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Letters to the editor: published and unpublished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You are invited to add to this page by emailing copies of both published and unpublished letters to newspapers, to info@powerhousemuseumalliance.com .
Please identify your name, the newspaper, whether published or unpublished, and the date.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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5 May, 2018
(The Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Museums set sail’
As a kid growing up in Forbes I would go to a big hole in the ground where the locals tipped rubbish and dug out the skeletons of fossil fish (Letters, May 4). We have a beautiful lake and a river runs through the town. So I say move the Maritime Museum to Forbes. Go ahead Premier, put some of those old boats on prime movers and send them west. You’ll get my vote for sure.  Brian Mc Keown, Long Jetty

If the Powerhouse is to be moved to Parramatta, let it be done with due pomp and ceremony. Convey the museum’s contents down the hill to Darling Harbour, load them onto barges, and tow them conspicuously in procession up the Parramatta River to their new riverside home, surrounded by gushing fire tugs and politicians. Hopefully the exhibits will not be making a return journey on some future occasion of significant flooding in the Upper Parramatta River catchment. Doug Walker, Baulkham Hills

4 May, 2018
(The Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Keep mum on maritime museum’
Oh no, Jeffrey Mellefont, please don’t mention the Australian National Maritime Museum (Letters, May 3). The Premier might put it next on her list of cultural vandalism. Maybe it could be moved to Forbes or Wilcannia, where the locals could get a taste of the sea. Bill Tango, Manly

 ‘Massive task’
If moving the Boulton and Watt engine to Parramatta is a challenge, I would have thought moving the Powerhouse is an even greater one (Letters, May 3). All those bricks.  Kerry Norrie, Avalon Beach

4 May, 2018
(SMH unpublished)
I hope Gladys and her team are starting to worry about the coming election – I am just one of the many New South Wales voters who abhor the decision to dismantle the Powerhouse Museum. Kylie Winkworth has summed it up perfectly – what other world class city would even contemplate destroying part of its heritage? By world standards, Sydney is a young city, we need to retain as much of its history as we can. Unfortunately, the truth is that this Government has cooked up a plan to sell the site with the excuse that the Powerhouse Museum will be more effectively housed elsewhere – oh, and don’t forget the Fashion and Design Museum and Lyric Theatre to be put in its place – even though the Powerhouse already holds an extensive fashion design and textile collection. As for the Lyric Theatre, do you really think that is any compensation for the loss of a purpose built museum which, given the recent upgrading of the Ultimo precinct, can become even more attractive destination for visitors to Sydney. We are not happy. Virginia Hackney, Pacific Palms

3 May, 2018
(The Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Museum move shows the lack of respect for public’
Kylie Winkworth is right, the Powerhouse Museum is being being trashed (“Powerhouse plan betrays people of NSW”, May 2). I certainly did not donate my collection of fashion and pictorial images to see them sent out to a new site vulnerable to floods.
The current plans for the Powerhouse are an international disgrace. Perhaps a better way to describe what is about to happen is the murder of the museum. David Mist, Paddington

For almost every school holiday of my grandson’s short life he has attended an activity provided by the Powerhouse Museum. There is not the remotest possibility that any one would be able to transport my grandson to Parramatta to continue participating in these activities when the museum moves. Apart from the loss of a wonderful museum, the future removal of this facility for children is ill-conceived and very sad.
Why can’t we have two museums? Surely Sydney is big enough for two. I can only assume that there is a hidden agenda regarding the site in Ultimo. Lorraine Mulroney , Rosebery

Ms Winkworth’s article makes great logic. Unless you are the present state government. The fact some generic high-rise is already being constructed across the tramlines to the east of the Powerhouse shows this government is totally unconcerned with the historical significance of the site. No longer is it possible to view the Powerhouse as the building deserves.
If the government needs to reward developers, they should demolish the hotel buildings that line Murray Street, Pyrmont. Viewed from Darling Harbour, these buildings, with the ugly car park prominent, are a blot on the western landscape. Ian Fisher, Darlinghurst

It is right to condemn the closure and destruction of the Powerhouse. The state government has form in this area with the demolition of the previous Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour. It continues to waste taxpayer money on providing opportunities for its developer mates to make millions by knocking down old (and not so old) structures to build unnecessary replacements. History will show this government has no respect for our cultural history, heritage or environment. Tony Heathwood, Kiama Downs

Ms Winkworth got it absolutely right in every respect except for saying it was “the last major museum to open in Sydney” in 1988. The Australian National Maritime Museum opened in 1991, also thanks to the vision of Neville Wran, who collaborated with then prime minister Bob Hawke to put a new national cultural institution not in Canberra but on NSW government land in Darling Harbour. Jeffrey Mellefont, Coogee

2 May, 2018
(The Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Sydney a cultural desert’
Berlin, a city of 3.7 million has 170 museums (Letters, May 1). Sydney, an aspiring world city with a population of 5 million can barely count its museums on the fingers of one hand. Tourists struggle to find things to do when arriving in Sydney. It’s a cultural desert. Crushing the Powerhouse gives visitors one less reason to come.  Phil Morey, Kalaru

Do you think the Brits would move the Natural History Museum or National Gallery from Central London to Croydon or Watford?  Michelle Howes, Redfern

1 May, 2018
(The Illawarra Mercury)
‘Treating us with contempt’
This weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald (April 28) announced that the government has controversially agreed to fund the moving of the Powerhouse Museum to Paramatta at a cost of $645 million dollars.
Do you realise that this is enough money to fund the Gong Shuttle for two hundred years? And the government intends to spend huge sums on sports stadiums in Sydney So is the Berejiklian government simply treating Wollongong with contempt, or is the Department of Transport incompetent in negotiating funding? Joan Zealy, Balgownie

