there will be long-term benefit. Apartment blocks can be built anywhere, but please not on top of the historic museum and site at Ultimo. I am sure all fair-minded people including the residents of western Sydney would agree with that. Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

 The first party to ban the phrases: “cabinet in confidence” and “commercial in confidence” and any of their synonyms is guaranteed at least the balance of power in our next House of Representatives election. My crystal ball and this morning’s tea leaves tell me so.
Bob Scott, Eastlakes

With all that money rolling in from stamp duty and the sale of poles and wires the state government’s coffers must be awash with cash and Gladys Berejiklian seems desperate to give it away – $1.6 billion on unnecessary football stadiums and now $1.5 billion on an arguably unnecessary move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “gladhanding”. Garth Clarke, North Sydney

Moving the Powerhouse museum is not just about its contents but about showing the buildings of what used to be the The Ultimo Power Station, or Ultimo Powerhouse on the site where it first began in about 1899. What historical buildings and sites will be shipped out of Sydney next? The Rocks – to Rathmines, perhaps? The Opera House to Orange? Ariel Johnson,  Elizabeth Beach

5 August, 2017
‘Not a skerrick of good sense’ (unpublished)
Anne Summers’ Opinion Piece in the SMH today surely must make the Premier and her advisors, and the former Premier Mike Baird and his many and varied advisors, wake up and take notice. There is not a skerrick of good sense from beginning to end of this Powerhouse saga that can be shown to account for the waffle and hyperbole and expense, of declaring as policy an obvious ‘thought bubble’ to demolish and re-build the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. The Inquiry Report has not yet been delivered but as an observer on a couple of occasions and having read many of the transcripts, I can assure the Premier and the former Premier that the balance of probability is that the Report will not make the recommendation to demolish. In fact my sympathy is currently with the Premier in that she is having to bear the brunt of the former Premier’s huge mistake on this. But back to Anne Summers and her clear and forthright condemnation of the proposal: if the Premier and/or the former Premier can refute anything she says, they should do so now.  But as Summers requests, the government has to learn to love the museum as we the people of NSW do ‘and, in order to show that appreciation, invest in it.’ Jane Burns AM, Randwick. (unpublished)

3 August, 2017
‘River powerhouse’
(Sydney Morning Herald)
If I remember correctly, on the morning of Saturday, April 30, 1988, the Lennox bridge over the Parramatta River was closed because of flooding, and the chosen site for the new Powerhouse Museum would have been well and truly inundated. Let us hope that faith placed in subsequent upstream flood mitigation is not misplaced. Otherwise, it will be a sad legacy of this government if the contents of a museum showcasing our progressive mastering of natural forces were to be swept away by mother nature. Doug Walker, Baulkham Hills

All supporters of the Powerhouse Museum remaining where it is must be feel very happy at Gladys’ latest announcement because this means that the move is almost certainly not going to happen. Jim Henderson, Summer Hill

 2 August, 2017
‘The Powerhouse Museum is not a political toy box of electoral opportunity’
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Note to the Premier. The Powerhouse Museum is not a box of toys to be sent to a place of greater political opportunity (“Powerhouse plan short changes city”, August 1). Nor does Parramatta need the planes, trains and automobiles from Ultimo in order to build a new museum for the 21st century. The Powerhouse Museum belongs to the people of NSW, not the government of the day. We the people have endowed the museum through our taxes and generosity as donors to the collection. The museum is our legacy, the gift from previous generations to the present and the future. The Powerhouse Museum’s collections are held in trust for the people of NSW. They are not the tradable assets and political pawns of government.  Museums are built on foundations of public trust and the confidence of generations of donors and benefactors. That is what is betrayed by the Berejiklian Government’s reckless museum demolition plan. This government has no license to sell a well-loved cultural institution and fill the site with high rise apartments. Vacuous words about a remnant cultural space do not disguise the government’s uncivilised intent to destroy the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo. Kylie Winkworth, Newtown

