For Inquiry into Museums and Galleries webpage: Read more
For the Inquiry Committee’s Final Report: 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 inlcudes recent examples of outrage and suggestions from people who recognise that the government and business leaders in Parramatta have ignored the 6-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, 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 Second Inquiry, starting on 29 July.
6 August, 2020
‘Parramatta, Powerhouse Museum: Australian Unity Fund objection’
Joanne Vella writes in the Parramatta Advertiser that: ‘The neighbours of the would-be Parramatta Powerhouse won’t be rolling out the welcome mat after they entered a 121-page submission objecting to the controversial museum being built next door… The government approached AU [Australian Unity Fund], which is housed in the eight-storey GE Capital Finance building at 32 Phillip St, to acquire the 6759sq lot in February 2018 before withdrawing and ceasing negotiations in May that year. The government purchased the neighbouring site, where heritage-listed Willow Grove and the St George’s Terrace is, for $140 million to build the museum… In its submission to the Planning Department, the company expressed concerns over heritage loss, flooding on the site, blocking car access during Dirrabarri Lane during construction, and adverse noise and wind impacts if the museum, dubbed the milk crate on stilts, is approved… The AUF feedback, prepared by Urbis, stated: “These heritage items contribute to the local character and landscape setting of the riverside precinct and could be integrated into the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum and the public domain and the planned Civic Link.” ‘ Vella also noted that, despite strong submissions such as this one, Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee complained that only a few of the objections were local, saying “I’m not going to be lectured by people in the eastern suburbs or inner city.” Read more: Aug 6 Parra Adv
5 August, 2020
Inquiry hearing, 29 July, 2020; Transcripts can now be read
Following the first hearing of the Select Committee of the (second) Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other Museums and Cultural projects in New South Wales, the uncorrected transcripts of the interviews have been released.
Session1: Hon Don Harwin MLC, Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts; Mr Simon Draper, Chief Executive Officer, Infrastructure NSW; Ms Kate Foy, Deputy Secretary, Community Engagement, Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Session 2: Cr Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, City of Sydney; Ms Monica Barone, Chief Executive, City of Sydney; Mr Brett Newman, Chief Executive Officer, City of Parramatta; Ms Jennifer Concato, Executive Director, City Planning and Design, City of Parramatta.
Session 3: Mr Troy Wright Assistant General Secretary, Public Service Association of NSW; Ms Judith Coombes, President, Australian Museum and Galleries, Association (NSW Division); Ms Alex Marsden (via teleconference) National Director, Australian Museum and Galleries Association.
Session 4: Mr Bruce Dawbin NSW State Representative, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Australia; Ms Cherie McNair Secretary, International Council of Museums (ICOM) Australia; Mr David Burdon Chair, Built Heritage Conservation Committee, National Trust of Australia (New South Wales).
Issues discussed included: prior knowledge of government’s decision to keep the Ultimo site for the Powerhouse Museum; the suitability of the proposed new site in Parramatta and EIS findings; concerns about destroying heritage buildings; other options for Parramatta; questions about the proposed business plans for Ultimo – collection and exhibition content, site development, maintenance, costs; location of large objects; plans and policies for museums in regional NSW – and others. Read the transcript on the Committee’s web page here: Read more
5 August, 2020
‘Pressure mounts for museum redesign’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the statistics associated with the 1264 [1299 see below, 31 July] community submissions made about an environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared for Infrastructure NSW, for the new Powerhouse Museum site in Parramatta, where 95% of submissions were against the move. ‘The vast majority of community submissions lodged with the NSW government about the project lamented the loss of the 19thcentury Italianate villa Willow Grove, a former maternity hospital, and a row of terraces known as St Georges Terrace… But Parramatta Liberal MP Geoff Lee said only 111 of the 1264 submissions were by Parramatta residents. “The arts and culture budget must have a focus beyond the inner city and eastern suburbs. Parramatta and western Sydney deserve better. Finally, Willow Grove is not national or state heritage-listed and there are hundreds of similar buildings in NSW,” Mr Lee said… But it [Infrastructure NSW] recommended the project proceed as the benefits of moving the cultural institution to the banks of the Parramatta River outweighed heritage concerns and the loss of the community’s sense of place. Building and construction union CFMEU NSW met with Infrastructure NSW yesterday to discuss its green ban on the properties. Union secretary Darren Greenfield said he has told Infrastructure NSW the green ban was based entirely upon preserving the buildings in their current location and this was “what the people of Parramatta have told us they want”.’ Read more or: 8 August SMH
31 July, 2020
Summary: Powerhouse Parramatta, submissions to EIS
Save the Powerhouse Facebook group has analysed details of the submissions made to Infrastructure NSW about the proposed museum site in Parramatta: ‘Of the 1,299 submissions received about the E.I.S. on exhibition – an unprecedented total – there were a staggering 1,232 (95%) objections.’
To read more of their findings, including the figures for Supports, Comments and Objects, from Public, Organisations and Public authorities, Read: 31 July EIS submission stats
And to read all the submissions on the project portal, Read more
3 August, 2020
Parramatta Powerhouse museum: Upper House inquiry under way
Joanne Vella, in the (now only online) Parramatta Advertiser, reports on the publication of submissions to the recent EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for the proposed new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. She writes:
‘Shocking figures have revealed the level of objection to the iconic Powerhouse Museum being relocated and constructed in Parramatta. The figures have been revealed as an inquiry into its relocation is under way. An overwhelming 95 per cent of 1299 submissions into the Powerhouse Museum relocation objected to its construction at Parramatta. Submissions to the Environmental Impact Statement, now on display at the Planning Department website, have cited concerns including plans to build the museum on a floodplain and the loss of heritage-listed properties Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace on the Phillip St site.
The submission results — which buoy heritage advocates’ fight to retain the heritage landmarks — emerge in the same week the issues were raised in the Upper House inquiry into the government’s management of the museum. Parramatta Council CEO Brett Newman and the council’s city planning and design executive director Jennifer Concato spoke at the inquiry on Wednesday when they reinforced the council’s concerns over flooding, loss of heritage and its integration with the public domain, called the Civic Link.’
Vella quotes a number of other interviewees, including Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who ‘ also spoke at the hearing and applauded the government’s decision to keep the Powerhouse at Ultimo but “not by pitting region against region”. “Western Sydney should have its own iconic cultural facilities but not by destroying a distinct and valued inner city cultural institution,” she said. Read more or: 3 August, Parra Adv
The transcripts of the Inquiry hearing are expected to be posted on line soon, here: Read more
1 August, 2020
‘If you want to govern us, learn to listen’
Helen Pitt, in the Sydney Morning Herald, raises questions about the ways governments and councils may or may not listen to what people have to say.
‘To govern well requires unblinkered vision and, perhaps more importantly, the ability to listen. Last month Randwick Council announced plans to block Coogee Bay Road to install a pop-up entertainment precinct to counter the COVID-19 economic slump… This week Randwick Council dropped the idea…This is a good example of democracy in action; the people have spoken in opposition and the government listens and changes plan.’
‘Like the NSW government’s Powerhouse pivot. Let’s hope the current upper house inquiry into museums and galleries listens to the people of Parramatta in their bid to save the 1886 Italianate villa Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace slated for demolition despite a green ban being placed upon them by the building and construction union, CFMEU NSW.’ ‘Will the pleas of the people of the Pyrmont peninsula be heard in their call for more social housing rather than have their suburb become a “jobs hub” over shadowed by a $500 million, 51-storey Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel tower at The Star casino as announced by the state government on Friday?’
‘All levels of government need to be nimble now if they want to get re-elected in this fast changing world we find ourselves in thanks to this virus. But more haste, less speed, I would caution… Over-development and under-regulation are a toxic combination in this city. We need to be vigilant. It’s time to voice your protest – like the businesses of Coogee and the people of Parramatta. And fashion your own protest face mask.’ Read more or: 1 August SMH
31 July, 2020
EIS submissions on line!
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, has advised those who made submissions to comment on the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Powerhouse Parramatta project (SSD-10416) on its NSW Planning Portal, that the submissions are now able to be read on line: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/26576
Under the heading: Attachments & Resources, open Submissions.
You will find 1299 submissions, in these categories: Public: 1264; Organisation 29, Public Authority 6. An overwhelming number of all the submissions object strongly to the proposal.