1 May, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Parramatta or Ultimo?’
Drive around Parramatta and have a look at the schools packed to the rafters in portable classrooms, understaffed hospital, homeless people, unemployed and ill people waiting for Godot in the mall. Check out the really crowded trains and and clogged roads in Parramatta CBD now, so what does this government want to give them? A planetarium. Why not stop this craziness and reassess: no more stadiums, toll roads, and moving a perfectly good museum.
Joy Goodsell, Leura

(The Daily Telegraph)
There is not a valid business case to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta.
Sydney could copy the Tate model where there are multiple sites across England — two in London, one in Liverpool, etc — and touring exhibitions could go to both sites. There are many items owned by the Powerhouse Museum which are permanently in storage.
Tourists to Sydney will never have the time to go to Parramatta. The public has never been told why the Powerhouse is the only museum singled out for removal. Nor do the costs really justify the transfer.
All Sydney would benefit from two sites. At one of the consultation meetings last July, Parramatta representatives clearly stated their preference was for a museum which reflected their city’s heritage. The government has also not clearly disclosed that the proposed site is in a known flood zone. The money for the large-scale repairs is not a valid reason to move when the cost of removal is so huge. S. Coleman, Sydney

30 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Government rides rough-shod’
What arrogance! (“Moving Powerhouse to top $1b”, Sun-Herald, April 29). The Berejiklian government is now proposing a bigger, better, brighter and especially taller development for the Powerhouse site in Ultimo. This is despite the objections of citizens and museum experts. This is despite not locating a business case for the project that was demanded by its own upper house inquiry. Why should we bother trying protect a community or a valued institution when the government just does what it wants?  Manuela Epstein, Pyrmont

It is sad to note that the so-called battlers of western Sydney could have had a free-standing purpose-designed museum without having a 50-storey apartment block overbearing it. Also they could have still had the opportunity to hop onto a limited-stop fast train and take the journey to Central and walked the Goods Line to a museum that exists today. Instead they will be walking towards a comprehensibly trashed Ultimo site now home to an ill-defined concept called a design and fashion museum. This is an insult to the memory of a museum that only 30 years ago was one of the pillars of the Bicentenary celebrations.  Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

The egregious, vainglorious, and saddening announcement about the fate of the Powerhouse, from Gladys and our state government, was expected. For the first time in 75 years I shall vote Labor at the next election.  Christopher Davis, Gundaroo

27 April, 2018
‘Governments must act on recycling’
(Brisbane Times, and Sydney Morning Herald)
Why not use the billions earmarked for rebuilding stadiums and moving the Powerhouse Museum into developing a state-of-the-art recycling centre? Get government back to its core purpose of providing services to the community. Peter Wilson, Quorrobolong

26 April, 2018
‘Cultural precinct for Parramatta’

(Sydney Morning Herald)
The new Sydney Modern wing of the Art Gallery NSW should be built at Parramatta, along with a new, and not relocated, Powerhouse Museum (“Gallery gains trees and new facade after complaints”, April 25). Wouldn’t that create a magnificent cultural precinct acknowledging Parramatta as a true Western Sydney City. Such a decision would also show inspired leadership from our government.  Julie Whitfield, Collaroy

26 April, 2018

‘Check the argument!’
(The Daily Telegraph, unpublished)
According to her own figures, Anna Caldwell’s argument that the Powerhouse Museum is the ‘domain of the inner city elite’ (“Great gallery divide”, 25 April) doesn’t hold up. If only 25 % of visitors are from the inner city, that means 75% are from western and regional NSW, other Australian states and countries overseas. Surely that is what you would expect from a state museum! It reflects its well-established identity, its collection significance and its radial accessibility. Audiences are more than numbers; those figures will not transfer to a different venue. Mayor Andrew Wilson’s desire for a ‘flagship arts institution’ could start with a regional gallery which would directly benefit local artists and audiences, like every other similar city (such as Campbelltown and Manly), and a museum relevant to Parramatta’s own significant history. No other city institutions are being forced to move, but all can contribute.
Grace Cochrane, Summer Hill

20 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Governments should ignore experts

Most would not be surprised that the advice of independent experts was disregarded by Transport for NSW (“Report reveals culture of mistrust in NSW transport”, April 19). Governments frequently ignore the advice of experts when it’s not to their liking, so I suggest they stop wasting taxpayer funds on consultants. They should simply dispense with the whole charade, and just impose their disastrous plans on us, à la the Berejiklian government.  Graham Lum, North Rocks

The NSW government has done its best to hide a raft of controversial matters such as the Land Titles Office privatisation, the light rail cost blowout, WestConnex, the Powerhouse and stadiums. Secretive transport chiefs are only following the bad example set by Cabinet.
Peter Mahoney, Oatley

19 April, 2018
(The Daily Telegraph)
I have been following Parramatta Council debates but can find no discussions of the Powerhouse move since the re-elected council took office (‘The west deserves best,’ 18/4). We need to be assured that the idea has the support of the local elected government.
Tom Lockley, Pyrmont

(The Daily Telegraph, unpublished)
30 years ago the Powerhouse Museum was the centre point of the Bicentenary Celebrations. If as you say refurbishment of the museum would cost millions, then surely that is the fault of the current government. (‘Secret  2014 report warned NSW government…’ 18 April). In 2014 a new management was appointed and things were on the up and up, then in early 2015 the government pulled the plug and the site was to be sold to developers. Three years on the management/ staff/volunteers are still living in a sea of uncertainty. Your comment “Wresting a prized museum from the inner city elite …”, is either a noble goal for Parramatta or ends up with visitors looking at a 50-storey apartment block that has no educational value.
Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