It seems strange that the so-called sale of the flood-prone David Jones car park to the state government for $140 million as the site for a “bigger and better” Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta should occur one week before the beginning of the caretaker period for the local government elections on September 9. One can only wonder by what authority Amanda Chadwick, the unelected administrator of Parramatta Council, could have made this “deal” and on what basis the valuation was made. Was it because the council to be elected on September 9 might not consider it a good result for the ratepayers of Parramatta? Premier Berejiklian and her Arts Minister, Don Harwin, are insulting the intelligence of the people of Western Sydney.
Marina Garlick, Balmain

I agree with Andrew Nimmo with his view on the Powerhouse Museum and I know thousands of other Sydneysiders would agree. There should be two museums. It is obvious to everyone except the government. I would like to remind them that they are elected and paid by the public, to serve us and not sell property owned by the public. This state government should be called the Property Development Party as it is acting as a pseudo private business serving its own ambitions. I encourage everyone to go to the museum and enjoy the exhibits and the building, which is an amazing space inside with so much of its history still intact. It would be outright vandalism to tear it down. Mark Olesen, Ryde

So we have a NSW government decision to move the Powerhouse Museum, thus freeing up a valuable chunk of Ultimo for developers with no business plan or community consultation? Mr Baird who started this process will be grateful to Ms Berejiklian for yet another grand project in his new job of helping the bank to profit from former public assets. School kids wanting to visit the new museum will no doubt be able to travel there on a light rail system that necessitates several transfers to accommodate the inevitable alterations of track width on a journey of such magnitude. Marshall Smither, Manly

The people of Western Sydney deserve better than a museum named the Powerhouse. The people of Sydney and beyond, deserve better than the destruction of a historic museum at Ultimo, to be replaced by an apartment block and an undefined construct called a “cultural space”. Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

There is no information about the costs of the move, the construction of the new building, the amount of space to be made available, the future of the collections and the date of the opening. Museum specialists estimate the cost of the relocation could be approximately $1 billion. It is a matter of great concern that the Premier has made this decision while the state department’s consultation process and a business plan have yet to be completed. Without this information it is difficult to see how the public can have confidence in the validity of the proposal to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta. Darani Lewers, Seaforth

July 25, 2017
‘Design capital’ slips (Sydney Morning Herald)
How can Sydney ever consider becoming a ‘design capital’ (Letters July 24), when the Powerhouse Museum – the city’s only museum intentioned for design exhibitions and owning design artefacts – no longer has a design curator and is about to have a purpose-built Sulman architecture award-winning building demolished? Polly Seidler, Darlinghurst

5 May, 2017
‘Don’t like to be a moaner, but cut the politics’
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Given that the proposed Powerhouse Museum ‘political’ move to Parramatta is predicated on many of the founding myths of MONA (‘MONA divides Hobart’, May 4  Read more), do the people of Parramatta really want a second-hand museum, formerly known as Powerhouse, foisted up on them? Research suggests that cultural development in Parramatta informed by community consultation would see a cultural icon develop from their local Indigenous and colonial heritage. The Government should listen to the people, not the avaricious development lobby.
Lionel Glendenning, Russell Lea

 22 April, 2017
‘Hidden Treasure trove’: 
(Sydney Morning Herald)
It is curious that the Discovery Centre in Castle Hill never gets a mention in the debate on shifting the Powerhouse to the floodplains of Parramatta. The centre contains a huge display of items from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums, with $10 admission. Michael Bogle, Surry Hills

 21 April, 2017
 ‘Powerhouse still at risk’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
The signs are good regarding the Powerhouse Museum, but the battle is far from won (‘Powerhouse Museum may retain Ultimo site’ April 20). David Borger, in his unbridled enthusiasm for Western Sydney, is still prepared to convert the historic Powerhouse precinct into an apartment block. If that goes ahead, many capital items such as the priceless Boulton & Watt steam engine, the Catalina flying boat, Loco 1 and its carriages, will become collateral damage. Gary Horvai, Pennant Hills

