Powerhouse to Parramatta: a news chronology: 2021 to now
For Inquiry into Museums and Galleries webpage: Read more
For the Inquiry Committee’s Two Final Reports: Read more and media release Read more
For informed research, analysis and opinions, see What the Experts Say: Read more
To read about Museum history and issues with a recent Heritage nomination, Read here.
‘Letters to Editors’: for related letters to the editors of newspapers, see the PMA web site, here: Read more This includes recent examples of outrage and suggestions from people who recognise that the government and business leaders in Parramatta have ignored the 8-year campaign for a more appropriate cultural facility in Parramatta, while retaining the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. And there is clear evidence that the space in Parramatta is inappropriate for a state museum and appears more as an entertainment precinct. And – on 4 July, 2020, the government announced that the Powerhouse Museum would remain in Ultimo, with support for a facility in Parramatta! But many concerns continue to be expressed about details of the futures for both sites, notably in the hearings for the Select Committee for the Second Inquiry, starting on 29 July 2020. On 15 June, 2021 it was announced that $500million was allocated to an overhaul of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo (with concerns expressed about an emphasis on the minister’s preference for fashion.) And in Parramatta continuing efforts are made to save the historic building, Willow Grove, from demolition to make way for the ‘new Powerhouse’.
28 November, 2022
‘There was one clear winner in Sydney’s battle of the museums’
In print as: ‘Sharks help win bigger bite of visitor figures’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on the release of Annual Reports for state museums, noting that ‘Visitor numbers to the Powerhouse Museum fell to their lowest levels in two decades as Sydney families flocked to the Australian Museum and helped it set a new attendance record. More people attended the Australian Museum’s four-month blockbuster – Jurassic World by Brickman (213,750) – than walked through the doors of the Ultimo museum in a year. Newly renovated at a cost of $57.5 million, the Australian Museum achieved record visitation in 2021-22, according to its latest annual report. This was despite a COVID-19 outbreak shutting all museums for three months. The Australian Museum drew 569,210 visitors over the year – a 23 per cent increase on the previous year – thanks to the lure of its new exhibition hall and family-friendly Jurassic World. With the opening in September of the homegrown Sharks exhibition, 830,000 people have visited the Australian Museum this year…
It was a gloomier picture for the Powerhouse Museum, a one-time mecca for families. (see Annual Report here) As it prepares to close next December for a $500 million renovation, visitation to the Harris Street site sank to its lowest level in at least 20 years. Fewer than 180,000 visitors were welcomed at Ultimo (168,741) and the Museums Discovery Centre at Castle Hill (10,154) in 2021-22, a year in which the Sydney Observatory was closed. Visits to Ultimo were about half the 381,582 visits logged in 2013-14 when the Baird government first worried about its popularity and discussed shifting the Powerhouse to Parramatta, where a second museum is now under construction. The decision to close Ultimo was reversed by the Berejiklian government in July 2020 but public uncertainty remains, much to the frustration of museum staff, said assistant secretary of the Public Service Association, Troy Wright.
Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah blamed the low visitation figures on the timing of new blockbuster exhibitions falling outside the reporting year. COVID lockdowns also impacted on visitations, including its busiest months of December and January, when COVID cases peaked.
… Havilah says she is already seeing a rebound with the recent opening of Unpopular, Zampatti Powerhouse, and Gucci Garden Archetypes. “Over this last week, more than 15,000 people have visited the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. The Powerhouse is on track to achieve over 700,000 visitors in this financial year.”
Former Powerhouse Museum trustee Kylie Winkworth said attendance figures were the lowest since the institution had opened at Ultimo in 1988. There had been a 73.8 per cent fall in the number of learners and teachers coming to Ultimo compared to 2018-19. “This isn’t about COVID. These numbers denote an active indifference to attracting audiences and contempt for the museum’s education remit.”
Havilah has championed a shift in museum experience towards multiple visits, more rapid rotation of exhibitions, and late-night programming, including a controversial focus on fashion and design at Ultimo. Read more: or: SMH Visitor figures SMH 28 Nov
24 November, 2022
‘LIVELY PARLIAMENT HOUSE MEETING REIGNITES “SAVE PHM” CAMPAIGN’
Save the Powerhouse Museum group circulated by email and on Facebook, a report of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance’s ‘Unfinished Business’ forum. They say:
‘Our long-term campaign partners, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, gave fresh momentum to the eight year battle to save the Powerhouse, by holding a productive discussion meeting in Parliament House to “mark completion of the Select Committee report on the Government’s Management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museum and cultural projects in NSW”. The timing of their forum, “UNFINISHED BUSINESS,” on November 16 in Parliament House, Jubilee Room, made it possible for politicians from both Houses to accept invitations to talk briefly about their perspectives on the Powerhouse.’
The report provides summaries of speeches by MLC Robert Borsak, MLC Walt Secord and MLA Jamie Parker, and also lists ‘talks by Museum experts with strong links to the Powerhouse’ including: Troy Wright, Assistant General Secretary, PSA; Debbie Rudder, Former PHM Curator, Energy; Ian Debenham, Former PHM Curator, Aviation; Andrew Grant, Former PHM Senior Curator, Transport; Robert Hannan, NSW Chair, Australiana Society; Tom Lockley, Former PHM Volunteer, and ‘unscheduled, but welcome, politician’, Tim James.
They conclude: ‘Thanks and congratulations to PMA for a thought-provoking meeting, especially to Kylie Winkworth and Jennifer Sanders for their efficient organisation.’
Read their report Here: Save the Powerhouse report on PMA Forum and hear the audio recording of the meeting.: Here.
16 November, 2022
‘Forum: Unfinished Business: the Select Committee Report of the Government’s Management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museum and cultural projects in NSW’
On 16 November, following eight years of campaigning with many others in trying to convince the NSW government to cease its destructive (and largely secret) plans for the future of the Powerhouse Museum, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a meeting at Parliament House to thank those involved in the Select Committee’s thorough investigation and report (and the Inquiry that preceded it) and to discuss their recommendations and further action. Read Report Here.
An invitation flyer explained further: ‘The Powerhouse Museum Alliance is holding an event at Parliament House, hosted by Committee Chair the Hon Robert Borsak MLC, to mark the completion of the Select Committee Report … and to thank the Committee members for their work. This month marks eight years since the NSW Government embarked on its unprecedented and globally embarrassing campaign to ‘move’ the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. After the announcement that the PHM was saved the government continued to implement its 2018 plan to turn the former PHM in Ultimo into a creative industries, fashion and design centre. This is contrary to the promises that Premier Perrottet made on 4 July 2020, and his recent statement that the renewed museum in Ultimo will continue to present a program across applied arts and applied sciences. This will include historical and contemporary science, engineering and design. The ‘Powerhouse Ultimo’ demolition and development will not be called a museum. It will have less than half the PHM’s current exhibition space. And without the Harwood building, it will have grossly inferior collection facilities to what was designed for the Real Powerhouse Museum. These and other matters are the substance of the meeting.
Speakers at the Forum were: Kylie Winkworth and Jennifer Sanders (also chairs); Robert Borsak, chair of committee; Walt Secord, past Shadow Minister for Arts, and member of committee; Jamie Parker, Greens MP for Balmain; Tim James, MP; Troy Wright, Public Service Association; Debbie Rudder, Ian Debenham and Andrew Grant, former curators; Robert Hannan, Australiana Society, NSW branch, Tom Lockley, long-term volunteer.
See attached information flyer here: Unfinished Business Forum program and recs 15 Nov 2022
And read also, a summary of issues by Kylie Winkworth: The PHM on the brink of extinction Nov 2022
Papers from speakers will be added in due course:
Debbie Rudder: ‘Upper House Inquiry Report findings and recommendations as they apply to stationary steam engines’: Inquiry report response DR
Robert Hannan: Visit to Castle Hill Discovery Centre: A.S. address to Select Committee Nov 2022
Tom Lockley: Observations as a volunteer: Tom Lockley meeting at LC
2 November, 2022
‘Successful public meeting to celebrate PHM campaign anniversary’
The Save the Powerhouse Museum community group reported by email and in Facebook, that ‘ As many of you know, ‘Save the Powerhouse’ organised a public meeting last Friday (October 28) at the Ultimo Community Centre to ‘mark the 8th anniversary of the campaign to save the Powerhouse Museum‘, and we were impressed by the knowledge and obvious dedication of people who attended from our local area. Equally impressive were the insights of a number of distinguished speakers on different aspects of museum management.’ They provide details about founding PHM Director Dr Lindsay Sharp; Deputy Lord Mayor Sylvie Ellsmore; Kylie Winkworth, former Powerhouse trustee; former Transport Curator Andrew Grant and heritage consultant Alan Croker.
‘Messages of support were received and read from Senator David Shoebridge http://tiny.cc/0wj0vz and Shadow Arts Minister John Graham http://tiny.cc/zvj0vz , and former PHM Deputy Director Jennifer Sanders capably moderated the whole event. ‘See video for whole event here: Video.
‘A lively Q&A session followed, when community members indicated unanimously that
– the ‘renewal’ as proposed needs complete revision to reflect PHM‘s traditional status as a professional MUSEUM (of Applied Arts and Sciences) rather than reduce it to a mere ‘facility’
– the whole approach of the proposed renewal is too “commercial’ and
– there has been no genuine consultation with the community about a PHM “renewal”
These key points have been incorporated in a draft resolution summarising the general direction of the meeting .
And they remind us: ‘Watch this space for news of more ‘Save‘ events in the four months leading up to the NSW state elections in March 2023, and a hoped-for change of Government!’ Read more here. Report public meeting 28 Oct
In following days, Save the Powerhouse summarised the content of the talks given, and extracted links for the video presentations for each speaker. These can be seen and heard in the following document: Save the Powerhouse-talks from meeting 28 Oct
28 October, 2022
Public meeting: ‘8-year anniversary of the community campaign to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo’
A public meeting organised by the Save the Powerhouse community group, will be held in Ultimo on Friday 28 October, 2002. See their Facebook page Here.
They say: “We are pleased to announce that “Save the Powerhouse” is organising a Public Meeting at the Ultimo Community Centre, 6-8 pm, on October 28, to “mark the 8-year anniversary of the community campaign to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo” and everyone interested is warmly welcome. It will be an opportunity for community members to hear different perspectives on the Powerhouse from politicians and museum experts, all with the shared goal of preserving our unique Arts and Sciences museum – and to put forward their questions and views for general discussion.’
‘The object of the meeting is to ‘have our say’ – to remind an apparently deaf NSW Government and MAAS management that Sydney residents in Ultimo, Pyrmont, Glebe, Newtown and beyond REJECT the changes they aim to impose that would turn the time–honoured Powerhouse MUSEUM into a (commercial) “creative industries” FACILITY with a “fashion and design focus”.
… Let’s not forget that NSW State elections are only five months away. The opposition is already well ahead according to the latest polls, and a hoped change of government could dramatically alter the future of our Powerhouse Museum.’
Organised by Patricia Johnson and Jean-Pierre Alexandre, moderated by Jennifer Sanders (Former PHM Dep-Dir, and member PHM Alliance), with speakers Lindsay Sharp (Founding PHM director), Linda Scott (Aust Local Govt Assn President), Sylvie Elsemore (City of Sydney, Dep Lord Mayor), Kylie Winkworth (Museum expert, former Museum trustee), Andrew Grant (former PHM senior curator), Damian McDonald (PSA). See more information and poster here: 28 October Public Meeting
27 October, 2022
‘Museum makeover has volunteers in revolt‘
Stephen Rice reports in The Australian on comments by long-term volunteers Tom Lockley and Garry Horvai, who are concerned about the future of the Powerhouse Museum and its collection, and who have recently resigned.
‘Tom Lockley walks through his beloved Powerhouse Museum like a man lost. It’s not that he can’t find his way around – the retired schoolteacher and volunteer guide has shown 20,000 visitors through the museum over more than 14 years. It’s that so many of the familiar landmarks have gone, including his great loves, the historic aircraft. He counts them off: the 1914 Bleriot, the 1927 Cirrus Moth, the pioneering 1976 Wheeler Scout. All boxed up and shipped off to storage and an uncertain fate. “It’s the deliberate, ideological destruction of the soul of the museum,” he says, pausing to chat to museum staff, who greet him warmly and treat the 8o-year-old with reverence.’
… ‘Regardless, Mr Lockley can’t see himself returning to guide visitors through the shell of the museum he loved, as the collection of industrial and scientific items is broken up. “They want to make the Powerhouse an entertainment centre with a few old knick-knacks as decoration,” he says.
The passionate volunteer had made no secret of his own views, angry at what he saw as the lack of consultation and the secrecy surrounding the $5oom “renewal” of the Ultimo site, the construction of a new centre in Parramatta and the expansion of a facility at Castle Hill at a total cost of at least $1.4bn…. He says 95 per cent of volunteers at the museum oppose the changes’
Rice also notes: ‘The Australian has spoken to a number of museum volunteers who vehemently disagree with the move. Most declined to be named for fear of recrimination, but Garry Horvai, a volunteer for 17 years, has already handed in his badge. “I just can’t bear volunteering there anymore, watching the destruction of a once world-class museum,” he says. “The place certainly needs tender loving care because it’s been neglected for years, but the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo as the world knew it has been cancelled.” Mr Horvai confirms that volunteers were told not to express concerns about the move during tours, even when the subject was raised by visitors. “Yes, I was told that too, we are not to engage negatively with the public -they’re quite strong about that, almost as if you’re a public servant.” ‘ Read more: Australian, Volunteers in revolt, 27 October 2022
25 October, 2022
‘Powerhouse Photography Announced’
In a Media Release from the Powerhouse Museum, it was reported that:
‘Powerhouse today announced the acquisition of the archive and fund of Australia’s leading institution dedicated to photography and lens-based media, the Australian Centre for Photography. This landmark agreement will see Powerhouse acquire ACP’s photography archive and fund worth approximately $1.6 million, a transformational gift that will continue ACP’s legacy and elevate Powerhouse’s photography collection and image-making practices, under the name of Powerhouse Photography.’
For nearly 50 years, ACP has been central to industry and community engagement with photography, which aligns with Powerhouse’s commitment to embed creative industries into the practice of the museum. Powerhouse Photography will amplify the profile of Australian photography and lens-based media supporting photographers across their careers through commissions, acquisitions and national and international engagement opportunities.
Powerhouse Photography will continue the mission of ACP through an ongoing series of programs, publications, learning and research activities dedicated to the promotion and development of photography in Australia. The Powerhouse Photography annual program will include a photography research fellowship, tertiary internship program, contemporary photography acquisition program, and industry day.’ ‘The ACP’s extensive archive provides an unrivalled survey of photography practice in Australia from its inception in 1974 to the present day. Powerhouse will digitise the ACP archive making this significant resource accessible to the public for the first time. This foundational gift from ACP provides the impetus for Powerhouse to evaluate and expand upon its existing photography collection and develop an Australian Photography Archive.
Central to Powerhouse Photography is the establishment of the Powerhouse Photography Advisory Group, comprised of photographers, and industry and community representatives. The Advisory Group will connect Powerhouse to industry and embed knowledge, insights and advice to inform curatorial strategies.’ ‘‘Having completed an extensive community consultation over the last 18 months, the Board of the ACP is delighted to have partnered with the Powerhouse to secure the long-term future of the organisation’s mission and archive. This innovative agreement ensures the founding goals of the ACP can be carried into the long-term future with an institution, and with an Advisory Group, that is deeply committed to securing and continuing our legacy”… ACP Chairman Michael Blomfield said.’ Read more: Media Release, Powerhouse Photography
‘Priceless photographic archive saved by Powerhouse’ (on line)
Arts editor, Nick Galvin, further reports in the Sydney Morning Herald of the circumstances that led to this announcement:
‘Two years ago, the Australian Centre for Photography was forced by the pandemic to close its doors. Now it is to be reborn as Powerhouse Photography after giving its priceless collection of images, plus funds totalling $1.6 million, to the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences. The ACP, established in 1974, helped launch the careers of luminaries including Bill Henson and Tracey Moffatt and holds work in its huge collection from Henri Mallard, Olive Cotton and Max Dupain. In November 2020 the centre’s board took the “painful decision” to “hibernate” the organisation, which was bleeding cash due to COVID. Four full-time, two part-time and 15 casual tutors were laid off. “We knew we were buying ourselves time to survive COVID,” said ACP chairman Michael Blomfield, “but we also thought there was a bigger opportunity to go out and engage with the community and take their advice on how they thought the ACP could grow, be valuable and live up to its mission … in the long term.” The centre held more than 50 “community consultations”, with five institutions eventually invited to submit proposals. MAAS won out with a proposal Blomfield called “extremely exciting”.…”We went from a moment of deep, existential threat and we’ve come out the other end having secured the future of a really important Australian institution, putting it in the hands of a well funded, talented, enthusiastic group of people,” he said. As part of the agreement, an advisory group will be set up, chaired by University of Technology Sydney Associate Professor Cherine Fand and Powerhouse senior curator Sarah Rees. The group will oversee matters such as acquisitions and research.’ Read more: or 25 October 2022 SMH PHM Photo archive
3 October, 2022
‘Powerhouse Museum on Brink of Extinction’
Museum expert and member of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, Kylie Winkworth, draws together key issues from recent reports [identified in earlier news posts], and concludes: ‘The Powerhouse Museum is not being renewed; it is being demolished at a cost of $500m. A 142 year old museum is on the brink of extinction.’
Winkworth lists in detail:
What’s at risk in the secret ‘Ultimo Renewal ‘ demolition plans…
(including: government spending of $500 million to erase all trace of the 1988 Powerhouse Museum, its major buildings and signature exhibitions, turning the PHM into a fashion, design and creative industries precinct …)
What you can do to save the PHM….
(including: suggestions for making submissions to government ministers; sharing concerns…)
Key Demands or Requirements…
(including: There is only one Powerhouse Museum and it is in Ultimo, its home since 1893. The PHM must retain its unique brand and identity as the Powerhouse Museum. The reckless, wasteful and destructive design competition must be abandoned. The Powerhouse Museum must continue as a museum of applied arts and sciences, displaying science, engineering, transport, innovation, social history and design and fashion; The whole Powerhouse Museum site should be listed on the State Heritage Register, along with its notable in situ transport and engineering installations.
Read more: The PHM on the brink of extinction Nov 2022
6 October, 2022
‘Bulletin 75: a Situation of Crisis?’
In his continuing ‘Campaign to Save the Powerhouse’, Tom Lockley says: ‘We all remember the announcement of July 4 2020, when plans for the demolition of THE Powerhouse MUSEUM were, we believed, scrapped. It was not so. Effectively, it seems that half a billion dollars has been allocated for the destruction of THE Powerhouse MUSEUM as we have known it. It will be replaced with ‘Powerhouse Ultimo’, a ‘creative industries precinct’ with a focus on ‘fashion and design’. This proposal is very destructive of the significant collection that crosses much wider areas of decorative arts and design, as well as social history and the extensive and significant representation of transport, science and technology.’
He discusses information from recent reports about ‘the demolition of the transport display’ and other aspects of exhibitions and collections, as well as documenting that ‘The only thing that is guaranteed to be retained is the framework of the original pre-1988 buildings: the Engine House, Turbine Hall, Boiler House, Office Building, and Switch House and items associated with the generation of power. All remaining areas may be covered with new seven-storied buildings, and even the award-winning 1988 Wran building is regarded as an ‘unsympathetic addition’, to the original Powerhouse Buildings. It is dispensable. Despite many requests for information, no assurances have been made about the preservation of any other items, even the steam gallery.’ Lockley also notes: ‘The report of the second Legislative Council Inquiry into museums, begun over two and a half years ago, was issued last Friday. Two ‘findings’ were ‘that the NSW Government’s current plans for Powerhouse Parramatta are more akin to an events centre than a museum, and that ‘the NSW Government’s plan to break up the museum’s collections and strip items of context will diminish their significance as collections and adversely impact their interpretation’. And as an example, ‘I would like to acknowledge the support of aviation historians in Victoria and Queensland as well as New South Wales in making submissions supporting the retention of THE Powerhouse MUSEUM and its aircraft collection at Ultimo. This campaign has obviously not been successful. Only the Catalina is guaranteed to be retained at Ultimo, and it has been lowered to the floor level, ostensibly to prepare for a display centred around the Catalina’s flight from Australia to Chile in March 1951, opening shortly. But, surprise surprise, the 1914 Bleriot (an aircraft of world significance), the 1927 Cirrus Moth and the pioneering 1976 Wheeler Scout have been removed to enable this to happen. They have been packaged and sent to Castle Hill for storage.’ Lockley concludes by mentioning his enjoyment of 14 ½ years as a volunteer, now asked to stand down because of his questioning of current planning for the future of the Ultimo site. Read more: Bulletin 75 Campaign to Save the PHM and also an Attachment here: Bulletin 75 Attachment
4 October, 2022
$500m revamp to ‘destroy’ Ultimo Powerhouse
Stephen Rice, in The Australian, reports on conversations with museum experts saying, ‘The controversial $500m plan to convert the Ultimo Powerhouse from a science and technology museum into a fashion and design complex will destroy one of the world’s greatest international museums, the museum’s founding director says. Lindsay Sharp, a world-recognised expert in museum construction and curation, slammed the Perrottet government’s move to break up the unique collection of industrial and scientific items as a “waffly kind of woke-ism”. “You’re building this massive new edifice with no valid business case and you’re effectively destroying one of the great international museum expressions of the mid-to-late 20th century,” Dr Sharp told The Australian…
Five Australian architectural design teams have been short-listed to participate in a design competition to redevelop the site, including the likely demolition of the old tram sheds, at a cost of $500m. The government plans to name the winning team by December, a move that would lock a Labor government into the contract should it win office at the state election in March.
Only the iconic 1785 Boulton and Watt Steam Engine, the Catalina flying boat and the giant locomotive that hauled NSW’s first train in 1855 have been guaranteed to remain at Ultimo but Dr Sharp says that even if the promise is kept the three objects “will be sitting there with no context, no history, no background.” Fashion items currently represent less than 2 per cent of the entire Powerhouse collection, former Powerhouse senior executive Jennifer Sanders has said.
A parliamentary committee last week blasted the NSW government’s management of the entire Powerhouse project which, with a new centre under construction in Parramatta and the expansion of a facility at Castle Hill, will cost at least $1.34bn. “Where there is currently a thematically coherent science and technology museum (at Ultimo) with a clear and distinct identity, there will be a confused hotchpotch of fashion items displayed alongside a handful of large items of industrial and transport heritage,” said inquiry chairman Robert Borsak …“The original decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum (to Parramatta) was a thought bubble that became official government policy without any real evidence base.”
Community groups have been incensed at a remark by NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin who justified the planned moves saying: “Gone are the days when museums and galleries are big square rooms filled with glass cabinets.” The Powerhouse Museum has gained an international reputation over three decades for its hands-on approach to exhibits, making it a popular destination for parents and children. Read more: or Here The Australian Revamp to destroy
2 October, 2022
‘Powerhouse Parramatta deemed more entertainment centre than museum’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Perrottet government’s plans for the $915 million Powerhouse Parramatta were more akin to an event and entertainment centre than a state significant museum, a parliamentary inquiry has found. The final report of an Upper House inquiry into museum management tabled on Friday expressed concern that Powerhouse Parramatta had less exhibition space than Ultimo and was, in effect, “a multipurpose entertainment and events centre masquerading as a museum”. At Ultimo where the government is running a design competition for a $500 million redevelopment, the decision to thematically focus on “a confused hotchpotch of fashion items” risked isolating some of the museum’s most significant items of industrial heritage, the committee’s chair Robert Borsak said. And there remained a risk to fragile items of the museum’s precious collection in relocating storage away from Parramatta and Ultimo.
But a government spokesperson said it was committed to forging ahead and delivering world-class art and cultural infrastructure, with the Parramatta museum due to open its doors in 2025. “The NSW government makes no apologies for investing in Western Sydney,” the spokesperson said.’
‘The committee’s findings were supported by Labor and crossbench MPs, with three Liberal MPs issuing a dissenting report saying that the committee failed to make constructive recommendations and instead attempted to score cheap political points scoring and even delay the project through further red tape. When opened, they said the Parramatta Powerhouse would be the largest museum in NSW with more than 18,000 sqm of exhibition and public space. The majority committee was, however, particularly critical of the removal of the 19th-century, riverside villa Willow Grove to make way for the new cultural institution at Parramatta….’ And ‘“The committee looked aghast as the project site was flooded on several occasions during the course of our inquiry.”’
Committee chair …’ Borsak, …criticised the “infrastructure cash splash” on Powerhouse Parramatta, its expanded facilities at Castle Hill and Ultimo amounting to more than $1.3 billion. The sum dwarfed funding for regional museums and galleries, which since the pandemic had been hit by a shrinking pool of volunteers, he said. Borsak said it was impossible to ignore concerns that, far from being saved, there was no commitment to retain the Powerhouse at Ultimo in its recognisable, internationally renowned form as it had been operating for decades. The entire site should be placed on the State Heritage Register as a priority. The committee welcomed plans to adapt and reuse the heritage-listed St George’s Terrace, so far it is to be integrated within the new Powerhouse Parramatta in a way that was sympathetic to the story and significance of the buildings. Read more: or here: SMH 2 October 2022
2 October, 2022
‘Government’s response to PHM Renewal Submissions is a Joke!
Save the Powerhouse group wrote in email and on Facebook about the long-awaited government response on 22 September, 2022, to public submissions regarding Create NSW’s POWERHOUSE ULTIMO RENEWAL State Significant Development (SSD) Application, which was put on exhibition in June and July 2022. Save the Powerhouse identifies some Issues of concern as ‘The “renewal” process it proposes for transforming our Applied Arts and Science museum into a Fashion and Design facility (NO LONGER A MUSEUM) would include:
– (probably) demolishing the Wran Building and Galleria
– excluding the historic Harwood Building from renewal plans
– new high rise buildings along Harris St, including a 35 -storey monster to fill the Forecourt.
– closing the Galleria entrance which would effectively mean “the Museum turning its back on Ultimo”.’
They say ‘The exhibition attracted 107 submissions, with a massive 94 (88%) objecting to the project http://tiny.cc/x8ozuz and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) has now published Create NSW’s “detailed” (sic!) response to these submissions http://tiny.cc/49ozuz This makes a complete mockery of the so-called public consultation process, often displaying real contempt for the numerous sincere submissions prepared by concerned community members.’
As well, they note: ‘To objections to the proposed focus on fashion and design and requests for further consultation on programming before any planning application is made; Response: The museum’s collection is not a planning matter.’…’ It’s just one more reason to mistrust this Government and to look ahead to the NSW State elections in March 2023, when we’ll have the chance to vote in an alternative with a better appreciation of the Powerhouse’s immense cultural and heritage values.’ For the Report: Read more: And for the responses in Appendix A to the Report, Read more: 01 Appendix A- Detailed Response to Submissions
30 September, 2022
‘Powerhouse Parramatta: entertainment centre ‘masquerading’ as a museum has high flood risk, inquiry finds’
Kelly Burke reports in the Guardian, that ‘The New South Wales government’s controversial $1.34bn Powerhouse Parramatta project is in danger of becoming an entertainment and events centre “masquerading” as a museum, and the ongoing risk of flooding to a priceless collection still has not been comprehensively addressed, according to the findings in a NSW upper house inquiry.
Tabled in parliament on Friday, the committee report also delivered a scathing appraisal of the state government’s contentious decision to dismantle Victorian mansion Willow Grove to make way for the Parramatta museum, saying it had “robbed Parramatta of its rapidly dwindling heritage”. The report is the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year inquiry into the Liberal state government’s management of cultural institutions. It was chaired by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party state leader Robert Borsak, and compiled by three Liberal upper house members, two Labor members and one Greens member – with the three Liberal members issuing a dissenting statement in its appendix.’
In outlining the Findings opposing aspects of development on both sites: Parramatta and Ultimo,
Burke notes: ‘ On the ongoing issue of the government’s decision to build the new museum on the banks of the Parramatta River, the report concluded: “It is still difficult for the committee to fathom why the NSW government would choose a flood-prone site to build one of the most significant pieces of cultural infrastructure – billed in evidence as the largest investment in cultural infrastructure since the Sydney Opera House – and then attempt to design their way around the inherent and very real flood risks. The committee looked aghast as the project site was flooded on several occasions during the course of our inquiry.” ‘ As well, ‘The 142-page report is also critical of the state government’s plan to split the collection housed in the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (better known as Ultimo’s Powerhouse Museum) to furnish the new Parramatta museum.
“There is no commitment to retain the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum in its recognisable, internationally-renowned form,” the report said. Instead of “a thematically coherent science and technology museum”, the new Ultimo site would host “a confused hotchpotch of fashion items displayed alongside a handful of large items of industrial and transport heritage devoid of their broader storytelling contexts and installations”. Read more here, and Here: Guardian 1 October Committee Report
1 October, 2022: ‘Final PHM Inquiry slams Government’s Powerhouse Plans’: Read also, Save the Powerhouse Community group’s announcement on email and Facebook.
30 September, 2022
Select Committee Report: ‘Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales’
Hon Robert Borsak MLC distributed access to the report of the Select Committee of which he was Chair, advising it was tabled with the Clerk of the Parliaments on Friday 30 September 2022. In his email to those who had made submissions, he said: ‘On behalf of the committee, I take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution to the inquiry. The committee has been greatly assisted by these contributions and we appreciate the time and effort taken by all those who have helped us with this important inquiry.’
In his very discerning Foreword to the Report, Borsak wrote: ‘A thorough testing of all the evidence across two Upper House inquiries has done little to allay suspicions that the original decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum was a thought bubble that became official government policy without any real evidence base, and with retrospective attempts to justify the project through carefully crafted cost benefit analyses and business cases…. Nevertheless, this inquiry brought to the fore so many compelling reasons why the government should have re-considered moving forward with this project …The government did in fact revisit and modify some of its plans as this inquiry unfolded – partly owing to the public pressure generated by the inquiry and the well-organised community opposition to relocating the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. As a committee, our focus shifted as the government’s plans and proposals evolved. Some of these changes in direction raised more questions than they solved. However, regrettably, the well-supported and well-researched project alternatives that were presented in evidence to our committee could not dent the government’s steadfast resolve to build the Powerhouse ‘facility’ on a flood prone site in Parramatta and with significant impact on the site’s heritage values…’
‘The government’s plans for the museum’s Ultimo site were similarly in flux throughout the inquiry. While the committee welcomed the 4 July  decision to keep the Ultimo museum open – slated to operate from ‘the Ultimo Power Station’ alongside the new Parramatta facility once it is built – it was impossible to ignore concerns ventilated throughout the inquiry about the way the decision was carefully crafted and presented to the public, and the reality of what is actually being proposed for the Ultimo site. Clearly, there is no commitment to retain the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum in its recognisable, internationally-renowned form, and as it has been operating on that site for several decades. Where there is currently a thematically coherent science and technology museum with a clear and distinct identity, there will be, under the government’s plans, a confused hotchpotch of fashion items displayed alongside a handful of large items of industrial and transport heritage devoid of their broader storytelling contexts and installations. Similarly, the 4 July announcement gave no guarantee about the assembly of buildings that support the Ultimo museum’s existing operations, including the historically and functionally important Harwood Building. It is unfortunate that the pursuit of commercial returns and revenue-generating opportunities has become such a key driver in the renewal of the Ultimo Powerhouse, arguably at the expense of the government’s and the Trust’s mandate as custodian of the very significant Powerhouse collection. In recognition of its importance to the Ultimo museum, the committee has recommended that the Harwood Building be retained in its current form, continuing in its existing museum-related functions and uses.’
Borsak advised that: ‘The report is available on our website along with submissions, transcripts of evidence and other inquiry documents.’The Report lists four Findings, and nine Recommendations, that are summarised here, and discussed in greater detail in the Report.. For summary: Read here: For the full report, Read Here.
29 September, 2022
‘Powerhouse commits to fashion and design focus with UTS partnership
In City Hub, Sasha Foot identifies some of the perceived issues associated with the recently announced partnership between the Powerhouse Museum and the adjacent University of Technology: ‘…cementing the museum’s shift towards a fashion and design focus. The NSW Government announced that UTS will invest $10 million to create an educational and professional meeting point for creatives, and expand Australia’s fashion and design reputation at the Ultimo museum. Elizabeth Mossop, Dean of the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at UTS, maintains that the museum does not have a STEM identity, but a shared science and creative industry focus. “The Powerhouse has always been a museum encompassing the creative arts, design and technology as well as science,” she told City Hub. “Australia does not have an outstanding design museum, so this will be a real boon to the Powerhouse identity.”’ Foot writes: ‘Powerhouse museum advocacy groups have been campaigning against the museum’s shift away from science and technology since the first plans were revealed. Members of Save the Powerhouse Patricia Johnson and Jean-Pierre Alexandre said the fashion and design theme has been “dominant for some time”. Johnson and Alexandre told City Hub the Powerhouse building is not an appropriate space for fashion and design. “The largest fashion museums in the world are only a fraction of the size of the Powerhouse; a fashion and design facility could easily move to a smaller premise elsewhere in Sydney.”…“The very high ceilings of the Powerhouse are well suited to large objects such as locomotives, steam engines and aeroplanes.”’
‘Grace Cochrane, a former senior curator of decorative arts and design and a member of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, called the renewed creative industry focus a “major concern”. “Fashion is just one part of this broad collection, and it is ridiculous to overwhelm the wider scope with such personal [eg. former arts minister’s] preference,” she said. “The present buildings have consistently hosted many permanent exhibitions, as well as temporary exhibitions and events.” Cochrane said the historic adjacent Harwood Building is likely to be overrun by “fashion events and programs for the benefit of UTS”. “Partnerships are useful but not if they inhibit access to other important collection categories.”’
‘Members of Save the Powerhouse consider the partnership “a real estate deal” by allowing the university to rent spaces for student classes. Mossop states that the partnership will provide educational programs for rural and Indigenous children focused on creative subjects. She also noted that UTS will collaborate with the museum on exhibitions and events to “provide opportunities for students and researchers” while engaging with external creatives.
Cochrane remarked that the museum’s renewal, alongside its strategic design focus, has not been transparently explained. “Business and strategic planning documents are extremely limited in their availability and detail and are not at all convincing as plans for the future of the Museum in Ultimo.”
Johnson and Alexandre further cited their concerns over the costs of renewing the building and shifting its focus to fashion and design. “$500 million is an immense sum for a project that downgrades a world-class applied arts and science museum into a design and fashion facility.” ‘ Read more: or here: City Hub 29 September
[Late September, 2022]
Powerhouse: Summary, Strategic Plan (?)