18 April, 2018
‘Homework to be done’

(Sydney Morning Herald)
At a time of smoky burn-offs round the city, and in the context of childhood nostalgia for burning in backyard rubbish drums, Andy Marks questions the proposal to build a new incinerator at Eastern Creek (‘Powerhouse stoush adds fuel to fire that is burning talent in western Sydney’, 16 April). But he criticises it in the context of “cultural vandalism” in moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and regional equity for arts funding, saying ‘Critics of the Powerhouse move or other measures to redress … arts investment inequity … might want to consider the potential going up in smoke out West.’ I have to ask: if he is the assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University, does his nostalgia not run to remembering how to do his homework? Does he not read, or listen? Critics of the move of the Powerhouse are very much in favour of a museum – and art gallery – in Parramatta; one that is directly relevant to Parramatta audiences, like all other regional centres! Not, however at the cost of destroying an established state institution. Grace Cochrane, Summer Hill

17 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Room for two museums’
I take issue with Andy Marks’ comments that those in favour of keeping the Powerhouse Museum where it is think that those in the West would “probably burn art and break good china” (“Powerhouse stoush adds more fuel to cultural fire”, April 16).
On the contrary, there is much support for building a second museum in Parramatta that could showcase many of the Powerhouse exhibits that are now in storage with little likelihood of being displayed. Sydney is big enough to support another quality museum. Ann Eskens, Crows Nest

16 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
‘NSW government avoids scrutiny’
Your assessment of the NSW government is far too generous (“NSW government: good at big ideas, not the execution”, April 14-15). What we have is a government that has a minimalist understanding of democracy, is hell-bent on selling off as many state assets as possible and embarking on highly dubious projects that are mainly orientated towards the big end of town. Of course, all of this is done with minimal or no public consultation or scrutiny.
Alan Morris, Eastlakes

I cannot agree with your editorial suggesting that the current government has good ideas, but is poor in execution. I do not see much sign of good ideas, much less planning. The ideology of privatisation and outsourcing has become a nightmare for our state. Jock Webb, Narromine

The coyness about releasing a business plan for the Powerhouse, the stadiums, the light rail and more makes one suspect that for many governments and their business buddies, the most precious freedom of all is freedom from democracy. Lloyd Swanton, Wentworth Falls

Once we had a public service, We had engineers, legal eagles, and those with years of experience with government contracts. We then introduced the bonus schemes, and the easiest way to maximise was to get rid of people. We now have to depend upon so-called consultants, all care and very little experience in the complexities of government works. The outcome: contractors making a fortune and we the taxpayers pay. The current eastern suburbs fiasco, win or lose the court case, will cost us billions. We should place the blame with those who don’t understand that it takes real people with experience and skills to deliver major government contracts, and the buck rests with our politicians.  DÁrcy Hardy, North Turramurra

14 April, 2018
‘Powerhouse secrecy means case is flawed’
Liberal Matthew Mason-Cox has my support for one (“Rogue MP angers Libs as Labor backflips”, April 13). We are left to assume the government’s secrecy with their business case can only be because they know it doesn’t stack up. It is also widely known that the Powerhouse has masses of exhibits in storage and there is no reason why the Parramatta Powerhouse can’t also be built and the collections rotated. Why this shocking extravagance by the government?
Kay Buckeridge, Mosman

If the government cannot make a reasonable case open to public scrutiny, then you can only assume it’s not in the public interest. Roger Knight, Turramurra

Mr Mason-Cox has shown that if you have a different opinion to the party room you face being excluded from the Liberal Party room. So much for being a representative of the people. It makes a mockery of being elected by the people of your electorate to represent their views to the Parliament. John Bracey, Forestville

So a senior government source said Mr Mason-Cox’s actions could see him excluded from the Liberal Party room. I thought the Liberal Party believed in the conscience vote.
Tony Brownlow, Cronulla

The Government has decided to destroy the Powerhouse, an internationally recognised gem of science and technology. It’s to be sacrificed by relocation and development. No-one ever comes to cities to visit another apartment block, but millions come to visit world-class institutions. John Burman, Lighthouse Beach

Why refer to Mr Mason-Cox as a “rogue” MP? Surely it is the Government that has gone rogue. Susan Donegan, Invergowrie

Mr Mason-Cox crosses the floor to force the Government to release the Powerhouse business case 90 days earlier. The problem is the Government needs those 90 days to write up the case. Charles Jaggers, Castlecrag

The importance of the Powerhouse is not only the highly significant artefacts inside, but the vision demonstrated by the likes of Neville Wran and Dr Lindsay Sharpe in its creation. Vision, a quality this Government sorely lacks.  Kent Mayo, Uralla

If this Government thought it would get away with it, it would move the Opera House. What a great site for more high-rise. Andrew McPherson, Kalaru

International design competition. Brand new exciting shiny iconic cultural arts venue for Parramatta on high ground. Powerhouse stays where it is. Lots of money saved. No brainer. Get on with it. James Buckman, Enmore

13 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
‘Why not a new museum entirely?’
Far from opposing the establishment of a new arts institution in western Sydney, I strongly support it (“Wran widow ‘crushed’ by plan to shift Powerhouse”, April 12). But why can’t we leave the Powerhouse intact and create an altogether new and different kind of museum or gallery in the west? One with its own ‘identity , vision and daring ambitions’, to quote Michael Dagostino, the director of the Campbelltown Arts Centre. Perhaps this new institution might invite other state and national museums and galleries to show their best in innovatively curated exhibitions on an occasional basis. Blockbuster exhibitions could also include a period in western Sydney. That way the people of the west would get to see the best that is on offer from right around the nation. The idea of decommissioning the Powerhouse, of shutting down any first-rate cultural institution, is so deeply flawed, as is arts funding generally in NSW. It appears this government thinks that it has dispatched its cultural obligations by spending a vast sum of money on the Art Gallery of NSW while other great state cultural institutions are left begging and demoralised.
Jill Wran, Woollahra