30 July, 2020
‘Ultimo is final stop for the Powerhouse’s famous locomotive’
Following the first hearing of the second inquiry into museums and galleries on 29 July, Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The NSW government has officially abandoned plans to relocate the Boulton and Watt steam engine, the Locomotive No. 1, and the Catalina flying boat to the new Parramatta Powerhouse… Mr Harwin confirmed the flagship exhibits would remain at Ultimo on the first hearing day of an upper house inquiry into management of the Powerhouse Museum. The Berejiklian government announced earlier this month that Ultimo would be spared from sale for commercial and residential towers. It had been due to close next July…Arts Minister Don Harwin confirmed the significant objects of the industrial age would remain at Ultimo following the government’s decision to retain the museum’s inner Sydney site. The minister could not guarantee that the nearby Harwood building, the primary storage facility for the Powerhouse’s priceless collection, would not be sold or redeveloped…
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences will now operate museums at Ultimo and Parramatta with the latter to stand as the institution’s flagship, specialising in science and technology including robotics and artificial intelligence. The CBD museum would retain a focus on the industrial age, the minister said…No money has been allocated to renew the Ultimo site, which was estimated in a 2014 business case to have needed $350 million, funded in part by the sale of the Harwood site for $70 million. A final business case, likely to be completed by the end of the year at the cost of $5 million, would consider the costs of remodelling Ultimo Powerhouse and the future of the Harwood building…. Museum staff remained anxious about the future of Ultimo, the viability of their positions and the lack of new exhibitions in development, the inquiry heard, with museum management yet to formally address them. Read more or: 29 July – SMH – Linda Morris or: 29-30 July SMH Ultimo is final stop
30 July, 2020
‘I Don know about plan’
James O’Doherty writes in the Daily Telegraph: ‘REINSTATED Arts Minister Don Harwin insists he was not involved in a decision to keep open the Powerhouse Museum site at Ultimo, despite the fact the major policy U-turn was announced on the day after he was brought back into cabinet. Appearing before a parliamentary inquiry into the museum move yesterday, Mr Harwin also resisted calls to shift the proposed Parramatta location to avoid destroying two local heritage buildings. Mr Harwin announced the Ultimo Powerhouse would continue to operate alongside a new museum at Parramatta on July 4, less than a day after he was reinstated as arts minister after a court case for breaching COVID restrictions was abandoned. “I was not involved in any discussions about reopening Ultimo, but I was absolutely thrilled to be told about them when I was sworn back in,” Mr Harwin told the committee.’
And ‘The government is considering “a range of possible outcomes” for the museum, “from continuing to operate in its current form … through to a major redevelopment”, Infrastructure NSW chief executive Simon Draper said. Despite concerns from locals, the government is pushing ahead with the planned Parramatta site, which would involve the demolition of the 19th century Willow Grove building and historic St George’s Terrace buildings.’ Read here: 29 July – Daily T – James O’D
29 July, 2020
‘He is a buffoon!’ Ray Hadley tears into Arts Minister
A summary of his Morning Show on Radio 2GB notes: ’Ray Hadley has torn into Arts Minister Don Harwin over the ongoing Parramatta Powerhouse Museum saga. Ray has been campaigning against the proposed expansion which would see St George’s Terrace, built in 1881, and Willow Grove, built circa 1886, demolished.’ In the on-line discussion ‘NSW Opposition leader Jodi McKay blasted Mr Harwin for “willfully destroying” heritage buildings, telling Ray the Arts Minister is incapable of fulfilling his portfolio. “He’s on the stand this morning in Parliament. “He’s like a buffoon to be honest: he can’t actually tell us what the cost will be.“ The only thing he did say this morning Ray, is that … Ultimo is costing them $5 million just to prepare a business case! “He’s a deeply unpopular minister, and he’s making a deeply unpopular decision.” McKay reports further on her views of the proposals for Ultimo and Parramatta. The interview can be heard here: Read more
30 July, 2020
‘No justification for Powerhouse movie’
Michael McLaren, on 2GB’s Wake Up Australia, speaks with Robert Borsak, NSW Upper House Member and Chair of the Select Committee on the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums & cultural projects in New South Wales, to discuss the opening day of the new Powerhouse Museum inquiry.
Mr Borsak says “It does seem from questioning today that the knee-jerk change in direction and backflip on the Ultimo building demolition was made purely for political purposes, and there is no plan yet and certainly no business case to justify what they’ve done.” ‘ He talks further about a range of issues covering costs, heritage, risks and decisions still to be made out the future of both the museum locations, and the suitability of the Arts Minster for his responsibilities.
Read more Download podcast here
29 July, 2020
Second Inquiry: First Hearing
On 29 July, the ‘Select Committee on the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales’, which was established on 27 February, held the first of four scheduled hearings for the second Legislative Council Inquiry in the NSW Parliament.
– Minister for the Arts; the CEO of Infrastructure NSW; and a Deputy Secretary from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
– Representatives from the City of Sydney, and the City of Parramatta
– CEO of Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, and Chair of Trustees
– Representatives from Australian, NSW and International Museums and Galleries Councils, and the National Trust.
To read details, refer to the committee’s website here:
Cover page for links to Submissions,Hearing Schedules and Transcripts: Read more
The Schedule of speakers for hearing on 29 July: Read more
23 July, 2020
‘Fleet Street Heritage Precinct a better option for proposed Parramatta Powerhouse’
Michael McLaren, on radio 2GB, ‘is joined by Kylie Winkworth, museum and heritage consultant, who says the proposed Parramatta Powerhouse should be moved to a more suitable location to better embrace the city’s culture while protecting heritage sites – the 1870s-era Willow Grove villa and St George’s Terrace, built in 1881 – which are currently destined for demolition. Ms Winkworth says building a museum in the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct at North Parramatta could tap into “deep community pride of place” by celebrating local culture and history. “If the new museum was in the Fleet Street precinct, there is (also) an opportunity to propose adding the 1818 Greenway Female Factory to the World Heritage List of serial convict sites,” she says. Ms Winkworth adds that a World Heritage listing would prove a boost for international tourism.’ Listen here: Read more
22 July, 2020
Weeping over fate of Willow: Heritage villa to go for ‘jewel-in-the-crown’ museum
James O’Doherty reports in the Daily Telegraph that: ‘The proposed Parramatta Powerhouse should be moved to a more suitable location to better embrace the city’s culture while protecting heritage sites currently up for demolition …The 1870s-era Willow Grove villa and St George’s Terrace, built in 1881, are slated for demolition to make way for the planned museum at an old car park site by the Parramatta River. But museum and heritage consultant Kylie Winkworth yesterday said the museum should be moved to the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct at North Parramatta. Ms Winkworth said building a museum there could tap into “deep community pride of place” by celebrating Parramatta’s culture and history. “If the new museum was in the Fleet Street precinct, there is (also) an opportunity to propose adding the 1818 Greenway Female Factory to the World Heritage List of serial convict sites,” she said.’
O’Doherty adds: ‘A parliamentary inquiry is next week set to probe the Government’s decision to build a second museum in Western Sydney, after it backtracked on an election commitment to move the original Powerhouse from Ultimo to Parramatta. Of the almost 150 submissions to that inquiry, many opposed the Government’s original plans.’ But, ‘The Government is forging ahead with its plan to build a “jewel-in-the-crown” museum on the site. Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee said the benefits of the Parramatta Powerhouse would outweigh keeping the buildings.’ Read more or: 22 July Daily T – O’Doherty
17 July, 2020
‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum saved from sell-off, but debate rages on’
In The Art Newspaper, London-based Hannah McGivern writes about how the: ‘NSW government scraps controversial billion-dollar relocation plan but faces questions from community groups and parliament.’ She says, ‘A surprise decision by the New South Wales government to cancel a fiercely controversial relocation of Sydney’s 140-year-old Powerhouse Museum has been hailed as a victory for community campaigners. But arts figures and local residents who contested the A$1.1bn ($770m) plan to demolish the museum’s current 1988 building in the city centre and create a new venue in a western suburb say the battle is not over yet.’
McGivern succinctly documents the process of the government’s change of mind, and also summarises the many concerns about what still has to be decided about the future of both sites, in Ultimo and Parramatta. She quotes representatives from Government, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, Save the Powerhouse, the North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group and local media reports, saying ‘…campaigners say their core demands for the government remain unanswered, including an overdue funding boost for the museum and a full community consultation over the culture hub proposed for Parramatta,’ and that ‘A parliamentary enquiry due to begin at the end of July is set to bring further scrutiny on the government’s handling of the Powerhouse Museum and other NSW cultural projects. A 2016-19 enquiry urged the state to abandon the relocation project, concluding in a final report that it was “based on poor planning and advice, a flawed business case and insufficient community consultation”.’
Read more or: 17 July Art Newspaper
9 July, 2020
‘…what a difference a week makes!’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald writes: ‘Pardon the cliché, but what a difference a week makes! The previous newsletter anticipated a long, bitter fight to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, but on Saturday morning I was amazed to hear that the government had backed down from their “non-negotiable” stance and decided the PHM should stay where it is.