After years and months of waiting for a clear indication of exactly what the future role of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo will be (no longer identified in writing, it seems, as a Museum), the attached document has been recently circulated by the Museum management. With unpublished Business Plans and Conservation Management Plans, or clear public explanations for those selected to submit Design Plans, this document appears to be a summary of a strategic plan. As an introduction it says:
‘In 2022 the Powerhouse, one of Australia’s oldest and most important cultural institutions, continues the delivery of its expansive renewal program across its five platforms:
*Powerhouse Parramatta — building our new flagship in the fastest growing and most culturally diverse communities in Australia
*Powerhouse Ultimo — transforming the much-loved Powerhouse to deliver international exhibitions within a dynamic creative industries and technology precinct
*Powerhouse Castle Hill — expanding Collection storage, creating new public exhibition spaces and establishing world-leading collection management capabilities
*Sydney Observatory — restoring and enhancing this national heritage icon
*Powerhouse Digital — creating space to tell stories and provide new levels of access to the Powerhouse Collection of over 500,000 objects.’
Many of the statements made are drawing questioning and criticism, for example, what does this mean? ‘Powerhouse Ultimo — transforming the much-loved Powerhouse to deliver international exhibitions within a dynamic creative industries and technology precinct.’ Only a focus on international exhibitions? And we are also reading elsewhere about a Fashion Focus? Some of the statements sound positive, but conflict with the reality of what we hear and read elsewhere about what is really occurring.
Read more: Powerhouse plan Sept 2022
26 September, 2022
‘Powerhouse and UTS cement ties in $10m deal’
In ArtsHub, Jason Blake writes about how the ‘Ultimo site [is] to become a hub for creative industries precinct as Powerhouse and UTS pal up. Near neighbours Powerhouse Museum and University Technology Sydney (UTS) have just become a little closer, with UTS announcing a $10 million investment into the future of Powerhouse Ultimo… UTS, which was looking to take over the Powerhouse precinct prior to a NSW government backflip on the site’s future, will now become a partner of the Powerhouse Ultimo creative industries academy, an education and professional hub connecting local and regional students with industry leaders. Work-integrated learning opportunities will extend to student internships plus potential work experience with key collaborators… ‘The potential to share facilities and generate collaborations between students, researchers, museum staff and Creative Industries Residents will elevate the creative industry output of NSW,’ said Professor Andrew Parfitt, UTS Vice-Chancellor and President.
Research across the creative industries sector will be another core focus of the partnership, as will accessibility via Powerhouse public programs. UTS research students will have the opportunity to collaborate with Creative Industries Residents and utilise the resources of the Powerhouse Archives.’ [PMA asks: What relationship does this have to access to the overall collection??] Read more here, or here ArtsHub 26 Sept 2022
23 September, 2022
‘A game-changer’: University joining forces with the Powerhouse in a landmark deal
Reinforcing continuing reports of the proposed future focus of the Powerhouse Museum on ‘fashion’, Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Once a suitor for the Powerhouse Museum’s prime real estate, the University of Technology has now entered into a “game-changer” $10 million partnership with the cultural institution. Under the 10-year agreement, the two institutions are to partner on major international and local festivals and events, including Vivid, Australian Fashion Week, and South by Southwest. They will work together to lift the profile of Australian fashion nationally and internationally and bring new studio work opportunities for Indigenous students. “Gone are the days when museums and galleries are big square rooms filled with glass cabinets,” NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin said. Five years ago, the university was in private discussions with the NSW government to buy the site of the Powerhouse Museum, at Ultimo. The rumoured $100 million-plus offer came at a time when the government had announced the museum was to be relocated to Parramatta. Now that the Powerhouse is about to undertake a $500 million renovation, the close neighbours are to become collaborators… Powerhouse Museum, whose focus on fashion and design at Ultimo has been contentious, has a target to raise $50 million in private donations towards the costs of its $500 million redevelopment.’ Read More. or here: SMH Sept 23 2022
However, many public comments following the article criticise the potential takeover of the important Harwood building, for so long an essential working and collection adjunct to the Museum. Read more: Comments 23 Sept
*Anyone babbling about “big square rooms filled with glass cabinets” has clearly failed to understand why the existing Powerhouse delivers so much more in its existing form.
*I wish we still had big rooms filled with glass cabinets… Better than the sanitised, ‘experience spaces’ with cafes and function centres that masquerade as museums these days.
*This photo op is another step in the government’s long campaign to destroy the people’s museum. The government lied when they promised the Powerhouse Museum was saved. The museum is not saved. It is being turned into a contemporary art centre. The Powerhouse Museum, endowed by generations of NSW families and taxpayers, will become a party place for fashionistas and functions, at a staggering cost of $500 million. It won’t be a museum any more. The collection is being turfed out so the place can be turned over to artists and fashion designers. Yet again private benefits trump public interest with the NSW government.
*”Gone are the days when museums and galleries are big square rooms filled with glass cabinets,” NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin said. No we couldn’t possibly have that could we Mr Franklin. God forbid we might learn something. No but the government can spend $500 million of our money turning the Powerhouse Museum into a one purpose fashion dress shop, of interest to 2% of the population and for the exclusive rental space of corporate Sydney to have it parties.
19 September, 2022
‘Controversial plan to merge museums slammed as “bizarre” by experts’
Following controversies regarding the proposals for the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and Parramatta, Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald about further conflicts in Museum management by the state government.
‘NSW parliament is set to approve a new cultural institution that will bring together 12 museums and the state’s $1 billion archives collection. But the entity has been described by a group of academics, historians and emeritus administrators as dangerous and ill-considered. “If passed, it will create a bizarre and conflicted administrative marriage that is at odds with world’s best practice,” they said in a letter sent to all lower house MPs.’ The proposed ‘Museums of History NSW will bring together archive collections and the landmark buildings of Sydney Living Museums (SLM), including The Mint, World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks and Rose Seidler House. The draft bill has passed two houses of parliament and is awaiting final assent.’ Comments of opposition are made by a number of museum experts, and readers are reminded also that: ‘A full merger of Sydney Living Museums and the State Archives and Records Authority (SARA) was subject to an upper house inquiry in 2020. That inquiry recommended the functions of SARA be split. The collection of 14 million records, going back to the early days of European settlement, was to be merged into the Museums of History, and its record-keeping functions preserved in a smaller authority.’ Read more: or here SMH Sept 19 2022
8 September, 2022
‘Perrottet government hits accelerator on Powerhouse redesign’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Perrottet government has hit the accelerator on design plans for the $500 million redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, which is likely to close the institution to the public for up to three years,’ while ‘At the same time, the government has admitted to delays to the public opening of the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse.’
She identifies and describes the five design teams selected to submit proposals for Ultimo, and also notes the political strategy of the current government, where: ‘The winning architect will be named and contracted in December three months before the March 2023 election effectively locking in any new government to the $500 million redevelopment.’
As well, ‘The announcement of the shortlist comes as a concept environmental impact statement has been released for public comment ahead of the national design competition. It provides a framework and building envelope for the Ultimo Powerhouse.
Though not prescribing any specific proposal, the statement and accompanying documents canvas a new public square, entrance and a multi-storey annex on the Harris Street forecourt. Only six of 104 public submissions have backed those plans. Among the objectors is Lionel Glendenning, the government architect who adapted the heritage Powerhouse buildings into a museum as a Bicentennial project.’ Meanwhile: ‘At Parramatta construction is running about six months behind schedule. Lendlease was to have completed the design and construction of the $915 million Powerhouse Parramatta by mid-2024, with doors to open by year’s end. [Arts minister, Ben] Franklin told budget hearings the new museum would open by mid-2025 at the latest. He hoped Ultimo would be open earlier than 2028. Read more: or here SMH 8 Sept 2022
[Late August 2022]
Powerhouse Museum Design Competition
The MAAS website announced the shortlist of design teams to present plans for redevelopment of the Museum site in Ultimo.
It notes (still controversially identifying a focus on ‘fashion’), that: ‘The renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo will enable dynamic applied arts and sciences programming with a focus on design and fashion, presenting exhibitions that showcase the Powerhouse collection, international exclusive exhibitions and programs that support the creative industries. It will deliver new and refurbished exhibition and public spaces and opportunities to re-orient the Powerhouse to the Goods Line, connecting to the city and surrounding precincts.’
‘‘The Design Competition is the next major step in the renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo. It is being led by Create NSW, Powerhouse and Infrastructure NSW alongside a jury of architecture and cultural industry experts chaired by Wendy Lewin, Commissioner, NSW Independent Planning Commission and Principal, Wendy Lewin Architects. A Design Competition Advisor, CityLab is engaged to provide advice throughout the process.The Expression of Interest phase for the upcoming Powerhouse Ultimo Design Competition closed Friday 12 August 2022.Following an assessment by the Competition Jury, five design teams were shortlisted and invited to participate in the Design Competition, which commences in September 2022. These teams will develop their design concepts in response to the Design Competition Brief and present to the Jury later this year. The Jury will then select the winning concept, which will be announced in late 2022.’ Read more : or 9 Sept MAAS news Design Competition
25 August, 2022
‘Powerhouse to lower historic flying boat from the ceiling after 30 years’
Tim Barlass reports in the Sydney Morning Herald about further strong concerns about development plans for the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, writing that ‘The Powerhouse’s Catalina flying boat prize exhibit will be lowered from the ceiling after more than 30 years amid concerns about the redevelopment of the museum. The museum has been enveloped in controversy since it was announced that a new site would be built in Parramatta and the Ultimo location transformed into a centre for art and design. The Catalina, which has been suspended from the ceiling of the Boiler Hall since 1988, will be lowered for an exhibition opening in October. But beyond the exhibition it could be relocated out of the Boiler Hall, the museum’s chief executive said.’
‘In 1951, the Catalina completed the first return flight from Australia to South America, piloted by Sir P G [Patrick Gordon] Taylor…Taylor donated the Catalina flying boat Frigate Bird II to Powerhouse in 1961. The aircraft was restored, and it has since been the centrepiece of the transport exhibition for more than 30 years. .. One of Taylor’s four daughters, Gai Taylor, said at the time that the aircraft would be “irreparably damaged” by moving to Parramatta. She said: “I think it shows an incredible lack of appreciation, understanding and love of our aviation history.”’
‘But Kylie Winkworth, a former trustee of the museum, said she couldn’t see the point and expense of lowering it unless the intention was to move it out. “They have announced that they will continue to display technology, science engineering and design,” she said. “But that’s not true because we find out there will only be three objects permanently retained at the Powerhouse in Ultimo, the Catalina, the Boulton & Watt steam engine and Loco No 1 which is the first train of NSW.”
Andrew Grant, former senior curator of transport at the Powerhouse questioned whether the three very large objects might just be turned into impressive objet d’art. “Decisions that are made, and made public, reveal more about knee-jerk reaction than they do about long-term planning,” he said… Community group Pyrmont Action said: “It is clear that the primary purpose of this so-called ‘renewal’ is for the Powerhouse at Ultimo to operate as a glorified function and exhibition centre – for hire.” ‘ Read more here, or here SMH Catalina 25 August
22 August, 2022
‘Willow Grove could be relocated to Cumberland Hospital, Robin Thomas Reserve or Lake Parramatta’
Joanne Vella writes in the Parramatta Advertiser that: ‘Plans to rebuild the heritage-listed Parramatta building that was bulldozed for the Powerhouse Museum have emerged but critics likened it to shooting someone’s dog and then offering to stuff it. Heritage advocates are imploring the State Government not to rebuild Willow Grove a year after the 140-year-old property was torn apart to make way for the $915 million Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta. Heritage advocates are imploring the State Government not to rebuild Willow Grove a year after the 140-year-old property was torn apart to make way for the $915 million Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta.
Create NSW has called for community input to choose from a shortlist of locations for a rebuilt Willow Grove, a grand double-storey Italianate property that was once used as a maternity hospital between 1919 and 1953 before it was dismantled.
The sites are Lake Parramatta where it would be set amid open lawns and bushland, Parramatta Council-owned Robin Thomas Reserve where heritage house Ellagowan also stands, and the grounds of the Cumberland Health Precinct where Sydney University will open a campus.
‘But North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group spokeswoman Suzette Meade said reconstructing the villa to the latter two locations would threaten their heritage value and questioned why the government wanted to restore Willow Grove now. “NPRAG has always opposed Willow Grove being removed from its garden grounds or a rebuild anywhere, but especially desecrating another heritage site,’’ she said. … Unfortunately, the Arts Minister Ben Franklin stating Willow Grove is culturally significant now, is about two years too late.’’
Now the group is urging the government to dump the plans and spend the $7 million on other cultural projects such as creating botanic gardens in Parramatta around the Female Factory and restoring “scores of heritage buildings”. Ms Meade said Willow Grove’s story, centred on Parramatta businesswoman Annie Gallagher building her successful drapery business and elegant family home from the villa, and its use as a maternity hospital, had been lost. “Parramatta is one of the most significant heritage sites in this country, setting a precedent that heritage can be moved around at the whim of any development should be cause for concern for everyone.’’’ Read more here, or here Daily T Willow Grove 22 Aug
20 August, 2022
‘Don’t rebuild Willow Grove’
After years of campaigning to save Willow Grove in its original location, North Parramatta Residents Action Group circulated a media release , saying:
In response to Create NSW this week called for community input to choose a location and future use for the rebuild of Willow Grove NPRAG is calling for the NSW government to not throw away $7million on rebuilding the Villa after its demolition in 2021 for the controversial Parramatta Powerhouse. With two of the three proposed sites being significant heritage sites of their own
and the 140 year Victorian Italian Villa and its garden grounds on Phillip Street no longer hold any significance one has to ask why is this still going ahead. Read the full release here: NPRAG Media Release Dont Rebuild WillowGrove
19 August, 2022
‘Architectural orphan’: Historic Willow Grove villa closer to relocation
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Three riverside sites have been shortlisted as the potential final resting home for the historic villa of Willow Grove, brought down to make way for the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse. An address within a health precinct near the old Parramatta Gaol tops the shortlist of sites identified as suitable to relocate the Victorian Italianate villa, now lying in pieces in a storage facility in south-western Sydney following its dismantling in 2020. The 1891-built home came down last year amid public protests when the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union lifted a green ban that had protected it from relocation … But in April, the National Trust withdrew from the Willow Grove Community Reference Group, after it concluded that the Victorian mansion could not be “authentically reconstructed”… Heritage advocates are, however, seeking clarification that Willow Grove will not be located within the boundaries of the Parramatta North Heritage Precinct, of which there may be some crossover with the Westmead Health Precinct. It’s feared the location of the architectural orphan in these parts would undermine the heritage integrity and continuity of Parramatta Female Factory and other historical colonial buildings in their parkland settings. These are considered so significant as to be worthy of UNESCO World Heritage listing…. [North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) spokesperson Suzette] Meade said other questions remained unanswered: “Who’s going to pay for the new site, who’s going to pay for its ongoing use? The problem is this government has no community buy-in because the people of Parramatta didn’t want Willow Grove gone. No one asked for it to be relocated.”
The City of Parramatta Council will forward a submission on the proposed locations to the NSW government. “We encourage the community to share their feedback on the project via Create NSW.” Read more Here: or here: SMH Architectural orphan 18 Aug 22
14 August, 2022
‘Move over Melbourne: Sydney’s push to be nation’s culture capital’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Taylor reports: ‘Sydney’s tourism marketing needs an overhaul to revive the ailing CBD and knock Melbourne off its perch as Australia’s cultural capital, according to the city’s peak business chamber.’ [Without appearing to mention the contribution the Powerhouse Museum makes to Sydney CBD and NSW…] ‘A report commissioned by Business Sydney says the harbour city is missing out on tourists and risks being a “second division” city because it relies too heavily on the Opera House, harbour and beaches, while downplaying arts and culture… The Creating Australia’s Arts and Cultural Capital report said Sydney did not “see itself as a cultural city and cedes that role to Melbourne. Sydney’s brand doesn’t reflect the maturity and sophistication of the city”.’
‘It also refers to an earlier report that said the global perception and identity of Sydney was narrowly associated with its tourism icons and natural environment “while its distinctive people, histories, culture, diversity and creativity are less visible”. If culture was not made the focus of Sydney’s branding, the city’s reputation would diminish and “become permanently stuck in the ‘second division’ of cities,” the report added… The report calls for a Sydney Arts Precinct linking the city’s cultural institutions such as theatres, museums and major arts companies under an identifiable brand and collaborative body. “A primary aim of the Sydney Arts Precinct is to attract visitation to the CBD from Sydney and NSW residents using rich cultural content and experiences as the driver,” the report said. Read More Here, or here: SMH Sydney’s push 14 Aug 22
12 August, 2022
‘Save our Powerhouse Museum!’
The Powerhouse Museum Alliance distributed a document updating current issues about the future of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and recommending communication with Government Ministers and Members about issues associated with current government plans. It says:
‘The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo is being split up – Parramatta is not a museum – Ultimo will be nothing like the people’s museum that we know and love. Our Powerhouse Museum is being disappeared, replaced by a so called ‘Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct’ of fashion and design. The Transport exhibition has been stripped out, the Museum’s technology icons: No 1 Locomotive, the 1785 Boulton & Watt engine, the Steam Revolution exhibition, the Catalina, the Flight of Aircraft and Space are all at risk of removal. The magnificent Wran Building and Galleria, landmarks of the award winning Powerhouse Museum, are at risk of demolition The Powerhouse Museum’s best practice, essential museum workspaces, including its impressive workshop in the Harwood Building (old Ultimo Tram Depot), are being replaced with subsidised studios for ‘creatives’ and ‘artists’ – seriously? Museum professionals – curators, conservators, registrars, exhibition designers etc – the Museum’s collection store, conservation facilities, library and archives – all this and more, are being moved off site to distant, less accessible Castle Hill, risking the Museum’s valuable collection. The former Ultimo Power House is uniquely suitable for the Museum’s much loved transport, science and technology exhibitions which are essential to the complete Powerhouse Museum – not just fashion.’ Read it Here: PMA Threat to Your Powerhouse Museum UPDATE 12 August 2022
2 August, 2022
‘Glorified function centre’: Powerhouse plans condemned in public submissions
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on public responses to ‘the published concept environmental impact statement that has been released for public comment ahead of a national design competition, expected to be called this month, for the renewal of the home of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Though not prescribing any specific proposal, the statement and accompanying documents show what’s possible on the site in an approach similar to that adopted for the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse.’
She notes that (despite government and museum management support for the ptroposal) ‘New $500 million scoping plans for the Powerhouse at Ultimo have been condemned as an attempt to transform the museum into an entertainment centre by the overwhelming majority of public submissions. Only six of 104 public submissions backed the concept plans for the 2.4-hectare site that potentially allow for a new public square, entrance, and a multistorey annex on the museum’s Harris Street forecourt.’ She quotes from many of those professional submissions, including ‘The International Council of Museums made one of the 91 objections lodged with the Department of Planning: “This looks to be the removal rather than the redevelopment of a Museum,” its vice chair Alex Marsden said.’
‘The site comprises a cluster of heritage-listed buildings that formed the Ultimo Power Station and the old post office united by an arched galleria on Harris Street, which went up in the same era as Darling Harbour and the National Maritime Museum.’ … Design guidelines now on public exhibition do not sufficiently protect the fabric of these additions, known collectively as the Wran Building, which have great significance for the NSW architectural profession, the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects said. The Institute said the 1988 redevelopment was one of the most successful and renowned adaptive reuse projects in Australia, an international benchmark for a museum of this type and a fine example of NSW public architecture in the post-modern style.
‘Statements of heritage impacts and the Conservation Management Plan downplayed the architectural significance of the Wran Building. Indeed, there was so much confusion between heritage, urban design, and architectural guidelines that it was preferable that they should be redrafted and re-exhibited for public comment, City of Sydney planners said.’
And former president and Museum trustee Nicholas Pappas said ‘the renewal project was “in its essence, nothing more than the unjustified and catastrophic destruction of a beloved and award-winning public edifice and cultural institution”.’
For Morris’s full story Read here or here: Glorified function centre 2 Aug 2022
To read the submissions, open the Portal website here, and go to ‘Submissions’:
1 August, 2022
‘Powerhouse Museum ‘rejuvenation’ threatens to destroy its historic character
Jim McIlroy writes in the Green Left, Issue 1355, that ‘The campaign to save the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo continues after the New South Wales Coalition government announced plans to close it for “rejuvenation”. It is proposed to be a “creative industries precinct”, and reopen at the end of 2023 as “Ultimo Powerhouse”. The word “museum” will go. Spokesperson for the Powerhouse Museum Alliance (PMA) Kylie Winkworth criticised the plan on July 14, saying it fundamentally changes its use and “breaks with the Powerhouse Museum’s historic mission as Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences”… Campaigner Tom Lockley criticised the government for declaring the project “state significant” — which means it can steamroll its plans through without local government approval. “The process required public consultation,” Lockley said. “The comprehensive investigations of the huge first Legislative Council Inquiry produced clear evidence of malpractice, and the government has simply ignored it and carried on.”… Greens MLA Jamie Parker said at the time that more than five years of campaigning had “built a powerful alliance” to defend the Powerhouse, promote arts and culture and protect Sydney’s heritage. However, he warned then that “much work lies ahead”.
Now, Premier Dominic Perrottet’s government wants to destroy the character of the Ultimo museum, while claiming it wants to “rejuvenate” the site… Winkworth said in May last year that “the NSW government has hacked away at the Powerhouse Museum for the last 10 years, relentlessly cutting its budget, gutting the museum of expertise, competent leadership and good governance, undermining public trust and making museum policy on impulse round the campfire”. Read more Here, or Here Green Left – Powerhouse rejuvenation threatens
c.9 August, 2022
‘PSA social media clip’
Senior Public Service Association members speak about the ways in which they have argued over recent years, to save the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and maintain it in the way audiences continue to expect it to operate. Juli-Anne Bond, PSA industrial manager; Stewart Little, PSA general secretary; and Troy Right, assistant general secretary, speak strongly about the need to properly consider the importance of the museum in its Ultimo precinct and maintenance of all significant buildings; access to the broad collection through exhibitions and appropriate storage; and concerns about staff and audiences. Listen here
11 August, 2022
‘Powerhouse Museum upgrades: public overwhelmingly disapproves plans’
In City Hub, Sasha Foot confirms that: ‘Community members and groups have overwhelmingly opposed the NSW Government’s Powerhouse Museum redevelopment plans in submissions made to the Department of Planning in July. Public feedback shows that objections – mostly centered on shifting the museum’s focus from science to fashion – strongly overrule statements approving the Ultimo site renewal 87% of the submissions stated their disapproval, while those who supported the concept plans were mostly government organisations like the Sydney Living Museums and the Australian Museum. … Save the Powerhouse, a community group opposing the site’s renewal, called the concept plan “destructive” ‘, and while expressing support ‘for a site refurbishment (such as updating the exhibition spaces), they believe a planned renewal will “completely change and degrade” the existing museum.
State member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, opposed the draft plans as he said it would “intensify overdevelopment.” The City of Sydney’s submission neither supported nor opposed the plans; instead, they requested more clarity on the proposal.‘ Read more, or here: 11 August City Hub
11 July, 2022
‘Powerhouse Ultimo upgrades revealed in draft plan, meets community push back’
Sharlotyte Thou, in City Hub, reports that: ‘The release of the draft plans for the renewal of the Powerhouse Museum Ultimo shows the first glimpse at what the museum will look like after its $500 million upgrade. Notable upgrades include the construction of a new six storey building on the Harris Street forecourt, as well as the implementation of a public square and outdoor programs near the museum entrance. The architect for the project will be selected through a design competition, which Create NSW Interim Chief Executive Annette Pitman hopes will help “reimagine one of the country’s most revered cultural institution through new and expanded exhibition and public space”.’
However, in noting that there are ‘ “No signs” community voices have been heard’, Thou says: ‘Community groups such as Save the Powerhouse and the Powerhouse Museum Alliance have protested resolutely against these proposed plans. Save the Powerhouse (STP) told CityHub that “despite consistent protests against the government’s plans for [the Powerhouse Museum] …they appear to have had no effect”. They stated that while community members dissented at community consultations organised by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences “there are no signs that their voices were heard”. STP maintained that the draft plans will “downgrade” the museum into a “fashion and design information and education facility”… They additionally criticised the proposed focus on fashion, which “targets a very narrow section of the public”.’…’ The concept plans for the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum will be on public exhibition until July 21.’ Read more: and here City Hub 11 July
‘Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal’
The MAAS website identifies the current project status of the controversial ‘Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal’.
It says: ‘A transformative $480–$500 million investment by the NSW Government to reinvigorate one of Australia’s most revered and loved museums, Powerhouse Ultimo. The renewal will see Powerhouse Ultimo deliver a dynamic applied arts and sciences programming with a focus on design and fashion, presenting exhibitions that showcase the Powerhouse collection, international exclusive exhibitions and programs that support the creative industries. It will deliver new and refurbished exhibition and public spaces, connecting Powerhouse Ultimo to the Sydney CBD, exploring opportunities to re-orient the Powerhouse to the Goods Line and connecting it to nearby dining, entertaining and cultural precincts. Powerhouse Ultimo will become a vitalising force in a vibrant precinct that actively contributes to the growing night-time and visitor economies.’
- A Concept State Significant Development Application (SSDA) was submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for the renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo in June 2022.
- On Monday 25 July, the NSW Government launched an Expression of Interest for the future national Design Competition for the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal.
- View the Powerhouse Ultimo Draft Consultation Management Plan submitted as part of the Concept State Significant Development Application for Powerhouse Ultimo. READ more.
Kylie Winkworth: ‘The Powerhouse Museum is Not Saved’
In a detailed paper, museum expert Kylie Winkworth notes the urgency for public response to ‘the recently lodged Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, into a creative industries precinct.’
She argues that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum Alliance opposes the NSW Government’s wasteful, destructive and unnecessary plans to erase all trace of the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) via a $500 million design competition and redevelopment. This is not museum renewal but museum erasure. The NSW Government quietly lodged the EIS for the redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum into a creative industries precinct while everyone was distracted by the NSW budget. The Government is giving the community just 28 days to review and comment on more than 2,000 pages of reports and plans. Read report here.
Submissions close on 21 July. If you care about the future of the Powerhouse Museum please lodge a submission stating that you object to the development plans.’
‘The Powerhouse Museum is at risk in the Government’s plans to turn the PHM into a creative industries precinct at a cost of $500 million. This is a fundamental change of use and abandonment of the Powerhouse Museum’s historic mission as Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences. The project is a broken promise by the NSW Premier, see attached. Two years ago the now Premier announced that the Powerhouse Museum would be staying, and would continue to welcome visitors to its world renowned exhibits. The media release stated that the Powerhouse Museum would continue to provide an outstanding visitor experience in the areas of technology, science, engineering and design… would complement the future focussed Parramatta facility….would retain jobs at Ultimo and would explore if some of the funds earmarked for relocation costs could be used on renovations. None of these commitments have been kept. In June 2021, behind closed doors, and without consultation, explanation or a transparent policy process, Premier Berejiklian decreed the PHM would be a fashion, design and creative industries precinct.’
After discussing extensive well-researched details, Winkworth concludes: ‘Everyone supports – and expected – genuine renewal of the Powerhouse Museum’s exhibitions, infrastructure and public domain. No one is arguing for a museum set in aspic. But there is no explanation, demonstrated cultural need or policy justification for the ‘Ultimo Renewal’ creative industries project. Instead of museum renewal we are getting renewal of the Government’s internationally embarrassing vendetta to gut the Powerhouse Museum. After seven and a half years of battling to save the Powerhouse Museum the Government is proposing another wasteful, destructive, ad hoc, policy-free museum infrastructure decision, once again made without considering options, museum needs and opportunities, and without the benefit of a museum strategy or policy for NSW. ‘ for the full story Read here: Winkworth The PHM is Not Saved June 2022
21 June, 2022
‘POWERHOUSE ULTIMO RENEWAL’: The project has many flaws
Save the Powerhouse group notes of the Department of Planning’s State Significant Development (SSD) project “Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal”, that ‘the project has many flaws and a great deal of time will require time to analyse the thousands of pages of documentation.’
They summarise that: ‘The EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) comprises 39 documents including a Conservation Management Plan, a set of Architectural Plans…and a Consultation Outcome Report. in which we learn that the “renewed” Powerhouse Ultimo is designed as a “presentation and education facility” (which is NOT the official definition of a “museum”) but nonetheless that “comments that a focus on fashion and design is inadequate, and that the museum should have a broader focus” had been noted.
An initial reading of the architectural plans indicates that:
– the Harwood building is excluded from the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal
– the project involves the entire gutting of the “Heritage Core” (Turbine, Engine and Boiler Halls and Switch House).
– a new 30m tall building on the current forecourt location (dwarfing the adjacent Wran Building) will be constructed – a new entrance at the end of the Goods Line will be created.’
They remind readers that: ‘the State Significant Development (SSD) project “Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal” is now on exhibition on the NSW Planning Portal site and open for Public submissions until 20 July 2022. Read more: 21 July Save the P re SSD Ultimo Renewal project
8 June, 2022
Legislative Council: Walt Secord calls for more transparency in provision of documents
Shadow Minster for the Arts, Walt Secord, moved in the Legislative Council that previously withheld documents associated with decisions made about the new Museum in Parramatta, and the ‘renewal’ of the existing Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, be made available. The new Minister for Arts, Ben Franklin, opposed the motion, but the Council members voted for the motion, with 24 Ayes and 17 Noes. Extracts from Hansard include:
The Hon. WALT SECORD (Shadow Minster for the Arts):
That, under standing order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 42 days of the date of the passing of this resolution the following documents, excluding any documents previously returned under an order of the House, in searchable electronic form if possible, in the possession, custody or control of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade (Create NSW) and Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Staff Agency, or the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Regional Youth relating to the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal, Powerhouse Parramatta and Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences ‘(documents listed)… ‘The project has leapt from crisis to crisis and these documents will give the Opposition and the crossbench, as well as community groups that are following the matter very closely, more information which will contribute to transparency. The documents being requested relate to the Powerhouse Ultimo renewal business case, the master plan and the renewal conservation plan.
The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Regional Youth):
‘The Government opposes the motion. Powerhouse Parramatta and the renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo represent the largest investment in cultural infrastructure in this State since the Sydney Opera House. Furthermore, Powerhouse Parramatta will be the first cultural institution to be established in western Sydney, and the Ultimo renewal will refresh and enliven one of our oldest institutions. We have remained accountable and transparent on this project since we announced it in 2015. We have justified our decision-making and our expenditure and we are proud to provide evidence to articulate our investment in both of these extraordinary projects and we will continue to do so. However, we have some concerns about the detail and the breadth of this order for the production of documents.
The Hon. SCOTT FARLOW: I thank the Hon. Walt Secord for his amendment to the motion, as mentioned by the Minister. The slight concession of 42 days from 21 days is welcome—it would probably take 21 days to read the motion, given the length of it! As the Hon. Walt Secord and the Hon. Ben Franklin said in their contributions, this issue has been ventilated in this place for some time—seven years, in fact. … Whilst I acknowledge the department’s job is to be transparent with all information, this motion would frankly be an unsolicited use of the time and resources of the departments, institutions and ministerial offices involved. It would compromise the time of taxpayer-funded staff to organise all the information in the order, constraining staff capacity to work on the project. That would delay the time line of this wonderful project, which is vitally needed by the people of western Sydney. Those opposite claim to want to create jobs; this order would simply delay the jobs being delivered in western Sydney. I note paragraphs (h) and (i) of the motion. These requests are unreasonably broad. Read full report in Hansard
3 June, 2022
‘Powerhouse Ultimo community consultations fall short with museum advocates’
Erin Modaro, in City Hub, reports that ‘In a continuation of the push against the NSW government’s vision for the renewal of the Powerhouse Museum Ultimo, community members backing the ‘save the powerhouse’ movement have once again raised their concerns, after two public information seminars were held on May 16 and 18. The seminars, carried out by state government consultant Ethos Urban, informed attendees about the direction of Powerhouse Museum Ultimo’s transformation and discussed a December 2021 Scoping Report put out by Ethos Urban.
Tom Lockley, who attended the information seminar, expressed that the meeting felt inauthentic, and said that “the recent consultations have been carried out as usual, just to tick the boxes.” Lockley has been vocal in the community about preserving the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo for 7 years. “I asked if they could provide details of any person with museum qualifications and or experience who had given input [into the scoping plan]… and this question was completely ignored.”Other Powerhouse Museum advocacy members in attendance at the meetings outlined how the direction of the museum to “focus on fashion and design”, as detailed in the scooping report, was a concern.
Patricia Johnson and Jean-Pierre Alexandre, who lead the Save the Powerhouse community group, said that the community as well as museum specialists, “are strongly opposed to trivialising the Powerhouse” through “turning it into a ‘creative industries hub’ with a ‘focus on fashion.’” “We must now focus on overturning the ludicrous idea that our time-honored Powerhouse Museum can become a mere “fashion hub”” Johnson and Alexandre said.
Member of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance group, Grace Cochrane, attended the seminar and expressed similar concerns about the management of the renewal project. Cochrane had questions during the seminar about the future of certain historic buildings such as the Wran Building, the Galleria and Hardwood Building. She stated that the current building plans had no “clear description of exactly what the content, scope and programs of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo are intended to be.”
‘… Create NSW responded to the discussion from the public consultations, stating that the feedback they received “included comments on the project’s Concept SSDA” and questions about “operational elements relating to future exhibits or management of the site.” “Consultation will continue with the community and feedback will be considered as part of the planning for the project” Create NSW said.
The Ethos Urban scoping report also included a section outlining community feedback that has “informed the project”, including the preference for Powerhouse Ultimo to “continue operating as a museum”, and the recognising the need for “community connection.” Going forward, attendees at the public information seminars were told to expect that a draft conservation report would soon be going up for public exhibition, followed by an architectural competition for the design of the upgrades.. Read more , or here: City HUb on consultations.
20 May, 2022
POWERHOUSE ULTIMO “More unanswered questions”
Save the Powerhouse group asks in a circulated email: WHAT HAVE WE REALLY LEARNED ABOUT THE “POWERHOUSE RENEWAL? Two questionably-named “Community Consultations held recently about the future of the Powerhouse have left us – as usual- with as many questions as answers. Even if the object of both exercises was clearly to enable the Government to tick the (required) “public consultation” box, Powerhouse loyalists were able to gather some useful information about planned future directions. Based on numerous comments received from people who attended the “open weekend” and/or “community consultation sessions” (including our own experience), and/or who completed MAAS’ associated flawed survey, we can confirm a high level of agreement on what the local community wants, and more importantly, does NOT want!