NSW still does not have a migration museum. Parramatta would be the right place for it. In our submission to the inquiry about the Powerhouse Museum we made the case for it. In the discussion about the Powerhouse Museum, which should stay where it is, no mention was ever made about alternatives for western Sydney. In this multicultural society the display of the very many migrant groups need a home. They exist in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Broken Hill. Could we shift the discussion to this very worthwhile cause?
Klaas Woldring, secretary, Dutch Australian Cultural Centre

Of course, Michael Dagostino, western Sydney should have a museum. Of course, it would be nice for locals to be able to stroll over to the Parramatta River and admire various artefacts but why does it mean another museum has to be annihilated to do so? Jill Wran is right; the cultural relevance of the Powerhouse must be retained. It is ideally sited and the present building is an honest testimony to an industrial Sydney that no longer exists. Why trash history so the area can be made hideous with massive blocks of flats? Nola Tucker, Kiama

12 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Time for the government to go
It is encouraging to see Matthew Mason-Cox highlighting some of the many instances of lack of planning, business cases and consultation from this NSW government (“Powerhouse plan needs a rethink”, April 11). And they just keep on doing it. Light rail, WestConnex, land clearing, stadiums, Powerhouse, destroying mature trees in the city, destroying TAFE, uncontrolled apartment building and so many more. And then they try to tell us what wonderful financial managers they are as they sell off the state’s services and assets. Surely it’s time for the Governor to step in and dismiss this lot. Geoff Wannan, Dawes Point

It’s encouraging to find a member of the ruling state Liberal Party, Mason-Cox, saying exactly what all of us are thinking – that this government has an unfortunate tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. So far there have been no fewer than seven situations involving billions of dollars in which the government have failed to either prepare a proper business plan or consult fully with the public, the proposed Powerhouse move will mark the eighth. There is only one solution. Vote them out at the next election and then maybe they’ll have time to consider the folly of not listening to us and be a better government the next time they win.
Michael Morton-Evans, Mosman

Why does our state government repeatedly concern itself only with a ”business case” when examining proposals such as the Powerhouse relocation? The primary question must be: will this proposal benefit the citizens of the state? Every cost and benefit analysis of every issue must include this question at its core. Otherwise the impression is one of stitched-up deals by a latter-day Rum Corps. David Baird, Burradoo

The NSW government’s decision to move the Powerhouse Museum has no apparent reason other than freeing up real estate for their developer mates.  Ben Cato, Bonnet Bay

11 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald, unpublished)
As an interstate person who visits the Powerhouse Museum almost every time I come to Sydney, I think I can speak for many tourists when I say that the proposals for its removal to Paramatta are a source of great sadness. Time is always limited when I visit, and a trip to Paramatta, beautiful and historical as it is, is simply not on the agenda. “Build it and they will come” is a fantasy. Build it in the wrong place and they simply WON’T come. The centre of Sydney is home to many museums and art galleries, and there is a synergy to proximity, just as KFC and Macca’s have found. I profoundly hope that those making the decision are not blinded by the lure of immediate cash, and recognise that in the longer term the greatest financial benefits are to be had right where the Powerhouse Museum is right now. Dr Roderick Ewins, Nubeena, Tasmania

Just on three and a half years ago, the government announced its thought bubble of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Since then, there has been a constant stream of informed criticism of this idea. A multi-party Legislative Council has heard overwhelming evidence of the stupidity of the original proposal, and has issued a statement calling for the government to release the full business case for the ‘move’ for full public consultation before making its final decision. Yet none of the basic objections raised have been answered, or even acknowledged, by the government, which is determined to press on regardless. I have long realised that it is useless debating issues with creationists, climate change deniers, anti-vaccination activists and Trump supporters. The normal rules of debate, reasoned argument and factual analysis just do not apply. It is terrifying to realise that we must now add our government to this category.
Tom Lockley, Pyrmont

7 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Orwellian low reached
Arts minister Don Harwin has reached a new Orwellian low in his attempt to defy logic using “double speak” (“Labor changes tune on Powerhouse move”, April 6). Labor has built fantastic cultural infrastructure throughout Sydney and NSW, in spite of the Liberal Party’s scorched-earth attitude to “kulture”.
Don, you are very wrong. You and your doomed government are destroying the Powerhouse Museum and creating a shell in Parramatta to buy voters with shameless pork barrelling so you can continue your giant NSW sell-off.
Cultural jewels, like the award-winning Powerhouse, part of a Labor cultural crown of Sydney museums and galleries, is the outstanding legacy of their stewardship.
Selling the state’s assets to the highest bidder then over-developing and user-charging the people is not good government and neither is destroying existing cultural infrastructure.
Lionel Glendenning, Architect of Record, Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum is an asset to all of Sydney, NSW, Australia and even world travellers. It is not the province of just western Sydney and belongs in the centre of Sydney. To flog it off so a few developers can build their monolithic money-making skyscrapers is a crime against all that makes this city. This government has made an art form of debasing all it governs into corporation mentality, with no regards to environments or the artistic and educational life of a city. It is time we took to the streets over the Powerhouse Museum. Tony Lewis, Mount Victoria

5 April, 2018
Powerhouse is not for sale
(Sydney Morning Herald)
This hapless Berejiklian government is the most destructive in the history of NSW (Letters, April 4). Funded by, and representing developers, it has destroyed everything from suburbs, to native habitats, to magnificent 100-year-old trees, to social housing and anything and everything that belongs to the people. We used to own many valuable assets; they’ve sold the majority of them and now, in their ideological pursuit of the dollar, they have their eyes on the people’s Powerhouse Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
It is not theirs to sell. It belongs to us. But, fronted by the parroting Perrottet, this government intends to sell off the marvellous Powerhouse to its developer mates, so they can inundate us with even more soaring, sterile apartment blocks.
This is a criminal act. The analogy? Let us say that we owned a house, fully furnished with valuable antiques. It has been rented out for four years on a strict lease. Then one day you see an ad on eBay offering antique furnishings for sale, at fire-sale prices. The description leaves you in no doubt that these come from your leased house. You have not given permission for your property’s disposal; the tenants have simply taken your property and are selling them.
This is the modus operandi of the privatise-at-any price Berejiklian government. Flogging our Powerhouse? These greedy vandals should be arrested. Rod Miller, Epping