Almost immediately, Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, and re-instated Arts Minister, Don Harwin, were strolling around the Powerhouse, praising the “passionate” campaigners and museum staff for their efforts in derailing the government’s corrupt, madcap scheme! In this new, alternative universe the government was tremendously happy with the outcome, which would leave greater Sydney with two world-class venues rather than one…’. ‘When the euphoria had died down, those “passionate” campaigners began to scrutinize the lack of detail in what we had just heard. There is, to date, no guarantee that the heritage properties of Willow Grove and St. George’s Terrace will be preserved. Neither is there any suggestion that the proposed double milk crate on a flood plain will be abandoned or altered in any way. There is still no sight of a coherent museum strategy for NSW, let alone Parramatta, and no commitment to consultation with the community or with anybody who has actual experience of the way museums work…The dim outlines of a plan have been announced which reframes Ultimo as a “fashion and design” centre while Parramatta becomes the home of science and technology. This would trash the historical identity and uniqueness of the PHM as a museum of applied arts and sciences. It also leaves the door open to moving the heavy objects – the trains, engines, space vehicles, planes, etc – that should not be moved because of their relevance to the existing site, their fragility, and the outlandish expense involved. Finally if the Ultimo site is to become the home of “fashion and design”, it’s a small step to discover it’s too big for such a task. Then, lo and behold, the idea of selling off part of the site to commercial developers will be revived.’
‘After the victory lap it seems there’s still plenty to be worried about. Ironically the government’s stubbornness, secrecy and downright dishonesty has been directly responsible for the creation of the volunteer group, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, which was able to mobilise massive public anger against a terrible plan …Some campaigners believe it’s important to thank the Premier for the backflip with triple pike on the PHM, but it’s pretty clear she won’t be swayed by positive reinforcement. Gladys backed down because of pressure, not through a sudden rush of enlightenment. Experience has shown this government doesn’t need to be thanked, it needs to be watched. Read More: John McD 9 July
9 July, 2020
‘…here’s our take on what could, and more importantly what CAN’T happen’
Save the Powerhouse lobby group, in an email and on Facebook, identified some critical issues about the Government’s recent decision to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and provide another institution in Parramatta, saying: ‘…here’s our take on what could, and more importantly what CAN’T happen.’
‘To recap, the Government’s original project to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta was supported by a (highly dubious) business case. It was withdrawn on 4 July 2020. So whatever new project the Government (and the MAAS team) want to pursue in Parramatta, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for “Powerhouse Parramatta”, currently on exhibition, is now clearly invalid and inapplicable and should be cancelled immediately, since it describes a project (ie moving the PHM to Parramatta) which the Government has dropped. To be legitimate, they must now start the process all over again, with a new business case that must follow, and be based on, extensive and transparent community consultation.
Equally, any future project in Ultimo, including the creation of Harwin’s rumoured dream – a “fashion centre” – that would involve altering the Turbine and Boiler halls and/or remove large objects from these halls and/or alter the Harwood building’s collection storage and curation facilities CANNOT be pursued without a valid business case including genuine, documented community consultation. Clearly, it is time for the Government to wipe the slate clean, and re-think the whole operation.’
Save the Powerhouse provides points to consider, when reviewing plans for both Ultimo and Parramatta, making reference to both the upcoming Second Inquiry with its first hearing on 29 July, and on submissions to the EIS statement, and say: ‘We do not believe that any of these steps can be carried out under the current management team and Trustee Board.’ Read more or: 9 July Save the Powerhouse
8 July, 2020
‘How the Powerhouse was saved’
Judith White writes in her Culture Heist blog, ‘The fight to save the southern hemisphere’s finest museum of applied arts and sciences and its priceless 500,000-object collection has achieved a decisive victory. For more than five years a dedicated group has campaigned against one of the State Government’s barmiest ever projects – the “relocation” of the Powerhouse to Parramatta.’
She traces the origins of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance group, and refers to long Upper House Inquiry of 2016-19, saying: ‘The Inquiry confronted a wall of secrecy from the NSW Government. Its report, delivered last year, recommended that the move should not proceed, but it was brushed aside by Arts Minister Don Harwin. Premier Berejiklian also disregarded expert advice, insisting as late as 31 May 2020 that the plan would go ahead.’
‘By then a second Upper House Inquiry had been called, and again submissions were overwhelmingly for keeping Ultimo and building a new museum for the West. Kylie Winkworth analysed the design brief for Parramatta to reveal that it could not possibly house the jewels of the collection; it would be more an events venue than a museum. With the great turbine and engine halls at Ultimo due to be closed for good on 30 June, and the collection about to be scattered to the winds, the wave of opposition became a tsunami: professional bodies of architects and engineers, international museum organisations and community groups were on board. The offices of Premier Berejiklilan and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, and of the city’s newspapers, were swamped with outraged letters.
White documents speeches by on 2 July by key people at media gatherings in Ultimo, and also in Parramatta, where a ‘green ban’ was placed on the demolition of historic buildings: ‘Next day, Don Harwin, close ally of Premier Berejiklian, slipped back into Cabinet and into the Arts portfolio following the withdrawal of his COVID restrictions fine; and the day after that came the announcement of the backflip. The U-turn was part of Berejiklian’s deal with Treasurer Perrottet, the premier-in-waiting, to bring back Harwin, her ally and his factional foe. Perrottet had become alarmed at the mounting costs; Harwin was watching mounting opposition to his pet project. Alternative opportunities would have to be found for the developers waiting to pounce on Ultimo.’ White says: ‘There are four principal lessons from the fight for the Powerhouse.
First, arts and cultural policy cannot be made by developers, boards stacked with political cronies, financial consultants and servile planning departments. It requires the input of the kind of professionals who have been instrumental in saving the Powerhouse.
Second, arts and cultural organisations, their boards and directors need a greater degree of independence from ministerial interference in order to flourish.
Third, at a time when public trust in parliaments is at an all-time low, select committees have an important role to play in holding governments to account.
Fourth and most importantly: when communities are mobilised with the involvement of people of knowledge, governments can be rolled back from acting against the public good.
This victory provides a rare opportunity to celebrate.’ Read More: Judith White 8 July 2020
6 July, 2020
In the face of green bans and protests, Powerhouse Museum rethinks future
Gina Fairley writes in ArtsHub that: ‘Plans for the sale of the Powerhouse Museum’s Ultimo site back-flipped over the weekend, as protests escalated around its imminent closure and green bans were imposed on the new Parramatta site. After six years of protest and various Parliamentary Inquiries since the idea was first introduced by the Baird Government in 2014, the dismantling of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, to accommodate a move west to Parramatta, took a dramatic turn around over the weekend. The surprise announcement by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and a recently reappointed Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, on Saturday, 4 July, was welcomed by the sector, especially the Powerhouse Museum Alliance – which has long advocated for the relocation decision to be reversed… Gladys Berejiklian’s government has said it will abandon plans to sell the Ultimo property, and will now use the Parramatta site as a secondary Powerhouse location… In a formal statement over the weekend (4 July), Powerhouse CEO, Lisa Havilah and President of the Museum of Applied Arts and Science (MAAS) Trust, Professor Barney Glover AO said they welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement that the Powerhouse Ultimo site would be retained, with the new Powerhouse Parramatta to also go ahead… The NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has placed a green ban on the site of the proposed Powerhouse Parramatta on 30 June, adding industrial weight to the grassroots campaign to save two state heritage listed buildings. “If the Berejiklian government wants work on the museum to proceed they need to sit down with the local community, listen to what they say and come up with a plan that preserves these buildings,” Darren Greenfield, the union’s NSW secretary told Architecture Australia.
The Premier, who has been acting in the position of Arts Minister for the last few months, has failed to step up to celebrate and support the value of the arts despite the troubles afflicting the sector. Her abrupt about-face on the Powerhouse’s Ultimo site suggests she remains out of touch with the sector, resorting to an 11th hour escape route with mounting pressure as her government more broadly supports building and development.’
Read more or: Arts Hub 6 July 2020
4 July, 2020
See PMA Facebook, below: The Powerhouse Museum Alliance celebrates!
Powerhouse Museum Alliance
After rallies in Ultimo on 18 June and 2 July, the announcement to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo was made on 4 July. Upper House Inquiry deputy chair David Shoebridge, and MP Jamie Parker, organised a hasty celebration on 4 July. For photos: see Powerhouse Museum Alliance Facebook page. Also on this site are posts from Parramatta groups who want to consider different options.
4 July: PMA Facebook
Read here: 5 July at 15:45 ·
4th of July! Powerhouse version of Independence Day?
A group of very happy people came together to celebrate the just-announced decision to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. It was understood that much needs to be done to strongly re-establish it in Ultimo, and to make the best decisions for an appropriate cultural institution in Parramatta. But here, everyone – and the hundreds and hundreds of supporters who have been calling in from all over Australia – and the world – are all smiling!
4 July: PMA Facebook:
Read here: 5 July at 14:42
A rewarding celebration about the just-received news that the Powerhouse Museum would stay in Ultimo, and that Parramatta would have its own institution. Thank you, MPs David Shoebridge (who initiated the celebration) and Jamie Parker – and many supportive MPs – for your involvement in encouraging change.