21 April, 2017
‘Smithsonian, no less’ (The Daily Telegraph)
The Powerhouse Museum belongs to the people of NSW, not Parramatta, Ultimo or even Sydney. (‘Parra Power under threat’, 20/4) It shouldn’t be moved just because Mike Baird wanted to develop the existing site. Mr Baird publicly said it would be Australia’s Smithsonian. By all means! The Smithsonian consists of 19 museums and galleries on separate sites. Have a Powerhouse annex at Parramatta using exhibits from storage that never see the light of day. How about a Powerhouse Newcastle annex too? Keith Parsons, Newcastle

5 April, 2017
‘Parramatta parameter’
(The Daily Telegraph)
In response to Trevor Kennedy (4 April), David Borger supported Peter Collins’s argument (3 April) for moving the Powerhouse Museum in total. He referred to a recent Hill PDA Business Impact Study, but quoted only business figures for the city and made no reference to the costs of relocation, or acknowledgement of the cultural and heritage role of museums and galleries and their relationship to audiences and communities. David Borger, Western Sydney Business Chamber

 4 April, 2017
‘Powerhouse Conundrum’
(The Daily Telegraph)
What an appalling piece by Peter Collins (‘Museum’s place in the heart of the city’, 3/4 ). Not a lot of stats to justify his assertions that shifting the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta will create thousands of jobs and visitations and that our estimates of the costs involved in the transfer are overstated. Some more facts please. Trevor Kennedy, Milson’s Point.

21 December, 2016
‘Powerhouse recognised’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
The city’s original proposal, supported by Cate Blanchett, was for a harbourside walk from Walsh Bay to the Opera House – and that’s what’s been approved, a harbour trail that takes walkers from Darling Harbour around to Woolloomooloo (‘Blanchett’s cultural ribbon shredded, December 20).
The city is working on better way-finding signage and shared programming between cultural venues, and 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. I do not cave into government pressure – and the greatest challenge for the Powerhouse is the bipartisan Labor/Liberal agreement to destroy it. Clover Moore, Lord mayor, Sydney  (See also earlier council minute from Lord Mayor, in March 2015, confirming support for the Museum. 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) a swarm of angry letters followed.

‘Heritage comes last in growth of urban centres’
It is galling to see David Pitchford (Letters, November 24) crowing about vibrant communities and protecting Indigenous and colonial heritage in Parramatta North. We are having imposed on us a new, 30,000-seat football stadium, the answer to a question that no one asked. In the process, Parramatta Memorial Pool will be demolished, no proper consultation, no discussion, no commitment to a replacement. Surely a pool used every day of the year for recreation, learning, sport and general wellbeing trumps a monolithic edifice with limited public access, used largely for profit-making entities and the consequential promotion of alcohol and gambling? What’s vibrant about that?
As for the protection of Indigenous and colonial heritage, Urban Growth and the Baird government continue to ignore proposals for the restoration of the Cumberland Hospital Precinct as public open space and the heritage buildings preserved and used for cultural, learning and entertainment purposes. This precious precinct is inextricably linked to our Indigenous history and the very beginnings of the colony.
They incessantly peddle the lie that in order to preserve our heritage buildings it is necessary to flog off the open space for private development. Heritage is just a nuisance to this NSW government. Bob Edgar, Westmead