3 April, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Government showing its contempt for public opinion again
For a government poised to make a controversial decision, an informed public is the last thing it wants (“Powerhouse business case secret for 90 days”, April 2) It would not surprise if the NSW government has already decided to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta and sell off the current heritage-listed premises in Ultimo. The 90 days before the business case is made available to the public will allow time for a government campaign to support a decision presented as a fait accompli.
Most governments prefer to avoid making reasoned cases for their policies. I was working at the Premier’s Department when the Greiner government introduced freedom of information legislation in 1989 and some government members and senior public servants had serious doubts. Even with FOI legislation, extracting information from the government is like pulling teeth, with the final barrier being the government’s ability to mark papers “Cabinet in confidence”.
Withholding the business case for 90 days shows contempt for public opinion as the initial decision to move the Powerhouse was announced by Premier Mike Baird in 2015.
James Moore, Kogarah

Why the secrecy about the future of the Powerhouse Museum? Show the same consideration for the museum as the stadiums and release the business case now. Would a new museum at Parramatta and refurbishment of the existing museum at Ultimo be too much to hope for?  Judith Campbell, Drummoyne

I had to check the date yesterday morning. The Berejiklian government will make the investment decision to move the Powerhouse Museum and then 90 days later release the business case. Please tell me this is an April Fool’s Day joke! Even so, the business case will only be about money, no heritage or ethical decisions countenanced by this government.
Doreen Howard, South Hurstville

I thought we lived in a democracy. How can a government withhold
justification (or no justification) for a project until after approval
has been given? Leave the Powerhouse Museum where it is for the whole of Sydney and build an annex at Parramatta. Pamela Zopf, Guildford

Our democratically elected minister will not release the business case for ”moving” the museum to Parramatta, and from past experience we know that this means that they will not release the consultants’ advice that underpins the business case or even the advice given to the consultants by Peter Root, undoubtedly the expert in moving the exhibits. (He set up the current display for the 1988 opening.) Inexcusable. But Treasury procedures require that the ”null case” (the case for maintaining the status quo) must first be examined in the process of preparing a business case. This must be followed by a financial examination of options for achieving the desired result, (in this case, improving the cultural facilities of Parramatta). If this basic information is not released, what peaceful means of democratic process remain? Tom Lockley, Pyrmont

30 March, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Gladys Berejiklian should go further to halt spending spree
Sanity has prevailed in the matter of the proposed stadium rebuild. Does this retreat signal a halt to Gladys’ spendathon?
Perhaps a review of other demented developer-driven proposals such as the fire sale of Sydney’s historic colonial buildings, the rape of the Domain and Botanical Gardens to make way for a pathetic rinse of Tate Modern and the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta is in order. One can only hope so. Leo Schofield, Potts Point

25 March, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald, unpublished)
Arts minister Harwin claims the latest Powerhouse Museum travesty, the transformation of exhibition space into a ‘collaborative classroom’, is exciting (‘Gallery’s new life paints mixed picture for museum’, by Linda Morris 23/3/18). Who could be excited to see a space that for many years held a wealth of objects, stories and ideas now filled with a blandness of large tables, high podiums and huge screens?
For museum managers to claim it will use the space to present ‘exceptional formal and informal learning experiences’ is pure spin. The Powerhouse’s three existing classrooms, four learning studios and small science lab were all empty when I visited the same day that Morris’s article was published. Only the interactive ‘Lab’ was abuzz with schoolchildren, reflecting the museum’s strong emphasis on informal learning. Debbie Rudder, Maroubra

23 March, 2018
(Sydney Morning Herald, unpublished)
What is happening to the Powerhouse Museum (Linda Morris, SMH 23/3) is a disgrace of equal if not greater proportions than the crazy stadiums plan. A compliant management and board appears to have no regard for the great significance of the buildings, collections and location within the museums precinct of the distinct value of this wonderful institution. As with the stadiums there are much better, more sensible and more economic solutions but the  government doesn’t listen. The Labor Party also seems AWOL. Trevor Kennedy, Millers Point.

21 March, 2018
Powerhouse ploy is death by design
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Fashion balls, leasing exhibition spaces for students, it certainly seems as if the Powerhouse Museum is destined for the scrap-heap by stealth (“Gallery’s new life paints a mixed picture for museum”, March 23). I recently visited the Museum’s Discovery Centre at Castle Hill where 95 per cent of the collections are stored. On the basis of the small amount of material on public display there (the balance is in five huge storage buildings) there is more than enough significant material to fill a second museum at Parramatta. But is this what the residents of Parramatta actually want, or is it just a thought bubble from a couple of politicians? Any so-called business case that supports the move of the Powerhouse Museum has to be flawed.
Marina Garlick, Balmain

Shame on the NSW government which is intent on destroying the Powerhouse Museum by a process of white-anting – removing its qualified curators and much of its experienced museum staff, destroying morale and losing beneficiaries and sponsorship, and now turning its exhibition spaces into classrooms for courses such as Fundamentals of Business Finance, Economics for Business and Accounting for Business Decisions. Outrageous! Anne Schofield, Woollahra

The Powerhouse Museum is being destroyed by a relentless process orchestrated behind closed doors. The effect this long running uncertainty has on volunteers, and in particular on the museum’s staff, is hard to imagine. It must not be allowed to continue.
Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

 

11 March, 2018

(Sydney Morning Herald)
Gladys, please bring on the election ASAP. I for one am really looking forward to the newly elected Labor Party’s special commission of inquiry into your stadiums bulldoze/rebuild being viable, self-funding, needed and actually wanted by the majority of NSW voters. Maybe they can get two for the price of one by including the Powerhouse Museum. The ICAC could have been right on top of this, if you hadn’t effectively neutered it! Russell Burford, Ballina