30 June: PMA Facebook
Rally in Ultimo: ‘Media call for Powerhouse Museum’
Read here: 2 July at 10:05 ·
On 30 June, what was to be the last day for visiting the ‘heritage core’ of the Powerhouse Museum (now extended to late 2020) the Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a meeting with news media on the museum’s forecourt. A strong crowd of supporters, most with a long association with the museum, heard speakers Jennifer Sanders (former deputy director), Professor David Miller (an engineering specialist), Clive Lucas (restoration architect) and Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain. (See attached photos)
For all speeches at this rally site, as well as the Green Bans heritage rally in Parramatta, watch Channel 7 here: Read more
18 June: PMA Facebook
‘Powerhouse Museum Alliance media call’
Read here: 18 June at 16:45 ·
The Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a media call on the forecourt of the Museum at 11am on Thursday 18 June. Many people wanted to attend but numbers had to be kept below 20 because of COVID-19 safety regulations. Speakers were Jennifer Sanders (PMAlliance), Suzette Meade (North Parramatta Residents Action Group) and Jamie Parker (Greens MP, Balmain) while others were available for interviewing. They discussed points that have been agreed over some years: leave the museum in Ultimo in its longstanding role in a cultural and educational precinct; provision of a site in Parramatta more appropriate for its own audiences; concerns for heritage buildings in both locations; concerns for the safety and management of the collection; apprehension about the inadequacy of the design plans for the ‘iconic’ new museum for collection-based exhibitions; observations that the program proposals for Parramatta are to do with entertainment and that it will not be a ‘museum’ as we know it; concerns about the exorbitant cost of relocation, especially at this time when so many communities need support. We look forward to responses from government!
7 July, 2020
‘Saving Powerhouse is welcome but big questions remain’
The Editorial Opinion in the Sydney Morning Herald summarises some of the continuing questions about the government’s welcome announcement, saying: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian deserves credit for keeping open the Ultimo branch of the Powerhouse, but now that the decision has been made, many questions about the future of the city’s museums remain. Instead of closing the museum and transferring it to a new facility in Parramatta, Ms Berejiklian, her Treasurer Dom Perrottet and newly returned Arts Minister Don Harwin announced on Saturday the Ultimo site would remain open and share its extensive collection between both sites. It certainly took guts for Ms Berejiklian to shelve the plan on which her government has already spent five years and $46 million in consultants’ fees. Some say the decline in the property market in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was the main reason for the change of heart because it would have been harder to sell the Ultimo site to developers to pay for the new building.
But it’s more likely that Ms Berejiklian has yielded to mounting popular opinion across the political spectrum against closing the much-loved complex, which includes the city’s former powerhouse and tram sheds and was converted to a museum as a Bicentennial project in 1988. That campaign picked up steam in recent weeks as the closure date loomed and problems inherent in the project became more obvious.
As a result of a call for papers by the ALP and the crossbenchers in the upper house of NSW Parliament, the public has learnt how much damage closing the Powerhouse would have caused to Sydney’s cultural landscape. The plan contemplated dispersing the unique science and technology collection – including steam trains, vintage race cars, planes and trams – to various specialist regional museums. It emerged that the new Parramatta site might not be able to accommodate about 15 of the largest and best exhibits. Since the new museum will take at least four years to build, Sydney would have been left without a science museum until 2024.
Last week, building unions placed a green ban on the Parramatta site because the design involves demolishing the heritage-listed Willow Grove and a row of houses at St Georges Terrace. The noise around the project was a continuing distraction for the government. Yet while the Herald fully supports the decision to change course, it is clear the Berejiklian government still has work to do to explain where it is heading. Read more or: SMH Editorial 7 July
7 July, 2020
‘In Sydney’s west we know all about getting a good haircut, and the Powerhouse backflip fits the bill’
Andy Marks, Assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University, writes critically in the Sydney Morning Herald about the decision not to move the Powerhouse Museum: ‘We’re used to a good haircut in western Sydney. But the one our friends to the east just gave us is an absolute beauty. At the very moment the world is re-thinking its “ownership” of culture, history and artifice, inner Sydney deemed that western Sydney – the country’s fastest-growing and most culturally diverse region – could not be trusted as primary custodians of a bold new Powerhouse.’ [He appears not to acknowledge local opinions about alternatives that might focus on Parramatta!}
Read more or: Andy Marks SMH 7 July
5 July, 2020
‘Powerhouse Ultimo wing tipped for fashion, design precinct’
Linda Morris and Caitlin Fitzsimmons report in The Sun-Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian government has been looking to split the Powerhouse collection and its disciplines between Ultimo and Parramatta as part of a business case for a creative precinct at the museum’s inner-city location… A briefing document obtained by The Sun-Herald shows planning under way for the Powerhouse Fashion and Design Museum within a fashion and design precinct. Returned to their original industrial aesthetic, the renovated heritage halls of the Boiler House, Turbine Hall and Engine House would be used for ticketed and free contemporary exhibitions and public events. Next door, the Harwood Building was to be used as Fashion and Design Creative Industries Hub with offices, studios, workshops, fashion and design markets.’
However, ‘The document predates the government announcement to keep the Powerhouse Museum open at Ultimo. Its idea to isolate the museums into centres of excellence cuts across the idea of a multi-disciplinary collection. It is understood that the document could be the blueprint for a revamped Powerhouse at Ultimo.’
‘An upper house inquiry into the disputed project would not be abandoned despite the welcome announcement, Greens MP David Shoebridge said. “It’s a clear victory for the Powerhouse but there are many unanswered questions,” he said. “This is why the ongoing upper house inquiry continued to be essential.” … Museum consultant and opponent of the relocation Kylie Winkworth welcomed the change of heart but said the energies of campaigners to save the Powerhouse at Ultimo would be redirected if the museum’s very large objects were moved and proper funding was not given for the museum’s renewal. It’s not known if the emblematic objects of the steam age, including Locomotive No.1 will be kept at Powerhouse Ultimo.’
Read more or: Linda M -Caitlin F – SMH5 July
5 July, 2020
‘Berejiklian’s Powerhouse backflip a crowd-pleaser for east and west’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Berejiklian government’s stunning change of heart to keep the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is a crowd-pleaser. The museum at Ultimo lives another day to re-emerge as a centre for fashion and design, and so do its curators and conservators. Western Sydney gets its cultural trophy as the museum’s new headquarters and the museum’s chief executive Lisa Havilah is free to put her own signature on a modern museum a plus multi arts and culture venue.’ She adds: ‘Crucially, the decision potentially buys the government easier relations with the upper house crossbench. The Christian Democrats supported the relocation but the Greens, One Nation’s Mark Latham and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party were opposed. None more so than the Shooters’ Robert Borsak who stalked the case for relocation with all the patience and cunning of a big game hunter. It was the upper house, led by Borsak and Greens MP David Shoebridge and backed by Labor, that ordered the release of sensitive documents revealing plans to disperse the collection, and the blow-out in the construction timetable for the Parramatta Powerhouse.’
As well, ‘There are still worries about the flood design of the Parramatta Powerhouse and the fate of the two heritage buildings earmarked for demolition on the Parramatta riverside…A green ban could potentially drive up the cost of the museum if major construction companies decline to tender to sidestep a row with union workers.’ Read more or: Linda M SMH 5 July
5 July, 2020
‘For once, the right decision has been made for the future of our wonderful city’
Former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, Leo Schofield, writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Make no mistake, the retention of the Powerhouse in Ultimo is a landmark moment in the cultural history of New South Wales. It is an occasion not for triumphalism but for quiet celebration that sanity and vision have won out over political opportunism. Equally welcome is the parallel decision to give the good people of western Sydney a cultural institution of their very own, one that reflects their remarkable history, their interests and their ambitions. For those of us who opposed the so-called “move” or “relocation”, it was never a question of either one of the other. Museums are about collections, and in the Powerhouse’s astonishing, eclectic holdings there are enough objects to fill two major museums and, in the future, half a dozen specialist satellite institutions.’
He recalls the work behind the project of developing the Powerhouse site in Ultimo: ‘Excitement about the project was universal. When the main museum officially opened in 1988, there followed a rush of donations, funded acquisitions and a tsunami of awestruck visitors… Now is the time for all of us to ensure this beloved 140-year-old institution, with its ineradicable memories, will make a magnificent comeback.’ Read more or: Leo SMH 4 July
4-5 July, 2020
‘U-turn on Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum a win for common sense’
Henry Ergas, in the Weekend Australian, says: ‘The decision not to shut Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is a victory for common sense and for the preservation of Australia’s history. And although no promises have been made, so too is the state government’s announcement that it will examine if the funds that were to be spent on relocating the museum’s priceless artefacts can be used to renovate the Powerhouse’s current premises in Ultimo. An important feature of Sydney’s landscape since 1893, the museum houses one of the world’s finest collections of materials relevant to the applied arts and sciences in an outstanding building that was designed to meet the collection’s exacting needs… The decision to move that collection to Parramatta in Sydney’s west was never based on proper analysis…At no point was the goal being pursued coherently set out; the cost-benefit analysis was riddled with errors; and the successive plans were entirely inconsistent with the promises being made. The only certainties were that costs were consistently underestimated and likely patronage overstated. Far from preserving the collection’s integrity, the transfer would have compromised it, perhaps fatally…
All those who care about Australia’s cultural heritage can therefore breathe a sigh of relief… But more needs to be done. If the Powerhouse is to fulfil its potential, it must have substantially better governance than it has had in recent years. And the museum desperately needs funding to renew the display spaces and to strengthen its education and outreach capabilities.’
