PHM Ultimo: Community Consultation Jan 2023- can we believe it?

24 – 26 January, 2023

Powerhouse Museum Ultimo: Community Consultation

Sydney Morning Herald, 24, 25, 26 January 2023, and Daily Telegraph, January 26.

The Powerhouse Museum published full-page advertisements on these days, saying of the ‘renewal of the Powerhouse’, that ‘the project has moved to its next stage in the planning process’. See advertisement here:  PHM consultation advert. 24-16 Jan 2023

A digital Find Out More link opened up to the Museum’s website, which provided information about proposals and developments in Parramatta and Castle Hill, as well as the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Open here

Considerable public concern was then expressed, as over eight years of lobbying, community consultation has clearly not been taken seriously, and nor have the recommendations in two long-term government inquiries. Despite the decision in 2020 to ‘save’ the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while also proceeding with a new museum/entertainment centre in Parramatta, and transferring all the collection (and soon the museum staff) to Castle Hill, there remains NO CLEARLY DEFINED future for the Ultimo site.

So a major question remains: what is the consultation about? There is no public documentation of what was provided to the architects as content and purpose of the museum, and no rationale for destroying the award-winning buildings of 1988. Despite being a museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, it seems to be narrowed down to ‘fashion and design’, with a token technology presence. It is also noted that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is for  ‘the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal of a Creative Industries Precinct integrated into the operations of the Powerhouse Museum’, not the Powerhouse Museum, ie: ‘The renewal will see Powerhouse Ultimo deliver a programming focus on design and fashion.  One of the objectives is to enable and support development of the NSW creative industries….’
It is also not clear exactly what the very essential working area of the adjacent Harwood Building will contain, and it could also be rationalised that it is likely to be taken over by the neighbouring University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

The website includes two key paragraphs:
‘In preparation for the lodgement of the second stage State Significant Development Application (SSDA2) to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), community consultation on the Powerhouse Ultimo design will commence in February 2023. We invite the public to join us at public information sessions held at Powerhouse Ultimo where project team members will be present to discuss plans and respond to community questions and feedback. Sign up below to receive updates, including links to register for upcoming sessions.’

As well: ‘Foundation University Partner, the University of Technology Sydney, has committed $10 million to Powerhouse Ultimo, a significant investment that will help boldly reimagine the Ultimo precinct, realised through the landmark $480–500 million renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo. The institutions will work together to foster a dynamic creative industry ecology and expand the international profile of Australian design and fashion both nationally and internationally.’

So – is this more public box-ticking? Will they listen to anything we have to say: Go to the website here, for links to ‘more information or feedback content’. 

7 February,  2023:
This advertisement was then followed on 7 February, by a further NSW Govt Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal advertisement seeking Indigenous consultation, saying:
‘Curio Projects (heritage consultants), on behalf of infrastructure NSW (the proponent), are commencing Aboriginal community consultation for the proposed Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, NSW (see map below). We are writing to you in order `to compile a list of Aboriginal people who may have an interest in proposed project area and hold knowledge relevant to determining the cultural significance of Aboriginal objects and/or places’. Read here: Indigenous Consultation Ad 7 Feb 2023