‘Greenery not UrbanGrowth in Parramatta’
I don’t mind David Pitchford – chief of UrbanGrowth NSW – tooting his own horn “Laying solid foundations to make communities vibrant” (Letters, November 24) but please make sure you are playing all the sheet music. He has conveniently just played the chorus the community in Parramatta hear over and over again: “restoring the heritage core”.
Mr Pitchford seems to have forgotten many verses of the UGNSW propaganda song. Like proposing to sell the surrounding 20 hectares of public land equally as historic for private residential development. Or the second verse of proposing 4000 private residential units in towers up to 30 stories just metres from the oldest convict female factory in Australia – ruining any chance of its well deserved Unesco world heritage listing.
Well we have a little ditty for you Mr Pitchford, and it goes like this: UrbanGrowth are not welcome by the community in Parramatta. We will be standing shoulder to shoulder to uphold our green ban Jack Mundey and the CFMEU placed on this entire site until you and the new “Landcom on steroids” hit the road. Suzette Meade, Toongabbie

Thank you David Pitchford, CEO UrbanGrowth NSW, but a great deal of what you are building or designing is not necessarily wanted by the general public. Barangaroo is an ongoing travesty and the Sydney Fish Markets looks likely to follow the same path. Don’t mention the Powerhouse Museum. Constantly we are being told what is good for us but very seldom, if ever, is this backed up by published business cases that demonstrate the need, the positive outcome and a cost/benefit to the public of the investment.
Greater Sydney is crying out for a properly integrated public transport system that will enable projects to be built in appropriate locations that are accessible to the general public by public transport. The only “growth” seems to be in the size of developers’ wallets. Robin Humphrey, Springwood

Thank you UrbanGrowth, my core competencies have never felt so value-added since I read your letter (November 24). If you could lay foundations on incomprehensible jargon, then the future of Sydney’s resilient and connected communities are indeed looking vibrant. I can’t tell you how impressed I am that you’ve reached 10 major milestones across your portfolio, because I have no idea what you are talking about. As for entering the marketplace, putting runs on the board and topping out something at Green Square, Great, I think? Or bad luck, maybe? Hopefully that landmark agreement you’ve signed involving university students in future city thinking will help? Any chance of some trees? Phil Bradshaw, Naremburn

David Pitchford your letter was a gem. All action, driving, achieving: ‘ten major milestones’, and ‘runs on the board’ buttressed with powerful abstractions: ‘foundations’, ‘landmark’, ‘marketplace’ and ‘transformations’, three of them. Took me back to my days in public service, just before afternoon tea and an early mark. Philip Moore, Fairlight

If UrbanGrowth NSW is involving university students in “future city thinking”, it might ask Sydney University students what they think of the ditching of two separate projects in recent years to provide a metro connection to Sydney University, a current proposal to build a western metro nowhere near it, and not even a light rail proposal to connect the University with the CBD.
Doug Walker, Baulkham Hills

David Pitchford of UrbanGrowth NSW states that plans for White Bay Power Station and Sydney Fish Markets “compares to Barangaroo”. Heaven help Sydney. Margaret Grove, Abbotsford

24 November, 2016
‘Laying solid foundations to make communities vibrant’
We can no longer let claims by your newspaper that we “do not have much of a record” go unchallenged (‘Terracotta Warriors’, November 22).
In its three short years, UrbanGrowth NSW has laid solid foundations to create vibrant, resilient and connected communities. To suggest otherwise is ill-informed and ignores an outstanding year for the organisation. In the last six months alone, we have reached at least 10 major milestones across our portfolio. If Sydney thinks it is lagging in major urban transformation projects, it need not panic.  After only two years, we have entered the marketplace on the White Bay Power Station and Sydney Fish Market projects. This compares to Barangaroo, which is still under construction 19 years since it first came onto the agenda. Since June we have put many “runs on the board”, including a transformation plan for Parramatta Road; topping out the first residential development at Green Square and unlocking more than 10,000 new home sites across Greater Sydney four months ahead of schedule. We also signed a landmark agreement with 10 NSW universities to involve students in future city thinking and commenced work on protecting our indigenous and colonial heritage at Parramatta North. As we plan for Sydney’s population growth, the case for sensible, sustainable urban transformation is stronger than ever.
David Pitchford, UrbanGrowth NSW CEO, Sydney