Read more or: H Ergas -Aust 4-5 July
4 July, 2020
‘Premier to power up two museums’
on-line as: ‘Premier backflips over Powerhouse move ‘
Anna Caldwell writes in the Daily Telegraph: ‘Gladys Berejiklian has backflipped on an election promise to move the Powerhouse Museum from the CBD to Western Sydney, instead bowing to inner city pressure to fund two museums.’ Caldwell discusses issues of costing , audience access, employment and heritage. Read more or: Anna C DT 4 July
4 July, 2020
‘Gladys Berejiklian’s monumental backflip on Powerhouse Museum’
Yoni Bashan writes in The Australian, writes: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has dumped plans to move Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to the city’s western suburbs, in a billion-dollar backflip on a key election promise as she scrambles to quell a backbench revolt following Don Harwin’s resurrection as arts minister. Despite years of defending the project as worthy of public spending, Ms Berejiklian will announce on Saturday that the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences will remain at its current site in inner-city Ultimo while a new “state of the art” facility will be planned for western Sydney.’ Bashan adds: ‘Senior members of Ms Berejiklian’s cabinet have been strident in their criticism. They have branded the project as wasteful and argued the funding would be better spent on infrastructure projects in regions that have suffered from drought and bushfires… The construction union joined the chorus of voices against the project this week, saying it would order contractors not to destroy the historic premises.’
‘The building’s design — it was to be raised on a “hyper-platform”, with a latticework design — has not escaped opprobrium either. It has been ridiculed and was described by the state opposition as a “monstrosity on stilts”. Local interest groups in the Parramatta area have also protested against the fact that its construction would have led to the demolition of two heritage-listed properties, Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.
The move was quickly interpreted by Coalition MPs as a significant capitulation to the NSW Labor opposition and crossbench parties, both of which have consistently attacked the $1.6bn relocation as a waste of money since it was mooted by the Baird government in 2014.’
Read more or: Yoni B Aust 4 July
4 July, 2020
‘Powerhouse backflip as Ultimo site saved by Berejiklian government’
Alexandra Smith writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo has been thrown an extraordinary 11th-hour lifeline and will not close but instead operate across two sites, including one in western Sydney. Five years after the move was first announced by her predecessor, Gladys Berejiklian’s government will abandon plans to sell the Ultimo property and will now use the Parramatta site as a second Powerhouse location…But the government will now explore if some of the funds earmarked for relocation costs can be used on renovating the Ultimo site.
Documents released to NSW upper house showed negotiations have been under way since last year to find temporary homes for some of the museum’s very large objects as Sydney awaits the opening of the new Parramatta site…The government’s $1.17 billion plan to demolish two heritage buildings for the Parramatta museum also hit a setback, with unions threatening to block demolition work that damages the buildings. The Parramatta environment impact statement supported the demolition of the 19th-century Italianate villa Willow Grove, formerly a maternity hospital, and a row of terraces known as St George’s Terrace. But the building and construction union, CFMEU NSW, said green bans meant no work could be done to destroy the sites.’ Read more or: 4 July A Smith SMH
4 July, 2020
‘Powerhouse museum: NSW Premier dumps plans to close Ultimo site’
The Guardian newspaper reports: ‘The New South Wales government has made a U-turn on its decision to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse museum, more than five years after the announcement was made… A joint statement from the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the state’s treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, on Saturday described the new Powerhouse at Parramatta as the “jewel-in-the-crown” for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. The existing museum at Ultimo would complement the new Parramatta centre, Perrottet said… The Parramatta lord mayor, Bob Dwyer, said he was pleased the government confirmed it was “still committed to delivering a world-class museum in Parramatta. The decision to retain the Powerhouse museum at Ultimo should not compromise the investment we were promised for an iconic cultural institution in western Sydney,” Dwyer said. Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the debate should have “never been about Sydney versus Parramatta”. “The passionate community campaign to save the Powerhouse speaks volumes to its special significance to Sydneysiders,” Greenwich said.’ Read more or: Guardian 4 July
4 July, 2020
Media release: ‘More Powerhouse for the people – NSW Government to retain Ultimo museum’
In a surprise decision late on July 4th, the NSW government has announced that the Powerhouse Museum will stay in Ultimo! A great result after nearly six years of campaigning on the part of many, many people and organisations. But it is still not clear what will happen in Parramatta.
A media release from NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, says: ‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo will continue to welcome visitors to its world renowned exhibits, with the NSW Government today announcing it will remain open and operate alongside the new state-of-the-art facility planned for Western Sydney…the decision would ensure Sydney had two world-class facilities and would provide a significant boost for the arts, tourism and employment sectors. “Sydney is a global city of more than five million people and this will allow us to provide an outstanding visitor experience in the areas of technology, science, engineering and design at two major locations,” Ms Berejiklian said.’ Read more or: Govt media release 4 July
3 July, 2020
‘Parramatta Powerhouse Museum: Council discusses EIS’
Joanne Vella reports in the Parramatta Advertiser that on 2 July: ‘A divided Parramatta Council chamber debated whether to have “one last showdown’’ with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian about saving heritage buildings to make way for the Powerhouse Museum while others believed it should “stop poking the bear’’ and welcome the “cultural icon’’. The council met on Thursday night to discuss its submission to the Environmental Impact Statement for the controversial Powerhouse project, which would see it relocate from Ultimo to the flood-prone banks of the Parramatta River.
The council has reaffirmed its support of the museum while retaining the heritage-listed Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace at Phillip St. A motion to delay the submission to the State Government until the council could hold a meeting with Premier Gladys Berejiklian was lost on Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer’s casting vote during an emotion-charged meeting.
“Let’s have one last showdown with the premier to explain why these buildings are so important not just for Parramatta, not just the city, but Australia,’’ Labor councillor Donna Davis said. “It’s one last chance.’’ She reminded her peers they had twice unanimously voted to retain Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace at previous meetings. But Liberal councillor Bill Tyrrell said the project, which is expected to create 3000 jobs, should proceed regardless of saving the historical gems.’… Labor’s Patricia Prociv ‘slammed the Environmental Impact Statement for failing to address “one iota’’ of Parramatta’s history “and what it means to the people of western Sydney’’. “To get this building we’re going to lose our heritage and income from a parking station (the Riverbank carpark). We are losing more than we are getting. You cannot always put value on heritage.” Read more or: J Vella Parra Adv 3 July
3 July, 2020
‘Council warns of Parramatta Powerhouse safety risk’
in print as ‘Council eyes redesign due to flood risk’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, on a meeting held by the City of Parramatta Council, following the continuing controversy about the suitability of the proposed design for the ‘new Powerhouse in Parramatta’, and their draft submission to the Environment Impact Statement for the museum. ‘City of Parramatta Council is proposing major design changes to the new Parramatta Powerhouse, warning of a safety risk to people gathered around the museum and on the riverfront during flash floods. Council officers also canvassed a name change for the museum, questioning its appropriateness given the institution will no longer occupy “a redundant power station in Ultimo” … Last night, Parramatta Council backed construction of the new Parramatta Powerhouse in a knife-edged vote last night that divided its elected councillors.
Lord mayor Bob Dwyer used his casting vote to defeat calls for council to urgently meet with the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to convince her to save two heritage buildings slated for demolition. Across the chamber, councillors agreed that the Italianate villa and former maternity hospital St George’s Terrace deserved protection. But a majority argued the city could ill afford to turn down the government’s $1.17 billion arts and culture investment at a time of economic decline and in the face of funding disparity in western Sydney… While the design had many positive elements, the council wanted the government to collaborate with it more closely. Heritage was not a “fundamental element of the design”, it said.
The EIS prepared for Infrastructure NSW has recommended the Parramatta Powerhouse proceed despite the loss of two heritage buildings, as the benefits of the culturally significant institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the community’s sense of place. A spokesperson for Infrastructure NSW said it would consider and respond to all submissions received during the public exhibition period’. Read more or: Linda Morris 3 July
1 July, 2020
‘Parramatta eatery earmarked to make way for new Powerhouse’
Following the announcement on 30 June about the Green Ban on Parramatta heritage buildings slated to be demolished for the ‘New Powerhouse’, Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘One of western Sydney’s most famous restaurants has been earmarked for potential acquisition, joining two heritage buildings also slated to make way for the new Parramatta Powerhouse.’ ‘The owners of the El-Phoenician restaurant, which is at the heart of Parramatta’s Eat Street, have been advised their business is in line to be compulsorily acquired… The fine-dining Lebanese restaurant, an institution on Church Street for 20 years, would make way for a pedestrian laneway to the new Parramatta Powerhouse.