Despite moderator Kyle Cochrane’s firm refusal in the closed sessions to tolerate any discussion except for preselected subjects listed, attendees unanimously REJECTED.
[In summary, they discuss:]
-1- The proposed NAME CHANGES to “Powerhouse Ultimo” and “Powerhouse Parramatta”….
-2- MAAS’ cherished notion of REFOCUSING THE POWERHOUSE AS A DESIGN AND FASHION CENTRE…
-3- The concept of TURNING THE MUSEUM INTO A “COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIES” HUB….
‘The format of the May online “Information Seminar” appeared designed to limit attendees’ interaction by preventing them from knowing who else was present or seeing their questions. We nonetheless learned that:
– DA STAGE 1 (concept and envelope, including a DRAFT CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT PLAN will “soon” be placed on exhibition for 4 weeks, followed by an ARCHITECTURAL COMPETITION, and then a DA STAGE 2 (detailed design).
– MAAS cannot yet fully detail the future use of the “museum” but there will be exhibitions of the collections as well as national and international exhibitions. Some spaces will be used for COMMERCIAL purpose but there will not be any private residential component.’ Read more: Save the Powerhouse 20 May
18 May, 2022
Brief Report on Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, Webinar Zoom meetings
Ross Hornsey, Michael Oliver, Ethos Urban; Thomas Klobucar, Create NSW; Simon Walkcom, Powerhouse Museum, and Natalie Vinton, Curio, led two webinar Zoom presentations on 16th and 17th May 2022 where: ‘Consultation is informing the preparation of a Concept State Significant Development Application for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment that places a revitalised museum at the heart of a vibrant Creative Industries Precinct. Find out more about the plans and have your say by joining a public information webinar where members of the project team will present plans and respond to community feedback.’
After explanations associated with Screen presentations were provided, questions were then possible through online submissions made during the session. It is understood that recordings were made of the sessions. Attached here for reference are Screen Shots from the 16th May session (including questions), and the same initial images were displayed on the 17th May.
View Here: Webinar, MAAS 16 May 2022
Questions from the audience in both sessions included concerns about the future use and/or existence of the Wran Building, the Galleria and the Harwood Building; and the development of a design competition and building plans without a clear description of exactly what the content, scope and programs of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo are intended to be (given that its reputation is as an integrated museum of applied arts, science and technology and social history).
16-17 May 2022
‘Powerhouse Ultimo Consultation Sessions’
Following the Live Consultation sessions run at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo in March, by consultancy firm Aurecon, announcements have now been made that further webinar consultations would be held on 12-1.30 on 16 May, or 6-7.30 on 17 May. An advertisement was made in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 May, ad 11 May and Registration can be made on the Museum’s website HERE, which also provides more information about the Zoom meetings: ‘Consultation is informing the preparation of a Concept State Significant Development Application for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment that places a revitalised museum at the heart of a vibrant Creative Industries Precinct. Find out more about the plans and have your say by joining a public information webinar where members of the project team will present plans and respond to community feedback.’
The event is carried out this time by the NSW government’s consulting firm Ethos Urban, who refer to their Scoping Report on the ‘Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal’, made in December 2021. To read their Report, go to the government Planning Portal Here. Click ‘Request for Sears’ then ‘View’, or go directly to Here.
In contrast to the strong opposition made over many years to the recommended changes to the Museum’s reduced cross-collection and exhibition role in Ultimo, the Report places the proposed changes within the wider plans for Pyrmont and the city, noting: ‘Alongside the renewal a Creative Industries Precinct will be created that will integrated into the operations of the Powerhouse Museum.’ As well, ‘The renewal will see Powerhouse Ultimo deliver a programming focus on design and fashion, presenting exhibitions that showcase the Powerhouse Collection, international exclusive exhibitions and programs that support the design and fashion industries.’ With little mention of the collection, under ‘Main uses and activities’ it notes: ‘The purpose of the development is to provide for the renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo, which is defined as an ‘information and education facility’. It is expected that the development will also comprise a range of related and ancillary uses such as office and co-working spaces, creative industry studios, retail facilities and public domain.’
And (referring to a very narrow collection focus, and no mention of significant industrial items best suited to this site) the Conclusion includes:
– The renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo and the creation of the Powerhouse Creative Industries Precinct will be a significant investment in the delivery of the NSW Government’s Cultural Infrastructure Plan 2025+ and the Pyrmont Peninsula Pace Strategy.
– Complementing the future flagship Powerhouse Parramatta, Powerhouse Castle Hill, and the Sydney Observatory, the project will see Powerhouse Ultimo focus on design and fashion, presenting exhibitions that showcase the museum’s significant collections, international exclusive exhibitions and programs that support the design and fashion industries, reinvigorating one of Australia’s most revered and much loved museums.’
Long-time supporters of the Powerhouse Museum will have the opportunity to listen to the presentations, and submit questions and comments on the Zoom page (as well as at the time of Registration).
2 May, 2022
‘Willow Grove stuff-up ‘one of the worst in NSW history’
On Radio 2GB, ‘Ben Fordham has slammed “one of the worst ideas in political history” that has left the ruins of a 152-year-old historic building gathering dust. Parramatta’s Willow Grove, built circa 1886, was dismantled to make way for the Western Sydney branch of the Powerhouse Museum. The government insisted it would rebuild the historic building elsewhere but the National Trust NSW has withdrawn from the project after an inspection of the building’s remains indicate it “could not be authentically reconstructed.”
“There was never an appetite to rebuild it,” Ben said, “It was all damage control over one of the dopiest ideas we’ve ever heard! It is one of the worst policy stuff-ups in NSW history.” Then-arts minister Don Harwin had rejected Ben Fordham’s critique of the idea at the time. Mr Harwin assured the building would be restored “to its former glory”. Read/listen here.
1 May, 2022
‘May Day – Twelve Months On’
The Greater Cities Community Facebook site reports: ‘A year after last year’s incredible May Day Rally, when communities, unions & heritage lovers across Sydney linked up to Save Willow Grove, the much loved and treasured building having been demolished now lies in thousands of bits under plastic in a location unknown, with the Minister and Premier responsible for its ruin having now gone from politics. With the National Trust, this week reiterating its fears that reassembling Willow Grove elsewhere has also gone, the government’s contentious plans for the Ultimo site are back on the agenda following the publication of the Scoping Report for the Request for a SEARS (Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements) for “the renewal of the Powerhouse Ultimo”. Read report here: Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal – Scoping Report ‘With the absence of the usual detail in a Scoping Report, the report however does indicate the plans for Ultimo are back to the contentious 2019 plans, ie for a fashion, creativity & architectural precinct with the project defined as an “information and education facility”. Moreover, the report states it is “expected that the development will also comprise a range of related and ancillary uses such as office and co-working spaces, creative industry studios, retail facilities and public domain”. Significantly too, the Report indicates the Harwood Building will be “decoupled”, with speculation rife that its sale is now back on the agenda. Likewise, the redevelopment of the Harris Street frontage is indicated “with more significant alterations/additions and new built form to be provided in locations which are less constrained by heritage factors, such as the Harris Street site frontage [aka Wran Building] and forecourt”, with overshadowing for the “loose fit” envelope expected to be kept at an “acceptable level”.
While the request indicates the Concept Plan is expected to comply with the current controls under the City of Sydney’s LEP, namely 28 metre height limit and an FSR of 4:1, this could change following the architectural design competition which will be managed by Create NSW. Notably, a Development Application to be lodged for Stage 1 Early Works. Timing for “work on the project is expected to commence following the receipt of development consent for the Detailed DA”.
In the meantime, the more recent devastating floods in NSW serve as a reminder of what’s at stake, when floodwaters will invariably strike the Powerhouse Parramatta.” ‘
29/30 April, 2022
‘Willow Grove relocation process in turmoil after National Trust pulls out’
Linda Morris reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The historic villa of Willow Grove, which was pulled down to make way for the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse, is lying in bits in a storage facility in south-western Sydney and seems unlikely to be reconstructed anytime soon.
National Trust NSW has withdrawn from the reference group set up by the Perrottet government to find it a new site, saying that on inspection of the building’s stored remains and catalogues, it had concluded that the mansion could not be “authentically reconstructed” ’… Salvaged ‘elements are housed in a storage facility that was clean and secure, and wrapped in thick plastic to protect from dust, the Trust’s advocacy manager Jane Alexander said … Adequacy of storage was not the issue. “When you reconstruct something you have to take an extraordinary level of detail and we didn’t think the amount of detail taken would adequately allow for a reconstruction,” … “The Trust felt it would be more of a recreation of the building using salvaged elements from Willow Grove, especially when you take into consideration new builds have to meet building codes and new accessibility standards.”’
‘The Trust has long opposed the dismantling of Willow Grove but its withdrawal from the Willow Grove Community Reference Group is a blow to the credibility of the government relocation process … Once a new site for Willow Grove is decided, planning and design approval has still to be obtained.…“Parramatta has a remarkable heritage, but with the loss of so many heritage buildings, that unique history is fast diminishing,” she said.’ Morris notes that ‘Options to relocate the Willow Grove building include sites near historic places, such as the Parramatta Female Factory, which is subject to a business case for use as an interpretative museum. “The National Trust NSW remains concerned that this will negatively impact the significance of the [historic] precinct and that it would be inappropriate to place a replica building on this site or others like it,” Alexander said.’ Morris also published comments about relocation options from Powerhouse Museum president Peter Collins and North Parramatta Residents Action Group spokesperson Suzette Meade, while ‘The Sydney Morning Herald has contacted Arts Minister Ben Franklin for comment.’ Read more or here: SMH 29 April 2022
9 April, 2022
‘Rags-to-riches developer makes hefty donation to Parramatta Powerhouse’
A media release from the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) announced: ‘The Powerhouse today announced a $10 million investment in Powerhouse Parramatta by Sarkis Nassif, founder and Chief Executive of Holdmark Property Group.’ Linda Morris followed up in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Rags-to-riches western Sydney property developer Sarkis Nassif has made a hefty $10 million donation to the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse, edging the region’s first major cultural institution closer to its target of raising $75 million from private philanthropy. Nassif’s company, the Holdmark Property Group, has been awarded naming rights over the Powerhouse’s second-largest exhibition space and will be the principal sponsor of the museum’s Sydney Design Festival, focusing on innovation in design, engineering and architecture. …Nassif’s $10 million donation through the Holdmark Foundation is the self-made multimillionaire’s first foray into arts philanthropy … The donation has been hailed as an example of the emerging capacity of western Sydney’s new wealthy class to support a region that is home to 2.5 million people – 35 per cent of whom were born overseas… Arts minister Ben Franklin said private donations to the once-in-a-generation cultural institution now totalled $45 million.’ In working towards the government-required private funding target: ‘Billionaire property developer Lang Walker kicked off the Parramatta Powerhouse’s philanthropic fund in October with a $20 million donation to fund in-school STEM education across Campbelltown, Liverpool, Bankstown, Penrith and Parramatta this year and overnight stays at the museum for regional students. The University of Western Sydney has invested $10 million as an institutional partner. Holdmark will sponsor a design summit and partner with the university to establish a multi-disciplinary summer school with students partnering with a western Sydney council to find solutions to challenges around climate change.’ Media Release: MAAS Parramatta-Holdmark Read more SMH,or 9 April Sarkis Nassif hefty donation [We are reminded that on 18 December, 2019, Linda Morris and Megan Gorrey wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum will need to raise around $75 million from private philanthropists and corporations to meet the multi-million dollar cost of relocating to Parramatta. The contribution is necessary to offset the overall cost of building, operating and moving the institution to new premises in western Sydney, estimated by the government’s own economic analysis of 2018 to be $1.17 billion. Taxpayers will need to contribute $645 million towards the relocation project, the difference to be made up through philanthropy and the redevelopment of the Ultimo site, which is the subject of a new business case.’ In relation to the 9 April 2022 report, above, PMA readers note that to date philanthropic donations appear to meet the donor’s interests rather than programs associated with the Museum’s known collections.] Read more.
Reports on ‘Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo’: Survey and Live Consultation Sessions
Many people attended the Consultation Sessions offered at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo on 19/20 March. They were chaired by Kylie Cochrane, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement technical lead partner for engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Aurecon, alongside Alan Croker, Heritage architect and director of Design 5 architects and Thomas Klobucar, Project Director at Create NSW. It was confirmed that: ‘Powerhouse Ultimo is going through a historic period of Renewal. As part of this process, a Conservation Management Plan is being prepared to help guide the future design, use and management of the museum. We invite you to be part of this process.’ And in line with questions on the on-line Survey, saying ‘We want to understand what you value most about the museum’, questions included: ‘What works well at Powerhouse Ultimo; What doesn’t work at Powerhouse Ultimo; What are the opportunities for change/improvement/efficiencies?’ Questions and comments were encouraged from all in the audience, and it was noted that the comments would be documented (without names) for future reference.
From observations at the time, and reports later sent in to the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, it appears that, as well as a desire to maintain the heritage aspects of the buildings, including the 1988 award-winning additions and the early tramshed Harwood Building, alongside the Power Station buildings, a great audience emphasis was placed on the significance of representing the broad collection across Science and Technology, Decorative Arts and Design and Social History – on this site – which should continue to be identified as the Powerhouse Museum, in Ultimo, not just Powerhouse Ultimo! Concern was expressed about the possible relocation of significant large machines and aeroplanes, the removal of the full collection to Castle Hill which is poorly accessible for museum staff and audiences, and the tendency to replace exhibition spaces and museum workshops with artist residencies and other temporary projects that are not necessarily focussed on the stories behind objects in the collection. Also at issue was the expressed need to change the current ‘Fashion and Design’ identity to something more inclusive of all the collection. However, it was disconcerting to be advised by the organisers, that their task was to do with the buildings in Ultimo, and not the collection.
See questions in the On-line Questionnaire: or in comments below.
Read here for responses to the Survey and Consultations sent to the Powerhouse Museum Alliance: Consultation comments 1 May 2022
19/20 March 2022
Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo: Live Consultation Sessions
In early March, the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) announced a free Open Weekend, and also Consultation sessions about the future of the Ultimo site on Saturday 19 at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm and on Sunday 20 March at 1 pm and 3 pm.
The Museum advertised on line: Powerhouse Ultimo Open Weekend (not now accessible)
‘Powerhouse Ultimo is going through a historic period of Renewal. As part of this process, a Conservation Management Plan is being prepared to help guide the future design, use and management of the museum. We invite you to be part of this process. We want to understand what you value most about the museum.’ It also gave access to an On-line Questionnaire or at Powerhouse Ultimo survey March 2022‘What to expect on the day:
- Live Consultation Sessions – Find out more about the renewal project and have your say about what you value most about the museum in a live consultation session. Book your seat here. Or Register here for consultation sessions.
- Memory Lane – Look into the archives through an interactive multimedia exhibit.
- Creative Industry Residents – Meet the faces of the Powerhouse Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct and learn more about their practice.
- Family Adventure Trails – Explore the museum with your family and discover significant collection objects.
- Guided tours – Join tours of heritage highlights, current exhibitions, the Boulton and Watt, Textile Centre and other rarely seen areas of the museum.’
17 March, 2022
The 6th hearing of the (second) Select Committee for the Inquiry into the Government’s Management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in NSW
In its 6th hearing since 29 July 2020, and following an earlier Inquiry on the same subject, the Committee met for what has been suggested is its final hearing for the Committee (not fully confirmed). The focus was on the future of Powerhouse Museum, part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
For members, and hearing schedules: Read
For full Transcript, Read: or here: Transcript – 17 March 2022Chair, The Hon. Robert Borsak, introduced the hearing: ‘Today we will hear from a range of stakeholders including the Minister for Arts, the Hon. Ben Franklin, MLC, the Powerhouse Museum board and management and an expert flood panel. Today’s hearing is being broadcast live via the Parliament’s website. A transcript of today’s hearing will be placed on the Committee’s website..’
(Note: New Arts Minister Ben Franklin, was a former member of this committee; and former Arts Minister, Don Harwin, was included in it this time.)
Witnesses, in three sessions, were:
The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Regional Youth
ANNETTE PITMAN, Acting Chief Executive, Create NSW, Department of Premier and Cabinet
KATE FOY, Group Deputy Secretary, Tourism, Sport and Arts, Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade
Ms LISA HAVILAH, Chief Executive, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
The Hon. PETER COLLINS, President, Board of Trustees, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Mr GREG ROGENCAMP, Associate Principal, Surface Water Engineering Leader, Arup
Mr TOM GELLIBRAND, Head of Projects NSW, Infrastructure NSW
Mr RICHARD DEWAR, Technical Director, WMA Water
Dr JOHN MACINTOSH, Flood/Hydrological Engineer, Water Solutions, via videoconference
Ms DONNA DAVIS, Lord Mayor, City of Parramatta
Ms SUZETTE MEADE, North Parramatta Residents Action Group
Arts Minister, Ben Franklin opened discussion: ‘The Powerhouse is in a period of extraordinary transformation. With the establishment of Powerhouse Parramatta, the renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo, the expansion of the Museums Discovery Centre in Castle Hill and the ongoing operation at Sydney Observatory, the Powerhouse is designing a new approach to museums. Leading with a place in history, the Powerhouse and its venues will set a global benchmark for museums and cultural precincts, rewriting how institutions represent and reflect their communities. The investment by the New South Wales Government will cement the Powerhouse as Australia’s leading museum of applied arts and sciences with the development of two world-class facilities, in Ultimo and the museum’s flagship in Parramatta. As the first New South Wales State cultural institution to be based in western Sydney, Powerhouse Parramatta will be a transformational cultural precinct in Australia’s fastest growing city. Leading in science and technology and fostering our future STEM leaders, Powerhouse Parramatta will be the largest museum in New South Wales, with over 18,000 square metres of exhibition and public space, attracting two million visitors annually. Furthermore, Powerhouse Ultimo will undergo a renewal that would put the museum’s notable design and fashion collection at the forefront. Presenting exhibitions that feature the museum’s significant collections alongside iconic objects, Powerhouse Ultimo is an ideal site to host exclusive international exhibitions and programs that support the fashion and design industries. The expansion will deliver a new and increased exhibition and public space and a significant investment in the development of a creative industries precinct that will generate subsidised commercial studios and workspaces. Lastly, the Museums Discovery Centre is home to the Powerhouse collection. A key component of the Powerhouse renewal is the development of new storage facilities with a research workshop and community spaces that will provide new levels of access to collections on one consolidated site.’
Discussion with witnesses:
Critical discussions followed this address, about the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences across all sites, and included questions and responses about: the existence of and access to business cases; the proposed development and use of significant buildings in Ultimo; the status, representation, exhibition and location of the broad collection; the identification of the Ultimo site as a ‘Fashion and Design’ museum; as yet unclear programs intended for all future sites; the purpose of donated funds in relation to the Museum’s role; and issues about the dangers of a flood-prone Parramatta site and the destruction of historic buildings.
Save the Powerhouse community group wrote by email and Facebook:
Subject: TODAY’s INQUIRY HEARING INCONCLUSIVE We learned that:
– Other than confirmation that the Locomotive No1, the Catalina flying boat and the Boulton and Watt engine will stay and be displayed, we learned little new.
– According to CEO Lisa Havilah, the Powerhouse Ultimo will focus on fashion and design but not exclusively. The Steam exhibition will remain but will be integrated into “industrial exhibitions” to be “relevant and contemporary”.
– Peter Collins, President of the Board of Trustees also assured us that “there is no plan to demolish the Harwood Building” although its future use is not clear as there was a general discussion about moving “some” of the collections to Castle Hill to make room for “creative industries”.
– The Parramatta Powerhouse will focus on Science and Technology but there will be no permanent exhibition at all.
– There was a lengthy technical discussion by water experts on flood risks in Parramatta and the wisdom (or lack of) of building a new “world class” institution on a flood-prone river bank, but no meaningful conclusion.
– Suzette Meade, Spokesperson for the North Parramatta Resident Action Group deplored the decision to demolish Willow Grove Mansion and gut St George Terraces while Parramatta Lord Mayor Donna Davis opposed the loss of the building “undercroft” as public space.
North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) wrote later:
Their regular email newsletter reported on 17 April on local issues of concern and interest. It included: ‘Powerhouse Museum Inquiry Hearing: On March 17th this year a further hearing was held for the Upper House Inquiry into Powerhouse Museum and other Cultural institutions. This inquiry was very timely as we had just seen again the evidence of water heavy rain does to the project site on Phillip Street. The former minister for arts and heritage Don Harwin is now ironically on the inquiry committee mainly spending his time answering questions instead of asking them. NPRAG secretary Suzette Meade appeared beside Lord Mayor Donna Davis. Suzette focussed her time on the community sadness and anger over the demolition of WillowGrove by the State Government and tabling a set of images from the recent rain events as well as the debris collected around the river front. The Lord Mayor focussed on the lack of evacuation plan from the state government and pointing out that it’s not even required until the project requires final occupation certificates to open, as well as council’s planners still being very unhappy with the undercroft design of the building with flood waters and public safety. The same day the flood expert John Macintosh from the Brisbane Grantham Floods gave his expert testimony beside ARUP the state government engineers who are professionally advising that the Parramatta Powerhouse site is safe. During questioning the committee got ARUP to admit that they had not been treating riverine and overland flooding as one event in heavy rainfall but two separate events. This inquiry hearing session is also very good viewing and explains the still inherent danger of building this project on this flood prone site.’ NPRAG April 17
15 March, 2022
Government budget committee includes debate about Powerhouse Museum developments
Portfolio Committee No 1 – Premier and finance, is an inquiry that ‘was established on 23 June 2021 to report on the Budget Estimates and related papers for the financial year 2021-2022 presenting the amounts to be appropriated from the Consolidated Fund.’
The transcript includes considerable discussion about the proposed funding and future of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, the proposed additional site in Parramatta and the storage facilities at Castle Hill. Present were the former Museums Inquiry member, now Minister of Arts, Ben Franklin, and Executive Officer of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Lisa Havilah.
For an extract of the relevant discussion Read here: 15 March NSW Govt Budget committeeTo see members of the committee and read the full transcript go to Here; and select 15/03/2022 Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Sydney, Transcript, here.
3 March, 2022
‘Fears Lismore art gallery’s entire collection lost in NSW floods’
In a report that draws attention to the dangers for all museums and galleries on flood-prone sites (including the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta), Royce Kurmelovs records in the Guardian that: ‘There are fears the entire collection at the Lismore Regional Gallery may have been lost during the catastrophic floods in northern New South Wales. The gallery director, Ashleigh Ralph, said that while no one had been able to get access to the building to confirm the situation, flood waters had risen 2.5 metres higher than expected, which meant the top floor of the gallery had been inundated. “The collection we stored up there, it’s got all our major exhibitions on the second floor in case of flooding. Most of them would have been flooded,” Ralph said. “That includes hundreds and hundreds of works from the collection.”
The gallery houses several collections from local artists and the Afghan war rugs collection being toured by the Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery… “It’s a huge blow to the community,” Ralph said. “There’s so much history in our collection. Historical works, from artists in the region, that tell our story. And also the gallery is a place where everyone comes together and shares cultural experiences.” … The gallery also houses the Hannah Cabinet, a stunningly intricate cabinet built by master craftsman Geoff Hannah over six years. It is the product of 5,000 hours of work, contains 34 types of timber and veneers, 17 types of stone, four species of shell and 23-carat gold leaf. Hannah, whose home, workshop and woodworking machines were flooded, said he was braced to learn the fate of the cabinet… Hannah, whose home, workshop and woodworking machines were flooded, said he was braced to learn the fate of the cabinet.’ Read more: or Guardian 2 March Lismore floods
2 March, 2022
‘Brisbane floods: pondering the wisdom of placing our major galleries, libraries and theatres on the banks of a flood-prone river’
The Conversation also published identified dangers to public cultural institutions in Brisbane, and recalled floods over recent years. Read more.
1 March, 2022
‘Flood disaster for arts sector’
Richard Watts records in ArtsHub, that: ‘Artists and organisations in northern NSW and south-east Qld have been badly impacted by the latest extreme weather events. A ‘rain bomb’ across northern NSW and south-east Queensland has severely impacted arts organisations in two states.The damage is especially bad in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, where two people are confirmed to have died and central Lismore was inundated. At its height, the Wilson River peaked at 14.4 metres, causing the worst flooding in history and rising so high that Lismore Regional Gallery was inundated. Read more
24 February 2022
‘Flash floods threaten to sink Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’
Joanne Tran writes in The Australian: ‘The future of Sydney’s new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta has been questioned after the construction site flooded in wild weather, despite assurances it was in a “one-in-1000 year” flood zone. More than 100mm of rain has been recorded in some areas of Sydney’s west, with severe thunderstorm warnings for Sydney and heavy rainfall forecast for the next week. With the museum construction site partially submerged on Wednesday, critics have again attacked the suitability of the riverside location.
Multiple experts at the initial planning stages had questioned the NSW government’s decision to move the existing Powerhouse museum to a high risk flood zone, next to the Parramatta River, former trustee of the museum Kylie Winkworth told The Australian. “It tells you how much they understand about museums” she said.’ In contrast, ‘Former arts minister Don Harwin had claimed new site was in a “one-in-1000-year flood zone”. But frequent flash flooding happened every year in Parramatta, according to local environment consultant Steven Molino, who has spent more than 20 years advising various groups and governments on flood risks.“Rare floods would enter the building and through the museum” Mr Molino said.Mr Molino said the state government “has not done a proper risk assessment”. Read more: Australian 24 Feb Parra
24 February, 2022
‘Calls for Perrottet to Pull the Handbrake on Harwin’s Pleasure Palace in Parramatta’
In a Media release, Suzette Meade from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, wrote: ‘This week a minor deluge over only 70mm rain saw the banks of Parramatta River inundate the proposed Powerhouse Parramatta construction site. It’s a well-known local sight annually to see a downpour of rain double this amount that would fill the former David Jones carpark site. Social media pages were overflowing with comments from locals asking why is the government not listening to us – this is the wrong site. North Parramatta Residents Action Group have been advocating since 2016 for a Museum Of NSW to be funded in the state government owned 26ha Cumberland Hospital Precinct just 950m north of the flood prone site – that would celebrate the Dharug and migratory narratives of Parramatta. NPRAG call on the Premier to minimise the build plans on the Parramatta River site before the build starts to just one tower on street level to house the conference centre and kitchen auditorium facilities announced this month. Then open up the riverbank to a much need public park for civic events as City of Parramatta council had always planned as part of their Civic Link. “Premier Perrotett could put a stop to Harwins’ pleasure palace in Parramatta – he just needs to pull the hand brake” said Ms Meade Secretary of NPRAG. “There is very little community support for this project, if Domenic Perrotett wanted to really show his government is listening to the community of Parramatta, he would make a visionary call to redirect the museum funding to deliver a cultural precinct that the community actually want beside the female convict site – that doesn’t flood.” Meade added. Read more: NPRAG Perrotett pull the hand brake
23 February, 2022
‘Parramatta Powerhouse: NSW arts minister dismisses claims $915m museum is being built on a flood zone’
The Guardian reports that: “As the banks of the Parramatta River steadily rose and engulfed the Powerhouse Parramatta museum construction site on Tuesday afternoon, the state’s politicians in Macquarie Street were arguing about what constituted a one-in-100-year flood. Labor member of the legislative council, Walt Secord, grilled the new New South Wales arts minister, Ben Franklin, during question time. He attempted to table images and video from his phone to prove that the government’s controversial choice of site for the museum – one that will house many of the state’s most valuable and irreplaceable objects from 2025 onward – was misguided and foolhardy. Franklin, in response, said it was “patently absurd”, “far-fetched and utterly unreasonable” to suggest that the new museum, still in the very early stages of construction, would fail the City of Parramatta Council’s requirement to withstand a one in 100 year flood level, and that even in the case of a one-in-1,000 year flood, the ground floor of the museum would still remain half a metre above the flood waters…. Local resident and freelance writer Alan Mascarenhas, who lives less than 500 metres from the museum site and captured images and video of the waterlogged site on Tuesday, said locals knew how prone the area was to regular flooding. “It only takes a couple of hours of sustained rain and the whole place is waterlogged,” he told Guardian Australia. “By yesterday afternoon the walkway down there was obliterated on all sides.”
In February 2019, the NSW State Emergency Service’s senior manager for risk reduction and avoidance, George Jeoffreys, warned that Parramatta CBD residents could have as little as nine minutes warning of flash flooding from the river. Even in a best-case scenario, he said, the best warning the SES could give the public would be only two hours out from an event, making evacuation “difficult, if not impossible”. The $915m Powerhouse Parramatta project’s location on the banks of the flood-prone river has been an ongoing bone of contention between the state government, the opposition and a large group of local residents who are not opposed to a new major museum in the area, but are opposed to its current location.
A month before the Parramatta River broke its banks and flooded the construction site in March last year, independent Parramatta-based flood management consultant Steven Molino told a state government inquiry the museum’s proposed one-in-1,000 year scenario meant that in the building’s predicted 100-year lifespan, there was a 10% chance that water was going to get into the building. “If it was an office building with just office furniture and carpets and everything, it wouldn’t matter … “But the information we have at present suggests that the electrical power supply will go out [during flooding] and the generators won’t operate the air conditioning system. So you’ll have a spike in humidity … and if you’ve got items in the collection made from paper, textiles, and even wood and some metals, [the museum’s] collection will deteriorate, be possibly irreparably damaged or even lost. “Now the decision might be made that the probability of this occurring is an acceptable risk, but no one has gone through that process.” Read more: Guardian 23 Feb 2022
17 February, 2022
‘Western Sydney Rich Lister makes big donation to new Parramatta museum’
Michael Bailey, Rich List co-editor in The Financial Review, reports that: ‘The Powerhouse Parramatta project has revealed another Financial Review Rich Lister donor – property developer Arnold Vitocco has followed Lang Walker in supporting the building of NSW’s largest museum in Sydney’s west.’ They ‘will invest $5 million across two programs that will be run by Powerhouse Parramatta when the $915 million museum opens on the Parramatta River in 2025. The Vitocco Family Kitchen promises to bring together chefs with producers from across Australia, and showcase food technology and education in a 200-seat presentation space equipped with a large demonstration kitchen… The Kitchen will integrate with the Powerhouse’s existing Australian Culinary Archive,which is collecting histories and recipes from leading chefs and producers. Meanwhile, the Vitocco Legacy Project will fund a full-time curator to research, collect and share stories of innovations and entrepreneurial spirit that have sprung from western Sydney.’ Read more: 17 Feb FinRev Culinary donation[Note: many comments from readers include noting that ‘It’s not a museum, it’s a function and expo centre’; asking ‘whether this leads to a glorified food hall’, as ‘Masterchef or Museum’, and asking when they will announce the Casino; and noting that ‘yet another Development construction firm is donating to put its own business in the milk crate. It’s a perfect match.’]
11 February, 2022
‘Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal’
‘On behalf of Create NSW (the proponent)’, Curio Projects (heritage consultants) placed an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald, seeking ‘registration from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community members with respect to a proposed development. The project site is Powerhouse Ultimo…within the City of Sydney LGA….The purpose of community consultation … is to assist …in the preparation of an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment Report (ACHAR) to support a submission of a State Significant Development Application (SSDA) and to assist the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Development in their consideration and determination of the SSDA.’ Read more: 11 February SMH PHM Renewal
11 January, 2022
‘Labor takes the reins at Parramatta Council after Liberals’ retreat’
Following recent Council elections, Megan Gorrey reports in the Sydney Morning Herald about major changes in Parramatta, [that could have an impact on the development of the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum and other historic sites.] She wrote: ‘Labor has seized control of Sydney’s fastest-growing CBD for the first time in more than a decade, after the Liberal Party deserted a string of councils in the local government elections. Councillor Donna Davis was elected unopposed as the new lord mayor of the City of Parramatta, in Sydney’s west…Cr Davis is the council’s first Labor mayor since 2008, and the third woman to hold the job in the city’s 160-year history. She has worked for state and federal MPs and held various roles in the public service…The decision could create a series of political headaches for Dominic Perrottet’s government, which faces the prospect of ramped up opposition to Coalition policies from Labor-dominated councils at a meeting on Monday night.’
“With a Labor mayor and a progressive council … we will be advocating for our community, which is something I feel has been lacking in recent years because there’s been a lot more advocating for state government projects,” she said… She named her priorities as improving community consultation, preserving green space as the city’s population balloons from 257,000 to an estimated 455,000 in the next 15 years, and more affordable housing.’
…Cr Davis’ election comes at a critical juncture for the City of Parramatta, which is overseeing an unprecedented wave of public and private investment. Developer Lang Walker is transforming the centre of the CBD with his $2.7 billion Parramatta Square project. The council is also pushing ahead with its $100 million revamp of the Riverside Theatre, and the $88.6 million Parramatta pool. The state government has earmarked the area for substantial investment, including the light rail line linking Westmead with central Parramatta, and a new metro rail line.
In addition, the state government is building the $533 million Parramatta Powerhouse. Cr Davis has been a vocal opponent of the plan to relocate the historic villa Willow Grove to make way for the museum – a position she said she would not resile from. “I’ve always said I support state government investment in arts and culture in Parramatta,” Cr Davis said. Read more or SMH Donna Davis 11 Jan 2022
Reports of changes in NSW Government ministry, including resignation of Arts Minister Don Harwin, and appointment of Ben Franklin.
(Note: Harwin was appointed to the Select Committee for Museums, meeting on 17 March 2022, and then on 18 March finally announced forthcoming resignation: see Resignation: or Harwin SMH 18 March 2022 )
22 December, 2021
‘Harwin’s exit is a blow to the arts’
Music specialist Annie Whealy writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about her view of retiring arts minister Don Harwin’s popularity in the performing arts world, as experienced by applause for him at two recent Sydney concerts …’Why? Simply because, for these audiences and their performers, Harwin — largely unknown outside the sphere of government — was rightly seen as the saviour of the arts in NSW. ‘
‘What was even more startling was this: by last Saturday it was clear that Harwin was no longer to be a minister in the NSW government. Of course, the new Premier has every right to pick and choose his ministry. That is not in doubt. However, we have to ask this question: what political or other imperative led to the departure of a man, widely regarded as the most successful arts minister in Australia? It is unlikely that we shall ever know or understand the answer to this question.