10 March, 2018
Dumbing down dives deeper (Sydney Morning Herald)
One must wonder what the current board of trustees of the Powerhouse Museum and the misguided management team at this once vital Sydney cultural institution were thinking when they sanctioned the albeit temporary conversion of the museum into a playpen for a bunch of coke-snorting parochial C-list “celebrities” (“Fashion ball appears to be more fun, less fundraiser”, March 8). It is distressing enough that the myopic state government persists with its risible plan to relocate this august institution from its historic location in the heart of Sydney to Parramatta, a satellite city whose locals are agog with indifference at the prospect, but for the current management, whose collective curatorial experience is mostly in the field of visual art, to propose a move away from scholarship to tawdry showmanship is salt in the wounds of those thousands of Sydneysiders like myself who love, respect and battle for the preservation and public enjoyment of a unique and priceless collection. Sadly, this latest foray into modish populism is indicative of the current dumbing down of so many elements of our society and heritage. Leo Schofield, Potts Point

Maybe the committee for the Powerhouse Fashion Museum for the Powerhouse Fashion Museum need to talk to the committee of The Silver Party on how to run a successful fundraiser. The generous attendees at the recently held Silver Party donated nearly $1 million to the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick’s Child Health Research and Innovation project.
Angela Miller, Bondi Junction

9 March, 2018
Heritage loses out to high-rise  (Sydney Morning Herald)
Alan Mascaren has written a very thoughtful and factual piece about the demise of Parramatta as we know it. (“Disneyland for Developers”, March 8). So much has been lost already and the last remnants of our heritage and community are in grave danger. Parramatta has a State MP who prefers high-rise over heritage. Parramatta Female Factory dates back to 1813, the oldest group of intact colonial buildings in this country alongside some very important Indigenous sites. Australia’s great opportunity to preserve and showcase our history and culture, one would think.
This state government sees it as great opportunity to “revitalise” the precinct by swamping it with high-rise, roads and retail and plunging a light rail to nowhere through the middle of it. Parramatta War Memorial Pool. Stolen. Parramatta MP Geoff Lee steadfastly ignored pleas from the local schools, families, pensioners, community and sporting groups to keep the pool open.
Parramatta residents have been left without a pool indefinitely as the new stadium rises to the benefit of the NRL, the FFA, Parramatta Eels, Wanderers, alcohol and gambling interests. Corporations before communities. The Powerhouse Museum relocation, it has only ever been about the real estate value in Ultimo. The Royal Oak Hotel, one of Australia’s oldest existing pubs, will be the next in a long list of important historic buildings lost in Parramatta. Premier Gladys describes herself as a great listener, she doesn’t hear much. Bob Edgar, Westmead

9 March, 2018
Powerhouse museum: staff morale (SMH unpublished)
The issues with the Fashion Ball are a separate matter. (‘Fashion ball appears to be more fun, less fundraiser’, SMH 8 March). However, it is a timely reminder that over three years of uncertainty are hanging over the fate of the Powerhouse Museum. What this is doing to the morale of volunteers and especially to the staff is hard to imagine. If grinding down the museum is part of the Government’s plan, then they are doing a great job. Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

27 February, 2018
Powerhouse rubbed out (Sydney Morning Herald)
Much as the Soviet propagandists of Stalin’s time cut images of Trotsky out of the history books, it seems that the state government is doing its best to consign the Powerhouse Museum to cultural oblivion while it’s still open. As trams approach Exhibition Station in Darling Harbour, a recorded announcement tells us that this is the stop for the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre and sundry other local attractions, but not a word about the Powerhouse, which is clearly visible through the windows. I have a sneaking suspicion we are being softened up for the institution’s impending destruction. Pat Sheil, Camperdown

14 February, 2018 (Goulburn Post)
I recently visited the Powerhouse Museum where I discovered a trove of engrossing exhibits attended to by knowledgeable volunteers. One of the highlights of the Powerhouse is the space in which the exhibits are housed. The atmosphere resonates with the industrial workings of a bygone era which engenders a sense of purpose and wonder.
How desperately disappointing it is that the New South Wales government intends to destroy this cultural marvel. What is stopping the state government from creating an additional museum at Parramatta and maintaining the current Powerhouse Museum? It surely cannot be lack of money for $2 billion has recently been proposed for sporting facility upgrades. In its present form, the Powerhouse Museum is one of Australia’s major cultural assets. A politically vulnerable target, it could easily and permanently be lost to present and future generations as a victim of costly and short-sighted decision making. Is this what the government wants for the people of NSW and visitors to our state? Stephen Chapman, Middle Arm, NSW

28 December, 2017
Cut the public servants and just call in the consultants
(ref “Consultants spree busts NSW budget by $250m”, December 27)
Outside consultants were employed by the NSW government to advise on the Powerhouse Museum “move” to Parramatta for one simple reason: they were told to report on how the move was to be made, therefore avoiding the basic question of whether there were not better and cheaper ways of achieving the declared aim of improving the cultural facilities of Western Sydney.
This “move” idea also would have enabled the sale of the Powerhouse site to developers, virtually the only people benefiting from this disastrously wasteful project. The taskforce of SES employees entrusted with the preparation for the move is also under contract to carry out the declared project, not to consider basic matters as above. The result is that a stupid and wasteful policy is still being supported. The early participation of a skilled and independent public service would probably have prevented this. Tom Lockley, Pyrmont