Ratepayers would be liable for costs of the pedestrian access, with the matter likely to be raised at an extraordinary meeting of Parramatta City Council on Thursday night… Parramatta City Council Labor councillor Donna Davis raised questions about the pedestrian bridge and adequacy of evacuation exits with the Powerhouse’s chief executive officer Lisa Havilah last month. The new museum will be built on a flood-prone site and Church Street is an important exit point in the event of an emergency. “The initial response I received was that consideration was being given to a walkway access along the neighbouring Meriton site,” Cr Davis said. “A week later when I made further inquiries to officers, I was advised that one of the options could be the El-Phoenician as it links directly from the Powerhouse to Church St.” ‘
Read more or: Linda Morris SMH 2 July
1 July, 2020
‘Slap in the face’: Daughter of legendary aviator warns against Powerhouse move
Tim Barlass writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘The daughter of the famous aviator who made an epic flight from Sydney to Chile in a Catalina aircraft hanging in the Powerhouse Museum fears it will be irreparably damaged by the institution’s relocation. Gai Taylor, whose pilot father P. G. Taylor died in 1966, said the Catalina, part of Australia’s aviation history, should be protected. “I think it shows an incredible lack of appreciation, understanding and love of our aviation history,” she said…” The Herald revealed on Monday that many of the very large objects – including Locomotive No.1, race cars and trams – could be dispersed to temporary homes in regional museums when the Powerhouse is relocated to a riverside location in Parramatta. There are increasing concerns about the ability of the new museum to accommodate and protect exhibits… In 1961 Taylor presented the Catalina to the museum and in 1985 it was restored and hoisted 10 metres above the floor of the Boiler Hall to form a breathtaking centrepiece.’… ‘Dick Smith, whose round the world helicopter is in the Powerhouse, said he questioned the thinking behind the relocation. “The whole thing is a bit mysterious to me,” he said… Ian Debenham, former curator of transport at the Powerhouse, who oversaw the installation of the Catalina, said the relocation was “basically killing off the Powerhouse”. “The huge objects are just going to be a very costly logistics exercise in getting everything in and they won’t have any context when they are in there,” he said, and elaborated further on the potential risks.
Barlass also noted that: ‘About 100 people gathered outside the museum in Ultimo on Tuesday to protest against its demolition and relocation. The museum’s former deputy director Jennifer Sanders told the crowd the government needed to realise the Powerhouse belonged to the people of NSW. “We love this museum and it will not be moved. Bring it on.” University of NSW science historian Professor David Miller told the gathering the relocation “defies common sense”. “What is suggested to be done here is just ludicrous,” he said.’ Read more or: Tim B SMH 1 July
1 July, 2020
‘Bodies in front of machinery’: Parramatta Powerhouse hit by boycott
(in print as) ‘Powerhouse move hit by union boycott’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The Berejiklian government’s $1.17 billion plan to demolish two heritage buildings to make way for the new Parramatta Powerhouse has received a setback with the building and construction union, CFMEU NSW, adding its support to the public campaign to save the properties. The union of Jack Mundey, the crusading leader credited with saving The Rocks from redevelopment during the 1970s, says it will block any demolition work that damages the two historic buildings. But the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, through a spokesperson said: “Powerhouse Parramatta project will proceed. One-third of NSW’s population is in western Sydney and they deserve to have an iconic cultural institution.”
…The Parramatta Powerhouse’s Environment Impact Statement, now in the final week of public consultation, supported the demolition of the 19th-century Italianate villa Willow Grove, formerly a maternity hospital, and a row of terraces known as St George’s Terrace.The EIS found that in the Parramatta CBD, Willow Grove is “one of its kind” while St George’s Terrace is the only remaining example of a terrace row in its architectural style and their loss would have a significant impact on the community’s connection with heritage. But the report prepared for Infrastructure NSW recommended the Parramatta Powerhouse proceed as the public benefits of western Sydney’s first major, world-class cultural institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the local community’s sense of place. The union’s secretary Darren Greenfield said the green bans meant no work could be done to destroy the sites. The North Parramatta Residents Action Group said the CFMEU’s green ban on Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace was a “tremendous win”.
“Parramatta deserves a genuine museum and continued cultural funding from the State Government – but it does not need to be at the expense of more of Australia’s heritage being destroyed,” spokeswoman Suzette Meade said.’ And ‘Graham Quint, the National Trust’s director of conservation, said Parramatta should have its own distinctive museum that was not founded on the loss of one of its beloved historic buildings and one of Sydney’s cherished museums.’ Read more or: Linda Morris 1 July
1 July, 2020
‘Power up for a fight: Museum hit with green ban’
Joanne Vella writes in the Daily Telegraph: ‘A stoush over knocking down two of Parramatta’s heritage buildings to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum has escalated with the construction union placing a “green ban” on their demolition as activists threated to “put their bodies in front of machinery”. Read more
30 June, 2020
‘Sydney residents, union, vow to save heritage buildings from being bulldozed for Powerhouse Museum’
Michelle Brown writes for the ABC: ‘The construction union has weighed in to the campaign to save two heritage buildings slated for demolition to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta…. Darren Greenfield, Secretary of the CFMEU’s Construction Branch, has called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to save the properties… Suzette Meade from the North Parramatta Resident’s Action Group said people would stand firm with the union. “The Premier should be under no illusion that if a finger is laid on any of these buildings, the community of Parramatta and heritage lovers from all over New South Wales, will put themselves in front of machinery to save them.” Read more or: ABC 30 June
30 June, 2020
Rally in Ultimo: ‘Media call for Powerhouse Museum’
On what was to be the last day for visiting the ‘heritage core’ of the Powerhouse Museum (now extended to late 2020) the Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a meeting with news media on the museum’s forecourt.
A strong crowd of supporters, most with a long association with the museum, heard speakers Jennifer Sanders (former deputy director), Professor David Miller (an engineering specialist), Clive Lucas (restoration architect) and Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain.
For all speeches at both rally sites, watch Channel 7 here: Read more
Both rallies were recorded for TV news later in the day by: Channel 10 at 5pm; Channel 7 at 6pm; ABC 2 at 7pm.
30 June, 2020
Rally in Parramatta: ‘Parramatta heritage: Green Bans on demolition of heritage buildings’
At a rally in Parramatta with the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG), the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union) NSW , placed a Green Ban on the demolition of the Willow Grove and St Georges Terraces buildings, ‘earmarked for destruction by the NSW Government as part of their plans for the new Powerhouse Parramatta.’
“These Green Bans mean no work can be done to destroy these historically significant sites,” said Darren Greenfield, CFMEU NSW Secretary. “If the Berejiklian government wants work on the museum to proceed they need to sit down with the local community, listen to what they say and come up with a plan that preserves these buildings…The local community, through the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, has campaigned for years to save these two heritage buildings and they are supported by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and the Historic Houses Association. The CFMEU is proud to stand with the community in support of this important campaign. This is the first Green Ban the CFMEU has put in place since the recent passing of Jack Mundey who inspired a generation of unionists and community activists to fight for our shared built, cultural, and environmental heritage.”
CFMEU media release: CFMEU media
In the NPRAG media release, Suzette Meade, spokesperson for North Parramatta Residents Action Group, said: “For four years the community has tried to reason with Premier Berejiklian…Over this time we’ve offered solutions but they have been ignored. We will not stand by and watch as more local heritage is destroyed.”
NPRAG media release: NPRAG Media Release – Green Ban Willow Grove
For all speeches at both rally sites, watch Channel 7 here: Read more
Both rallies were recorded for TV news later in the day by: Channel 10 at 5pm; Channel 7 at 6pm; ABC 2 at 7pm.
29 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta makes economic sense’
in print as ‘Sydney’s shifted west, the Powerhouse should too’
In what is a controversial argument to most of those involved in the debate about the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, Andy Marks, assistant to Chair of Powerhouse Trustees and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Western Sydney, Barney Glover, writes in the Daily Telegraph about how ‘In 1951, the Catalina flew 13,600km from Sydney to Chile in an historic flight. Now, activists are stopping it moving 20km down the road from Ultimo to Parramatta.’… ‘With a nearly 32 metre wingspan, the Catalina is among the Powerhouse Museum’s most imposing exhibits. Aviator PG Taylor chose it for his pioneering 1951 flight from Sydney to Valparaiso, Chile… The Catalina’s next journey will be just 20 kilometres, from Ultimo to Parramatta. But it may as well be to the moon the way some critics have described the museum’s relocation: a “disaster”, “cultural vandalism”, “shameful”. He argues for the relocation of the museum as: ’At Parramatta, it will be an accessible collection for all to share; a collection that reflects greater Sydney’s shifting population,’ while ignoring many issues including responsibilities for a state institution, and the safety of collection items such as the Catalina. Read more or: Andy Marks 30 June
30 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Parramatta will be bigger and better than before’
Professor Barney Glover provides an argument for the move of the Powerhouse Museum that defies the findings of over five years of well-researched facts, figures and questions about the rationale for the move, when Parramatta people wanted something else that reflected their own interests and histories, and everyone wants the Powerhouse itself to stay where it is. He appears ignorant of the fact that it should remain accessible as a state museum; the inappropriate spaces of the proposed new museum and the inadequate and non-transparent business cases and cost blowouts; and ignores the heritage issues in both locations. As the president of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (which has no museum experts on it), and as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, his Opinion piece appears to reflect his conflicts of interest and responsibility. Read more or: Barney Glover, SMH 30 June
29 June, 2020
‘Temporary reprieve’ for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum
Alec Smart writes in City Hub, that: ‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, which faces demolition and most of its exhibits put into storage for up to five years while NSW Govt build a smaller, milk-crate-shaped alternative in Parramatta, has been granted a temporary reprieve.