First, he generally admired and respected all manifestations of the arts. He was not one of those politicians who belittle the so-called “elitism” of classical music, theatre and dance. He did not, like some, regard the arts as the fodder of the privileged middle class. He rightly saw the sector as a civilising aspect of our community life. Second, Harwin was always available to give advice and encouragement. He nurtured and supported smaller ensembles. …
Harwin was not everybody’s cup of tea. No doubt he trod on a few toes. He may have been seen by some to have preferenced the smaller ensembles over and above larger organisations, already wellsupported. His closeness to Gladys Berejiklian may not have stood him in good stead after Dominic Perrottet’s ascension. Whatever his faults, he will be long admired among the arts community. As an erstwhile performer myself, I am conscious that many young performers will be deeply saddened by his departure. The applause at the recent concerts was heartfelt.
So, what is the future for the arts in NSW? There is hope that new Arts Minister Ben Franklin of the Nationals, who has served as parliamentary secretary for the arts, will carry on the vision of Don Harwin, especially in his avowed support for the provision of cultural life and artistic development in the regions. In a recent speech to Parliament, Franklin acknowledged his government’s support for the sector. “The government has supported the industry, individuals and organisations in a way they desperately needed … the government takes this very seriously,” he said.’ Read more: or 22 Dec SMH Harwin
[See earlier news reports and papers on this website: Harwin was not ‘widely regarded as the most successful arts minister.’ Powerhouse Museum Alliance reminds readers that Harwin advocated for years that the Powerhouse Museum’s Ultimo site could become a Lyric Theatre, and that he also supported the demolition of the historic Willow Grove building in Parramatta to make way for a questionable ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’.]
20 December, 2021
‘Major reshuffle as new blood enter Perrottet’s cabinet’
Alexandra Smith writes in The Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Premier Dominic Perrottet has put his stamp on the NSW government ahead of the 2023 election, increasing the number of Liberal women in his new cabinet by one and elevating nine first-time ministers in a major reshuffle. As the state battles the highest number of COVID-19 cases of the pandemic, Mr Perrottet said his new cabinet was “the best team to lead NSW out of the” situation and “take it to the next level”.
There are nine first-time ministers in the new cabinet: Miranda MP Eleni Petinos, Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman, Natasha Maclaren-Jones MLC, Cootamundra Nationals MP Steph Cooke, Manly MP James Griffin, Oatley MP Mark Coure, Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders, Ben Franklin MLC and Sam Farraway MLC.’
The report also includes access to the ‘Full NSW cabinet list’, which shows two new appointments relevant to museums in NSW:
Ben Franklin: Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Regional Youth James Griffin: Minister for Environment and Heritage.
Read more: or 20 Dec SMH New cabinet
20 December, 2021
‘Review launched into galleries and museums’ services’
Relevant to changes in NSW government ministry of the arts, Linda Morris wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The state government has launched a review of the back of house services of the Sydney Opera House and Art Gallery of NSW and other major cultural institutions. Consultancy firm Deloitte has been engaged to investigate “corporate and common services” across all agencies inside the Department of Premier and Cabinet, except for “integrity agencies” such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Audit Office. The Opera House, Powerhouse Museum, Australian Museum and Art Gallery of NSW, and State Library all sit within the department.’
‘News of the review comes as the leadership of Create NSW, the government’s arts, screen, and infrastructure agency, has come under fire from within. A leaked internal staff survey from October shows fewer than one in five bureaucrats were confident in how grievances, changes, and recruitment are managed within the agency…Department of Premier’s deputy secretary Kate Foy told a recent budget estimates hearing that a two-year restructure of Create NSW had not concluded.’
‘“Sadly, Create NSW has become an organisation rife with division, uncertainty, politicisation, and political interference,” Labor’s Walt Secord said.… Meanwhile, the Create NSW spokesman said Deloitte’s survey was intended to “identify opportunities, learnings, and best practice processes”.’ Read more: or 20 Dec SMH Cultural review
18 December, 2021
‘Theatre plans up in the air as “legendary” Harwin exits arts portfolio’
Linda Morris wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Weeks before former NSW arts minister Don Harwin announced his resignation from the NSW cabinet on Saturday, he finalised a strategy to increase the number of theatres and film studios in Sydney. That strategy will be presented to the expenditure review committee next year in his absence after he announced his departure from the ministry on Saturday and, at the end of this parliamentary term, his exit from politics. Harwin had many detractors but none would begrudge the energy the lover of music, visual arts, and dance brought to his portfolio … Under former premier Gladys Berejiklian, arts had a seat at the centre table of government. As a Berejiklian loyalist, Harwin delivered record capital works spending for the Australian Museum ($50.5 million), Powerhouse at Ultimo ($480-$500 million), Sydney Modern ($240 million) and Walsh Bay Arts Precinct ($370 million). In the Perrottet cabinet, however, Harwin was an outsider who had lost some influence as a numbers man to Treasurer Matt Kean. His proximity to power was diminished. He chose to resign but in reality, he had no choice but to make way for the changing of the guard … About his resignation, Powerhouse Museum CEO Lisa Havilah said: “He had that strategic and expansive thinking that has come from a deep and personal passion joined by an extraordinary expertise to get outcomes in government…”. But Morris notes that: ‘He lost political skin when he was discovered to have interfered in the awarding of arts funding grants in 2018 … He misjudged the truculent opposition to his government’s decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. That decision was overturned by Berejiklian and the now-Premier at the 11th hour in July 2020.… The protests go on with Suzette Meade – representing those who opposed the demolition of the historic property of Willow Grove to be rebuilt elsewhere – calling on the Premier to use Harwin’s departure to immediately review the Parramatta Powerhouse project. She said it lacked community support or even the “promise to deliver an actual museum”.’ Read more or 18 Dec SMH Harwin
8/19 December, 2021
‘Melinda Pavey dropped from cabinet ahead of long-anticipated reshuffle; Harwin steps down’
Megan Gorrey, Amelia McGuire and Linda Morris wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that among changes announced in appointments of ministers: ‘Long-serving Nationals MP Melinda Pavey has been dumped as a NSW minister ahead of a widely tipped reshuffle this weekend by Premier Dominic Perrottet,’ and that ‘Upper House MP Don Harwin – Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts — and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock also resigned from cabinet on Saturday and said they were not seeking a role in the new ministry’ … ‘Mr Harwin said he had been considering in recent weeks whether he would be able to commit to another eight-year term beyond the election. …Labor’s spokesman for the arts and heritage Walt Secord said no-one could dispute Mr Harwin’s genuine love of the arts. “While I used to needle him that he was not in the league of former arts ministers Peter Collins, George Souris and Bob Debus – he was,” he said. Read more: or 19 Dec SMH Harwin resigns
2 December, 2021
‘RENEWED THREATS TO THE HARWOOD BUILDING’
Save the Powerhouse group reported on their Facebook page, that ‘Publication last week of the NSW Government’s “Pyrmont Peninsula sub-precinct master plans” https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/pyrmont-master-plans is refuelling doubts about the uncertain future of the Harwood Building in Ultimo, which has long been central to the Powerhouse Museum’s operations and storage of the collections.
These new plans list the Powerhouse Museum as a site “capable of change” (ie rezoning) and state that any “change” would be “City of Sydney Council led” which could easily mean that, as feared earlier, the Harwood Building might be demolished to make way for taller structures.
This hypothesis is supported by approval last April of the proposed Castle Hill Discovery Centre expansion “Building J” and comments by the Planning Minister Rob Stokes that “the entire 500,000-piece Powerhouse collection will be housed and cared for on one site when not on display at Parramatta or Ultimo…It will be capable of housing aircraft, historic trains, and helicopters.”
The rezoning possibility once again raises the question of what is to become of the Harwood Building, and flatly contradicts reassurances received in May from the Department of Planning) by Powerhouse Museum Alliance representative Kylie Winkworth regarding the expansion, DPIE Spokesperson Candace Pon repeatedly asserted that “the Applicant (Create NSW) has advised that the proposal DOES NOT SEEK TO REPLACE EXISTING OPERATIONAL OR FUNCTIONAL COMPONENTS OF THE POWERHOUSE.”
Yet, despite repeated fruitless challenges to Pon to produce the “advice that the Applicant provided to the DPIE”, Winkworth acknowledges that “I could not find this advice in any of the EIS reports. On the contrary, the EIS development objectives include: provide storage for all of the MAAS collection objects (Milestone Consulting EIS September 2020, 3.3 p.11). She comments finally “In the absence of documentary evidence it seems that the conclusion of the Assessment report that the proposal does not seek to replace existing operational or functional components of the Powerhouse is factually wrong. It is actually one of the project’s stated objectives…”
It is not clear (yet) where this leaves the extremely vulnerable Harwood Building. It seems unlikely that the Planning Minister himself would make a mistake – or even seek to mislead – about the true purpose of the Castle Hill expansion, yet how can DPIE’s statements (his own department!) be explained? What is obvious, is that the irreplaceable Harwood Building is under increased threat, which must inspire many thousands of PHM supporters to fight on to “Save the Powerhouse”! And what’s more, we have just learnt http://tiny.cc/z54muz that the derelict Newtown Tram Depot may be restored. This building is locally heritage-listed but the City of Sydney has so far declined to similarly list the Harwood Building which has a much more distinguished history and is well preserved.’
If you want to know more before making a submission about these plans, you can attend an information session:
– Online: http://tiny.cc/g34muz (general community)
– Online http://tiny.cc/j34muz (business focused)
– Pyrmont Community Centre: http://tiny.cc/m34muz
– Pyrmont Community Centre: http://tiny.cc/n34muz
– Online: http://tiny.cc/q34muz (general community)
and lodge your submission at https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/pyrmont-master-plans before 04 Feb 2022.
1 December, 2021 (in print 2 Dec)
‘It was once home to thousands of prisoners, now it’s set to be Sydney’s next museum’
Sydney Morning Herald:
Following a media event by Arts Minister Don Harwin on December 1, Linda Morris reported that ‘Parramatta’s Female Factory – where thousands of convict women were held on arrival in the NSW colony – is to be converted into a history museum. Arts minister Don Harwin also pledged to work towards achieving World Heritage Listing for the historic landmark. Almost $54 million was announced Tuesday by the NSW government to “secure, restore and preserve the culture, heritage and future use” of the three-hectare heritage precinct by the Parramatta River… Gay Hendriksen, the president of the Parramatta Female Factory Friends, welcomed the government’s museum commitment… The bulk of the funding – $43.7 million – will go towards the conservation and upgrade of the historic buildings and the opening of a tech-startup hub and cafe. Keller House, part of the Parramatta Girls Home, will be repaired and maintained as a Keeping Place for members of Australia’s Stolen Generation. A further $3 million has been allocated to prepare a business case for the factory museum that would tell the story of the building’s history and significance. Another $3 million has been set aside to identify cultural uses inside the precinct. Listed on the national heritage register in 2017, the Female Factory was built by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to house female convicts in the colony.’ Read more or 2 Dec SMH Parra FF
‘$54 million cash splash for future of Parramatta Female Factory precinct’
Staff writers also report Harwin’s announcement, including: ‘Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the area is a place of compelling stories and history with enormous cultural significance to the Traditional Owners. “We are also working in collaboration with Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) on future uses for sites within the precinct,” she said. “The Western Sydney Startup Hub and café will be the first major activation of the site in 2022 which will be a vibrant place for the community to meet, collaborate and exchange skills and ideas. “With fundingecured for additional heritage upgrades, we can now plan for future tenancy and activation of the buildings and open spaces bringing more jobs and opportunities to the area.”’ Read more or 2 Dec Parra News
North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG), one of the local groups that has beencampaigning for many years for the preservation of the Parramatta Female Factory precinct, expresses great concern that much of the site will be passed over for high-rise development. They say: ‘$53.8 for women’s history museum at Female Factory as long as it prostitutes half of the national heritage site for a business hub for Stuart Ayres and hands over 20ha to Sydney Uni to build 1000s of units in its backyard … thousands of units in buildings up to 31 stories high is not sympathetic to one of our most historic sites at Fleet Street Heritage Precinct. If this high density development goes ahead there will be no world heritage listing.’
Fleet Street Heritage Precinct asks: ‘Fascinating but what’s the catch?! Finally Minister Don Harwin aims for adding Parramatta Female Factory & Institutions ‘Heritage Core’ (7ha), to the UNESCO World Heritage Australian Convict Sites with arts & cultural uses – whilst Geoff Lee – MP, Seat of Parramatta is non-specific what “championing for the site since first elected” means – when not referring to the unsolicited Sydney Uni plans to infill unconstrained accommodation developer interests (potentially 1000s units) as indicated by Department of Planning, Industry and Environment ‘Place Strategy’ (draft march 2021) and essentially destroy the Botanic Gardens Openspace cultural landscape, more heritage buildings (eg, Jacaranda House for a proposed bridge, and road grid utterly disregarding decades of State Heritage Conservation Management Plans for the (20ha) Cumberland Hospital State Heritage site balance. Interestingly Geoff Lee MP is opposed to 193 units as out of character in Oatlands.’
5 November, 2021 (in print 6 November)
‘Parramatta Powerhouse costs surge as opening looks set for 2024’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris follows up a budget hearing on 29 October in NSW Parliament on the ‘Examination of proposed expenditure for the portfolio area, Special Minister of State, public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts.’ Re Powerhouse Parramatta See pages 29-31, 34-35, 38. Transcript – PC 1 – 29 October 2021 – Special Minister of State (Harwin)Morris reports that: ‘The building costs of the NSW government’s flagship Parramatta Powerhouse have surged beyond half a billion dollars, the signed contract shows. Lendlease has been contracted to deliver the museum’s western Sydney headquarters for $553 million, inclusive of GST. This exceeds the $400 million base build costs originally identified in the stage 1 brief to the project’s 2019 design competition. The summary of the contract signed between Infrastructure NSW and the winning contractor was due to have been released to the public late Friday in line with statutory requirements. Construction begins January 24, 2022, with the museum to be completed by May 2024, suggesting an opening date later that year.
An Infrastructure NSW spokesperson said the contract sum was within the budget originally set for the museum project. The $400 million construction cost target was nominated for the design competition to guide the design teams in the preparation of their concept design and design fee proposals. The Lendlease contract value of $502.8 million, less GST, reflected the delivery by mid-2024 of the approved design and includes cost escalation, design fees and some fit-out scope. …But Greens MP David Shoebridge, deputy chairman of the long-running inquiry into the Powerhouse, said the project was $150 million over budget before the first sod had been turned. “…With the escalated cost of construction, if the project is to be delivered on budget, there will need to be a significant compromise in the fit-out and function.”
Powerhouse management has been set a target of $75 million to raise from private philanthropists and corporations to meet the capital cost of the museum, including its fit-out. Board member and developer Lang Walker made a sizeable $20 million philanthropic donation towards the funding of a live-in residential campus and in-school programs from 2022 for schools in the Blacktown, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Bankstown, Penrith and Parramatta LGAs. Western Sydney University has contributed $10 million to become the museum’s foundation partner. Of the $30 million committed in total, $23 million will go towards the building’s costs, the rest in programs.’ And while there is no evidence of other donations, Arts Minister Don Harwin claimed: ’“I think you should assume that we will do well and maybe even exceed both targets at the Powerhouse.” Read more. or: 5 Nov PP Costs surge SMH Morris—————–
[However, Powerhouse Museum Alliance and others have observed in previous reports (see 22 October below), that donors Lang Walker and Western Sydney University are already project partners and could be following their own preferences rather than that of a state museum.]
26 October, 2021
At last: Powerhouse Museum opens again!
On October 10, 2021, as the CoVid Lockdown eased, the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo was at last able to open its doors to allow visitors to see five new exhibitions (see below). As renovations proceed on the Ultimo site, more exhibitions will open soon. See more details here. Also check Facebook references to all.
‘Clay Dynasty’: Celebrates studio ceramics in Australia as shaped by three generations of makers: from the 1960s pioneers who transformed the functional pottery tradition to contemporary ceramic artists who continue to push the medium … it features more than 400 objects from the Powerhouse’s significant ceramics collection.
‘Eucalyptusdom’: reckons with our cultural history and ever-changing relationship with the gum tree, presenting over 400 objects from the Powerhouse Collection alongside 17 newly commissioned works by creative practitioners working across the fields of design, architecture, film, applied arts and performance.
‘Graphic Identities’: highlights eight ground-breaking Australian design archives from the Powerhouse Collection. Featuring work from celebrated 20th Century designers including Douglas Annand, Frances Burke, Gordon Andrews and Arthur Leydin, the exhibition explores the role of visual communication in shaping contemporary Australian culture.
‘Robert Rosen Glitterati’: Over four decades [Rober Rosen has] attended parties, concerts, fashion events and nightclubs across London, Europe and Australia, capturing the rich, famous and fabulous for the social pages of a slew of local and international newspapers and magazines.
‘Electric keys’:At the end of 2020 the Powerhouse acquired an important private collection of keyboards from the middle of the 20th century,…These electronic keyboards complement the existing collection of mechanical instruments [and] Together they create a unique opportunity to explore modern keyboard development and its contribution to the genres of jazz, pop, rock, soul and prog-rock.
22 October 2021
Media release: ‘Historic $30 million commitment to Powerhouse Parramatta’ – and critical comments
Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta and Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education announced in a media release that ‘The NSW Government today announced a combined $30 million dollar investment in Powerhouse Parramatta – one of the largest donations ever to an arts and cultural institution in Australia. A $20 million donation from the Walker Family Foundation – the second-largest donation to any Western Sydney institution in history – will deliver the Lang Walker Family Academy, a ground-breaking program to deliver world-class immersive science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education experiences for over 10,000 high school students from Western Sydney and regional NSW every year – including overnight stays at the museum for many of these students. Western Sydney University has committed $10 million to Powerhouse Parramatta confirming its place as the museum’s Foundation University Partner. This significant investment reinforces the University’s ongoing commitment to developing the next generation of Australian innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs.’ Read more here or here: 22 Oct Media Release re donation
This was also announced on the MAAS website as: ’Powerhouse Parramatta: our Foundation partners. The Powerhouse is pleased to announce an extraordinary $30 million investment in the future of Powerhouse Parramatta by The Walker Family Foundation and Western Sydney University (WSU) … As part of this significant partnership, WSU will embed researchers in the Museum to create joint research opportunities with Powerhouse curators, there will be an annual WSU Scholar-in-Residence at the Museum, as well as international exchange programs for WSU students. WSU will be Supporting Partner of the Lang Walker Family Academy and will be naming rights partner of the Powerhouse Research Library as well as one of the seven ground-breaking exhibition spaces.’ Read more here.However, Kelly Burke writes in The Guardian, of billionaire property developer Lang Walker’s ‘hefty $20m donation’ to the ‘controversial Powerhouse Parramatta project’, that ‘Property developer Walker joined the board of trustees for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, better known as Ultimo’s Powerhouse museum, in November 2020…Announced on Friday, the $30m will go a considerable way towards reaching the $75m in philanthropic donations Powerhouse Parramatta must raise if the project is to go ahead.’ And after commenting on research into other philanthropic offers, she says ‘The Guardian understands no other funds have so far been secured.’ Read more here,or Lang Walker Guardian 22 Oct 2021
Furthermore, it is significant that a partnership had already existed between the two donors. On 17 December 2019‘Western Sydney University and the Lang Walker founded Walker Group are pleased to announce a strategic partnership that will deliver the highest quality new educational and medical research facilities for south-western Sydney, including a world-class medical research centre for the rapidly-growing Macarthur region.’ Read more here. ————–
[Powerhouse Museum Alliance asks if both institutions are simply using the new ‘Museum’ space for their own benefit, without understanding or caring about the history and purpose of the museum itself. This donation appears to be not about the $70m the PHM is required to raise for its own museum development and programs – it is about ‘education programs’ linked to WSU sites and programs, and using the new ‘museum’ site as a convenient location. MP Geoff Lee says in his media release: “Powerhouse Parramatta will be so much more than a museum and the STEM programs and opportunities delivered by the Lang Walker Family Academy will prepare our children for the future and develop and inspire the scientists, engineers, and innovative thinkers the future needs – right here in Western Sydney.”’
But PMA asks ‘why should it be “more than a museum” Geoff Lee? However badly conceived, it was always meant to be an informative and engaging museum based on its diverse collection, and not superseded by preferences of other institutions.]
24 August, 2021
‘Weep for Willow Grove’: Union lifts green ban, removal to go ahead
Linda Morris reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘A green ban has been lifted on the historic villa Willow Grove, ending a four-year public campaign and lengthy union stand-off to keep it on site. The NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union announced on Tuesday it had reached an agreement with the state government, a day after contractors began tearing down the building’s modern extensions. The dramatic reversal amounts to an admission that, due to COVID-19 led public health restrictions, the union was unable to enforce the green ban that until now had stalled Willow Grove’s dismantling and relocation to a new Parramatta site. It paves the way for the construction of the second Powerhouse Museum on the bank of the Parramatta River, a project expected to generate thousands of direct and indirect jobs and take until 2024 to finish. In a statement, the NSW CFMEU said it had received commitments from the government to establish a committee to oversee the dismantling, relocation, rebuild and reuse of the villa and its ongoing maintenance.’ and ‘Union branch secretary Darren Greenfield said the campaign to save Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace would remain an important part of the heritage and story of Parramatta that would be “enjoyed by generations to come”.’ Morris also documented concerns from local groups including North Parramatta Residents Action Group, where spokesperson Suzette Meade said, ‘ “Residents could only weep for Willow Grove…The people of Parramatta will not forgive or forget. Democracy is dead when our government ignores all experts’ advice and community opinion.” But ‘Powerhouse trust president Peter Collins the decision was the right one for the many communities of western Sydney and the NSW economy’ and ‘Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah said it was time to move forward with its communities and partners to deliver the new flagship museum in the heart of Parramatta.’Read more.. or here: 24 August SMH LM Green Bans lifted
24 August, 2021
‘Weep For Willow Grove’
In a media release, North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) wrote: ‘In what can only be described as a coward move the Berejiklian government has used the Covid Crisis to start the desecration of the Willow Grove site. While the community is unable to gather to defend and protect Willow Grove as Parramatta is under strict lockdown and a Covid Curfew. NPRAG has spent 4 years battling to save Parramatta’s much-loved heritage to be incorporated into a much-deserved museum. The CFMEUs principled stand to place a Greenban supporting the huge community groundswell has forced the government to save the 1880s St George Terraces and redesign the Powerhouse Parramatta project to incorporate this last remaining example of this architecture in our CBD streetscape. It is, however, incomprehensible that the government has refused to redesign the project to also retain the heritage listed Victorian Italianate Villa, Willow Grove. This will set a dangerous precedent for the future of heritage all over NSW.
Suzette Meade NPRAG Spokesperson said “We do not support Willow Groves relocation as a win for heritage and firmly believe it will lose all heritage significance when its removed from where it was built over a century ago.”…“To the people all over NSW that donated money to the Willow Grove court case, tied a heart on the fence, made signs and marched beside us – we thank you for your strong stand to demand better for our country’s heritage…NPRAG thanks the CFMEU and their members for their support and actions, bringing the May Day March to Parramatta demonstrated the union movements commitment to community and our heritage.’ Read more: WEEP FOR WILLOWGROVE NPRAG 24082021On ABC early morning radio on 25 August NPRAG Secretary Suzette Meade was interviewed by Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck (in the last 10 minutes) Here.And on 27 August, NPRAG also published a media release, ‘Willow Grove & St Georges Terrace Greenban Speech to CFMEU DELEGATES’. This was the speech given via Zoom to CFMEU delegates on 27 August, and started: ‘On behalf of NPRAG Executive committee and thousands of community members we would like to thank the CFMEU and its members for its principled stand to support the community over the past 18 months in our battle to stop the NSW Government from demolishing Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. Your unwavering strength has given our community the willpower to stand up to the government and demand better for Parramatta’s heritage. Moving the May Day march from its traditional CBD route to Parramatta this year to support the Willow Grove Greenban was a proud day for everyone.’ Read more Here: NPRAG Thanks CFMEU Delegates 27 August 2021
16 August, 2021
‘Flawed court decisions betraying NSW’s heritage’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook group draws attention to Elizabeth Farrelly’s critique in the Sydney Morning Herald of the NSW planning system and its destruction of heritage buildings, including ‘the “irrational (court) judgment” in the case of Parramatta’s Willow Grove mansion.’
They say: ‘In a hard hitting “OPINION” column (SMH) on August 14, distinguished arts commentator Elizabeth Farrelly takes a swipe at NSW’s courts whose decisions are “failing (our) heritage” …“We should query the courts’ destructive role in planning democracy”, she says. “In theory, the courts…merely apply law-as-made…So bad court decisions should sheet home to bad law…Indeed, in NSW planning, bad law is almost the only sort we have. But there are also bad court decisions, irrational judgments and huge unintended consequences, which include skewing the results further towards the ultra-rich.” She cites several recent examples of such flawed legal decisions including the Arnott Mansion in Vaucluse, Bidura in Glebe or the bad court ruling to facilitate destruction of Burwood’s 1, Railway Parade to make space for an “irredeemably hideous apartment building”, before moving – naturally – to the “irrational (court) judgment” in the case of Parramatta’s Willow Grove mansion. “In February” she says “to enable the Powerhouse relocation to Parramatta, the government approved its own proposal to demolish and, at huge expense, “relocate” this building of crumbly 19th century brick.” …“Parramatta locals appealed for judicial review on the grounds that no alternative site or design to keep Willow Grove had been considered. Yet the judge found this legal requirement did not apply because “there is no feasible alternative which would permit retention of Willow Grove. THIS IS WRONG IN FACT”.“The National Trust petitioned Arts Minister Don Harwin to consider alternatives but he has not found time to meet…” ‘
Read here for the full article ‘Courting disaster and a conga line of bulldozers’, on line as ‘The swathe of demolition that proves courts are failing heritage’, or Here, or SMH Farrelly 14-15 August
14 August, 2021
‘Green ban’ defied as removal work begins on Willow Grove
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Work on the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse is set to begin with the construction contract to be signed within weeks of the historic home Willow Grove being brought down. Contractor Haus Building Services Pty Ltd moved on site Wednesday to start removal of the Italianate villa, the last surviving example of a riverside mansion in the Parramatta CBD… Work on the heritage site had been halted by a green ban imposed by NSW Branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime and Mining Union in June 2020 [with the backing of many other organisations].. COVID-related public health restrictions permit construction workers on building sites at 50 per cent capacity but bar public pickets and protests that might have enforced the green ban, a device used to protect The Rocks from redevelopment. The Berejiklian government has pledged that Willow Grove will be rebuilt on a new site…But formal public consultation to develop a shortlist of sites cannot start while the COVID-19 outbreak is not under control. “Currently with no public reports existing on how Willow Grove can even be relocated, or where or when it will ever see the light of day, it’s completely outrageous that any works commence on this site at all,” Suzette Meade, of the North Parramatta Residents’ Action group said. Labor’s spokesman for Arts and Heritage Walt Secord said the Heritage Council of NSW testified at a parliamentary inquiry yesterday that it did not provide an assessment of the heritage value of Willow Grove…“How can the Heritage Council of NSW not have an opinion on the heritage value when Willow Grove and the Powerhouse Museum were the second most debated arts issue, after COVID support to struggling artists?”… Infrastructure NSW confirmed work had resumed on the Powerhouse Parramatta site in line with the NSW Public Health Order, NSW Government COVID guidelines and the approved development application. “While Willow Grove cannot be retained on site, we remain committed to relocating [it], to return it to the community and make it available for future generations,” a spokesperson said.’ Read more here, or here SMH 14 August Willow Grove demolition
14 August, 2021
‘Contractor Concerns at Willow Grove’
Save Willow Grove Facebook page draws attention to a report by Lachlan Kennedy on 10 News First, how ‘Work begins deconstructing the heritage listed Willow Grove villa at Parramatta, as Covid-19 health orders stop protests at the site.’ Save Willow Grove says: ‘Watch this great investigative piece … exposing the unknown builders hired by the government to demolish Willow Grove. Non-unionised Haus Building Services have no website and their registered business address is a sandwich shop called Sir Reuben in Brighton Le Sands. Make no mistake, this is a demo job by the Heritage minister to destroy Parramatta’s much loved Willow Grove. Thanks to National Trust Australia (NSW) for being part of this story and for their attempt to show an alternative design that retains Willow Grove where it belongs on Phillip Street. Thanks to North Parramatta Residents Action Group – NPRAG for continuing to expose the government for their woeful treatment of community and heritage.’ A following post adds: ‘We have heard all the trees will be put through the wood chipper on the weekend. The community is unable to defend and protect its 140 year old heritage due to strict covid health orders. Our hands are tied. No other country in the world treats its heritage with such disrespect and this all by the hand of the NSW Heritage Minister, Don Harwin.’ See 10 News here And SWG Facebook here.
17 July, 2021
‘Parramatta Powerhouse Museum: Residents lose battle to save Willow Grove’
Joanne Vella follows up in the Parramatta Advertiser with further details about how ‘Demolition on a heritage-listed Parramatta villa is imminent to make way for the $915 million Powerhouse Museum after a community group’s legal battle was lost but they are defiant a green ban will halt the works’ and how ‘After years of trying to save heritage-listed Willow Grove, its relocation is imminent after a residents group lost an appeal against the government in the NSW Court of Appeal.’ She cites North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) spokesperson Suzette Meade as saying ‘”Plan A [Green Ban and protests] has always been the passion and the power of the community and unions working together” …”In the spirit of Jack Mundey, a CFMEU green ban will save this site and Willow Grove will remain on Phillip St forever. The legal proceedings were always our Plan B.” ‘And ‘Parramatta Labor councillor Donna Davis said the battle should never have ended in court. “My community is at a loss to understand why and how it has come to this,” she said.”The government has given a green light to the demolition of Willow Grove to be placed in storage indefinitely. How is that, on any level, acceptable and respectful?” However, Vella also notes that ‘the Western Sydney Powerhouse Community Alliance labelled NPRAG sore losers and said the court’s decision was “a victory for the families of Western Sydney”. “The original approval decision by the Department of Planning and the ruling of the Land & Environment Court have been upheld by the Supreme Court,” alliance chairman Christopher Brown said. “This is now strike three for the opponents of the Powerhouse Parramatta and it’s time for them to get out of the way.”’
Vella reminds us that: ‘In the Land and Environment Court in May, barrister Tim Hale told the hearing that Willow Grove, built in the 1870s, was regarded as a rare example as one of the earliest notable Victorian-style houses in the Parramatta region. Mr Hale said that out of 1303 submissions into Powerhouse feedback, 85.5 per cent opposed destroying Willow Grove and neighbouring St George’s Terrace, which is a row of two-storey terraces built in 1881. He said Infrastructure NSW’s EIS failed to inform the public of alternative sites for Powerhouse that would not jeopardise heritage buildings… While the government agreed to dismantle Willow Grove brick-by-brick, Mr Hale told the court 95.3 per cent of submissions opposed the “relocation”… But Infrastructure NSW’s barrister Richard Lancaster said the EIS “comfortably” and “substantially” complied with the topics of alternative sites and designs that incorporated Willow Grove the topics of alternative sites and designs that incorporated Willow Grove… He said alternative sites were not feasible — a submission which promoted scoffs from the pro-Willow Grove group in the public gallery.’ Read more or here: 17 July, Parra Adv J Vella
17 July, 2021
‘Demolition and relocation of historic Willow Grove given green light’
(in print 17 July as: ‘Willow Grove could be gone in days after court rejects appeal’)
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘The NSW government is free to demolish and relocate the historic villa of Willow Grove to make way for the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse after opponents exhausted all legal avenues to halt its construction. The NSW Court of Appeal on Friday upheld the judgment of the Land and Environment Court that the government’s environmental assessment for the museum project was sufficient. North Parramatta Residents Action Group had unsuccessfully argued that Infrastructure NSW failed to meet its obligations for a state significant project when it did not properly consider alternative sites or designs incorporating the sole surviving example of a riverside mansion in the Parramatta CBD. The group immediately called for a moratorium on all demolition works while the pandemic-led lockdown was in place. NSW health restrictions on public gatherings effectively prevent protests and pickets to enforce a union green ban, raising the prospect that the Italianate villa will be gone from the site within days.’
And despite David Borger, executive director of the Business Western Sydney, describing the judgment as a victory for “western Sydney families”, ‘Residents’ spokesperson Suzette Meade said the legal loss would not deter the group. “We will not lose Willow Grove,” she said. “The people of Parramatta shouldn’t have to choose our heritage or cultural funding – we deserve to have both, and the community will continue to fight for this.” Parramatta City Councillor Donna Davis said her community was at a loss to under how the government had come to be given the green light to the demolition of Willow Grove to be placed in storage indefinitely. “How is that, on any level, acceptable and respectful? Heritage interpretation is a pathetic excuse for protection of our heritage places.”Read more. or here: 17 July SMH Willow Grove LM
16 July, 2020
‘Judgement day: Willow Grove campaigners lose appeal in NSW Supreme Court’
Nicola Barton reports in the Parra News, that ‘The North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) lost their appeal in the NSW Supreme Court this morning, devastating the dedicated community members who are fighting hard to preserve historic home Willow Grove.
Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, Justice John Basten and Justice Mark Leeming spent two weeks reviewing the judgment, previously made by Justice Moore in the Land and Environment, who ruled in his judgment that the Environmental impact statement (EIS) for the controversial Powerhouse Parramatta was sufficient.
NPRAG was represented by Senior Counsel Tim Hale who prosecuted the case that Infrastructure NSW had failed to adhere to the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) and consider any alternative sites or designs that would incorporate heritage for the Powerhouse Parramatta. Prior to the final ruling, NPRAG sought an injunction to halt any demolition works on Willow Grove, which is set to be relocated to make way for the Powerhouse Parramatta development. Community members picketed the property in a bid to protect it from destruction before the injunction was successfully granted… A consultant’s report for Infrastructure NSW has indicated the dismantled Willow Grove could remain in storage for years…
The Western Sydney Powerhouse Community Alliance applauded the court decision. “This is now strike three for the opponents of the Powerhouse Parramatta and it’s time for them to get out of the way,” Chair of the Western Sydney Powerhouse Community Alliance (WSPCA), Christopher Brown, said.’ Read more here. See also media protest from NPRAG: 16 July NPRAG ; CFMEU green ban 16 July CFMEU Green ban; and court support from WSPCA: 16 July WSPCA
9 July, 2021
‘The Powerhouse Museum: a year since the reprieve’
In Bulletin 66, Tom Lockley’s regular information update provides a summary of much that has occurred during the year since it was announced on 4 July, 2020, that the Powerhouse Museum would be saved, and stay in Ultimo; and from 16 June 2021 when funding was announced for its renewal. He documents links to the current exhibition program of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while expressing concerns about the future content and program, the powerful role of government in making such decisions and the considerable secrecy that has surrounded that process. As well, he records issues associated with the proposed museum site in Parramatta including protests and court cases about the removal of the heritage Willow Grove building, and the further development of the storage centre at Castle Hill. In conclusion Lockley supplies a timeline of events that have taken place during this year-long period.