6-7 December, 2017
‘City may not stand tomorrow’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
Sixty years ago the Cahill expressway was opened to traffic. Most Sydneysiders and visitors look at this excrescence, this concrete gash across the face of Sydney, and silently mutter “What were they thinking?” This well may become the city’s mantra as future generations take in the mauling that has continued to endure as venal governments in cahoots with profit-mad developers continue their joint rampage, gobbling up green space, felling noble trees, expanding floor-space ratios to make way for gimcrack featureless towers without any thought for public amenity, any plausible vision of the future. Consider the wholesale flogging off of our historic buildings, the squandering of billions of dollars on unnecessary new stadiums, the obscene plans for the all-glass Sydney Modern where paintings will somehow be suspended on glass curtain walls as the proposed extension chews up more of the Domain, the ludicrous vote-buying plan to move the Powerhouse museum to Parramatta. In his powerful poem Ozymandias, Percy Shelley wrote: “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Or in contemporary parlance, “What were they thinking?” Leo Schofield, Potts Point

5 December, 2017
‘Sydney stadium splurge ignores broader interests of others’  (Sydney Morning Herald)
The NSW government has not “got its priorities right”, as stated by Sports Minister Stuart Ayres, in its commitment to the unnecessary demolition and reconstruction of two stadiums, one 30 years old, one less than 20 (“Stadium spree draws ire”, December 4).
The government continues to neglect its four world class collecting institutions: the State Library of NSW, Art Gallery of NSW, Australian Museum and Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. Limitations on recurrent funding and staffing have forced the State Library to lose a quarter of its staff under this Coalition government. Specialist staff are needed to conserve and exhibit its unparalleled collection of Australia’s heritage, assist readers and researchers, engage with our exploding digital heritage and support public libraries in communities from Bourke to Tumbarumba.
Capital funding is just as scarce, even though the library needs a fraction of the funds committed to the stadium redevelopment. The collection is of incalculable cultural value, includes many World Heritage items and is one of the state’s top 20 assets, now valued at more than $3 billion. But some of that irreplaceable collection has to be located on floors constructed during WWII that are wholly inadequate. Pleas and proposals to address this dire need have been rejected out of hand even though it is 30 years since the library has had an extension.
Sydney shamefully lacks both a “Scienceworks”, unlike Canberra, Melbourne and Perth, and an institution committed to the documentation of our ethnic and cultural diversity and the immigration that fed it, unlike Adelaide and Melbourne. In prioritising stadiums over culture, the government continues the tradition of ignoring the broad cultural and educational interests of the people of Sydney and NSW. Alex Byrne, Glebe

4 December, 2017 (Sydney Morning Herald: unpublished)
Living in rural New South Wales I value the opportunity to visit the many cultural institutions of Sydney. Recently I visited the Powerhouse Museum where I discovered a trove of engrossing exhibits attended to by knowledgeable volunteers. One of the highlights of the Powerhouse is the space in which the exhibits are housed. The atmosphere resonates with the industrial workings of a bygone era which engenders a sense of purpose and wonder.
How desperately disappointing it is that the New South Wales government intends to destroy this cultural marvel. What is stopping the state government from creating an additional museum at Parramatta and maintaining the current Powerhouse Museum? It surely cannot be lack of money for $2 billion has recently been proposed for sporting facility upgrades. In its present form, the Powerhouse Museum is one of Australia’s major cultural assets. A politically vulnerable target, it could easily and permanently be lost to present and future generations as a victim of costly and short-sighted decision making. Is this what the government wants for the people of NSW and visitors to our state? Stephen Chapman, Middle Arm, NSW

2 December, 2017
(Sydney Morning Herald: unpublished)
‘Don’t forget that the Powerhouse Museum is an integrated collection’
Philanthropist Gene Sherman’s arguments (Former Powerhouse Museum trustee calls for an end to uncertainty, December 1) to leave the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while ‘Western Sydney deserved a “home grown” museum that could draw on the Powerhouse’s stored collection as well as travelling blockbuster exhibitions,’ are shared by thousands in the many informed audiences who know the museum should stay where it is. Significantly, the government planners need to understand that while Sherman’s own particular interest is in fashion, there are many other equally important areas of the decorative arts and design collections that need to stay in Ultimo for the same reasons: contemporary and historical ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, jewellery and metalwork – and many others. Moreover, the special characteristic of this museum is that the juxtaposition of these areas with the rich social history, science and technology collections allows stories to be told in ways that cannot happen if everything is irrevocably divided up and banished from its context. Grace Cochrane, Summer Hill

1 December, 2017
(Sydney Morning Herald) The NSW Liberals are showing themselves to be no friends of their junior partner.  The Orange by-election showed just how vulnerable the Nationals are when the government ignores the regions. And the ads for alternative conservative parties at the next election are almost writing themselves: $2 billion replacing two Sydney football stadiums, $2 billion to move a Sydney Museum 15 kilometres and $50 billion on Sydney roads. If I was the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party I would be preselecting candidates now. Tony Walbran, Dee Why

28 November, 2017
(Sydney Morning Herald) For this, and more about stadiums: Read more  
‘Viability in question’
Three years ago today, the NSW government announced that the Powerhouse Museum would be moved to Parramatta. It is obviously an unresearched “thought bubble” made into inflexible policy, with so many obvious defects that space cannot even permit a summary. Since then, a huge and constant protest movement has been mounted by major arts organisations and a “who’s who” of Sydney’s (and Parramatta’s) arts and cultural scene – to say nothing of hundreds of outraged ordinary people like me. A huge petition forced a Legislative Council Inquiry, beginning September 2016 and still continuing. It is attracting massive numbers of submissions and is hearing massive amounts of expert evidence that is overwhelmingly against the “move”. Government witnesses hide behind the mantra “cabinet in confidence” in refusing to divulge even the most basic facts.
There were signs this year that a consultation process might occur. Meetings were held in Parramatta and Ultimo in late July, and many questions were asked of the government. There has been no response to any of these basic questions about the viability of the project. The special website that the government set up to facilitate communication and consultation has had no relevant information and indeed no postings at all for nearly four months. In NSW, premier state of this supposedly democratic country, what must the people do to be heard by their government? Tom Lockley, Pyrmont