Due to close on 30 June, the demand for last-minute tickets has been so high that the two primary exhibition halls in the heritage core – Transport and Steam Revolution – remain open until the end of the year.’ … ‘A Save The Powerhouse spokesperson said, “It is certainly not a victory, but it’s encouraging, and buys valuable time – to allow even more people to put even more pressure on the ‘move’ advocates in Cabinet; to allow further vigorous debate in Parliament; to enable the pending second Parliamentary Inquiry to do its work; and hopefully, to finally uncover the murky, even corrupt dealings that many suspect underpin the ‘move’ folly.” The ‘second Parliamentary Inquiry’ refers to the cross-party Select Committee currently investigating the management of Powerhouse Museum, the financial reasons for its demolition and relocation of its artefacts, and disparities in NSW Govt funding for city and regional galleries and museums.’ Amongst other issues he notes: ‘The newly released documents reveal that a feasibility study commissioned in March 2020 found at least 15 of the Powerhouse Museum’s largest objects were incapable of fitting in the new (as yet unbuilt) building’s goods lift for transportation up to their respective display spaces.’ Read more or: City Hub 29 June
Meanwhile, he cites a Save The Powerhouse advocate saying: “Remember that the Government does NOT have approved Development Applications to permit demolishing heritage buildings at either Ultimo or at Parramatta, so it is important that we send as many submissions as possible objecting to the current Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the detested Parramatta project. “The closing date is 7 July [later extended to 21 July]. You are advised to start your submission with “I object to the Parramatta project…” so that it cannot be considered as just a ‘comment’.” The address for lodging a submission is: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/26576
29 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse collection to be ‘scattered’ across NSW, plans reveal’
Linda Morris and Carrie Fellner write in the Sydney Morning Herald, that ‘Management of the Powerhouse Museum is proposing to lend steam trains, vintage race cars, planes and trams to regional museums across the state when its Ultimo site closes. Documents released by order of the NSW upper house show negotiations have been underway since last year to find temporary homes for some of the museum’s very large objects as Sydney awaits the opening of the new Parramatta Powerhouse.’
‘Locomotive No.1 could be moved to the NSW Rail Museum, in Thirlmere, from July 2021, according to an email sent last September by Julie Banks, the museum’s director of Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions. The Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus could take Sydney’s only known surviving horse-drawn trams and a Toastrack O-class tram, the most famous of all Sydney’s electric trams.’
‘[CEO] Ms Havilah said the Powerhouse regional program was about giving communities access to its incredible collection during what was an exciting phase for the institution. A final plan is expected to be announced by the end of the year.’
‘But the dispersal of the collection has prompted concern around standards for storage, display and management of these objects in regional museums and the risk of damage in transit. Among the critics of the new Powerhouse was former NSW Premier Bob Carr … “I can’t believe that there would be any other city in the world where a government would be dissolving a major museum collection built up and nurtured by its people over generations, to scatter and disperse its contents for all time,” he said. The museum’s former deputy director of collections, Jennifer Sanders, said the museum’s artefacts spoke of global industrial heritage. “These stories will be ripped apart by dispersing the museum’s Very Large Objects, imposing artefacts of our industrial heritage which embody people’s inventiveness, innovation, and creativity,” she said.
Ms Havilah said: “I can’t understand how anybody would criticise sharing our collection with our regional museums and galleries. The safety of the objects is always our top priority and any suggestion the program would disrupt the collection is an insult to the professionalism of our amazing staff….” Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in her capacity as NSW Arts Minister, and Ms Havilah did not respond to questions about the adequacy of the Parramatta facility on Sunday. They declined to address suggestions the plans appear to cater to entertainment, cafes and events over exhibitions.’ Read more or: SMH 29 June
28 June, 2020
‘Our history will be put in a storeroom’
Recording in the Daily Telegraph that ‘critics claim new Powerhouse can’t fit iconic exhibits,’ Elizabeth Fortescue identifies some of those important items, and asks where and how they can be shown safely, if at all, in the new building in Parramatta. The 1944 Catalina Flying Boat, a horse-drawn taxi-cab, and Steam Locomotive no1 are among many of concern. She sites chair of NSW Upper House inquiries, Robert Borsak, as saying: ‘…the Powerhouse at Parramatta will open with no permanent collection on display, and no on-site permanent storage. Powerhouse Parramatta will be a “fun palace” with a “strong tinge of commerciality”.’ And former deputy director of the Powerhouse, Jennifer Sanders says: ‘large exhibits that won’t fit in the Powerhouse Parramatta will be “farmed off”.’ Fortescue concludes: ‘Like many, Mr Borsak believes the move is “all about a grab for inner-city real estate” cash by the government”.’
Read More: Daily T Fortescue 28 June
Fortescue also announces, that according to Powerhouse CEO Lisa Havilah, instead of closing this coming Tuesday (June 30), as originally announced, the Museum’s Steam Revolution and Transport Halls will remain open until the end of this year: To book tickets: Read more
26-28 June, 2020
‘The Murder of the Powerhouse Museum’ (blog 26/6)
‘Silence won’t save the Powerhouse; speak up now’ (SMH 27-28/6)
Art critic John McDonald writes informatively and critically in the Sydney Morning Herald, and in a longer version in his personal blog, about the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. He writes:
‘It’s not a museum. This is not a matter of opinion, it’s not a slander being spread by critics of the project. The proposed building in Parramatta the NSW government would like us to see as the home of a ‘relocated’ Powerhouse Museum will be nothing more than an entertainment venue stuffed with cafes and reception areas. The simplest on-line definition of a museum is: “a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.” There is no storage facility in the plans for the new building, and no thought given to a permanent collection which is the very heart of the institution.’ Despite well-researched reasons for not moving the museum ‘None of this has struck a chord with Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who has declared the “move” of the Powerhouse Museum “non-negotiable”.’ He records how: ‘The entire project has been veiled in a cloak of secrecy. Volumes of expert reports have been ignored. The findings of comprehensive inquiries have been treated with disdain,’ and ‘The reasoning behind the projected “2 million” attendance is confirmation that the new Powerhouse is not intended to be a museum…The museum component has been reduced to a bare minimum, with savings made at the expense of facilities such as climate control which will severely limit loans and display options.’
McDonald then discusses some key objects and collections that may never be safely displayed again, if at all. Meanwhile: ‘Parramatta wanted an arts complex but the government, until recently, was committed to giving them a science museum. Now even that idea has been watered down into something closer to a recreation centre. The price Parramatta will pay for an unwanted, overgrown double milk crate, will be the destruction of the Victorian heritage buildings of Willow Grove and St. George’s Terrace. Instead of a building that enriches the cultural life of the city, residents will see the last remaining fragments of local heritage trashed – completing the task so spectacularly begun by the concrete behemoth of Westfield Shopping Centre.’ SMH report: Read more or: John McD 27-28 June ; for McDonald’s blog: Read more
26 June, 2020
‘’The proposed relocation … has become like a rotting carcass around the Coalition’s neck.’
(unpublished, so far…)
Robert Borsak, Chair of the Select Committee on the Government’s management of museums in New South Wales, writes of his long experience in arguing in Parliament against the move of the Powerhouse Museum, his rationale for better spending of the money, and his hope for ‘a compact with NSW to reprioritise infrastructure investment to drive economic recovery across the whole state’. He says:
‘The proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has become like a rotting carcass around the Coalition’s neck. A thought bubble for Western Sydney championed by former Arts Minister Don Harwin of Pearl Beach fame and now further decomposing in the hands of the new Arts Minister, the Premier. It has become emblematic of how this government does business – fake consultation backed by a dodgy business case that lines the pockets of their developer mates. It simply doesn’t stack up, particularly in this dire economic climate…’
‘When I travel around NSW, I see communities struggling in the face of years of drought, the recent devastating bushfires and finally COVID 19… That’s why the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party met with the Government last month to propose a new way – a compact with NSW to reprioritise infrastructure investment to drive economic recovery across the whole state, not just Sydney.