Read more here: 9 July Bulletin 66 Tom Lockley
2 July, 2021
‘Chief Justice of NSW Supreme Court hears Willow Grove appeal’
A media release from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) announces that their appeal against Infrastructure NSW will be heard at the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney this morning. ‘His Excellency the Honourable Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, Justice John Basten and Justice Leeming who will review the judgment previously made by Justice Moore in the Land and Environment who ruled in his judgment that the EIS for the controversial Powerhouse Parramatta was sufficient. Tim Hale SC, representing NPRAG, will continue to argue the case for the community that Infrastructure NSW failed to consider any alternative site in the Environment Impact Statement for the Parramatta Powerhouse. Meanwhile an injunction halting any works taking place on heritage listed Willow Grove will continue until the final judgment is received from the Supreme Court. The community remain a 24/7 vigil on the entrances to the Victorian Italianate villa’s grounds, in fear of any works being carried out regardless of court orders. Read more: CHIEF JUSTICE OF NSW SUPREME COURT HEARS WILLOW GROVE APPEAL
25 June, 2021 (in print 26/6)
‘Willow Grove could end up in storage for years after deconstruction’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, follows up news that: ‘Infrastructure NSW lost its battle in court on Friday to overturn an injunction halting preliminary works on Willow Grove while the appeal was being heard. Willow Grove is subject to a union green ban and the first community picket was called on Tuesday when workmen were seen entering the building with tools and ladders. Opponents fear demolition will take place under the cover of a pandemic lockdown.’ She writes: ‘Plans are underway to deconstruct historic villa Willow Grove and pack preserved parts on timber pallets inside waterproof containers for indefinite storage, while the search for a new site begins. A consultant’s report for Infrastructure NSW outlines the process for dismantling the villa, the sole surviving example of a riverside mansion in the Parramatta CBD, and demolishing its rear extensions. But the Advisian report, dated June 8, says wide consultation on a shortlist of new sites would begin within six months of construction beginning on the Parramatta Powerhouse. Subject to structural engineering, heritage reports and development approvals, it raises the prospect that the dismantled pieces will be lying in storage for at least a year, if not longer…
Parramatta Councillor Donna Davis said the situation is “as bad as predicted”. “Willow Grove will be put in a storage container and will never see the light of day again. This all points to a flawed, rushed process that gives me flashbacks to the Royal Oak demolition debacle,” she said, referring to the iconic hotel that made way for the Parramatta Light Rail. “Our understanding is that those with ethics in the construction industry have run a mile from this ‘demolition and deconstruct’ job. “If the government was serious about rebuilding Willow Grove and respectful of the concerns raised in the record 1500-plus project submissions they would have completed the consultation process prior to these works commencing.”
… The National Trust of NSW’s director of conservation David Burdon said the methodology of deconstruction and relocation was “woefully inadequate”. ‘ [and] ‘The heritage-listed ornate driveway gates of Willow Grove were sawn off on Monday, residents’ spokesperson Suzette Meade said. “We don’t trust them as far as we could kick them,” she said of the government.’ Read more: or 25 June SMH Willow Grove – L Morris
23 June, 2021
‘Injunction granted, work on Willow Grove halted after community picket’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on the outcome of a picket held around the Willow Grove building in Parramatta, at 6am on Tuesday 22 June.
‘An injunction has been granted to halt work to remove the historic villa Willow Grove, which is to make way for the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum. A community picket was called in defence of Willow Grove on Tuesday morning, just days after the Land and Environment Court ruled against the North Parramatta Residents Action Group’s attempt to challenge planning approval. The action is said to have been sparked by contractors entering the 19th-century mansion with ladders and tools to begin pulling down the villa. Late on Tuesday, the NSW Court of Appeal restrained all work in relation to Willow Grove, pending an appeal hearing set down for July 2……Residents and members of the NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, whose members work on construction sites in the Parramatta CBD, gathered at the picket from 6am on Tuesday, blocking all entrances. A careful watch will be maintained over the site, the residents’ spokesperson said. The union can forbid members from touching the locally heritage-listed building but it remains unclear how they can enforce a green ban among non-member contractors.’ Read more: or 23 June SMH Picket defends Willow Grove
19 June, 2021
‘Powerhouse project reeks of empty immensity’
In print as ‘A need for intense, eccentric local muchness, not size’
Elizabeth Farrelly writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Empty immensity. Every part of the Powerhouse project reeks of empty immensity – from Mike Baird’s initial thought bubble (I know, let’s move it!) to the design brief lite, from the retrospectively recreated 2018 “business case summary” (there being no actual business case) to the big empty milk crate now set to be built on Parramatta’s flood-prone riverbank.’
‘This week’s two big pieces of Powerhouse news are no exception. The first is Wednesday’s Land and Environment Court decision on Willow Grove , in which Justice Tim Moore (a former Liberal minister) found against a group of Parramatta residents who oppose the government’s effective demolition of Willow Grove, a heritage-listed villa, to make way for the new Powerhouse museum. The case hinged on whether the government ever considered keeping the villa… Empty promises, empty arguments, immense expenditure.’
‘‘The same holds for the half-a-billion-dollar Powerhouse Ultimo dollop, announced on Tuesday by Arts Minister Don Harwin. Some consider it a big community win. Perhaps it is, although a fashion museum in the Powerhouse’s Wran building was always envisaged. Now, instead of having to flog its workshop building to survive, the museum will be funded. But there’s no guarantee to keep the Harwood building in the longer term. Indeed, no information generally. Just a 400-word media puff. Yet another politically-inflated thought bubble, this is less a plan than a press release.’
‘This newly announced Ultimo frock museum brings the whole misconceived Powerhouse project, including the new museum at Parramatta, to almost $1.5 billion. That’s six times the spend on Sydney Modern. Yet there’s no detail. Barely even a description. It’s a design and fashion museum with subsidised workspaces, an “academy” and, oh yes, student accommodation…’ ‘Harwin, grasping at content, likened the frock-shop to the Smithsonian and the V&A. But those museums combine stupendous collections, centuries of scholarship, curatorial genius and profound driving ideas. You couldn’t capture them in 400 pages, much less 400 weasel words. Powerhouse Ultimo, by contrast, leaves an eviscerated collection in a building designed for steam engines, while exiling the steam objects to “celebrate” Parramatta by demolishing that city’s heritage. How does that work again?’ Read more or 19 June SMH Farrelly
19 June, 2021
’Bold gum trees in all their glory’
on line as: ‘In praise of mighty eucalyptus: from Mawson’s sled to a new perfume’
Saying ‘From Mawson’s sled to a futuristic fragrance, the Powerhouse’s new exhibit hails the mighty eucalypt,’ Susan Skelly previews in the Sydney Morning Herald, the exhibition Eucalyptusdom which is to open at the Powerhouse Museum (July 1 2021-May 7 2022). The exhibition brings together a wide range of objects in the museum’s collection that relate to the eucalyptus tree, as well as some commissioned contemporary interpretations.
‘Eucalyptusdom is a kind of parallel universe. On the one hand it is a curation of objects built on the colonial economics of botany – timber, oils, bark, kino. On the other hand are things not so easily framed and captioned: interconnections, culture, myths, ancestral stories, the country that grew the trees… It was the research of the Powerhouse’s embedded artist Agatha Gothe-Snape that planted the exhibition seed. She was fascinated by such books as A Research on the Eucalypts and Their Essential Oils by Richard T. Baker and Henry G. Smith (1920); The Hardwoods of Australia and Their Economics by Richard T. Baker (1919); and A Gallery of Gum Trees by A.W. D’Ombrain (1938).The foreword to the latter, written by E.H.F. Swain, NSW commissioner for forests 1935-48 and an early conservationist, gave the exhibition its name. Swain wrote: “We have subconscious glimpses of inner qualities in these trees, and they lay a momentary spell upon us, but there remains yet to come an acceptance of the full glory of the Eucalyptusdom which is the especial heritage of this stranger land.” …. ‘Says Gothe-Snape: “In the forewords to these books you sense authors falling in love with a place they don’t understand. It’s hard for them to use their Western scientific models to understand the complexity of this genus they’ve never encountered. How do you fall in love with something when you can’t name it, when it keeps escaping your methods of categorisation, of knowledge? For me, this exhibition is about that love.”’..‘Gothe-Snape searched the Powerhouse collection of more than 500,000 objects for everything eucalypt … There was a whittling down to 600 objects, which include countless timber specimens, botanical illustrations, a Beale piano with a eucalyptus lid and the spottedgum sledge Douglas Mawson took to Antarctica in 1911.’ Quotes from a number of the artists commissioned to make work explain their interest in the project.Read more or SMH 19 June Bold gum trees See also Museum exhibition info here which says: ‘Eucalyptusdom is a new exhibition that reckons with our cultural history and ever-changing relationship with the gum tree, presenting over 400 objects from the Powerhouse Collection alongside 17 newly commissioned works by creative practitioners working across the fields of design, architecture, film, applied arts and performance.’
[This exhibition may well demonstrate that such integration of design, art, crafts, science, technology and industry, based on the collection and its history, is more than ‘fashion’!]
16 June, 2021
‘Powerhouse Parramatta: heritage activists lose legal battle but pin hopes on green ban’
Kelly Burke writes in The Guardian how: ‘One day after the announcement of a $500m reinvention of the Ultimo site of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, the New South Wales government has jumped a legal hurdle in the second phase of its Powerhouse plan: an expansion to Parramatta.… On Wednesday, the NSW land and environment court dismissed action taken by a Parramatta residents’ action group, who have challenged the validity of Infrastructure NSW’s environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Powerhouse Parramatta project. The action group argued that heritage considerations had not been adequately accounted for in the selection of the site and the design of the museum, which will necessitate the removal of the 140-year-old mansion Willow Grove, currently protected by a green ban… In his ruling, Justice Tim Moore said there was no obligation imposed on the government to investigate alternative sites for Powerhouse Parramatta, and even if this decision was debatable, there appeared to be no feasible alternative site. Consequently, the removal of Willow Grove was unavoidable, he ruled. He also found that the government’s EIS had complied with all relevant requirements.’
‘But with two of the state’s largest unions renewing a green ban to protect a vital area of the proposed site, the state government’s troubles are far from over. … Any government attempt to break the ban could potentially lead to widespread industrial action from unions across the state, the NSW secretary of the CFMEU, Darren Greenfield, warned on Wednesday, with 24-hour surveillance of the site continuing to ensure construction does not proceed. “[Today’s decision] doesn’t change our position,” he said. “We will use whatever political means we can. Our green ban and our members will save Willow Grove.” …’ Outside the court on Wednesday, spokeswoman for the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, Suzette Meade, said an appeal of the decision had not been ruled out, but the NSW government had indicated it would not proceed with any construction on the site until 21 June… But “The people of Parramatta shouldn’t have to choose our heritage or cultural funding – we deserve to have both, and the community will continue to fight for this.” ‘ Read more or 16 June The Guardian
16 June, 2021
‘Court gives green light for removal of historic villa to make way for Powerhouse’
Linda Morris and Megan Gorrey record in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Residents and unions have placed Willow Grove under 24-hour watch and say they will do whatever it takes to protect the historic villa after losing their legal bid to halt work on the Parramatta Powerhouse. The Land and Environment Court ruled against the North Parramatta Residents Action Group on Wednesday paving the way for Willow Grove’s relocation to a new site to make way for the museum at a cost of more than $10 million. Willow Grove’s garden and curtilage have already been swept away as part of early site works, with the Parramatta Powerhouse’s major construction contractor expected to be named in the coming weeks.’ However, they report: ‘The NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union will continue to enforce a green ban on the removal of Willow Grove despite the court’s findings.
The resident action group’s spokesperson Suzette Meade said the legal proceedings were always “plan B”. “Our plan A has always been and will continue to be the power and the passion of the community with the unions working together,” Ms Meade said.’. …’Arts Minister Don Harwin said the government would wait to read the court judgment and see whether the residents’ group would launch an appeal before making any moves at the site. The court ruling comes two days after the government pledged half a billion dollars to transform the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, with the budget commitment bringing to $1.4 billion the cost of keeping the Powerhouse at Ultimo, building flagship headquarters at Parramatta and expanding the institution’s Castle Hill Discovery Centre. Mr Harwin said he was “not at all concerned” Willow Grove’s heritage values would be damaged by moving the building.’ Read more or 16 June SMH W Grove
16 June, 2021
‘Sydney gives their verdict on the Powerhouse Museum’s $500m transformation’
Sasha Foot writes in City Hub about the NSW Government’s announcement on 15 June of ‘… a $500m conversion of the Powerhouse Museum to a fashion and design institution. The decision comes after many years of uncertainty surrounding the Powerhouse Museum’s future in Ultimo.’ They cite support from many people, including how ‘Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore applauded local community groups and expressed full support for the shift in concentration to fashion and design. Moore considered this a necessary revival for the museum space to ensure it prevails in the future’, Foot also documents concerns about the future program of the Ultimo site.’
However, ‘Museum specialist and Powerhouse Museum Alliance spokesperson Kylie Winkworth expressed disappointment at the planned transformation. “[The investment is] destructive of the museum’s heritage values,” Winkworth told City Hub. The science and technology exhibits will be moved to the planned $840 million Parramatta Flagship headquarters. The upgrades have drawn criticism centred upon the site’s distinct separation from its intended purpose. “To narrow the museum’s focus to just fashion and design is a betrayal of the museum’s 140 years of collecting practice,” Winkworth said. “The Government promised last July when the Powerhouse was announced to stay in Ultimo that it would retain its focus on technology, engineering and design”…’ … ‘The Powerhouse Museum exhibits an array of collections that includes the arts, sciences, technology and design. Former Senior Curator of Decorative Art and Design, and Powerhouse Museum Alliance activist Grace Cochrane acknowledged the troubling nature of the museum’s identification. “Fashion is not a primarily separate field – it is part of the whole,” Cochrane said. “[The transformation] is potentially exciting – but not at the expense of collection-based exhibitions across all fields of design.” Read more or 16 June City Hub
16 June, 2021
‘NSW government allowed to relocate Willow Grove villa to make way for Parramatta Powerhouse’
Regarding the North Parramatta Residents Action Groups campaign to save Willow Grove from demolition to make way for the ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’ building, Rani Hayman and Antonette Collins posted for ABC News, that in The Land and Environment Court today, the Court ruled the ‘Willow Grove villa, built in the 1870s, could be moved’; that ‘an action group failed in its bid to halt the relocation of the Willow Grove villa after challenging planning approval’, and that ‘Residents have vowed to continue their campaign and say a green ban will stay in place.’
‘The North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) has failed in its bid to halt the relocation of the Willow Grove villa after challenging planning approval on the basis the environmental assessment does not meet requirements for a state significant project. The group launched legal action in the Land and Environment court in March to halt work on the $915 million dollar museum project, but Justice Timothy Moore has dismissed the case.’
‘Greens MP David Shoebridge said the fight to keep Willow Grove would continue. “Regardless of today’s decision Willow Grove is still standing, the green ban is still in place and the community campaign to save Willow Grove is only growing,” he said. “What we do know from this decision is that there wasn’t a review of the merits and there’s never been a genuine review of the merits of Willow Grove.”…’ Suzette Meade from NPRAG said she is now concerned about when the government will start work on the site. “Willow Grove now stands like and oasis in this demolition site … and we’ve got people watching despite the hoarding, despite the scaffolding up high from all over Parramatta,” she said. “We are concerned. The government gave us an undertaking prior to this case that they would not touch Willow Grove until June 21st. That’s Monday.” It is not yet clear whether the group will appeal the decision or try and get a further injunction, but Ms Meade said the current green ban means no work can be done to demolish the 19th-century Italianate villa on Phillip Street.’ Read more or 16 June ABC court report
16 June, 2021
‘Waratah rising from the fires’: Powerhouse funds get mixed reviews
(in print as ‘Avalanche of cash for Powerhouse restyling gets mixed reviews’)
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald about the event at the Powerhouse Museum where the announcement for funding was made on 15 June. ‘An emotional Jenny Kee has welcomed plans for a $500 million overhaul of Ultimo’s Powerhouse Museum at a fashion event held on Tuesday to mark the government investment….“We were always on tenterhooks thinking this extraordinary institution might die, and be moved,” Kee, a designer who helped define a national fashion identity decades ago, said on Tuesday… Fashion and design will be at the forefront of the refurbished museum, with its sister museum at Parramatta to focus on science and technology. Runway models paraded garments from the Powerhouse’s fashion collection for the official launch, joined on stage by Kee and designer Camilla Franks.
The renewal plans include subsidised studios and work spaces for Australian designers, some commercial premises and a teaching hub with residential accommodation for regional students and remote learners, similar to that planned for the Parramatta Powerhouse. It’s envisaged the Ultimo museum will shut for renovations once plans are approved, with the project taking five or six years to complete.’’’
But museum consultant and former trustee Kylie Winkworth said the government had broken its promise that the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum would retain its broad remit across technology, science, engineering and design. “The government said the Powerhouse Museum was saved. Instead, the mission and facilities of the Powerhouse are being downsized without consultation, explanation or even a veneer of museum planning,” Winkworth said. “No thought has been given to the impact of turning the Powerhouse Museum into a fashion and design museum when it’s traditionally attracted family and education audiences. The real waste is that we will have a hollowed-out Powerhouse, without the power and transport collections for which the museum was purpose-designed…”
The Opposition gave the government its in-principle support, saying full credit should go to the community that had saved the museum. “It also shows how a costly thought bubble by a former premier can have multi-billion dollar consequences,” Labor’s arts and heritage spokesperson Walt Secord said. “We are now creeping towards a cost of $2 billion; that would have built a teaching hospital the size of Royal North Shore Hospital.“Had the State Government sat down and properly done their sums from the very beginning, they would have gotten a better and fairer arrangement for Ultimo and western Sydney.” Read more: or SMH 16 June LMorris
16 June, 2021
‘Fashion a worthy focus for revitalised Powerhouse’
Kellie Hush, a Powerhouse Museum trustee and former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, writes in the Sydney Morning Herald in support of the proposed emphasis on fashion in the changes being made to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. ‘As a museum of applied arts and sciences the Powerhouse is a living memory of our material heritage. How appropriate then that our nation’s fashion industry should take a lead role in reframing the museum’s future. The industry I love and have dedicated my career to, pumped $27.2 billion into the Australian economy last year and employed nearly half a million people – 77 per cent of whom are women. And that’s just the economic story. The pleasure that fashion brings into so many lives every single day is immeasurable because it is often so personal.….As a trustee of the Powerhouse, I have been fortunate to have spent many hours viewing the fashion pieces and the revered collection of more than 500,000 objects that tells the stories of where we’ve been and where we want to go as a society. But why I love fashion so much is because it is a business born of reinvention. Every single season it reinvents itself! Ultimo and the precincts that surround it have changed a lot since 1988 when the Power House first stirred into its new life as a museum. This renewal will see the birth of a creative industries precinct – a home for designers, creators, the makers and the innovators. And what an incredible opportunity for generations to come, to have the museum to gather and share ideas and creativity…For young designers of today, and tomorrow, Ultimo will be a place to collaborate, source inspiration from the incredible collection, and see the world’s best international exhibitions right here in Sydney – this is a truly remarkable gift to creative industries in Australia.’ Read more, or SMH 16 June K Hush
15 June, 2021
MAAS Media Release: ‘THE ICONIC POWERHOUSE TRANSFORMED’
It is announced that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum has today welcomed the NSW Government’s $480-$500m transformative investment into one of Australia’s most revered and loved museums, Powerhouse Ultimo. The renewal will see Powerhouse Ultimo focus on design and fashion, presenting exhibitions that feature the museum’s significant collections, international exclusive exhibitions and programs that support the design and fashion industries.
The expansion will deliver renewed and expanded exhibition and public space, connecting the Powerhouse Museum to the City by reorienting the Museum to the Goods Line and connecting to adjacent precincts. ..More than 5,000 regional and remote students from across NSW will further their design and fashion education through immersive experiences at The Academy, which will provide residential accommodation within the museum precinct.
Museum Trust President, Peter Collins AM QC said: “…This renewal will pave the way for generations to come to experience even more of our 500,000 strong Collection through Australia’s leading museum of design and fashion in Ultimo and the new home of science and technology at our flagship, Powerhouse Parramatta.” Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah said: “The renewal of our institution will deliver two world-class museums – with a design and fashion focus at Powerhouse Ultimo and our flagship museum focused on science and technology museum, Powerhouse Parramatta. “This visionary investment will see the expansion of our exhibition spaces as well as renewal of our historic exhibition spaces. We will create a vibrant public square beside the Goods Line, and creative industries workspaces that will become home for Australian designers.”
Planning for a design competition led by Create Infrastructure and the Powerhouse Museum will now commence. The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo remains open.’
Read more: Powerhouse Media Release – 15 June 2021
15 June, 2021
‘Ultimo’s Powerhouse Museum set for $500 million makeover’ (in print as ‘$500m to complete museum backflip’)
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo will become the heart of a new cultural precinct, with the Berejiklian government pledging half a billion dollars to transform the institution almost a year after reversing the decision to shut its doors.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet will announce the $500 million funding – the first major government investment in the museum since it was founded – on Tuesday as a cornerstone commitment of the NSW budget. A design competition will be held this year to find an architectural team to reorient the museum’s entrance and to create a public square at its rear that will connect visitors to the future Tech Central, Pyrmont Peninsula and metro station development, Darling Harbour and Chinatown… The budget commitment brings to $1.4 billion the cost of keeping the Powerhouse at Ultimo, building flagship headquarters at Parramatta ($840 million) and expanding the institution’s Castle Hill Discovery Centre ($60 million)… Public protest spurred the Berejiklian government to abandon plans to sell the Ultimo site and it will now operate the museum across the two sites with Parramatta focusing on science and technology. Arts Minister Don Harwin confirmed the iconic Powerhouse Museum pieces, including the Boulton and Watt Engine, Locomotive No.1, and the Catalina Flying Boat, would remain at Ultimo. “The Powerhouse Museum’s collection has incredible breadth, telling the great stories of design from the industrial age to the great design achievements at the beginning of this century,” he said [and then identifies a focus on fashion examples, which continue to appear to be his personal preference]..
Trust president Peter Collins and chief executive Lisa Havilah had pitched several funding options to NSW Treasury from a base case of critical maintenance to the once-in-a-generation refurbishment. Mr Collins said exhibition spaces would be expanded. [Note: from here on, not included in print copy]“We will create a vibrant public square beside the Goods Line, and creative industries workspaces that will become home for Australian designers,” he said…The planned project works do not include the nearby Harwood building, which was to have been sold off under the original relocation plan. For the foreseeable future, the Harwood building will continue to carry out its role in museum operations as home to the workshop, library and offices for staff.’ Read more: or: SMH 15 June L Morris $500m to complete
15 June, 2021
‘Was the Powerhouse worth the angst, Mike Baird?’(in print 15 June, as ‘Welcome to the parallel universe Mr Baird could not have imagined’)
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris reminds us that: ‘It was in 2018 that Mike Baird, then pursuing a career in banking, was summoned to a parliamentary inquiry to defend his inflammatory decision as NSW premier to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. He didn’t take a backward step. ..Four years earlier, the Powerhouse board signed off on a strategic plan that included a claim for $350 million in government funding for the regeneration of the museum’s 30-year-old buildings, offset by the sale of adjoining land and development and air rights above its collection store…This touched off what critics later derided as Baird’s pre-election “thought bubble”: selling up the Powerhouse in Ultimo to give western Sydney an iconic museum it deserved.
The state government’s commitment to spend $500 million to renovate the Ultimo Powerhouse brings taxpayers almost full circle… All up, the government’s budget commitment will bring the capital cost of the two museums and Castle Hill expansion close to the $1.5 billion that an Upper House Inquiry and the Powerhouse’s founding director Lindsay Sharp warned would be the real cost to taxpayers of the relocation plan. To put that figure into perspective, the Sydney Opera House refit is costing the government $235 million, Sydney Modern $244 million, the regional cultural fund $100 million, Walsh Bay arts precinct $347 million and the Australian Museum refit cost $50 million.
Mr Baird was right that western Sydney deserves a world-class cultural institution, the arts and cultural funding gap disadvantaging a region that one in 10 Australians call home. Had his government committed to the Powerhouse’s renewal five years ago, however, it would have been one year from completion. It could have had its Parramatta Powerhouse or decided to share its largesse with the Campbelltown Arts Centre, Casula Powerhouse, Joan Sutherland Theatre, and other regional galleries.The Berejiklian government would have avoided the headlines, the inquiries, and the public backlash over the planned closure of Ultimo, necessitating the decision’s sudden reversal 12 months ago.
Union green bans remain in force to block the demolition of the historic home of Willow Grove at Parramatta, which is to be dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere. The Land and Environment Court hands down its judgment on Wednesday about the validity of the planning process for the Parramatta Powerhouse. Whatever the outcome, it will go to appeal. Fans of the Powerhouse Ultimo will be grateful the museum got its lifeline in the end. But was the last five years worth all the angst, Mr Baird?’ Read more: or SMH 15 June Linda M – Baird
15 June, 2021
‘Powerhouse Ultimo is here to stay as design museum with $480M investment’
Gina Fairley writes in ArtsHub, of a joint media call this morning from NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin, with MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) CEO Lisa Havilah, to announce ‘a new investment of $480-500 million to transform Powerhouse Ultimo into a dedicated museum to design and fashion.’ ‘Powerhouse Parramatta will focus on the intersections and histories of science, technology and creative industries. The investment – along with $1.1 billion already committed to Powerhouse Parramatta – makes it the largest cultural investment NSW has made since the building of Sydney Opera House. Minister Harwin said: “This year’s budget will cover the cost of a design competition and approval processes and the government expects when the museum is finished, that operational expenditure will have increased with 100 new jobs in the creative industries funded at the museum.”…
’Just over a year ago, the Ultimo site was slated to be sold to property developers to assist with the funding of the new Parramatta museum. The sale was expected to generate some $195 million. But the plan has long been the subject of protests, consistent lobbying by the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, a Parliamentary Inquiry, and good old fashioned ‘people power’, which has seen that decision reversed.…Havilah said the catalyst was really the government’s announcement on 4 July that committed to two world class museums, that was the trigger point, “so our job as the museum was to work through the business case process – what does that actually mean, and how to think about the renewal of the museum in terms of defining how much investment it requires, that brings us to today.” …she continued: “What I am most excited about is that we are not only going to create these incredible exhibition spaces, but also create spaces that will support industry, that will keep creatives and designers in this precinct, while working to integrate the industry into our broader practices as an museum.”
Read more: or Arts Hub 15 June
15 June, 2021
Powerhouse win: MP Facebook entries
Following the announcement above, Members of Parliament who have been active in support of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, wrote on their Facebook pages. See also shared posts on the PowerhouseMuseumAlliance Facebook page.
Jamie Parker, MP
‘Just a year after they tried to demolish it, the NSW Government has committed half a billion dollars to revamp the Powerhouse Museum. This funding, in addition to the money going to the new museum in Parramatta, represents the biggest investment in a single cultural institution in the state since the Sydney Opera House. Wins like this don’t happen by accident. Thank you to the thousands of people who signed our petition, to all the residents who have joined me to meet with the Minister over the years, and to all the community groups who have played a leading role to save this precious site including Powerhouse Museum Alliance and Pyrmont Locals and Save the Powerhouse.
There is still more to do especially defending Willow Grove in Parramatta and making it clear that the arts and culture are more important that real estate deals.’
David Shoebridge, MP
‘We’ve always said that we shouldn’t have to choose between world class museums in Sydney’s city and Parramatta- we need both. Finally the NSW Government has listened: half a billion dollars to transform the Powerhouse Museum! This brings to $1.4 billion the total commitment to keep the museum at Ultimo, build flagship headquarters at Parramatta ($840 million) and expand the institution’s Castle Hill Discovery Centre ($60 million). Community campaigning works! Thank you to the thousands of people who signed the petition and to the tireless campaigners including Powerhouse Museum Alliance, Pyrmont Locals and Save the Powerhouse.’
Alex Greenwich, MP:
‘I welcome today’s announcement that the government will allocate $500 million for a revitalised Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, with media reports saying this includes a new public square at the rear to reorient the museum and a strong focus on fashion and design. I joined the Lord Mayor Clover Moore – a strong advocate for the Powerhouse – and the local and museum community to oppose the initial plan to close the museum and sell off the site. I have continued to ask questions in Parliament and am pleased the museum’s values and potential have been recognised. My May 2021 questions in Parliament: > HERE.’
29 May, 2021
‘Sunless and soulless or the Paris of the west: Three events will determine Parramatta’s future’
Elizabeth Farrelly reports in both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times on three issues being dealt with in Parramatta: The future of Willow Grove and the Powerhouse Museum; the Greater Sydney Parklands White Paper proposing a single trust for all Sydney’s great parks; and the impact of expanding ‘tower-zones’ in Parramatta’s CBD planning proposal.
Regarding Willow Grove, following the presentations made on 25 and 26 May in the Land and Environment Court case in Parramatta, she says: ‘The judge peered over his spectacles. “I think the applicant is saying, you can’t build a house on sand.” The wording is approximate. The transcript is pending. But you get the gist. Justice Tim Moore, former environment minister and now a Land and Environment Court judge, was addressing the respondent – the NSW government – on day one of the Willow Grove court case this week.
The comment followed an hour or so of the government’s flustered attempts to sandbag the non-compliant documentation that could yet render the Powerhouse museum approval null and void. Embarrassing. It was an apt metaphor. As the audience recognised, “building on sand” also suggested the whole attempt to “relocate” the Powerhouse from Ultimo to a flood-prone alluvial sandbank and former Dharug fishing spot on the Parramatta River. It could equally suggest the current, whole-of-Parramatta struggle to escape its daggy old cocoon and become a proper city.’
After discussing the city tower development, Farrelly adds: ‘Which brings us to Willow Grove, itself in a 211-metre zone. The court case is brought by the North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group [which] argues that the Environmental Impact Statement for the Parramatta Powerhouse, approved in February, breached the legislative requirement to analyse feasible alternatives. No such alternatives, on the same site or elsewhere, appeared. Indeed, there’s no evidence, there, in the competition brief or in the 2018 Business Case Summary, that the possibility of keeping Willow Grove was ever seriously entertained.
The respondents (Infrastructure NSW and the minister) had nowhere to go. Sounding a lot like developers on building heights, they blustered that it was too late to change, too much money spent. They said Willow Grove makes site access too difficult. But the community has been fighting five years for this, and the building occupies scarcely a tenth of the site frontage. There’s also a CFMEU green ban on the site, with support from the National Maritime Union, the Nurses and Midwives Association, the Teachers’ Federation, the Public Service Association and the Dharug and allies.
The judge has reserved judgment. Meantime the government, having already let the demolition contract and scaffolded Willow Grove, has promised to cease work. Perhaps, as we speak, it’s frantically dredging up some alternatives to look like they’d been considered. It’d be easier, though, and cheaper – a fraction of the $10 million relocation cost – to keep Willow Grove, work with it. Like the wise man said, you can’t build a house on sand.’ Read more SMH and BTimes, or in print here 29 May Farrelly -Brisbane Times and SMH or 29 May Farrelly in print
25 May, 2021
‘Power Battle’ on line as ‘Parramatta River banks the only site for Powerhouse: Barrister’
Joanne Vella reports in the Daily Telegraph, that ‘As demolition works loom over a heritage-listed Parramatta house to make way for the $915 million Powerhouse Museum, a community action group’s legal battle with the State Government begins.’
‘North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) is beginning legal action against the State Government and its approach to planning the $915 million Powerhouse Museum, in the Land and Environment Court on Monday. The group claims Infrastructure NSW failed to undertake the proper planning approval because the environmental assessment failed to meet requirements for a state significant project. The residents’ group is desperately trying to halt construction work in an effort to save 140-year-old Italianate villa Willow Grove.’ … ‘NPRAG spokeswoman Suzette Meade said the planning also failed to avoid impact on heritage properties. “We have been left with no other option other than to commence this action,” she said. “The Powerhouse can be redesigned but Willow Grove, once it is lost, can never be restored.” Among other issues, including strong local opposition, barrister Tim Hale told the hearing before Judge Timothy Moore that ‘Infrastructure NSW’s EIS failed to inform the public of alternative sites for Powerhouse that would not jeopardise heritage buildings.’ Infrastructure NSW’s barrister Richard Lancaster made counter arguments, but ‘Justice Moore told Mr Lancaster he had to demonstrate why there were no “rational” options for alternative sites for the Powerhouse Parramatta. … The hearing continues…’Read more here, or here 25 May DT Power battle
14 May, 2021
‘Tearing up the carpet, burning down the house’
In his regular arts news email, and with reference to Kylie Winkworth’s research, art critic John McDonald writes: ‘Even though I almost dread to raise the subject again the Powerhouse Museum is back in the news for the usual wrong reasons. It was July last year when the Don and Dom show descended on the museum to announce that the building would be remaining in Ultimo. This seemed at the time like a big turnaround and a major victory for the forces of common sense that had been trying to prevent the systematic dismantling of the PHM. But there was so little detail given that it would have been premature to break out the champagne.
Ten months on from the grand backdown and we can see it was no backdown at all, merely a smokescreen intended to buy time while the next devious scheme was put in place. Almost nothing has changed in the government’s approach to the Powerhouse and Parramatta. They are still intent of building a mega-entertainment centre in Parramatta even though the site was flooded in the recent downpours. They are still intending to demolish or “move” the historic Willow Grove. They are still constructing a gigantic storage depot in Castle Hill, and even sending out press releases to tell us what a great thing this is. They are taking apart the existing museum piece by piece, condemning major exhibits to an uncertain future. The idea is quite simple: fudge, fib and dodge for long enough until public anger dies down and complacency sets in. Gladys’s gangsters have simply decided they can outlast the vigorous campaign conducted by the Powerhouse Museum Alliance and other critics of what is probably the worst ever piece of cultural vandalism undertaken in this country.’ Read more: 14 May John McDonald
13 May, 2021
‘Breaking up the Powerhouse Museum: 10 Years of the LNP at Work’
In CityHub, Kylie Winkworth documents how: ‘The NSW Government has hacked away at the Powerhouse Museum for the last ten years, relentlessly cutting its budget, gutting the museum of expertise, competent leadership and good governance, undermining public trust, and making museum policy on impulse round the campfire.’