12 November, 2016
‘Another sell-off, another sell-out’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
What a disgrace to see the Lands and Education buildings, two priceless pieces of Sydney’s history, joining the long list of heritage assets flogged by the Baird Government (‘Another life for city’s grand old dame’, November 11). Gone for just $35m. There was no testing to see if these distinguished public buildings might have had another life as a design or history museum, two missing links in Sydney’s cultural infrastructure, or an extension of the Art Gallery of NSW. Next on the block is the Powerhouse Museum and the nationally significant Fleet Street heritage precinct in Parramatta, which has been part of the government domain since 1788. No other global city with any cultural ambition or civic sensibility would be selling these irreplaceable heritage assets out of public ownership. What price heritage? Well now we know, and it’s low, very low. The government is selling our heritage to developers for a pittance.
Kylie Winkworth, Newtown

Perhaps as an attempt to justify the ‘sale’ of yet another NSW government asset, this time the heritage-listed and prominent Sydney landmark, the Lands Building in Bridge Street, the spin doctors have spun the lie that the building was closed to the public since the 1880s. The building was purpose-built for the Lands Department, which occupied it from then until some years ago. For all that time the public had access to the building for business with that department and indeed there were public counters on the ground floor, which served as a shop front, open five days a week during business hours. I would suggest the Lands Building for most of its life had greater public access than most government offices of today. I worked in the building for over 14 years and in my role saw and interacted with countless members of the public. The alienation of this government-built and owned landmark to serve largely private interests is bad enough. To help justify it with an untruth is another matter.
Michael Ockwell, Griffith (ACT) Former Deputy Director-General, NSW Department of Conservation and Land Management

A massive, beautiful, sandstone government-owned building in the centre of Sydney is leased for a 103 years for a miserable $35 million to a hotel developer. Besides the madness of selling off another priceless state asset, the price seems absurdly low. Alan Morris, Eastlakes

7 November, 2016
‘Labor no Powerhouse’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
One can only agree with Lindsay Sharp’s analysis of the absurd and costly proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta (‘Panto horse designed by fools, November 5-6). But it is not only the Baird government at fault in this. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has resolutely refused to oppose the move, claiming that Labor will wait for the business case before deciding. At the same time, Walt Secord, Opposition spokesman for the arts, has been quoted in the press as saying he has supported the move since 2010, thus being in breach of his party’s official position. Secord is a member of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries and so has heard the overwhelming evidence against the Powerhouse move which has been presented to this committee.
The Labor Opposition needs to take a principled stand and support the retention of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. This need not preclude development of a cultural facility in Parramatta that the residents of western Sydney actually want. Marina Garlick, Balmain

5-6 November, 2016
Panto horse designed by fools’, on-line as ‘Gobbledygook masks the true colours of museum scheme’  (Sydney Morning Herald)
“Boilerplate” is American for corporate zombie-speak. Professor Barney Glover’s letter (November 3) is classic, meaningless drivel: “iconic, world-class, vision”. Such persiflage hides the truth of a project totally lacking in community consultation. It’s wasting hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of excellent facilities in magnificent, much awarded heritage buildings, located next to Darling Harbour’s revamped 40 million visitor destination and perfectly suited to the stories and experiences encompassed in world class collections. The myth has been busted that sale of the site will pay for a new facility in Parramatta, which many westerners do not want on a site which now appears not only flood-prone but also requiring additional, expensive consolidation.
Over 40 reports have been suppressed – as the Government Information Privacy Act (GIPA) sourced, Herald-facilitated 2015 documents have shown. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Board hides behind the disingenuous skirts of a rotting, secretive government. Inevitably, when subjected to methodical analysis, the so-called “final” business plan for Cabinet will demonstrate glaring gaps and questionable assumptions reinforcing the hugely expensive “move” of the Powerhouse Museum as a nonsense.
As with so many other mega projects, this one will prove subject to major cost blow outs. As for the esteemed director? Strange how, overwhelmingly, other experienced museologists disagree with the project’s fundamentals and so-called planning process. Far from being a camel – this is a pantomime horse designed by a ship of fools. Let us see the suppressed documents and carry out proper, thorough analysis of this “business plan” – aided by fulsome, honest responses from government at the Upper House Inquiry’s next hearing on November 14.
Lindsay Sharp, Foxground. (Founding director, Powerhouse Museum, 1978-1988)