27 November, 2017
‘Stadiums’ $2.3b spending a shocking extravagance’
(Sydney Morning Herald) For these and other letters Read more
See also comment on stadiums: Read more  and Read more 

Gladys, I’m sorry but you’ve lost my vote (“When we build them, the crowds will come”, November 25-26 Read more ).  Coming on the heels of the unnecessary massive cost involved in shifting the Powerhouse Museum and your focus on roads, rather than prioritising rail, the $2.3b (and sure to rise) on stadiums is a shocking extravagance when your government cries poor on a litany of other, far more important issues. You are recently quoted stating there is an economic case to justify this extraordinary exercise, so please do feel free to articulate your position. I won’t comment on Allianz, other than to ask how do taxpayers know that the replacement won’t be as poor quality as the current one?  If Roman stadiums have stood for a thousand years, then with all our technology, why can’t yours last more than 50 years?  Kay Buckeridge, Mosman

During the 1960s and 70s many Third World countries erected great sporting edifices  ostensibly to celebrate great national sporting triumphs, but subsequently found them to be more useful  in accommodating  political opponents prior to their execution. That sort of thing, of course, could never happen in Australia but one does get the feeling that in spending over two billion dollars of taxpayers money on such complexes Gladys Berejiklian is signing her own political death warrant.  Michael Turner, Culburra beach

It really is time the Sydney Opera House was torn down and replaced, on the same spot. The poor old thing has been there for 44 years now and those sails just don’t seem to hold the wind the way they used to. A nice rebuild might provide for possibly dozens more patrons. And don’t get me started on that shabby old 1932 “Coathanger”! Bob Guy, Cootamundra

So NSW is so tight for money that we had to cut ICAC funding by half.  Now we spend billions subsidising stadium construction without a business case even being made public.  Its Barangaroo all over.  I wonder how many political donations it takes to get a stadium built.  Restore ICAC now. Frank Gasparre, Eastwood

As a landscape architect I am appalled at the decision to sink $2 billion  into rebuilding the Alliance and ANZ stadiums.  If this was about sport, we could build at least 200 first class district level, rugby/football/cricket sports centres in Western Sydney.  It’s an outrageous extravagance!   Martin O’Dea, Lilyfield

15 November, 2017
‘How the west was won’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
The University of Western Sydney was one of the important motivations for Baird’s decisions to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta (“Powerhouse chases deal with UTS to retain Ultimo ties”, November 14). It beggars belief that it took this long for some people to realise that the Powerhouse precinct is almost already a part of UTS’s campus. The “curatorial expertise in science technology transport and engineering” is the very essence of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, it is not a transportable concept. The University of Western Sydney and Parramatta deserve to have their own museum. MAAS has a vast collection in storage, MAAS can help stock any museum. The elephant in the room is, as always, how much will the government require raised from developers for the partial or total sale of the Powerhouse precinct.
Garry Horvai, Pennant Hills

I was trying to explain to a friend from London that the Powerhouse Museum was being moved from Ultimo to Parramatta (“Powerhouse chases deal on Ultimo ties”, November 14). She was puzzled for a few minutes, but then said, “I get it. It’d be like moving the Victoria and Albert to Slough.” Patricia Farrar, Concord

Does the NSW Government, Premier and Arts Minister not see the irony in destroying the Powerhouse Museum by moving the collection from the vast heritage unrestricted large scale spaces – so perfect for the large science, technology and transport exhibitions – and replacing them with ‘fashion’? ( ‘Powerhouse flying machines make way for Sydney Design Festival installation’, November 9) Lionel Glendenning, Russell Lea (unpublished)

Thanks to the SMH for at least paying attention to what amounts to the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum, one of most iconic institutions in NSW. ( ‘Powerhouse flying machines make way for Sydney Design Festival installation’, November 9)The business of shifting the planes, trains, etc. to Parramatta is one of the most absurd ideas ever countenanced.  They are an integral and vital part of the place. There has been no serious financial analysis of this particular Baird thought bubble. There is no information on costs, who the supposed “consultants” are   consulting. As far as we can understand no museum experts have been involved and there is great secrecy around the costs. All the museum experts will tell you there is much better methods of solving the cultural deficit of Western Sydney but the government seems blind to even examining them.  The ALP is not much better. It seems to be pre-occupied  with the prospect of another government back flip rather than what is good government. And people wonder why the electorate is disillusioned with the major parties.
Trevor Kennedy, Millers Point (unpublished)

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
Museum vision: tell us another one! (SMH unpublished)
Barney Glover (November 3) failed to explain why both he, as President of Trustees, and the Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, continue to speak positively about the controversial proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. We all know that they, along with all staff at MAAS, are prohibited from speaking about anything that has not been approved by Government. The excuse of ‘Cabinet-in-confidence’ is hiding Government’s complete lack of transparency in making its ‘decision’ while only now developing a belated business plan.
As has been made clear in the submissions and transcripts associated with the current Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, such excuses further obscure the obviously poor planning processes of Premier Baird and his Government. They have been repeatedly exposed as having made the decision for relocation without informed consultation and research into characteristics and needs of audiences in either location, or effective calculations for the necessary space, costs and site requirements – all for the benefit of yet another heritage-significant site sell-off which will not raise enough funds to cover the move. Equally, many people in Parramatta are criticising what is seen as an ill-considered golden hand-out. They want to present alternative proposals for a gallery and museum precinct focusing on their own history and current population and which could host satellite venues or touring projects from all city cultural institutions. Thousands of people, including scores of former museum professionals such as myself, hope desperately that the Inquiry will seek a review of the current ‘decision’ and make recommendations to investigate other options.  Grace Cochrane, Summer Hill

‘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