‘In 2011 when the LNP came to power MAAS had 284 staff, 20 conservators and 49 in the curatorial team. It ran an award winning Migration Heritage Centre and a highly regarded regional program, both since abolished. As at the last annual report in 2019-20, and not counting the team packing up the collection, the museum has just 178 staff, a decrease of 37 percent. There are just 18 people in the curatorial team, and only 7 conservators, but 10 SES level directors. There are more artists occupying the Powerhouse than curators and conservators. That is the scale of their axe attack to dismember the Powerhouse.’ ‘Philanthropist Gene Sherman has proposed splitting the museum’s collections and turning the Powerhouse into a fashion and design hub. Does the Government want crowd pleasing fashion exhibitions? We had a museum that did record-breaking fashion exhibitions, and design and decorative arts. They were shown at the once great Powerhouse Museum, before this Government started their hack attack. No one should be surprised at the latest idea for breaking up the Powerhouse because in Sydney this Government doesn’t do museum policy and planning, doesn’t do proper process, or genuine consultation. Instead, the city’s culture is carved up behind closed doors in secret meetings with lobbyists, insiders and influencers. That is how decisions are made in Sydney about how our taxes are spent on cultural projects, museums and public culture.’
Winkworth continues with significant concerns and details about the proposed new museum in Parramatta and the demolition of a heritage building, the move of the collection to Castle Hill, and the splitting of the collection, saying ‘If the fashion and design scheme goes ahead we will likely end up with a white box fashion showcase and party place at Ultimo, more taxpayer-subsidised fashion balls, no museum at Parramatta, and the PHM’s internationally significant power and transport collections exiled to a cluster of big sheds at Castle Hill. The Ultimo plans will be badged as a ‘cultural industries precinct’. This is not industry or culture. It is a euphemism for cultural erasure and amnesia, fronting a shameless scheme to evict and erase Sydney’s transport and industrial history, just as they have at Carriageworks and the ATP.’
Read more or 13 May City Hub Winkworth
13 May, 2021
‘Culture beats construction in Covid economic recovery, report finds’
Kelly Burke writes in The Guardian, that: ‘Twice as many jobs could have been created during the Covid crisis if the federal government had invested in culture rather than construction. If the federal government had invested the equivalent amount of money into the arts and entertainment sectors as part of its Covid response as it did in a construction recovery scheme, twice as many jobs would have been created over the past 12 months, a report has found. The analysis, conducted by the Canberra-based thinktank the Australia Institute and based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data, suggests the country’s cultural sector was vastly underestimated when it came to the national economy, the report’s senior researcher, Bill Browne, said. “There’s a wide recognition that the arts and entertainment sector has an important cultural impact but the contribution the sector makes economically is still largely neglected,” he told Guardian Australia. “There’s a very natural focus on [the cultural sector’s] importance in how we think and feel and how we interact with the world and how we make sense of ourselves. But in this focus, some of the attention to its economic impact is being lost.” According to ABS data, the arts and entertainment sectoremploys four times as many Australians as coalmining, and the same number of Australians as the entire finance sector.…“This week’s budget was a timely opportunity for the government to support the Australian economy, create jobs for women and recognise the importance of the arts and entertainment industry,” the Australia Institute executive director, Ben Oquist, said. “Unfortunately, the male-dominated and jobs-poor sectors of construction and mining continue to receive the majority of government attention and support.” Read more or Guardian 13 May
9 May, 2021
‘Power and the fashion: Pitch to turn Powerhouse Ultimo into design hub’
In print as ‘Power and the fashion: an Ultimo pitch’
Linda Morris reports in the Sun Herald that ‘Sydney philanthropist Gene Sherman has called for the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo to become the state’s first cultural institution dedicated to the display of design, decorative arts, and fashion… A former Powerhouse trustee [with a particular personal interest in fashion], Dr Sherman wants the Ultimo museum to focus on crowd-pleasing exhibitions of costume and designer fashion, ceramics, jewellery, furniture, and architecture, and leave the new Parramatta museum to focus on science and technology. Dr Sherman recently presented a two-site model to Mr Collins and Arts Minister Don Harwin. She has proposed two separate foundations and, possibly over time, two separate directors enabling more effective fundraising from private philanthropists and corporate sponsors. If considered appropriate, she has offered to chair the foundation at Ultimo, seeding it with a considerable donation from her own family.’
…‘However the president of the Powerhouse trust, Peter Collins, said he did not support splitting the museum’s collection… Mr Collins said he wants to showcase the entirety of the Powerhouse collection across the three sites including the soon-to-be expanded Museum Discovery Centre in Castle Hill rather than siloing the museums. “The Shermans have made a fantastic contribution to the Sydney arts scene in Sydney over 30 years for the institutions in which they have served, and in Gene’s case they are perfectly entitled to want to leave a legacy for their particular passions but I do not support the proposed splitting of exhibitions with fashion and design exclusive to Ultimo and science and technology to Parramatta,” Mr Collins said. “We want to see a blend of our collections across the three sites when fully operational.” He expected the idea of splitting administrations and establishing micro museums would also have limited appeal to Treasury as COVID-19 stimulus money dried up. ‘
‘The future of the Ultimo museum is at a crossroads after the Berejiklian government decided last July to keep it open. The site requires critical maintenance and NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is expected to outline funding for its renewal in the June budget.’
Read more or9 May Sun Herald – Sherman
6 May, 2021
Powerhouse Ultimo Business Plan?
On 6 May, Independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, asked the questions we all want answers for, ‘to the Premier representing the Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts’. The parliament website shows that the Question was asked on 6 May 2021 (session 57-1) and that the Answer is due on 10 June 2021. Read here Thank you Alex Greenwich! Here are the questions:
5781 – POWERHOUSE ULTIMO BUSINESS PLAN
(1) When will the Government release the business plan for the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum site, originally announced for late 2019?
(2) To what extent will the museum remain focussed on science and technology, decorative arts and design and social history?
(3) Will the Government retain existing buildings for museum use?
(4) What further plans does the Government have to revitalise the Powerhouse Museum following years of uncertainty?
3 May, 2021
‘Majority of Western Sydney voters haven’t heard about Willow Grove: Poll’
later as ‘Majority of Western Sydney voters back new Powerhouse’ on line; and in print as:
‘Power of the People: Residents back Parra museum’
James O’Doherty writes in the Daily Telegraph about a ‘YouGov poll commissioned on behalf of the Western Sydney Powerhouse Community Alliance,’ [a business-oriented organisatio]. He says: ‘The Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta has been given an emphatic tick of approval by Western Sydney, with more than half of residents vowing to attend the new attraction and nearly three quarters adamant the area needs more cultural institutions. The results of a new survey come as it is revealed a whopping two-thirds of Western Sydney voters have not even heard of the historic Willow Grove building at Parramatta — which is due to be relocated to make way for the new museum — and only 14 per cent have ever visited the site. That is despite residents’ groups staunch opposition to a State Government plan to move the 19th Century villa…Opponents of the current location argue the site is prone to flooding, although the government has stressed measures have been put in place to ensure there is no risk to the museum. Only a third of people surveyed in the poll were “aware” of Willow Grove.
The state government continues to face vocal opposition against its plan to relocate Willow Grove for the new museum. Unions have placed a so-called “green ban” on the site, effectively preventing its demolition. However Western Sydney Powerhouse Community Alliance Chair Chris Brown said the YouGov polling showed “the numbers are in” for the Powerhouse to go ahead at the Willow Grove site.’ Read more or 3 May, 2021 DT
1-4 May, 2021
Reports: May Day rally in Parramatta
About 3000 people attended the traditional May Day rally in Parramatta, marching through the city centre to the (boarded-up) street-front of the historic building, Willow Grove. Members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance supported colleagues in their campaign to save this building.
See also FACEBOOK reports from around 1-3 May, 2021 from these groups:
Powerhouse Museum Alliance: HERE
North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG): HERE
Save Willow Grove: HERE
CFMEU NSW Construction Union: HERE
Maritime Workers Union : HERE
Save the Powerhouse: HERE
3 May, 2021
‘Thousands rally to Save Willow Grove’
Mirage News writes: ‘Thousands of people took to the streets of Parramatta on the weekend in a powerful show of strength of the community support to save historic Willow Grove from Gladys Berejiklian’s wrecking ball. “The May Day rally on Saturday should serve as a warning to the government of the type of mobilisation they can expect if they attempt to defy the wishes of the people of Parramatta and move to destroy Willow Grove,” said Darren Greenfield, CMFEU NSW Secretary …“There is no need to destroy Willow Grove to make way for the government’s proposed museum and shopping complex. It is bizarre to suggest the only way the people of Sydney’s west can have a new cultural institution is by tearing down and paving over irreplaceable heritage sites.The government can run as much push-polling as it likes, but at the end of the day the people of Parramatta and their supporters across the trade union movement have shown they can put the boots on the ground to stop the destruction of Willow Grove. The Green Ban on the destruction of Willow Grove remains in force. It’s time for the Berejiklian Government to sit down with the community to find a way to build the Powerhouse without destroying this important heritage site.” Read more
3 May, 2021
Thousands Rally To Save Parramatta’s Historic ‘Willow Grove’ Jenna Benson, for WSFM radio, writes of the rally as: ‘…a powerful show of strength of the community support to save historic Willow Grove from Gladys Berejiklian’s wrecking ball.’ She refers to a Facebook post by the Save Willow Grove group on 24 April 2021, who said: ‘ “There is no need to destroy Willow Grove to make way for the government’s proposed museum and shopping complex. It is bizarre to suggest the only way the people of Sydney’s west can have a new cultural institution is by tearing down and paving over irreplaceable heritage sites. The government can run as much push-polling as it likes, but at the end of the day the people of Parramatta and their supporters across the trade union movement have shown they can put the boots on the ground to stop the destruction of Willow Grove.Read more or 3 May, WSFM 101 radio
1 May, 2021
‘A May Day to Remember: March in Support of Willow Grove Green Ban’
Oliver Pether, in Honi Soit, reported that: ‘A coalition of trade unionists, activist groups and students have used this year’s May Day to protest against the dismantling of Willow Grove, an 19th century heritage building in Parramatta. Willow Grove is set to be relocated in favour of the construction of a second Powerhouse museum. May Day, or International Workers Day, is a rally held annually to support workers and express solidarity to the labour movement. Though the event normally takes place in the city, this year it was held in Parramatta for the first time in its history. The move, proposed by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), aimed to express support for a green ban on Willow Grove. A green ban is a form of strike action where members of a trade-union refuse to work on a project because of environmental or heritage concerns…Prominent union figure and State Secretary of the construction division of the CFMEU Darren Greenfield paid homage to the late activist Jack Mundey and vowed to protect Willow Grove till the end. Other speakers included representatives of the Maritime Union of Australia, the Electrical Trades Union, the Public Service Association (PSA) and Indigenous youth organisation Gamilaraay Next Generation.
One of the final speeches was made by local activist Suzette Meade and Parramatta City councillor Donna Davis, two women at the forefront of the Save Willow Grove campaign. Meade expressed confidence in her campaign’s ability to stop Willow Grove’s removal, and declared: “the Government wants to destroy our history, we’re not going to let them do that.” Suzette Meade and the North Parramatta Residents Action Group have recently taken the State Government to the Land and Environment Court. They are arguing that the Government’s planning processes failed to properly analyse alternate sites for the new museum. The Government has indicated it has no intention of backing down.’ Read more or 1 May Honi Soit
April 2021: Powerhouse Museum Alliance summarises recent issues
The Powerhouse Museum: what has happened in the last few weeks?
1. Ultimo, Sydney CBD:
Despite the welcome July 2020 announcement that the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo is ‘saved’, the NSW Government continues to pursue its plans for a Parramatta ‘jewel in the crown’ relocation, and the future of the Ultimo site is still unclear. While it was announced that a business plan for Ultimo would be selected in early 2021 by Arts Minister Don Harwin from options prepared by Create NSW/MAAS, this has not yet been made public (if the decision has been made). The MAAS website says: ‘Together with Create NSW the Powerhouse Museum is working on a final business case to determine the future of Ultimo and conducted community consultation as part of this work.’ Read here
Current exhibition plan:
The Powerhouse Museum has started work on a 2021 program of temporary exhibitions and events, complementing some remaining permanent exhibition/exhibits. Read here.
Despite many redundancies and reduction of numbers of staff with knowledge of specific collection areas over recent years, many staff appointments have been made to digitise the collection and work on the transfer of collection objects to Castle Hill storage.
Relationship to collection:
But many are worried that the ‘saving’ of the museum is a token gesture. Ultimo is still without a forward plan within a contextual reference for content and collection: it should still cross science and technology, decorative arts and design and social history. But will it still be narrowed down to suit the Minister’s personal preferences? What about its relationship to the heritage of the site? And the spaces that are well-suited to the large objects? A ‘design precinct’ or ‘creative industries precinct’ has been mentioned. But what does that mean? It is still intended to move the management to Parramatta.
Heritage: And along with award-winning buildings from 1988, as yet not included on heritage listing, the future of the adjacent Harwood building (first and only remaining Sydney tramshed), for 30 years providing accessible workshops and offices for staff including curators, conservators, registrars, IT and exhibition designers, publications and library – and accessible collection storage – is still unannounced (previously cited as arts minister’s preference for a lyric theatre! Apartments?).
Heritage: controversy continues about loss of heritage buildings.
Rally 1st May: A May Day international workers union march of an estimated 3-5000 people will start in Parramatta at 11.30am at Prince Alfred square and then march to WillowGrove. It will support a Green Ban placed on the demolition of Willow Grove to make way for the proposed Parramatta Powerhouse Museum. See details here.
Floods: extensive flooding of the Parramatta river – and other centres in NSW, confirmed for all except the government and developers, the risks of building a new museum on a flood-prone site – see our news reports 20-23 March.
Museum or retail? And commenting on the retail strategy for the site, with canteens, cafes, small bars and 56 apartments planned, “It’s just an exercise in setting up a commercial precinct with a so-called museum tacked on the side”. (See news page, April 13).
Castle Hill storage: questions are still being asked about moving a state collection into distant storage (not a museum), beyond Parramatta, where it is far from the exhibition spaces and cumbersome for staff to access while putting objects at risk during transport, and when the funds could better support investment in the Ultimo site, and regional museums including one specifically relating to Parramatta.
3. Recent announcements:
Budget forecast: Millions cut from cultural institutions
(See news page: April, and various reports on April 14). In the context of many years of reductions in recurrent funding, documents from a government inquiry committee for ‘Budget Estimates 2020-2021’, include further serious proposed funding reductions to major arts institutions.
– Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) will reportedly lose $9 million a year; Australian Museum (AM) will lose $13 million; Sydney Living Museums (SLM) will lose $5 million.
– Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) will lose $10 million.
Gina Fairley (in Arts Hub, April 14) records that the Public Service Association (PSA) said: “The NSW Government’s plan to slash more than $37 million in funding from the state’s cultural institutions will see huge staff cuts, cripple their ability to deliver world class exhibitions, and leave them empty, the union is warning.” Stewart Little, the PSA’s general secretary said: “The Berejiklian government is all about splashing cash on development, but never about investing in delivery.” Fairley also provides details of some of the implications of such cuts in operating budgets, and provides further figures for recent and current building development.
However, the government and MAAS point out that: ‘The forward planning figures referenced in today’s media are not the final budget numbers … Funding decisions will be made as part of the normal budget process with the 2021-22 Budget to be handed down in June.’ See the Budget forecast committee page here. In Other Documents, in Answers to Supplementary Questions on 23/3/21, go to Question 90, where the figures are provided. See: March 2021 Budget forecasts What will the final figures be?
Many submissions have been made in recent years to support heritage nominations and to submit concerns about Environmental Impacts of proposed plans. In April (see PMA news page) Heritage NSW announced a ‘NSW Heritage Act Review’, where the NSW Government is inviting community discussion and submissions ‘on how heritage can be better managed and protected in NSW.‘ See its Discussion paper here.
4. Powerhouse Museum Alliance congratulates and thanks the many, many individuals and groups – professional museum people, politicians, cultural and educational colleagues, museum volunteers – and members of the committed general public across NSW, Australia and other countries – who continue to maintain the argument for properly supporting the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and providing Parramatta with a gallery/museum of its own, for its own diverse communities (like other regional centres).
29 April, 2021
‘Planning Minister approves Powerhouse storage centre in Castle Hill’
After long-standing controversy about access, costs and safety for the collection, and submissions about Environmental Impact Statements, Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘A huge storage house for the priceless collection of the Powerhouse Museum has been approved for Sydney’s north-west. The Powerhouse’s Museums Discovery Centre at Castle Hill is to double in size with the construction of the 8135sqm centre. It will be capable of housing aircraft, historic trains, and helicopters. Building J, as it is known, is to be built on TAFE land and the site of the museum’s eucalypt plantation established post-war to scientifically help with the commercial harvest of essential oils.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes approved the new facility on Thursday and said it would increase the museum’s accessible storage space by 30 per cent, allowing for better community access to artefacts from the collections…But the expansion raises questions about what the government intends to do with the former Ultimo Tram Depot, known as The Harwood Building, which is the current collections’ store for the Ultimo Powerhouse. The Harwood Building’s future use, including potential conversion to a lyric theatre, is currently subject to an undisclosed $5 million government business case.
In its objection to the expansion, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance’s Jennifer Sanders said funding for the new store would have been better spent updating Ultimo. No budget has been revealed for the Castle Hill project but early plans for a much smaller building were costed in 2017 at $32 million. “The real purpose of this extravagant and unnecessary project is to evict the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection from its purpose-designed conservation, research and collection store at the Powerhouse Museum so the museum can be redeveloped,” Ms Sanders said in the submission.
The Berejiklian government reversed its decision to close the Ultimo Powerhouse last July. The government’s expenditure review committee has been asked to fund a renewal of Ultimo…Architect of the 1988 Ultimo Powerhouse redevelopment, Lionel Glendenning, was also among those to object to the Castle Hill expansion. “It is not best practice to replace the functioning Ultimo support facility, with a distant store 38 km away in dense traffic,” he said. “Collection handling – the safety and security of objects – is compromised and risks are increased. Critical staff access is disrupted to the point of dysfunction.”
Former museum curator of transport and engineering Andrew Grant warned that the loss of engineering workshops would affect the museum’s capacity to carry out any major conservation or restoration work on the very large objects in its collections.’ However: ‘The Department of Planning, however, concluded Building J was in the public interest, providing “significant public benefits by enhancing the [Museums Discovery Centre] as a cultural institution in north-western Sydney, increasing community access to the Powerhouse collection and supporting the Powerhouse Parramatta”.’ Read more, or here 29 April SMH Castle Hill
26 April, 2021
NPRAG says: ‘Hands Off Our Heritage’
The North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) provides a summary of its activities and concerns, regarding the future of Parramatta’s historic sites, in particular the proposed demolition/relocation of the Willow Grove building to make way for the ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’. Their information includes:
1: ‘On Friday 23rd April NPRAGs barrister Tim Hale SC met with the judge and government lawyers to set the date for the court case objecting to the Powerhouse Parramatta DAs approval.’
2: This May Day (Saturday May 1st) for the first time ever the unions have moved the march from its traditional route in Sydney CBD to be held in the streets of Parramatta all to support the CFMEU Greenban on Willow Grove. See details in attachment here.
3: Fabulous to announce the Teachers Federation Union have now announced their support of the CFMEU Greenban on Willow Grove. The motion was raised at the Parramatta Branch of the Teachers Federation and then supported at the State Conference a few weeks ago.
4. We are very excited and honoured to announce that NPRAG’s Save Willow Grove campaign has been shortlisted on the National Trust of Australia (NSW) annual awards list for best heritage advocacy.’ Read more here 26 April NPRAG summary: and watch video about the May Day March here.
26 April, 2021
‘The memory of the nation is at risk’ with National Archives desperate for funds
Reflecting with concerns about funding to state cultural institutions by the NSW state government, similar issues are also apparent with national institutions such as the National Archives. Katina Curtis and Shane Wright, in the Sydney Morning Herald, write that: ‘Years of funding and staff cuts have caught up with the archives, which is struggling to prevent the disintegration of unique pieces of Australian history, including the personnel files of RAAF non-commissioned officers from World War II and papers for suffragettes Adela Pankhurst and Celia John.’ They note that ‘Recordings of wartime speeches given by John Curtin, tapes of the Stolen Generation royal commission and even the records of the Bounty mutineers could disappear forever without an injection of cash into the National Archives. ..Even surveillance films taken by ASIO, video of the 1998 Constitutional Convention and original films of early Australian Antarctic research expeditions are at risk as the Archives struggles to protect 384 kilometres of records that are growing rapidly every year.}
Nicola Laurent, president of the Australian Society of Archivists, of which the National Archives is an institutional member, says it’s highly concerning it has come to the point where such important records are at risk. “It would be a devastating loss to the nation’s memory and to the history of the country. It is really critical that these materials are saved,” she said. “We shouldn’t be in this position that we’re now desperately trying to save materials.” ‘
They point out that ‘The Archives, like many smaller government institutions, has suffered from constant reductions in real funding levels. It has fewer employees today compared to 2013-14. …Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey says the Archives is at risk of not fulfilling its fundamental role as “the memory of the nation”…Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker said the government would respond to the Tune review this year but it would not be rushed… In New Zealand the government last year allocated $35.7 million (AU$33 million) to convert its 271km of records to digital files.’ Read more or 26 April SMH Archives
14 April, 2021
‘Berejiklian splurges on pet projects but stints on the basic upkeep of the arts’
on line as ‘Harwin: a Jekyll and Hyde Minister’
In an Opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, John McDonald asks: ‘Should we be surprised the Berejiklian government is contemplating a sneaky cut to the operating budgets of major cultural institutions? By now we’re accustomed to those familiar patterns of secrecy, lack of transparency, and the reckless disregard for both public and expert opinion. The rule is: “We know best, so suck it up.” For a government that has squandered billions on mismanaged extravaganzas such Sydney’s light rail it’s a soft option to pull vital funds from museums.’ Of the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sydney Modern project, he says: ‘When it finally does open we’ll be faced with an effective doubling of the AGNSW’s operating costs and no plan to bring in extra money beyond the “magical thinking” that twice as much gallery space equals twice as many visitors. It’s more likely the builders will strike gold while digging the foundations.
And, of course, there’s the ongoing saga of the Powerhouse, which has been run into the ground while the government pursues a lunatic, utterly unnecessary scheme of “moving” the museum – or at least part of the museum – to an entertainment complex in Parramatta. The proposed budget for this is $840 million but that’s a fraction of what would need to be spent if the relocation were realistically costed. In the meantime, having destroyed the Powerhouse’s capacity to raise funds and receive bequests, Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s team is happy to trim another $10 million off an inadequate annual budget.’
Saying ‘As Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin has been a Jekyll and Hyde figure…’, and noting that ‘Among the biggest casualties have been the regional arts organisations, which have been starved of funds ,’ McDonald concludes: ‘The merest glance at these figures shows the huge disparity between the sums that are wasted on pet projects with the most dubious of business plans and the basic upkeep of the state’s cultural institutions.’
Read more or 14 April John McD Harwin Jekyll and Hyde
14 April, 2021
‘NSW Budget estimates warn of cuts to come’
In Arts Hub, Gina Fairley reports that: ‘The 2020-2021 NSW Budget Estimates hearings have been ongoing during February and March, with Minister for the Arts Don Harwin sitting before the panel in late February. What was revealed in his answers to Supplementary Questions tabled on 23 March and now more widely disseminated painted a bleak forward forecast for certain NSW cultural institutions. While the Berejiklian government has generously funded record spending on capital works for many Sydney and regional venues – a figure placed at $1,817.4 million in the Supplementary budget answers – moving forward, operational funding has been cut significantly. As tabled last week by Arts Minister Don Harwin:’
– Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) will reportedly lose $9 million a year
– Australian Museum (AM) will lose $13 million.
– Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) will lose $10 million.
– Sydney Living Museums (SLM) will lose $5 million.
Fairley records that a statement from the Public Service Association (PSA) said: “The NSW Government’s plan to slash more than $37 million in funding from the state’s cultural institutions will see huge staff cuts, cripple their ability to deliver world class exhibitions, and leave them empty, the union is warning”. Stewart Little, the PSA’s general secretary said: “The Berejiklian government is all about splashing cash on development, but never about investing in delivery.” ’
Fairley also provides details of some of the implications of such cuts in operating budgets, and provides further figures for recent and current building development.
Read more or 14 April Arts Hub Gina Fairley NSW budget
14 April, 2021
‘Millions on the line: Sydney’s museums and galleries plea for funding’
(extended version of print copy: ‘Arts sector pleads for funds as cuts flagged)
Following her earlier report, Linda Morris writes: ‘The state’s galleries and museums have pitched for greater funding from NSW Treasury and privately warned the cumulative effect of year-on-year cuts is stripping them of vital resources. The additional funding bids have been made ahead of the NSW budget to be handed down on June 8, with the state government flagging multimillion-dollar cuts for the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and Sydney Living Museums in budget forecasts… Struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, they have also called attention to the impact of annual efficiency dividends that apply to all government departments in order to generate budget savings.’
‘The Public Service Association, which represents staff at those the institutions in line for cuts, said its members were worried there already were not enough skilled people to deliver exhibitions, particularly in Sydney Modern. The union said it remained concerned about the growing reliance on temporary and casual staff among these institutions, a factor that added to employment uncertainty in the broader arts sector. Many members had been classed as temporary workers despite working for four years or more, it said. “The Berejiklian government is all about splashing cash on development, but never about investing in delivery,” PSA head Stewart Little said. “The Berejiklian government is effectively turning these galleries and museums into empty and expensive mausoleums. NSW has just invested a huge amount of money in overdue upgrades to these cultural institutions, but now the building works are over the government is cutting them off at the knees, making it impossible to deliver on the potential of these new spaces.” ’
‘The minister’s spokesperson said the forecast figures were not the final budget numbers and did not represent the outcomes of the budget process.’
Read more or 14 April SMH Linda M arts sector pleads
12 April, 2021
‘Multimillion-dollar funding cuts flagged for major Sydney cultural institutions’
(In print 13 April as ‘Major cuts flagged for museums, galleries’)
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, about forecasts of severe budget cuts to major cultural institutions, in budget estimates to be announced in June. She explains: ‘The forward estimates act as a guide to Treasury thinking and are projected by two or three years so that galleries and museums can plan future exhibitions, staff budgets and programs with certainty.’
Proposed cuts include: ‘The Art Gallery of NSW is facing a multimillion-dollar funding cut that would hit its programs, staff and shows as it prepares to open the doors of its new home for contemporary art, Sydney Modern… The cut would be a major blow to the gallery’s daily operations and could affect planning for exhibitions, staff budgets and programs at the same time as it almost doubles its exhibition space with the construction of Sydney Modern due to finish in 2022.’… the Australian Museum would take an even deeper cut of $13 million just months after opening its $57 million renovated galleries. Total government funding is projected to fall from $45.6 million to $32.5 million from June due to a deep cut to the museum’s operating budget.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences would have to find savings of almost $10 million annually with total government funding to fall from $39 million to $29.7 million over the next 12 months. It has also asked the government to fund renovations to the Ultimo Powerhouse this budget. Sydney Living Museums faces losing $5 million annually, a combination of recurrent and capital money. State Library will be protected this coming financial year but will lose $9 million in 2022-23 as a result of a tail-off in capital works funding. Sydney Opera House expects similar and stable levels of government funding.’
Morris also points out that: ‘Under Arts Minister Don Harwin, the state’s cultural institutions have benefited from record spending on capital works. The Berejiklian government has funded $244 million of the $344 million for Sydney Modern, with the rest coming from private donations. Walsh Bay Arts Precinct is costing $347.7 million, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall $236 million and the Parramatta Powerhouse $840 million. But the size of the operating budget is what determines the quality of art, exhibitions and performances inside the renovated and expanded spaces.’Read more or 12 April SMH Linda M – Multimillion cuts
‘Cuts to cultural institutions: NSW Government Budget Estimates 2020-2021’
Documents from a government inquiry committee for ‘Budget Estimates 2020-2021’, which includes proposed funding reductions to major arts institutions, have prompted a great many protests and expressions of concern in public media and arts communities. The committee reports: ‘This inquiry was established on 18 November 2020 to report on the Budget Estimates and related papers for the financial year 2020-2021 presenting the amounts to be appropriated from the Consolidated Fund.’
To see the current figures cited for operating major cultural institutions, see the committee page here. In Other Documents, in Answers to Supplementary Questions on 23/3/21, go to Question 90, where the figures are provided for the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Opera House, State Library, Historic[al] Houses Trust, and State Archives Records Authority. See: March 2021 Budget forecasts
This information provoked considerable informed protests in subsequent news reports (above), social media and Letters to the Editor, from this date on, about the need for recurrent and operational funding, despite an (unsourced) government statement which insists: ‘The NSW Government has provided record funding to the arts sector, including cultural institutions in recent years. Under this Government, the state’s cultural institutions have benefited from record spending on capital works and will continue to receive the necessary financial support to ensure they can operate effectively, and continue playing a vital role in attracting tourism, generating jobs and driving the social and cultural fabric of our society. The forward planning figures referenced in today’s media are not the final budget numbers and as such do not represent the outcomes of the budget process. Funding decisions will be made as part of the normal budget process with the 2021-22 Budget to be handed down in June.’
13 April, 2021
‘Retail, pub, apartments planned for Parramatta Powerhouse Museum’
Joanne Vella, in the Parramatta Advertiser, writes that ‘critics have labelled the retail plans for the Powerhouse Parramatta project a “Westfields on water’’’, saying ‘North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group obtained the retail vision and strategy for the museum, which outlines plans for “large format buzzing canteens, cafes, small bars and operators that combine food production with retail”. “Food and beverage will be the primary retail category for Powerhouse Parramatta, a key driver of social interaction and a means of making the precinct relevant in daily social life,” the strategy states. “The proposed retail mix of food and beverage, lifestyle, culture, wellbeing and convenience for Powerhouse Parramatta is uniquely complex for a cultural facility, but essential to successfully establishing the project as a precinct rather than a museum.” ‘
‘The comments have sparked outrage from the action group. “The people of NSW are being duped,” action group spokeswoman Suzette Meade said. “Parramatta Powerhouse is just a Westfields on water to hold large business conventions, rolling exhibitions topped with apartments and a pub. We are not getting a museum — it’s there in black and white.”… ‘Shooters and Fishers Party leader Robert Borsak echoed the comments and said “It’s just an exercise in setting up a commercial precinct with a so-called museum tacked on the side”. Infrastructure NSW has earmarked 56 apartments for the museum, a taxpayer-footed plan that triggered outrage because the landmark will be surrounded by hotels and apartments, including the neighbouring Meriton tower.’ A spokesperson for the Powerhouse Museum, and Business Western Sydney executive director, David Borger, defended the plans. Read more or 13 April Parra Advertiser
‘NSW Heritage Act Review’
Of interest to those concerned about acknowledging and preserving the heritage aspects of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and the historic house, Willow Grove in Parramatta (as well as other sites), it is of significance that ‘Heritage NSW announces: The NSW Government is inviting community discussion on how heritage can be better managed and protected in NSW. ‘
– Heritage NSW has produced aDiscussion paper:
– And asks for written enquiries to be sent to them here: Policy2@environment.nsw.gov.au
Heritage NSW notes: ‘The NSW Heritage Act 1977 was first introduced over forty years ago. The Act has not been reviewed since 2007 and there have been no major reforms since 1999.
In April this year the government asked the NSW Legislative Council’s Social Issues Standing Committee to conduct a review of the Act. The review will look at the effectiveness of the Heritage Act and the NSW heritage regulatory system, along with heritage aspects of the Environmental Protection and Assessment Act 1979.
The purpose of the review is to see how we can deliver more effective, relevant, and best-practice ways of recognising, conserving, re-using and celebrating the important heritage of NSW. The findings of the review will contribute to the evidence base for a Government White Paper and a subsequent Heritage Bill.’ …‘To assist with their public consultation, the discussion paper has been referred to the Social Issues Standing Committee. ..The Committee will call for submissions from the public on the review and we encourage all stakeholders and interested members of the community to take the opportunity to have your say.’
3 April, 2021
Don’t be fooled, the ‘Westmead Place Strategy’ puts lipstick on a pig
‘Ours is a government of many plans’ writes Elizabeth Farrelly in the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Indeed, such is the profusion of plans, so vast is their coverage and so thick and fast their arrival one almost suspects deliberate obfuscation… In all this multiplicity, though, all this rampant “building Sydney’s future”, there’s just one discernible idea. Innovation. Tech-hubs have deluged inner Sydney, designating everything from Eveleigh through Central to White Bay an “innovation corridor”. But if western Sydney was feeling any FOMO in the innovation department, it shouldn’t worry. Pretty soon, if the plans are to be believed, and just upriver from the new flood-prone Powerhouse-to-be, Parramatta will have its own 250-hectare “health and innovation district”.’
Farrelly elaborates further: ‘It’s all set out in the 81-page draft Westmead Place Strategy. The name makes it sound harmless, a collection of landscape fixes for that woebegone hospital campus. Be not fooled. It’s not about place, it’s not strategic and it’s certainly not harmless, less concerned to fix the hospital than expand it to 10 times its already considerable size. It’s not even innovative. Far from it. This is grubby old business as usual. What it really is, this Place Strategy, is a cloak for stuffing as much development as possible into the fragile, treasured Cumberland Hospital precinct, part of which is proposed for world heritage-listing.’ Then she provides more details: Read more: or 3 April SMH Farrelly
28 March, 2021
‘Quote of the Week’: Peter FitzSimons
Listed in Quote of the Week, in his Opinion column in the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist Peter FitzSimons includes:
“The flooding we saw on the weekend wouldn’t have come within 4 metres of the museum entrance. Powerhouse Parramatta will be a very safe building for people to visit and for the collection to be exhibited.” – Peter Collins, president of the Powerhouse Trust, saying nothing to see here, folks, after a flood warning was issued last weekend for the ground floor of the four-level car park that’s to be demolished to make way for the museum, sparking renewed criticism around the contentious development.
“The lower parts of the Parramatta Powerhouse will go underwater … that’s just the nature of the riverside location that has been chosen. Now it’s up to the state government to decide whether the risk is worth it – and that risk assessment has not been done.” – Independent Parramatta-based flood management consultant Steven Molino.
Read more: or 28 March SMH Fitz
26 March, 2021
‘Legal action launched to stop work on Parramatta Powerhouse’
Despite the insistence of local business and development groups, supported by the Daily Telegraph, that the controversial plans for the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta should proceed, significant local opposition is also strongly maintained.