4 November, 2016
‘Little confidence in cabinet secrets’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
I’m so glad Barney Glover (Letters, November 3) has cleared everything up. An ‘unprecedented opportunity’ and a ‘new iconic world-class museum’. How exciting! Regarding the points raised by Leo Schofield (Letters, October 27) and others, there’s no need to worry. It’s all in the business plan. Of course, in the best tradition of NSW politics, the business plan is “cabinet in confidence” – so no details can be revealed. We simply have to take Barney’s word for it that it will be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Just like the business plans for the Cross City Tunnel and the Lane Cove Tunnel, I guess. Bill Tango, Manly

Hooray. Just what we need, another business case that is ‘cabinet in confidence’, like WestConnex, the Northwest Rail Link, light rail projects, electricity/asset sales, etc. So, if the new museum at Parramatta doesn’t stack up, just like the others, we, the people, will not be allowed to know. Isn’t democracy great? Robin Humphrey, Springwood

3 November, 2016
‘Museum vision’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
In his recent letter (October 27) former Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) trustee, Leo Schofield, highlights some areas of clear misunderstanding in the building of a new Museum in Parramatta.
Firstly, considerations of cost, design, and collection management are the subject of a comprehensive business case, which is being prepared for government’s consideration. This business case will provide a detailed estimate of the project costs and establish a best practice recommendation for the museum’s transition.
Secondly, this business case is considered by government to be cabinet in confidence, and as such, it is not at the discretion of the museum’s director nor the trust president to release the detail of this document.
The museum is now faced with, subject to final approval by cabinet, an unprecedented opportunity to deliver on the government’s vision of a new, iconic world-class museum in Parramatta; an opportunity which requires creativity, innovation and energy. The MAAS Trust sees this energy and vision in the museum’s director Dolla Merrillees, who is a highly respected museum professional providing outstanding leadership and advocacy.
Barney Glover president, MAAS board of trustees.

27 October, 2016
‘Powerhouse problems’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
How grateful we must be that Andrew Taylor (“Plans to move the Powerhouse ‘don’t add up’“, October 26) is telling it like it is. There are no plans for the hijacking of the Power House Museum so the site can be flogged off to developers, no actual acquisition of land, no credible costings for the proposed move, no plans for the building, no nominated architect and an inexperienced director who seems not to be up to the job. The Baird government is attempting to paper over the yawning cracks in its cultural policy with the appointment of a silvertail celebrity committee to rubber stamp its plans. These aesthetic overlords – there are fifteen of them! – are well known in the modish world of contemporary art but have zero to little experience of museum practice and collection management.
It’s ironical that in its in-house, on line survey of public attitudes to the Powerhouse, now retro-brand the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the current board places more emphasis on fashion than on decorative arts, one of the strongest elements of the Powerhouse collection.
Leo Schofield Potts Point

 23 October, 2016
‘Plans for the west make no sense’, on-line as ‘Off the rails’ (The Sun-Herald)
The news that the NSW government’s plan for upgrading public transport facilities in Sydney’s west has blown out by $2.5 billion defies belief (“Baird’s bad news week: $2.5b rail blowout”, October 16). This announcement comes before a sod has been even been turned. We can be certain that the final cost will far exceed the revised estimate. How could it be so far out?
The other proposal for western Sydney’s development is the removal of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo to Parramatta. The cost of this is another example of government waste. The museum is very popular. The large majority of its visitors come from inner city residents and tourists. Few of these will travel all the way to Parramatta.
Furthermore, the disruption to the museum coupled with the loss of revenue during the changeover period will be immense. Many experienced staff will be lost. The whole concept makes no sense whatsoever and has not been properly thought through. Michael Wilson, St Ives