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Residents have launched legal action to halt work on the $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse, just weeks after the Berejiklian government gave the museum project the green light. A residents action group has sought an injunction to halt any works taking place on the historic 140-year-old Victorian Italianate Villa, Willow Grove, that stands in the way of the proposed museum pending a full hearing of claims before the Land and Environment Court… The North Parramatta Residents Action Group is challenging planning approval on the basis that the environmental assessment did not meet requirements for a state significant project. Summons for a judicial review was filed on Thursday. “We have been left with no option other than to commence this action,” its spokesperson Suzette Meade said. “The Powerhouse development can be redesigned but Willow Grove’s heritage significance is inseparable from its location.” The claim states that the environmental assessment failed to assess any feasible alternatives to development including other sites. Further, the environment assessments did not demonstrate, as required, attempts to avoid or mitigate the impact of heritage significance or cultural heritage values of the site and surrounding heritage items. The Land and Environment Court has been asked to rule that consent by the Minister of Planning or their delegate is invalid.’
Read more: or 26 March SMH Legal
26 March, 2021
‘Best of the West: Ten major projects to shape region’s future’
In the Daily Telegraph it is noted: ‘The west is forging ahead at great pace with infrastructure projects abounding but there is plenty more to do to ensure the future dynamism and success of this vast region, local leaders said. The Powerhouse’s move to Parramatta is a great start but should be just the beginning of cultural migration west. Here are seven projects that western Sydney needs’. (These are listed) Read more, or 26 March DailyT Best West
23 March, 2021
Statement: ‘There are Serious Flood Risks at the Powerhouse Parramatta Site’
Museum experts Kylie Winkworth and Jennifer Sanders, members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, provide a statement about the serious risks to the proposed new museum of flooding in Parramatta. They say: ‘While NSW is in the grip of a flood emergency, bringing widespread misery and destruction, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance is grateful the proposed Powerhouse Parramatta site has only flooded to the level of the undercroft. This is the space the Powerhouse intended to use for exhibitions, public programs, a café and other activities, until it was ruled out by the DPIE’s peer review water expert, and the Department of Planning’s conditions of consent. Both demonstrated a better grasp of the flood risks on the site than MAAS. Still the NSW Government has approved the only museum in the world designed to allow high velocity floodwaters 2-3m deep to flow underneath the museum.’ They provide details by Steven Molino, Sydney’s foremost expert on flood risks in the Parramatta River, identifying areas at risk to the collections, exhibitions and visitors, and say about earlier reports: ‘It is incorrect for the MAAS CEO to assert that the engineering work undertaken by internationally renowned engineers ARUP will ensure that the ground level of the museum will never be impacted by a flood event. The President of the MAAS Trust, Peter Collins was poorly advised to mistakenly claim that the weekend flood demonstrates that our new Museum… is positioned well above even the rarest of flood events….[and conclude] The discretionary siting of a major new museum in a high risk flood zone is contrary to prudent museum planning and sensible infrastructure investment. A flood in the museum poses risks to visitors, the collection, museum programming and to the museum’s reputation. Every flood event means higher recurrent costs and risks.’
Read more: 23 March PMA Serious Flood Risks
23 March, 2021
‘Flood proves Powerhouse Museum is safe’
Robert Moran reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Powerhouse Parramatta bosses have defended the museum’s site following weekend flooding, saying water levels “would not have come within four metres” of the future building’s entrance. A flood warning was issued on Saturday for the ground floor of the four-level car park to be demolished to make way for the museum, sparking renewed criticism around the contentious development. But Peter Collins, president of the Powerhouse Trust, said the weekend’s flooding proved that the new museum was “positioned well above even the rarest of flood events” and Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah said the museum’s design and engineering teams had ensured “every element of Powerhouse Parramatta puts safety first”. Read more: 23 March SMH Flood proves museum is safe
23 March, 2021
Museum to create ‘great city’ in the west
Lachlan Leeming writes In the Daily Telegraph: ‘Not just a tourist drawcard and a cultural landmark, the new Parramatta Powerhouse Museum has the potential to change history, no less. Despite opposition to moving the museum from inner-city Ultimo, the state government last month finally received approval to deliver the new facility to the west. And Premier Gladys Berejiklian was buoyed by its prospects, saying it can “change the course of history”.
And, while detractors continue to argue over its design and location, politicians and thought-leaders of the west have heaped praise upon the project they say will help Parramatta’s transformation into a “great city”.’ Leeming cites words of approval from Arts Minister Don Harwin, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Powerhouse Museum chief executive Lisa Havilah and Chris Brown, founding chair of think-tank the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue.’
Read more, or 23 March, Daily T Museum to create ‘great city’ in west
23 March, 2021
‘Flooding no cause for worry’
Josh Hanrahan and Angira Bharadwaj write In the Daily Telegraph: ‘The basement carpark at the site flooded at the weekend but supporters of the museum’s move said concerns about its viability were not necessary. Museum chief executive Lisa Havilah said construction of the museum would ensure the west’s new major tourist drawcard would never be affected by flood. “Flood mitigation is core to the design of Powerhouse Parramatta. “The weekend’s flood event, as it stands today, would have come nowhere near the museum ground level,” Ms Havilah said. Read more: 23 March Daily T Flooding no cause for worry
23 March, 2021
Hub set to make ‘New History’ in Parramatta
James O’Doherty writes In the Daily Telegraph: ‘A historic part of Parramatta will be restored and reinvigorated to create a hub for the jobs of the future, with a plan to create a “Startup Hub” in the Parramatta North Heritage Core now approved. Emerging entrepreneurs and the local community are set to benefit from the revamp of three heritage buildings that form part of the circa 1876 Hospital Spinal Range Building and circa 1892 Kitchen Block in Parramatta.’
Read more: 23 March Daily T Hub set – New History
22 March, 2021
‘Sydney floods reignite Powerhouse museum controversy as Parramatta River bursts its banks’
Elizabeth Fortescue writes in The Art Newspaper that ‘Torrential downpours across New South Wales in Australia this weekend rekindled anxieties that the future second outpost of the Powerhouse Museum on the banks of the Parramatta River in Sydney is under threat of severe flooding. [This] prompted … a statement today in which Peter Collins, the president of the Powerhouse Trust, said that the water would not have come within four metres of the entrance to the future Powerhouse Parramatta… But David Shoebridge a Greens member of the New South Wales parliament and part of the Upper House committee inquiring into the Powerhouse’s plans, says the weekend incident was “nowhere near a one-in-a-hundred-year flood event, which would be about five to ten metres above where we are seeing this water already. The people of Parramatta deserve a world class museum that will be safe to go to when it rains,” Shoebridge said. A spokeswoman for the North Parramatta Residents Action Group says the new museum should be built 900 metres along the river on a 26-hectare riparian site which is not flood prone and whose numerous colonial-era buildings would lend themselves to use as artists’ studios and the like.’
Fortescue recalls: ‘In 2018, the NSW state government unveiled a controversial plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum—part of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences—from central Sydney to the western suburb of Parramatta, despite widespread criticism and a parliamentary inquiry. At a cost of A$1.2bn ($890m), the relocation was set to be the most expensive and complex museum move anywhere in the world. It would have meant demolishing the museum, which opened in 1988 in Ultimo, central Sydney, and seven historic buildings in Parramatta, 23km to the west, to make way for a new museum due to open in 2023. Last year…the government cancelled the relocation, opting instead to keep open the museum in central Ultimo and build a second, new “world-class” facility to in Parramatta.’ Read more, or 22 March E Fortescue Art newspaper
22 March, 2021
‘After a decade of lost opportunity to fix NSW’s planning mess, here’s a model for success’ In print as ‘How to fix NSW’s planning debacle’
In his critique in The Sydney Morning Herald, about how ‘After a decade of lost opportunities, NSW needs a genuinely independent planning commission, free of ministerial intrusion and vested interests,’ James Weirick includes a reference to the Powerhouse relocation proposal . He points out that: ‘The Liberal-National Coalition came to power a decade ago promising reform of a NSW planning system besmirched under Labor by allegations of undue developer influence, overdevelopment at Barangaroo and the misuse of ministerial discretion in planning decisions. The O’Farrell government could have been a model of probity in these matters. It overstepped the mark, however, with a planning bill that proposed to weaken the already weak environmental measures of the state planning legislation and to open significant categories of property development to fast-track approval under “exempt and complying” provisions.’
Among many issues, Weirick notes: ‘The sale of public assets – electricity infrastructure, the ports, 20,000 government properties and so on – has been justified on the basis of capital recycling to fund new infrastructure, most notably transport projects across metropolitan Sydney aimed at overcoming the woeful lack transport investment in the Labor years. Alas, the funds have been spent on the wrong transport projects…These are part of a long list of undertakings – the stadiums, the Powerhouse Museum, the Millers Point social housing sell-off, redevelopment of the Waterloo Estate, sale of the Bridge Street heritage buildings, sale of the Land Titles Registry, the Aerotropolis land deals, treeless suburbs in western Sydney – that have one thing in common. They are all mistakes. Or more accurately, they are the ruinous outcomes of persistence in folly, as all have had wise counsel ranged against them – to no effect. In the next 10 years we can expect more of the same unless there is fundamental change to the way our city is planned.’ Read more: or 22 March SMH Weirick
21 March, 2021
‘Parramatta River’s floodwaters renew fight on Powerhouse Museum move’
Joshua Hanrahan writes in the Daily Telegraph that ‘The flooding of a construction site where the $915 million Powerhouse Museum is set to be built has added fuel to the fire already burning over its controversial move to Parramatta. Three days of heavy rain led to flooding on the future site of the museum, which is still yet to make its controversial move from its inner city location…Furious locals who have long argued against building the museum on the site say they have been vindicated by its flooding. They believe an alternative site at the old Cumberland Hospital, 900 metres away and 10 metres above river level, is more appropriate.’
Read more or 21 March Daily T Parra floods
20 March, 2021
Media release: ‘PARRAMATTA POWERHOUSE SITE FLOODED YET AGAIN!’
Spokespeople Jennifer Sanders and Kylie Winkworth from the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, and Suzette Meade from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, distributed a media release for a press conference on SUNDAY 21st MARCH 2021 – 10.30am , 34 Phillip Street, Parramatta @ WILLOW GROVE , Joined by David Shoebridge – Greens and Darren Greenfield – CFMEU. They wrote: ‘For the second time in 13 months the Powerhouse Parramatta site is inundated with fast flowing flood waters, breaching the riverbank and symbolically washing away the Powerhouse Parramatta site construction banners, sending them swirling downstream…The torrent of floodwaters across the museum site highlights the reckless stupidity of the Government pushing ahead with the museum project that will put treasures of NSW at risk. Museum and flood experts have long warned of the obvious and unacceptable risk to museum visitors and irreplaceable collections. Community groups including the North Parramatta Residents Action Group have lobbied for the 26ha Cumberland Hospital precinct 900metres away for a Museum of NSW, supported by the Powerhouse Museum Alliance.
An ill-conceived thought bubble is destroying Parramatta’s heritage and putting the Powerhouse Museum collection at risk when there is a better site. Willow Grove is on death row, awaiting demolition, despite community resistance and union solidarity to save it.
“… After spending millions on consultants, the Government still can’t demonstrate that the development will safe for visitors or the museum’s collections.” Kylie Winkworth – PMA
“… This is an outrageous waste of public money when communities across NSW are reeling from fire, flood, drought, mice plagues, and stark inequalities in health, education and cultural funding.” Jennifer Sanders, PMA
“The river levels flooding the Powerhouse site today mirror the height of the State governments stubbornness to concede this is the wrong site for Parramatta’s long awaited museum – on many levels” Suzette Meade, Spokesperson NPRAG Read more: Parramatta Floods Powerhouse Site Press Conference
20 March, 2021
‘Parramatta River breaks its banks, flooding Powerhouse Museum site’
Following devastating reports of floods across eastern NSW, Linda Morris and Andrew Taylor write in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘Floodwaters have breached the site of the new $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse a year after a one-in-20-year flood. Hit by three days of heavy rain, the swollen Parramatta River burst its banks on Saturday, creeping up to the construction fence line. A flood warning has been made for the ground floor of a four-level car park that is earmarked for demolition to make way for the museum. Images shared on social media showed water from the river flooding streets and bike paths, while a video posted by Parramatta Labor councillor Donna Davis depict the museum site inundated with floodwaters. Cr Davis on Facebook said it was “old news” that the site on the river floods every time there is heavy rain. “That’s why we know this is not the best place for a squillion $ museum,” she said. “A Powerhouse Museum that has been redesigned to permanently close the ground floor ‘undercroft’ because it’s not safe from flooding…”‘. ‘The Berejiklian government has been criticised for its selection of the flood-prone site for the Parramatta Powerhouse, approved with 188 conditions last month. .. Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord said the government had been repeatedly warned this would happen. “This is the second time in two years the Powerhouse Parramatta site has been inundated by flooding. The Berejiklian government … maintained it was a one-in-1000-year chance of happening and it has happened twice in two years. This is a complete debacle.” ‘ Steven Molino, ‘an environmental and natural hazards consultant with long experience in the Parramatta area, said ‘the risks to collections displayed on the museum’s ground floor were not properly considered in the environment impact statement, the basis of which the museum was conditionally approved.’
Meanwhile, against obvious evidence, ‘Arts minister Don Harwin told a recent parliamentary inquiry that the museum collection would not be at risk. “Let us make it quite clear: The ground floor of the new museum, which is at the level that has been approved above the one-in-1000-year flood level, is one of the highest ground floors, arguably, of any building in Parramatta.’ Read more: or 20 March SMH Parra river flood
11 March, 2021
(on-line 10 March)
‘Sydney remains in his debt’: City mourns loss of ‘visionary’ Jack Mundey
Tim Barlass reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on ‘Jack Mundey State Memorial Service in honour of the “visionary” leader who saved the face of Sydney’ where many people spoke about his legacy and influence. ‘In the 1970s as leader of the Builders Labourers Federation he instituted some 40 green bans where union members refused to work on certain projects earmarked for demolition and high-rise development. He saved many of Sydney’s inner heritage areas including The Rocks, Woolloomooloo, parts of Centennial Park, The Botanic Gardens, Aboriginal housing in Redfern and more. MC Bob Carr said Mundey galvanised public opinion and laid the basis of heritage protection. “He was taking on the developers who under premier Askin were levelling Sydney block by block. Developer power was all that mattered in Sydney until Jack spoke out,” Mr Carr said.’ And: ‘National secretary of the CFMEU David Noonan said historic buildings were still under threat today, citing the example of Willow Grove in Parramatta. “[It] is a beautiful historic building scheduled for destruction and I am so proud to say it is the CFMEU and the building unions that stand with the community. That’s the spirit of the green bans, that’s the spirit of the NSW BLF – and that’s the spirit of Jack Mundey.”’ Read more: or 11 March SMH Mundey
‘Guardian of Sydney’s heritage was a man ahead of his time’
The Editorial Opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald confirms: It was fitting that NSW held a state funeral on Wednesday for Jack Mundey, the trade unionist and environmentalist who deserves much of the credit for what Sydney looks like today. Mr Mundey, who died last year, led the so-called “green bans” movement in the 1970s, which prevented the destruction of priceless heritage architecture by property developers.…While Mr Mundey was a global figure in the 1970s, the issues he brought to the fore back then are still very current. Building unions have recently slapped a new green ban on Willow Grove, the unique 19th century stately home that the NSW government wants to demolish, move and rebuild nearby as part of the construction of the proposed new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.’ Read more or 11 March SMH Opinion editorial
9 March, 2021
‘Berejiklian government ditches plans for Powerhouse river bridge’
Brief in print 11 March, as ‘Brake on costs scuppers art bridge plans’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald announces that: ‘The government has abandoned plans for a $10 million art bridge over the Parramatta River, a central plank in the $140 million Parramatta Powerhouse land deal lauded by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian four years ago. The disclosure comes as the Maritime Union of Australia announced it would enforce a green ban imposed by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s NSW branch to prevent any demolition of the Italianate villa Willow Grove on museum land. The historic home, a key site of women’s history for Parramatta, is to be relocated to make way for the new $915 million museum. Originally the new museum was to anchor a vibrant arts and cultural precinct in Parramatta, which was to include a revamped Riverside Theatres connected to the museum by a new footlink across the river… Greens MP David Shoebridge said the whole rationale for the original land deal seemed to have fallen through. “Basically, the state government has walked away from the land deal,” Mr Shoebridge said. “The revamped Riverside and cultural precinct can’t be delivered with the funds the council has. The whole concept has unravelled, largely because of the costs blowout and delays for the Powerhouse – such a tragic missed opportunity for Parramatta.” ‘ Read more or 9 March SMH Govt ditches river bridge
8 March, 2021
‘Heritage Debate was always heated’
Di Bartok, in Issue 8 of the Parramatta Times, writes: ‘With International Women’s Day for this year just passed, defenders of Parramatta’s dwindling heritage buildings are reflecting on the sustained attack on female history in Sydney’s burgeoning second CBD.’ She describes issues associated with development at Parramatta’s Female Factory and the ‘relocation’ of Willow Grove, and interviews Suzette Meade from the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, who ‘finds it ironic that the wiping or disregard for the history of female pioneers in Parramatta is happening under the State’s first elected female Premier, Gladys Berejiklian.’ Bartok further discusses views from local lobbyists for heritage, including local Councillor Donna Davis and two of the state’s largest unions, as well as the continuing defence for demolition in the name of progress and employment. Read more or Parramatta Times Issue 8
8 March, 2021
‘Campaign to save Parramatta’s Willow Grove intensifies’
Alec Smart writes In the Sydney Sentinel: ‘Campaigners lobbying to keep the heritage-listed Willow Grove villa in Parramatta have increased their efforts to oppose its “relocation” to another site by Infrastructure NSW, the NSW Government’s public works agency. ..Despite the announcement in 2015 by then-NSW Premier Mike Baird that the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo was to be demolished and a significantly smaller ‘replacement’ built in Parramatta, it wasn’t until June 2018 that the public was made aware that the heritage-listed Willow Grove and historic 1881-built St George’s Terrace were also earmarked for destruction.
The information was only shared by the NSW Government after an executive order from the NSW Upper House demanded they release their business plan for the Powerhouse Museum relocation – NSW although the subsequent documents were severely redacted. On 1 July, 2020, the NSW Government rescinded the destruction order on the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. However, the ‘new’ Powerhouse construction in Parramatta, projected to cost $840million, is still proceeding and will involve removal of Willow Grove… However, a report by Anglo-Dutch auditing giant KPMG proposed that Willow Grove be reassembled beside the old Parramatta Correctional Centre. …On Thursday, 11 February, 2021, final Planning Approval was granted by Planning Minister Rob Stokes for Infrastructure NSW to construct the $840 million new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, still scheduled to open in 2024. … The week after the announcement, Powerhouse Trust chairman Peter Collins invited North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) president Suzette Meade to a cafe meeting to enquire what was her preferred selection for relocation of Willow Grove, to which she replied there was “no Plan B – leave it where it is”. Ms Meade said Mr Stokes had made “a flawed decision on a flawed (environmental impact statement)”… “The community are ready to fight and will chain ourselves to the fence with the CFMEU to protect Willow Grove.”…Darren Greenfield, CFMEU NSW Construction Secretary, strongly urges the retention of Willow Grove in its historical site. In October 2020, whilst reiterating his union’s retention of their 30 June green ban, he added, “…There is no sensible reason why Willow Grove cannot also be preserved in its current location and incorporated into the new Powerhouse Museum …The people of Parramatta and Western Sydney deserve a museum that celebrates their heritage, rather than destroy an irreplaceable historic building to make way for the museum gift shop.”
Read more or 8 March Sydney Sentinel
8 March, 2021
‘On IWD we urge Premier Berejiklian to stop the destruction of women’s heritage’
In a joint media release for International Women’s Day the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) and the Powerhouse Museum Alliance (PMA) write: ‘Women were the unsung builders and creators of culture in Parramatta. From the remarkable Dharug leader Maria Locke, to the heroines of labour in the Female Factory, it is women have made Parramatta a heritage hot spot. Now, two centuries of women’s history and heritage is under direct threat from the NSW Government. In NSW the heritage Minister Don Harwin is determined to obliterate places of deep importance in women’s history in Parramatta….The minister for western Sydney and Tourism Stuart Ayres is leasing out Australia’s most intact female convict site… for office space. While Rob Stokes the Planning and Public Spaces Minister has a monstrous proposal to fill the botanic heritage estate this sacred women’s site is nestled in… with 1000s of residential units.’ Spokespeople elaborate:
“On IWD we urge everyone to stop the heritage vandalism in Parramatta. Stop the reckless demolition of Annie Gallagher’s Willow Grove. Stop the NSW Government erasing women’s heritage places and stories in North Parramatta Female Factory precinct. We must listen to women, hear their voices, and protect their places for the future.” – Kylie Winkworth (PMA)
“The Powerhouse Museum must not be complicit in the destruction of our women’s heritage – Willowgrove must be saved and cherished. How can women, children and men from across our community understand our history – women’s history – to build our shared future if we destroy women’s heritage? We must Cherish Willowgrove and the Female Factory and shout loudly to the world about women’s contribution to Australia.” – Jennifer Sanders (PMA)
“Instead of being revered the status and memories of our women’s history in Parramatta is being erased demolished for development, or having serviced offices plonked inside. How can our daughters aspire to greatness when our leaders are not showing respect for the stories of the strong, determined and resilient women that came before them? “ Suzette Meade – NPRAG Read more: NPRAG + PMA media release on IWD 2021
6-7 March, 2021
‘Energy in Motion’
Christopher Allen, in the Weekend Australian, reviews the Steam Revolution exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, documenting how ‘steam power captured artists and transformed everything from mining to manufacturing’. He discusses the history of steam power from the time of its discovery in Greece in the first century AD and development during the Industrial Revolution, especially as it is represented in the Museum’s exhibition through machines such as the Boulton and Watt machine, Locomotive No 1 and others. He considers these also in the context of the work of Impressionist artists such as Turner, Manet, Monet and Australian, Arthur Streeton. Allen’s review is a welcome reminder of the significance of the Powerhouse Museum and its collection, in Ultimo.
Read more: 6-7 March C Allen Weekend Aust Steam Revolution Exh review
4 March, 2021
‘After 22 years Macgregor to end her successful reign’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports that Liz Ann Macgregor, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art from 1999, ‘has called time on her role as director… The Scottish-born Macgregor announced on Wednesday afternoon that she would leave the institution in October to allow for a new director to lead the post-COVID-19 recovery. Initially, she intends to return home to visit family in Scotland, including her elderly mother, who is aged 86, and hasn’t ruled out penning a book about her life and work in Sydney.’
However, despite Macgregor’s achievements in the MCA, Morris also mentions her extremely controversial advice to then Premier Mike Baird about relocating the Powerhouse Museum: ‘During her reign, Macgregor implemented free admission, attracted millions in philanthropic donations, oversaw a major redevelopment, championed Indigenous art – including overseeing a world-class survey of bark painter John Mawurndjul in 2018 – and lobbied the government to invest in the arts in western Sydney, controversially becoming then Premier Mike Baird’s ambassador for western Sydney and backing the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.‘ Read more, or 4 March SMH Liz Ann M
And Read Herefor an announcement ‘Fair Go for the West: Arts ambassador calls for Museums to move to Parramatta’ in the Daily Telegraph on 24 February, 2015:where: ‘PREMIER Mike Baird’s Western Sydney arts ambassador Elizabeth Ann Macgregor has thrown her support behind a controversial proposal to shift the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Ms Macgregor, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, believes the Powerhouse is the “obvious” candidate for a shift to Sydney’s population heart. The Powerhouse had ambitious plans to be better connected to the rest of the city. But Ms Macgregor said the State Government would be better off spending the money on a brand new home for the museum in Parramatta. Read also under 24 February 2015 on PMA web here.
5th hearing for Second Inquiry into Powerhouse Museum: Transcript and videos :
Now accessible, are the videos and transcripts of the 5th hearing on Monday 15th February, of the NSW Upper House select committee examining the Government’s proposal for the Powerhouse Museum.
Speakers included: Hon Don Harwin MLC; Ms Kate Foy: Dept of Premier and Cabinet; Mr Simon Draper: CEO Infrastructure NSW; Ms Lisa Havilah: Chief Executive, MAAS; Hon Peter Collins AM QC: President, Board of Trustees, MAAS; Mr Christopher Brown AM: Chair, WS Powerhouse Museum Community Alliance; Mr Darren Greenfield Secretary, CFMEUnion, NSW ; Mr Steven Molino: Principal, Molino Stewart; Mr Tom Lockley: Private citizen and PHM volunteer; Clr Donna Davis: City of Parramatta Council.
Much discussion focussed on plans, costs and consultation for the new Powerhouse museum in Parramatta, with particular attention to issues of the floodprone site, and the controversies associated with relocating the historic WillowGrove building. Also mentioned was the remaining lack of clarity about the specific future role of the Powerhouse Museum at its significant Ultimo site, where a decision from ‘options’ has still to be made.
Main committee page and link to video recordings HERE:
Transcript for 5th hearing HERE.
26 February 2021
‘The Government’s proposed expansion of Castle Hill Discovery Centre … is completely unnecessary’
As part of the government’s Powerhouse Parramatta/Ultimo proposals, most of the Powerhouse Museum’s collection is being controversially relocated to distant stores in Castle Hill.
In their email and Facebook entries, the Save the Powerhouse group summarises the issues:
‘It has been said many times before, but it’s still worth repeating. The Government’s proposed expansion of its uninspiring Castle Hill Discovery Centre, over 20km from Sydney and Parramatta in the middle of nowhere, is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. The Powerhouse already has all the essential facilities required for smooth future functioning including collection storage, curation, exhibition preparation and backroom operations, in the custom-designed Harwood Building. … With efficient planning of the so-called “Ultimo Renewal” there would be ample room for a large part of the current collection, and the rest, including new additions could be accommodated at Castle Hill with minor modifications. By NOT building the expansion, the Government could save (estimate) $50M for spending on other projects more beneficial to the NSW community…
Experts warn that storing collections far away from the relevant museums (at Ultimo and/or Parramatta) would put them at great risk as many of these fragile objects would need to be transported frequently (whenever temporary exhibitions changed)…Museum specialists further advise that future exhibition preparation from a remote location is inefficient and impractical. It would again generate a lot of road traffic, with a waste of qualified staff time spent on the road, while Curators are also better located at the museum where the exhibition is actually mounted …From the public’s perspective, Castle Hill is remote and difficult to access by public transport. It also has limited car parking space. Visitors, especially international tourists with tight itineraries, will be reluctant to brave the time-consuming journey to Castle Hill… when the acclaimed Ultimo Powerhouse is conveniently located at the heart of Sydney. Read more: 26 Feb Save the Powerhouse re Castle Hill
21 February, 2021
‘A state determined to demolish memories’; on line as ‘I had my first pash at Parramatta’s Roxy: The fight to save the memory-making buildings of Sydney’s second city’
Helen Pitt, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes about ‘Parramatta’s picture palace, the Roxy Cinema. I can’t remember the film but I do remember the frisson of excitement I felt every time I walked up the elegant stairs of this Spanish Mission-style theatre and beneath its ornate archway… Generations of suburban Sydneysiders feel the same about this heritage-listed cinema. Built in 1929, the same year as central Sydney’s opulent State Theatre, also scene of one of the great conservation battles/victories for 1970s Sydneysiders, this George Street glory was flagged to be on the Parramatta civic walk from the train station down to the Parramatta River. A tourist attraction, like nearby Willow Grove, a short distance away on Phillip Street.
On Friday, February 12, at 5.45pm, Planning Minister Rob Stokes announced, without much fanfare, this Victorian Italianate two-storey villa, was now slated to be dismantled and relocated to make way for the “New Parramatta Powerhouse project.” Like the experts I refuse to call it a museum.
If you didn’t already know it from the NSW Parliamentary upper house inquiry, there’s a lot of love for Willow Grove in this community…The people of Parramatta – past and present – have spoken – loudly in both the case of the Roxy and Willow Grove. They want their heritage buildings respected, retained and revived. They will chain themselves to the buildings to stop the vandals if necessary, just as Jack did. Now is the time to shout it from the old red-tiled rooftop of the white-stuccoed hacienda-style Roxy, just like the immortal refrain by anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network: “I am as mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more.”’ Read more, or 21 Feb, 2021 SMH or 21 Feb SMH print
20 February, 2021
‘Heritage is meaningless in NSW if we let Willow Grove go’
Elizabeth Farrelly, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes: ‘When Powerhouse Trust chairman Peter Collins summoned North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group president Suzette Meade to his office this week to ask for her Plan B, he should have had his own up his sleeve. At one level, Meade v Collins was a tiny skirmish in a five-year battle. In one corner was Collins, charged with removing the sweet Italianate villa Willow Grove from the billion-dollar path of the Powerhouse juggernaut, aka the milk crate. Facing him was Meade, tireless defender of Parramatta’s rapidly dwindling heritage, including Willow Grove. Behind that, though, lies the whole question of why heritage matters. We need to decide. Is it OK for governments to duck and weave like the shoddiest of developers? Or should they show best practice and moral leadership? Meade told Collins she had no Plan B. He regrouped. What was her preferred site for Willow Grove’s knock-down rebuild? … Meade stood firm. Leave it where it is: Phillip Street.’
Farrelly documents the history of Willow Grove, and the recent much-criticised state government approval to ‘relocate it’ to make room for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. She recounts: ‘Late the preceding Friday, the state had approved its own indefensible Powerhouse project. On Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Meade was out with … scores of others, channelling floods of community love into a thicket of blood-red hearts strung along Willow Grove’s pretty cast-iron fence. By 7am Monday the grotesquely misnamed Create NSW had removed the hearts, as it had countless times before … Then it erected an even bigger fence to prevent any recurrence.’
…’Back in 2017, Willow Grove was owned by the council. In a mechanism designed to protect heritage, its air rights had been sold to a neighbouring development and a covenant placed on its title. Willow Grove had been fully restored. Then the state offered to buy it for $140 million – on one condition. The covenant had to go. … That was 2019. Simultaneously, the state launched its international Powerhouse design competition.’…The winners, Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki and Australia’s Genton, simply pretended Willow Grove didn’t exist…This, in December 2019, caused huge public outcry.’
‘Earlier that year, an upper house inquiry had already found the government’s business case for the Powerhouse relocation “did not comply” with Treasury’s own guidelines. It recommended the project “not proceed”. It was just common sense. Governments don’t demolish museums. They build them. … The inquiry recommended restoring the existing Powerhouse and giving Parramatta its own, grown-up museum, not some hand-me-down entertainment space. It was ignored. Six months later, in response to public grief over Willow Grove, the CFMEU issued its first green ban of the century. The Premier, it said, “should be under no illusion … people will be prepared to put their bodies in front of machinery”. This was a serious blow. Then, via KPMG, the solution. Relocate – not only the Powerhouse, but poor little Willow Grove…The union remained defiant, but KPMG got a partner, Mark Hassell, on the Powerhouse board. Nice.
Except for Willow Grove. Relocating heritage is an act of deepest disrespect. It contravenes the Burra Charter, Australia’s heritage bible – which says “a building should remain … in its historical location” – and breaches every tenet of best practice. …For all Australians, heritage connects us to our stories, our land, and our sense of the sacred. You can’t just shove it around. If Willow Grove goes – if government not only allows but connives at the demolition of a listed, title-restricted public building – heritage is meaningless in NSW. Nothing is safe. So the fight for Willow Grove could get very big indeed.’ Read more, or 20 Feb SMH
19 February, 2021
5th Hearing: 7 Videos now available
The NSW government web page for the ’Hearing Schedule for the Inquiry into the government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in NSW”, shows that 7 videos are now on line – and transcripts of the interviews are expected soon.
Speakers included: Hon Don Harwin MLC; Ms Kate Foy: Dept of Premier and Cabinet; Mr Simon Draper: CEO Infrastructure NSW; Ms Lisa Havilah: Chief Executive, MAAS; Hon Peter Collins AM QC: President, Board of Trustees, MAAS; Mr Christopher Brown AM: Chair, WS Powerhouse Museum Community Alliance; Mr Darren Greenfield Secretary, CFMEUnion, NSW ; Mr Steven Molino: Principal, Molino Stewart; Mr Tom Lockley: Private citizen; Clr Donna Davis: City of Parramatta Council.
For introductory information about the committee, previous hearings, and the schedule for this and earlier hearings, go to: HERE
For the schedule of speakers for 15 February, 2021, go to: HERE
For the 7 Videos now available, go to: HERE
18th February, 2021
Is this house losing power? Someone somewhere is going to ask “why have we got two Powerhouses?”
Urban policy and strategy specialist, Mike Brown, writes in The Fifth Estate: ‘Here’s a cynical take on recent announcements concerning the Parramatta Powerhouse. It’s getting sillier… Just as advertising has become the product – rather than the thing promoted – we recently learned that the newly approved Powerhouse is set to become Australia’s very own Smithsonian, as though this potential equates to its delivery. This is magical thinking; plain political conceit. The obvious riposte is, why didn’t we make it so at Ultimo some time back?
Breathtaking cluelessness: No one objects to the idea of building a new nationally significant museum in Parramatta. Originally, objections were against its relocation from Ultimo in what looked like a sleazy property play to free up some inner-city land for developers.
Now that the Ultimo Powerhouse has been “saved” (refer following discussion) objections are against the destruction of existing cultural heritage – Willow Grove and St George Terraces – to build the competition winning scheme…The triteness of the “Smithsonian” idea can be grasped from a simple 10-second search here; “the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex” comprising 19 world class museums, galleries and a zoo. Twenty seconds later the breadth of its educational resources is displayed. Its research activity, for which the institution is so well-known, is summarised a further 20 seconds after that.’
Brown considers a number of significant museums and compares them to the Powerhouse Museum collection, program, and perceived future. Citing ‘Inexcusable obduracy’, he concludes: ‘If there is nothing to prevent the re-casting of the project to require retention of existing valued buildings and house alternative collections, why not do it? Is the refusal to retain existing valued buildings nothing more than obduracy; a sharklike insistence on always moving forward? It would appear to be nothing other than administrative obduracy; a sharklike insistence on always moving forward. Yet, the need to adapt the project has already been imposed by at least one of the 188 planning conditions attached to its recent planning consent. Though part of a feature originally admired by the jury – “an exceptional open space for Parramatta, incorporating a clear continuation of the civic link and connecting the city and the river” – all public access has been banned to the screened under-croft facing the river in order ensure public safety in the event of inevitable flooding.’