 7 September, 2016
‘Powerhouse proposal a monumental folly’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
I served for a decade on the board of trustees for the Powerhouse Museum from 1988. Over that period, Trevor Kennedy and I helped raise millions for the new museum, specifically to enrich an already irreplaceable, if somewhat eclectic, collection of 400,000 objects.
Imagine then, how dispiriting it has been to watch the gradual stripping of funds from the Powerhouse culminating in the absurd and profligate proposal to re-locate this historic institution in western Sydney (‘Powerhouse move could cost up to $1 billion’, September 6). Can de-accession of holdings and donations be the next move in the interests of ‘efficiency dividends’, whatever that phrase may mean.
In the torrent of weasel words spewed out by government to justify this folly, one finds scant mention of the word “collections” nor of the cultural and tourism value of restoring the Powerhouse to its rightful place in the cultural heart and affections of Sydney. It’s difficult to view the proposed move to Parramatta as anything other than yet another trophy disposal of a taxpayer-funded public asset to developers. Leo Schofield, Potts Point

The NSW government’s proposal to relocate the Powerhouse Museum is a bit like a proposal to move the British Museum from central London to Watford. Except for one thing. That would never happen in England. If this travesty is allowed to happen here, then it is for the developers who want the site for some appalling multi-storey block of units to stump up the billion-dollar cost of the relocation. Not the NSW tax-payers as outlined by this Baird government.
Peter Diamond, Berkley Vale

December, 2015
‘Responsible or reprehensible?’  (to SMH; unpublished)
In her account of the NSW government’s short-sighted decision to transplant the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta (Andrew Taylor, SMH 23/12), Liz-Anne Macgregor, herself director of a contemporary art gallery in Sydney CBD, has given no consideration to other options for the Museum’s future. Despite the privileged central location of her own institution, Macgregor is the Premier’s ‘cultural ambassador for western Sydney’.
It is impossible to believe that the Premier has sought no further opinions about alternatives to his rationale, widely perceived to be for raising money in the city and votes in the west. But it is true. When quizzed about researching other options for the development of the Museum, Macgregor told a small delegation recently that such considerations were not part of her role, and that she was not interested in exploring them. She represents only ‘the west’. And, irresponsibly, for both the Powerhouse and Parramatta, the Premier has not investigated further.
SMH readers are among the thousands of people who are part of a gigantic public backlash against the proposal to move the museum and demolish its historic site. They recognise that its unique integrated collection of science, technology, decorative arts, design and social history, is of international as well as Australian significance, and belongs in the city centre where it has been for over 130 years. The Powerhouse, depleted in staff and running costs, needs extension, certainly, but that can happen on the current or an adjacent site. It will cost many millions more to move the whole museum than the government will earn from sale of the property, so a total transplant can only result in a second-rate and less accessible facility in Parramatta.
Parramatta, of course, deserves its own contemporary and historical cultural institutions, while further options for the west can include branches or projects from all city-based state cultural institutions, but not thoughtless, poorly-researched total transfers.
It is reassuring that, as a result of a strong petition, questions will be raised in Parliament in February, with a demand to review the decision and seek professional advice from experienced people who know museums and their audiences, and who know this collection and its significance. Museum staff are not permitted to comment, and we have heard nothing from current Trustees. Are they gagged too? It is left to concerned outsiders, including politicians and former museum directors, curators, managers and trustees, and related organisations, planners and policymakers, to address the serious discrepancies in the current proposal. Based on considerable experience, many have already written informed and useful papers which can contribute to such a review. The government must take this responsibility seriously. Grace Cochrane, Summer Hill

 

 

 

 

 

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