‘So, what’s the game then?’ he asks: ‘This author’s take on this trajectory (backed by no more than a cynical hunch) is that the original strategy to decant the Powerhouse from Ultimo still informs the current scheme. Long after this government has gone, as community memory fades, and as the attendances of two Powerhouses inevitably decline – let’s face it, attendances are not going to double when the new facility opens – someone somewhere will ask “why have we got two Powerhouses?” This will prompt an earnest beard-stroking review by a select committee of toadies and hacks, which will reluctantly conclude that, yes, we are over-endowed with Powerhouses. And that as the most recent investment was located in Parramatta and now resembles the Smithsonian (if one squints hard in the gift shop), it now makes good sense to recover taxpayers’ funds by a total or partial sale of the Ultimo site. Bidders anyone? BUT… this can only occur if the Powerhouse is reproduced at Parramatta, rather than housing an alternative collection.’
Read more: or 18 Feb 2021 The Fifth Estate
18 February, 2021
‘Powerhouse museum still in dark about funding’
Judy Skatssoon, in the independent online publication Government News, reports: ‘There is no budget and no opening date for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, a parliamentary committee has heard. The museum is also yet to receive one dollar of the $75 million in targeted philanthropic donations it announced it was seeking more than two years ago. The NSW select committee on the government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum heard evidence about the troubled project this week, two days after the government announced planning consent for the new museum which was first mooted more than five years ago. The government first trumpeted plans to relocate the existing Ultimo Powerhouse Museum to a new site, with the sale of the old building to partly fund the new facility, in 2015. MAAS trustees board president Peter Collins Board told the committee this week that the Powerhouse Museum had been through a turbulent time and that “I see my job as trying to get everybody on the same page and to move this forward”. ..‘MAAS Chief executive Lisa Havilah admitted the museum had not yet received any of the required $75 million in donations in more than two years… But she said a campaign committee had been appointed and she was confident of raising the sum, including by giving donors naming rights for museum wings. Ms Havilah also confirmed there was no operating budget to run the new museum or an opening date for the Parramatta site. Ms Havilah said “a very robust business case” was currently being considered but the museum would attempt to supplement government funding with its own revenue streams. Mr Shoebridge suggested that “unless you get a substantial increase in ongoing government funding you’re not going to be able to get the lights on are you?” Ms Havilah agreed that government investment was needed but said the museum would also generation revenue via commercial programs, events, retail and expanded hours…’
‘Announcing the government’s planning consent for new Parramatta Powerhouse over the weekend, Arts Minister Don Harwin said Sydney was getting “the biggest and best museum in NSW”. ..“With a focus on science and technology, Powerhouse Parramatta will be the museum’s flagship site and hold the revered Powerhouse collection it is renowned for,” he said. Mr Collins …admitted the “missing part of the jigsaw” was the absence of a funding decision for renovating the Ultimo site, which the government announced last July would remain despite the construction of the new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta. “We don’t know our budget yet, he said have a detailed submission and have provided the government with various options. We’re waiting to see which of those it will be.” He said he expected to know by the end of April.’ Read more, or 18 Feb 2021 The Fifth Estate
18 February, 2021
‘Powerhouse Museum pulls pin on Goulburn Maudslay move’
Following strong support for major industrial items to remain in the Ultimo site of the Powerhouse Museum, Louise Thrower, in the Goulburn Post, writes about the Maudslay steam engine that was brought from England to power the Old Goulburn Brewery in 1837 and was moved to the Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in the 1920s, that: ‘Hopes that a historic beam engine would be relocated from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to Goulburn have been dashed, at least for now. Council general manager Warwick Bennett said the proposed transfer of the 1837 Maudslay Sons and Field steam engine had been caught up in the Powerhouse’s “politics” and controversy surrounding an additional facility at Parramatta. A state Upper House inquiry into the government’s plan for the museum resumed on Monday. The Maudslay move rated a mention…”We have been informed by the Powerhouse management that they are now basically deferring this (relocation and loan) decision while they sort out the internal politics, the consultation needs of those involved with the museum and I am hoping, (with) the Goulburn community,” he told Tuesday night’s council meeting….We’ll wait until the matter re-emerges and any offer that comes to us for that engine. It’s extremely disappointing because it’s a Goulburn asset and it would be great to have it back at The Waterworks Museum.”‘ Read more or 18 Feb Maudslay engine Goulburn
16 February, 2021
5th hearing for Second Inquiry into Powerhouse Museum: Reports
On Monday 15th February, the NSW Upper House committee examining the Government’s proposal for the Powerhouse Museum held its 5th hearing.
Speakers included: Hon Don Harwin MLC; Ms Kate Foy: Dept of Premier and Cabinet; Mr Simon Draper: CEO Infrastructure NSW; Ms Lisa Havilah: Chief Executive, MAAS; Hon Peter Collins AM QC: President, Board of Trustees, MAAS; Mr Christopher Brown AM: Chair, WS Powerhouse Museum Community Alliance; Mr Darren Greenfield Secretary, CFMEUnion, NSW ; Mr Steven Molino: Principal, Molino Stewart; Mr Tom Lockley: Private citizen and PHM volunteer; Clr Donna Davis: City of Parramatta Council.
Much discussion focussed on plans, costs and consultation for the new Powerhouse museum in Parramatta, with particular attention to issues of the floodprone site, and the controversies associated with relocating the historic WillowGrove building. Also mentioned was the remaining lack of clarity about the specific future role of the Powerhouse Museum at its significant Ultimo site, where a decision from ‘options’ has still to be made.
Transcripts and webinair recordings will be available within a few days HERE. (Now see above, 19 Feb)
Among many issues raised, media reports include:
‘NSW arts minister defends Powerhouse Parramatta museum days after giving it the green light’
Kelly Burke, in The Guardian, (15 Feb) writes: ‘New South Wales’ largest cultural capital works project since the Sydney Opera House will go ahead at a cost of at least $950m, with the state government finally approving the Powerhouse Parramatta museum after a five-year controversy. But the project is contingent upon the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences – better known as the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo – raising $75m of the total cost from philanthropic donations…Greens MP, David Shoebridge, asked Harwin how much of the $75m had so far been secured after a year and a half of fundraising. “None of it’s in the bank yet but they’re making excellent progress,” Harwin said. Shoebridge replied: “You have to get $75 million. You haven’t got one single cent, how can you say that’s going well?”
The secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union NSW, Darren Greenfield, told the inquiry that as long as the NSW government adhered to its plans to demolish Willow Grove, the union’s green ban would remain, effectively preventing any construction on the new museum… Havilah told the inquiry work on the museum site began at 7.30am on Monday. Protest signs and memorabilia, including photographs of babies born at Willow Grove during its time as a maternity hospital in the 20th century, were removed from the site in recent days.… Giving evidence … natural hazards consultant, Steven Molino, said while modifications to the Moreau Kusunoki and Genton design had largely mitigated the risk of loss of life in the event of flooding, there was still a 12% chance of the museum’s priceless collection being damaged by flood water in the presumed 100-year lifespan of the building.Read more or 15 Feb 2021 Guardian
‘Powerhouse project hasn’t received a single donation yet, inquiry hears’
Linda Morris reports on-line (15 Feb) in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Planning Minister Rob Stokes gave the $840 million Powerhouse project the green light over the weekend, heralding the imminent dismantling of the historic villa and a start to construction of the science and technology museum by year’s end. Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council David Shoebridge pointed out that the 188 conditions of consent approved by the Department of Planning did not explicitly guarantee the rebuilding of Willow Grove.
But Mr Harwin promised the rebuild, saying, “That’s the approval I’ve got, it’s going to be done.” The rebuilt Willow Grove would be “faithfully reassembled and it will be in better condition than it is now and will be available for the people of Parramatta to use,” Mr Harwin said. “We will consult them on where they want it and how they want to use it – and that will be a damn sight better than the way it was given to us by Parramatta council, which didn’t seem to care at the time.”
Darren Greenfield, secretary of the NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, which has imposed a green ban on the site, estimated the dismantling of Willow Grove would cost $25 million and take eight to 12 months to complete if it was a “proper job”… Powerhouse’s president Peter Collins said he didn’t attach particular significance to the historic building’s role as a former maternity hospital, but acknowledged there was a legitimate emotional attachment that had primarily emerged since the project was first publicised. Willow Grove had been scarred by its location next to a car park and unsympathetic additions, he said… Meanwhile, the final business case for renovations of the Ultimo museum was complete and was to be presented to State Cabinet shortly with an announcement expected in a couple of months, Collins said. Read more.
‘I am Don with this old place’
James O’Doherty writes in the Daily Telegraph (16 Feb) that ‘A nineteenth century villa in Parramatta which is to be dismantled and rebuilt by the state government to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum is “not particularly significant,” Arts Minister Dona Harwin says’…’ But the Construction union is refusing to work on the demolition and rebuilding of Willow Grove, which is complicating the government’s plans for the Powerhouse site.
Read more or 16 Feb Daily Tele
‘Greenlit Powerhouse project signals dismantling of historic Willow Grove’
Michael McLaren is joined on 2GB Radio (16 Feb) ‘by Suzette Meade, President of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, regarding Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ recent announcement that the $840 million Parramatta Powerhouse project has been given the green light.. which will in turn signal the dismantling of the historic Willow Grove. Ms Meade says the minister’s decision was based on a flawed development application process and amounts to a declaration of war against the Parramatta community. Ms Meade says, “The community is ready to fight for our heritage, and we’ll chain ourselves to the fence beside the CFMEU to protect Willow Grove from the wrecking ball.” Download podcast here.
15 February, 2021
‘Parramatta Powerhouse approval drives renewed backlash, threats’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on the Valentine’s Day public protest about relocating the significant Willow Grove building in Parramatta: ‘Final planning approval was announced on Friday, green lighting the $840 million project with Parramatta City Council lord mayor and the Powerhouse’s board of trustees welcoming the decision as a once in a lifetime opportunity for western Sydney. The Department of Planning concluded that retaining Willow Grove would “severely compromise” the development of the site and delivery of public benefits.’
But she also notes that: ‘The Berejiklian government has been warned against a “dead of night” demolition of the historic villa that is to make way for the new Parramatta Powerhouse. The NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) vowed to bring in affiliated workers from nearby construction sites in Parramatta to enforce a green ban to protect the 19th-century riverside mansion known as Willow Grove.’ …And ’While the existing design was striking and the museum needed, Sydney architect Shaun Carter said a superior and cheaper outcome, even at this stage of the planning process, would be for the architects to redesign the museum around the existing building while incorporating the site’s Indigenous history going back 60,000 years.’ North Parramatta Residents Action Group said: ‘In some strange unworldly logic this government seeks to knock down heritage to build a museum to house stories of Parramatta’s proud past.’ National Trust’s David Burdon said … ‘This project has taken heritage tokenism to a new level because the revised design does not respond to St Georges Terrace and we would argue it is a detrimental outcome for both buildings on the site.’
Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah said the internationally significant museum would connect young people and communities with its collections to tell stories of ingenuity and innovation and reflect the diversity of western Sydney. “Powerhouse Parramatta will deliver dynamic exhibition, education and community programs that will bring cultural and scientific leaders from around the world and across Australia into Parramatta. “In an Australian-first the Powerhouse will provide opportunities for 10,000 regional NSW students each year to stay at the Museum and immersive themselves in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) programs.”’ Read more, or SMH 15 Feb
14 February, 2021
‘Public protest in Parramatta’
On Valentine’s Day, supporters who argue to keep the heritage building, Willow Grove, in its original location in Parramatta, met to sign and tie hearts to the gates, in protest about moving the heritage building to make way for the new ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’. Labor Opposition leader Jodi McKay, Parramatta Councillor Donna Davis, Julia Finn MP, Darren Greenfield from the CFMEUnion and Suzette Meade of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, speak here at a rally save Willow Grove and other Parramatta heritage buildings from demolition by the Berejiklian Government. View here.
14 February, 2021
7 News comments on Powerhouse Parramatta ‘Green Light’ announcement
Following the public protest in Parramatta, a Youtube video of 7 News addresses a number of comments: ‘Plans for a new Powerhouse at Parramatta have been given the green light but 7NEWS can reveal the state government has serious concerns about the building’s potential to flood and that means part of the museum will remain empty.’ See video here
14 February, 2021
‘Campaign to Save the Powerhouse’
Educator, aviation enthusiast and Powerhouse Museum volunteer, Tom Lockley, draws attention in his regular Bulletin, No 59, to the upcoming 5th hearing of the Select Committee into Museums and Galleries, identifying speakers (including himself). In a general summary, he says: ‘There are two aspects of the ongoing struggle. One is to ensure that PHM [in Ultimo] remains the key site for the museum, fully equipped with a functioning workshop in the Harwood building and the second is to get for Parramatta the facilities on the site that they want, and not just have the current monstrosity plonked upon them. We go flat out on both projects, separately, in the process supporting anything positive that comes out of PHM and giving it all the support we can.’ Among the positives he mentions: ‘A program of new displays is being issued…They are locally created, largely by museum staff, who of recent years have often taken second place to imported programs of varying quality. Four years ago we were faced with the Government’s intention to bulldoze the whole area and put up high rise, but now we are told that the existing buildings will be retained. Covid has wreaked havoc on the normal operations of the museum, but gradually things are improving.’ He also documents the difficulty in ‘the reluctance of the Government to abide by the spirit of the latest call for release of documents… Yet another case of the Government’s policy of disinformation and no information. It is getting very tiresome. But things are coming to a climax, and this is no time to give up.’ Read more: 14 Feb Tom Lockley
13 February, 2021
‘Australia’s very own Smithsonian’: Powerhouse gets green light
Linda Morris writes (on-line) in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The $840 million Parramatta Powerhouse project has been given the green light, heralding the imminent dismantling of a historic villa and a start to construction of the science and technology museum by year’s end. Planning Minister Rob Stokes made the announcement late Friday naming 188 conditions of planning consent. The North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said the minister’s decision was based on a flawed development application process and amounted to a declaration of war against the Parramatta community. “The community is ready to fight for our heritage, and we’ll chain ourselves to the fence beside the CFMEU to protect Willow Grove from the wrecking ball,” Ms Meade said.
Key conditions relate to the government’s plans to dismantle the 19th-century mansion known as Willow Grove and relocate it elsewhere in Parramatta – about which community opposition has galvanised. The riverside villa sits on land the museum is to occupy… Planning consent requires photographic archival recording and conservation management of both heritage buildings. The Department of Planning has also barred all public access to the screened undercroft that is to collect floodwaters and which infrastructure NSW says will mitigate any risk of flooding on the riverside site…
Earlier yesterday, Parramatta councillor Donna Davis predicted “the devil will be in the detail, in those conditions of consent”. “If the government fails to retain Willow Grove and St Georges Terrace on Phillip St then it shows just how truly out of touch they are with what the people of Parramatta value,” she said. “Parramatta needs a vibrant arts and cultural precinct but not at the expense of Willow Grove … Now the community and the CFMEU has no choice but to enact green bans to its full force.” ‘
Morris also notes that the announcement comes just before the 5th hearing for the Select Committee of Inquiry, and cites positive comments by Arts Minister Don Harwin and new Powerhouse president of board of trustees Peter Collins, who will be speaking there.
Read more or 13 Feb LM in SMH Powerhouse gets green light
13 February, 2021
‘The Parramatta Powerhouse won’t be a Museum’
Save the Powerhouse community group writes on Facebook and in email:
‘Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ late-Friday announcement that the contested “Parramatta Powerhouse” project has been approved http://tiny.cc/o09jtzsurprised no-one. It was a foregone conclusion… The Government’s 2015 plan to “move” Ultimo’s world-famous Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was initially greeted with hoots of derision…until the NSW community realized that the NSW Government was serious! For the six years since then, this tortured project has muddled along, via backflips, U-turns, threatened cancellations, three MAAS directors, several business cases, a two-year (ongoing) Parliamentary Inquiry and $ millions in consultancy.’
Save the Powerhouse identifies issues raised by themselves and critics including John McDonald and Kylie Winkworth to do with the allocation of exhibition space in what appears to be an entertainment centre, the inadequacy of facilities necessary for managing a state museum, the risks of flooding, the relocation of historic WillowGrove – and more. Save the Powerhouse argues that ‘ whatever the people of Parramatta have been promised, or are hoping for, IT WON’T BE A MUSEUM! … Worse than a bad joke, it is an insult to the people of Parramatta, and to all those innocent future tourists the Government hopes to lure to Parramatta with the promise of a rich new “cultural experience.” ‘ Read more: 13 February Save the P comments
13 February, 2021
‘Powerhouse: five years later and the Berejiklian Government approves project late on Friday afternoon. Labor calls for financial update on controversial project’
In a media release, ‘NSW Labor today called on the Berejiklian Government to break its silence on the Powerhouse Museum and reveal its true cost – after the controversial project was given the official “green light” late yesterday (February 12) afternoon. The news comes ahead of embattled Arts Minister Don Harwin being called before a parliamentary inquiry into the debacle on Monday. NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has called on the Berejiklian Government to release a financial update on the controversial project – showing the real cost of the project. “This project has lurched from crisis to crisis and is shrouded in secrecy,” Ms McKay said. “We now discover that after five years, it has been given official approval late on a Friday afternoon. This whole process stinks.”
NSW Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts Walt Secord said the Berejiklian Government slipped out the announcement late Friday afternoon because the project is “riddled with problems”… As documents tabled in the NSW Parliament in June 2020 revealed, $46 million has been spent on consultants at the Powerhouse Museum.’
Read more: 13 Feb 2021 McKay and Secord
13 February, 2021
‘Parramatta Powerhouse plans given green light’
Don Harwin, Minister for the Arts and Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, announced through the Department of Planning, Industry and Development, that: ‘Plans for the new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta have been approved by the NSW Government, ensuring the city’s future as the jobs and cultural powerhouse of Western Sydney. Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the final decision to move ahead with the plans for the Powerhouse on the banks of the Parramatta River followed extensive community feedback.
“Now that planning consent has been secured, I am delighted as Arts Minister that Western Sydney will now have the biggest and best museum in NSW and first major cultural institution,” said Mr Harwin. “With a focus on science and technology, Powerhouse Parramatta will be the museum’s flagship site and hold the revered Powerhouse collection it is renowned for.” Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the new museum will play a pivotal role in propelling the local economy during the pandemic while putting Parramatta on the global culture map. “This new museum will create 4,000 new jobs while also injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy during construction to help the State power through the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Lee said.’ Read here, or 13 Feb 2021 Govt announcement
However, local residents disagree. Suzette Meade, spokesperson for the North Parramatta Residents Action Group says, in advance of a media event at Willow Grove on Valentines Day: ‘Rob Stokes has made a flawed decision on a flawed EIS. By approving the unnecessary demolition of historic WillowGrove overnight he has called war on people of Parramatta. the community are ready to fight and will chain ourselves to the fence with CFMEU to protect WillowGrove from the wrecking ball of Berejiklian .’
And Powerhouse Museum architect Lionel Glendenning writes for the Powerhouse Museum Alliance: ‘What started 6 years ago as a BAIRD ‘thought bubble’ – move the Powerhouse Museum 23 kms to a flood prone riverbank in Parramatta and sell the Museum’s historic Ultimo site to developers for $250m to pay for it – has now become a $1.5billion Berejikian/Harwin/Stokes flood prone, heritage destroying, community-ignoring BOONDOGGLE – an edifice to political hubris and the wanton waste of public monies.’
10 February, 2021
5th Hearing of NSW Govt Select Committee: 15 February
For access to submissions, the schedule of speakers (and later, transcripts) go to the Select Committee’s website here. The hearing will start at 9.15am and will be broadcast live via web stream; check Live, Legislative Council on the committee page.
Their media release says: ‘The NSW Upper House committee examining the Government’s proposal for the Powerhouse Museum – as well as funding issues for the State’s museums and cultural projects more broadly – is set to kick off its next round of hearings in 2021 on Monday 15 February. The Committee Chair, the Hon Robert Borsak MLC, stated: “This costly project continues to evolve, with the Government pressing ahead with the Powerhouse Parramatta proposal despite what can only be considered almost unanimous community opposition. As highlighted by submissions to the statutory planning process, there are still serious concerns about the impacts of this State significant project “… The future of Willow Grove – a property of substantial social, cultural, historic and aesthetic significance – also remains unresolved, with the Government announcing late last year that it will be relocated to a site in North Parramatta… “This hearing will be a very timely opportunity to get to the nuts and bolts of what’s being proposed,” Mr Borsak added.’ See media release here: Media release – Fifth public hearing
Speakers include: Hon Don Harwin MLC; Ms Kate Foy: Dept of Premier and Cabinet; Mr Simon Draper: CEO Infrastructure NSW; Ms Lisa Havilah: Chief Executive, MAAS; Hon Peter Collins AM QC: President, Board of Trustees, MAAS; Mr Christopher Brown AM: Chair, WS Powerhouse Museum Community Alliance; Mr Darren Greenfield Secretary, CFMEUnion, NSW ; Mr Steven Molino: Principal, Molino Stewart; Mr Tom Lockley: Private citizen; Clr Donna Davis: City of Parramatta Council.
10 February, 2020
‘Parramatta Powerhouse Museum apartments planned cops backlash’
In the Parramatta Advertiser, Joanne Vella writes: ‘More than 50 apartments are planned for the $767 million Powerhouse Museum in Western Sydney, but opponents have lashed out at the plan to have taxpayers foot the bill for the dwellings when the landmark will be surrounded by hotels and apartments. .. In April, details emerged about how the Powerhouse’s relocation from Ultimo to Parramatta meant the Phillip St site would include retail and function venue spaces, with apartments and a 60-bed dormitory for visiting students and scientists, retail and food hall and some exhibition space. However Infrastructure NSW’s accommodation facilities now include plans for 56 apartments, to be called the Powerlab Residencies and the Academy, for visiting researchers and school students respectively.’ The report continues with comments from a range of organisations – for and against the move. Read more: 10 Feb Parra Ad
8 -9 February, 2021
Powerhouse Museum: 2021 exhibition program announced
Following the well-received July 2020 announcement that the Powerhouse Museum would continue to operate in Ultimo, Sydney, and despite Create NSW still not publicising the business case options it was committed to present to government for the future role and scope of the site, the Museum’s CEO, Lisa Havilah, announced an exhibition program for 2021, supplementing some exhibitions and projects already in place. At the same time, the government is determined to proceed with development of the ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’ as a museum focussed on science and technology, while local public and professional communities dispute the demolition and transfer of historic buildings, and the proposed site and program.
The Museum’s webpage lists the 2021 program HERE, and here: PHM 2021 Program Final
Note: opening dates later changed: Read new dates here. A range of media outlets also describe the proposed exhibitions for 2021, while commenting variously on the difficulties associated with developing a program within the insecurity of the future of the Ultimo and Parramatta sites, and the moving of the collection to Castle Hill. The 2021 program is announced without yet any clear thematic clarification from Create NSW about the role of the Ultimo-based Powerhouse Museum.
9 Feb: Kelly Burke, in The Guardian, writes in: ‘Everything had been on hold’: Powerhouse Museum announces program after rocky few years’,‘ The Powerhouse Museum’s chief executive Lisa Havilah has endured a rocky ride since her appointment, with an insecure future facing the Ultimo site, a Covid-19 enforced lockdown, and a deluge of controversy surrounding the museum’s expansion to Parramatta.’ Read here, or 9 Feb Guardian
9 Feb: Australian Arts Review writes in: ‘Powerhouse Museum announces 2021 exhibition program’ that ‘The program includes 12 new exhibitions celebrating the Museum’s world-class collection of more than 500,000 objects, as well as international collaborations, Australian exclusives, new commissions and never before seen objects.’
Read here, or 9 Feb 2021 Aust Art Review
9 Feb: Dee Jefferson, in ABC Arts, writes in: ‘Powerhouse Museum bounces back from COVID-19 with exhibitions celebrating Buddhist sculpture, eucalyptus’: ‘The schedule announcement, made on Tuesday, kicks off what Havilah hopes will be a year unmarred by COVID-19 setbacks, following the hits to programming and visitation when the museum was forced to close from mid-March to June last year.’ Read here, or 9 Feb 2021 ABC
8 Feb: Linda Morris, in Sydney Morning Herald, writes in ‘From Goggomobils to Islamic art: Powerhouse’s eclectic 2021 program’: ‘The year-long exhibition program is the first since the government’s decision last July to keep the Ultimo Powerhouse open alongside a new Parramatta Powerhouse. Read here, or SMH 8 Feb 2021 PHM program
6-7 February, 2021
‘Art in the Year of the Plague’
In a perceptive summary of the past year in the visual arts, John McDonald writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘There were many struggles, joys and unexpected twists in this year of hibernation.’ Among many observations of how galleries and museums have dealt with changes brought about by COVID 19, he says:
‘The retreat into Fortress Australia turned 2020 into a strange and unpredictable year for the visual arts. It made for a year in which public institutions struggled and private galleries enjoyed surprisingly healthy sales. While commercial galleries only require a handful of willing clients, the big institutions are vitally dependent on visitation to bring in revenue, and even to acquit their obligations with governments that use an “efficiency dividend” as a blunt instrument to penalise a museum that doesn’t pull its weight.
Some museums had even greater problems with the politicians. The great blight – and false dawn – of the year was the continuing wrangle over the future of the Powerhouse Museum. In July it was announced with a fanfare that the Berejiklian government would abandon plans to destroy the award-winning building in Ultimo in response to concerted public opposition. It now seems this was no more than sleight-of-hand on behalf of a regime that still wants to sell off part of the site to developers and divide the institution into three separate components: fashion and design at Ultimo; science and technology in Parramatta; and all the rest, including collection storage, in Castle Hill. This is colossally wasteful and unnecessary. It will destroy the historical uniqueness of the museum, subject the collection to much avoidable stress and strain, create vast new ongoing expenses, and produce an unsatisfactory outcome for both the city and Parramatta. Why is this lunatic project still on the table? When we have a Premier who sees nothing inherently wrong with pork barrelling favoured electorates or overseeing an office that destroys documents that were legally required to be preserved, we should never expect a straight answer. The entire disgraceful business has been wreathed in secrecy ever since it was announced by former premier Mike Baird, and the duplicity seems set to continue into 2021.’ Read more, or SMH McDonald 6 Feb 2021
6-7 February, 2021
‘Artists want seat at Macquarie St game of musical chairs’
On line as: ‘Once-in-a-generation opportunity’ for new symphony centre in Sydney’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, follows up on possibilities for Macquarie Street (See 4 February, below): ‘A former repository of NSW’s public records is to be considered as Sydney’s first dedicated centre for orchestras, music ensembles, choirs and freelance musicians. Facing a dearth of affordable space to play and rehearse, musicians have urged the Arts Minister Don Harwin to turn the Registrar-General’s Building near Macquarie St into a symphony centre bringing rehearsal, recording studios, performance and instrument storage spaces under the one roof. In a report by former prime minister Paul Keating and former Sydney lord mayor Lucy Turnbull, released this week, it was recommended that the sandstone building, which sits next to St Mary’s Cathedral, become a cultural institution – possibly a design museum – bookending a revamped cultural precinct akin to New York’s Museum Mile. “Sydney is clearly Australia’s leading city with an enormous depth in our orchestras and ensembles,” Mr Harwin said. They’ve brought this idea to me over the last few years and it’s a concept worth exploring further.” Read more, or SMH L Morris 6-7 Feb Macquarie St
[PMA notes that Harwin is also on record as seeking to use the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo as a site for a ‘Lyric Theatre’.]
4 February, 2021
‘Plan to make Macquarie St a global destination’
State political editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith, provides insights into a report prepared for the NSW government on a report just released by ‘former prime minister Paul Keating and Lucy Turnbull, a former Sydney lord mayor, who were commissioned by the NSW government in 2018 to review how the area known as Macquarie Street East could be returned to its former glory.’
‘Their report …says the area – home to NSW Parliament House as well as major cultural institutions including the Sydney Opera House, the State Library and the Art Gallery of NSW – should rival the London’s Exhibition Road or Museum Mile in New York. It also includes the Mint, Hyde Park Barracks, the Registrar-General’s Building and St James Church. The report’s authors commend the area as “an important and unique intersection of Aboriginal, colonial and 20th century NSW history” noting it has been home to the Gadigal people of the Eora nation for tens of thousands of years.’
Among other suggestions: ‘The report recommends identifying spaces to showcase and celebrate Sydney’s 60,000-year history, through public art and monuments. It says the Registrar-General’s Building, most recently the Land Titles Office, should be “an anchor cultural institution” focused on the decorative and applied arts and the Chief Secretary’s Building should be returned to its original purpose as the Department of Premier and Cabinet.’ Read more, or SMH 4 Feb 2021 A Smith
[PMA asks: could this proposal for the Land Titles Office extend the decorative and applied arts and social history scope of the Powerhouse Museum, in a location so appropriate to a state collection?]
5 February, 2021
‘Bye bye Premier Gladys – it’s time to go’
Alex Mitchell writes in his weekly Come the Revolution column, that ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has had enough. She plans to leave the premiership in March hoping that her political legacy is in reasonable nick despite her personal reputation being in tatters.’
He traces her successful transition from Transport Minister to NSW Premier, noting ‘Berejiklian was the hardest working Minister in the Coalition Government. There was not a skerrick of scandal attached to her name. She represented a monumental change from the corruption-riddled days of NSW Labor. Her timing was exceptionally favourable. It coincided with the arrival of President Donald Trump and a tsunami of ridicule and hatred generated by MeToo, Respect and other chat lines fostered by the US Democratic Party.’
But he also documents her worsening relationships with women politicians, while surrounding ‘herself with Liberal hacks who covered her in flattery’; ‘She loved the “bubble” they created around her and she became increasingly intolerant of Ministers, civil servants or contractors who stood in her way, whispered the corridors of power’, while ‘Her shenanigans with former Liberal minister Daryl Maguire are a tale of colossal misjudgement, secrecy and apparent large-scale corruption, her opponents claim… Any similarity between Cassius and her deputy, Dominic Perrottet, is purely Shakespearean. In reality there is a large field of candidates who want to be CEO of NSW Inc. However, the NSW Libs are a hollowed-out version of their former selves. Their gene pool of talent is shallow. Most are in politics for what it can give them, not what they can give the people of NSW. Gladys is a product of this culture; it has infected NSW Labor and the Nationals as well.’ Read more.
3 February, 2021
‘Arts, cultural job cuts on the horizon to net million-dollar savings’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris reports: ‘Dozens of jobs are set to be lost among agencies supporting arts, heritage, Indigenous communities, and some of the state’s biggest cultural projects as the NSW Premier’s department searches for multi-million dollar savings. Tim Reardon, head of the state’s public service, is seeking voluntary redundancies across the Department of Premier and Cabinet as part of post-budget “necessary efficiency savings”. The redundancy drive has prompted the Public Service Association to complain to the department about a lack of consultation.
Heritage Council of NSW, Create NSW – the government’s arts agency – and Aboriginal Affairs NSW fall within the department, along with positions responsible for the development and delivery of government strategy and legislation, major projects and state events. The number of positions to be lost will depend on take-up but savings of up to $8 million – when the redundancies are combined with other cost-saving measures – have been spoken about inside government, according to a source familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity. This figure was not challenged by the government. In November, the COVID-19-impacted NSW budget reported a $16 billion deficit, the first in almost a decade.
Major cultural institutions including the Sydney Opera House, Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of NSW are understood to be exempt from the redundancy program. But the arts sector is anxious the redundancies might herald a restructure of Create NSW, and even fewer resources to administer grants in the midst of pandemic disruptions. Earlier this week peak arts bodies rebuked the government for the adequacy, integrity and lack of transparency of its arts grants process, often aggravated by internal restructures and abrupt changes to personnel. Public engagement with the sector was poor, they said. “Make no mistake, these job cuts will make it worse,” Shadow arts minister Walt Secord said on news of the redundancy round.’Read more. or 3 February SMH Linda M – Arts, cultural job cuts
30 January, 2021
‘Govt to approve “revised’ Parra Project but major risks remain’
Save the Powerhouse community campaign group advises: ‘It is now reliably rumoured that approval of the revised Environmental Impact Statement for the controversial Parramatta Powerhouse will be announced by the Government by mid-February. This would clear the way for full implementation of the contested Riverbank project, including construction of the widely-ridiculed “milk-crate” building and “moving” Parramatta’s heritage-rich Willow Grove mansion from the site by dismantling it brick by brick and restoring it elsewhere.
In late 2020 the Government revealed that over 1,300 public submissions to the initial EIS had been received, most raising serious concerns about the proposed ‘museum’s design, especially its vulnerability to flooding (over 20% of objections). Of particular note was the submission from water specialists Molino Stewart, which expertly identified and described the design’s numerous fatal flaws, and showed that the flood risks presented “A GRAVE THREAT TO HUMAN LIFE.”
There is general agreement that the Government has brushed aside critical questions including…
– How the undercroft screens (in the event of flooding) will be operated reliably?
– Whether the provision of emergency power to lifts will cover both buildings and the undercroft
– How often the building is likely to flood?
– The standard of climate control planned for, and whether it is adequate to protect the collections?
– Whether the emergency generator and/or other building design features will be able to maintain climate control standards during extreme floods?
– The impact of flood events on museum operations?…amid fears that, if project approval is announced very soon as predicted, they will never be answered.
Read more. 30 Jan Save the Powerhouse
24 January 2021 ‘Gladys set to revamp team’ on line as ‘Winners and losers: Gladys prepares for reshuffle’
Linda Simalis, in The Daily Telegraph, announces ‘BETS are under way on who will be dumped — and promoted — when Premier Gladys Berejiklian finally conducts her long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle to create the team to take the Coalition to the next State election. However, ministers are still divided on whether the Premier herself will be leading the team come 2023 while there is also speculation if veteran Liberal minister Brad Hazzard will close the door on an impressive 30-year state political career. While one Macquarie Street source claimed the reshuffle was “imminent”, the majority of ministers believe the end of March made the most sense given it would be after Budget Estimates.
One minister is putting money on the days after March 26, the 10-year anniversary of the NSW Coalition’s election victory.’ After considering a number of possible changes, she also notes that: Among those that may be moved include Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock and Arts Minister Don Harwin and Lower House Speaker Jonathan O’Dea…Ms Berejiklian has so far declared she intends to stay. But then former long-serving Labor leader Bob Carr told reporters repeatedly he wouldn’t be quitting — until the day he did. ‘
Read more: or 24 Jan, 2021 DT, Gladys reshuffle
[PMA asks; who would we get as Arts Minister if Harwin moves, and what would their position be regarding the Powerhouse Museum?]
National Trust newsletter, January-March 2021
Daniel Burdon, conservation director at the National Trust writes about the importance of preserving and maintaining heritage buildings in Parramatta, including Willow Grove, controversially identified to be relocated to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum. Read more: National Trust Jan-March 2021