The first step was to cancel wasteful projects like the Powerhouse Museum relocation and ANZ stadium upgrade and postpone the $15 billion Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link in favour of fast tracking regional infrastructure projects…’
‘Our compact and the dreams of many in regional NSW were flatly rejected in a frankly disappointing 15 minute audience. The Premier and Deputy Premier refused point blank to budge – preferring the extravagant largesse of the Powerhouse to the real economic future of regional NSW…Our door remains open if the Government wants to work with us. It’s time regional NSW received its fair share backed by a vision and long term commitment to drive growth and prosperity into the future.’ Read more: Robert Borsak 26 June (see also: radio interview below)
21-25 June, 2020
Radio interviews: Radio 2GB
Over the last week, 2GB radio journalists Michael McLaren (Overnight: 12.00-4am; Wake Up: 4.00-5.30am Mon-Fri), and Ben Fordham (Breakfast show, 5.30-9.00 Mon-Fri), have conducted a number of well-informed interviews with significant people, critical of the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Topics have covered the destruction of a significant state museum; inadequacy of the new design and program; danger to the collection; relative inaccessibility to audiences for a state museum; lack of concern for heritage buildings; and lack of considered alternatives for Parramatta, as well as the need to properly support and invest in the Ultimo site.
Apart from the interviews, many people were able to phone in with questions and comments.
29/6 McLaren, with John McDonald (art critic and columnist) all 15 minutes
25/6: Fordham, with Ray Hadley
25/6: McLaren, with Suzette Meade (North Parramatta Residents Action Group) https://www.2gb.com/podcast/alternative-powerhouse-museum-location-ignored/
25/6: Fordham, ‘head to head’ with Geoff Lee (NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Acting Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors & Veterans, and the member for Parramatta)
24/6: McLaren, with Professor David Flint (legal academic): PHM from 5.30 – 12.50 minutes https://omny.fm/shows/overnight-with-michael-mclaren/professor-david-flint-92
24/6: McLaren, with Kylie Winkworth (museum specialist): 12-19 minutes, and phone-in comments https://www.2gb.com/podcast/wake-up-australia-24th-june/
23/6: McLaren, with Robert Borsak (chair of the Govt Inquiry into Museums and Galleries)
22/6: McLaren, with Leo Schofield (former trustee, Powerhouse Museum)
22 June, 2020
‘THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO SAVE WILLOWGROVE AND THAT IS TO OBJECT TO POWERHOUSE PROJECT TODAY’
Referring to the EIS submissions, discussed below (‘You can help shape the future…’), the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) circulated to their wide constituency, information and recommendations for how to make their objections heard. They ‘have been strongly campaigning for the past four years for the Museum of NSW to be created in the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct instead of closing the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.’ In their document they provide their rationale about their recommended alternative site. ‘This option has been provided to the government and would cost half of the current project being forced on Western Sydney.’ Read more
22 June, 2020
‘You can help shape the future of the new museum’
On its ‘New Powerhouse in Parramatta’ web page, Infrastructure NSW invites people to read the documents associated with the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) about the new building, make submissions with comments on document before it is accepted, and participate in webinair consultation sessions.
They say: ‘Powerhouse Parramatta is at an important stage of planning. You can help shape the future of the new museum’, the EIS for the Powerhouse in Parramatta is currently on public exhibition until 7 July 2020: Read more
The community webinars are planned for the following dates and times: you need to register to participate:
Saturday 27 June 2020 between 10:00am – 11:30am
Tuesday 30 June 2020 between 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Friday 3 July 2020 between 2:00pm – 3:30pm
But read the opposition: On the Museum’s Facebook page, advertising this opportunity, more than 140 strong and informed comments, all against the move, were posted in less than 24 hours: Read more
And read Kylie Winkworth’s assessment of the site and its unsuitability for this state museum: ‘The government is liquidating the assets of the Powerhouse Museum to build Carriageworks West, a multi-purpose, commercially-focussed arts and entertainment complex. The winning building design is determinedly not a museum. It is hopelessly impractical and cannot work as designed, even as an entertainment centre.’ Winkworth PHM Size does Matter June 2020
21 June, 2020
The Powerhouse’s ‘Farcical move’
With the ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’ on exhibition on-line for public comment until 7 July, Greater Sydney Community asks on its Facebook page: ‘please take the time to make a submission; either long or short is OK…To view the relevant files and plans: https://bit.ly/majorprojectswebsite A ‘Quick Guide’ to assist making a submission is available courtesy Save Willow Grove coalition: (See two page simple guideline on how to do this https://bit.ly/3e8R9qL ).’
They draw attention to recent newspaper articles (see PMA entries below also) condemning the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum, saying ‘It looks like a long winter for the government as public anger grows over the Premier’s decision to push ahead with the Powerhouse’s relocation to a flood-prone site at Parramatta. In the latest news, government papers indicate the opening date for ‘Powerhouse Parramatta’ has blown out to 2025, with unforeseen costs also hitting the budget.’ They cite Linda Morris slamming it ‘as an entertainment pleasure palace, sucking up increasing amounts of Treasury revenue and public goodwill’ rather than a museum: https://bit.ly/3hJ6rEK , and Henry Ergus saying the demolition of historic buildings, and lack of storage space: ‘that failure is merely a symptom of a decision-making process that has been flawed from the outset: https://bit.ly/3fHWeXh They remind readers that the relocation is: ‘The subject of a second Parliamentary Inquiry that’s now underway https://bit.ly/PHMinquiry and that Chair, Robert Borsak describes the Powerhouse relocation, as ‘emblematic of how this government does business – fake consultation backed by a dodgy business case that lines the pockets of developers. In the meantime, planner Mike Brown describes the project as ‘a re-run of the Monty Python “dead parrot” sketch…and calls for ‘project delivery motivations to be ‘elevated from “what we can plausibly get away with” to “what is the most that we can achieve for Sydney”.’ https://bit.ly/3hJ6rEK For full Facebook page: Read more
21 June, 2020
‘Government barges ahead with cultural destruction’
Leo Schofield, former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, writes in the Sun-Herald: ‘We are about to witness one of the most shameful acts of cultural vandalism in the history of this country. On June 30, the NSW government will shut down to the public the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, where it has existed as both a landmark and an attraction for 134 years, and gradually demolish it to make way for sale of the site to a preferred developer…This operation has, in my opinion, been deliberately and falsely described as a “relocation”. It is no such thing.’ After discussing in detail six years of public opposition including petitions and an inquiry whose report was rejected by government, and pursuit of other destructive projects, he says: ‘The government barged ahead anyway. Not even a pandemic has been able to deflect the Premier from this disastrous, profligate course of action. To the current government nothing is sacred, no beautiful sandstone buildings, no open spaces, nothing that can’t be swiftly monetised. …But these failures pale into insignificance beside the Powerhouse “relocation”, which is not only physically and environmentally disastrous but also culturally destructive.’…
‘Deaf to argument, blind to a need for fiscal sobriety and dumbly reciting her pro forma mantra, the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has declared the Parramatta move to be a project of state significance without giving a single good reason why it should jump the queue in front of social housing, schools, hospitals and regional cultural centres. We are now up to Business Case Four and have yet not sighted cogent description of the proposal or a plausible cost-benefit analysis that might justify the risible claim of 1 million visitors a year to Parramatta. …The chosen site in Parramatta is manifestly unsuitable. It is flood prone. There is no room for expansion as none is contemplated. When throughout the world, cultural institutions are expanding into satellite spaces, repurposing old buildings or creating new homes for expanding collections – we are shrinking them…’ Furthermore, ‘The public still has no idea of what is imagined for Ultimo or, for that matter, for Parramatta where the current chief executive – whose expertise is confined to the world of contemporary visual arts and who has no significant experience with museums – paints only the fuzziest picture of her vision. Which is perhaps why it is shaping up to be another Carriageworks…The inescapable fact is that apart from Berejiklian and the Mayor of Parramatta, there is little or no support for the scheme. There is however unequivocal enthusiasm for something in Parramatta that does not involve the obliteration of the Powerhouse in Ultimo.’ Read more or: Leo S Sun-H 20 June Listen also to interview with Leo Schofield on Radio 2GB 22 June: https://www.2gb.com/podcast/the-destruction-of-the-powerhouse-museum/
21 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse push slammed as more “pleasure palace” than museum’
Linda Morris writes in the Sun-Herald: ‘On June 30 the curtain will come down on the Catalina flying bird, the largest suspended plane in any museum in the world, Australia’s best collection of working steam engines and the train destination board that stood for 76 years at Central Station. The heritage halls of the Powerhouse Museum are to shut, the museum’s purpose-built galleries housing the Locomotive No 1 and the Boulton and Watt steam engine to close 12 months later… To its opponents including former and current staff, heritage and museum experts and advocates, the new Powerhouse will not be a museum at all, more an entertainment pleasure palace sucking up increasing amounts of Treasury revenue and public goodwill… ‘
‘This week thousands of documents were released by parliamentary order of Upper House MLC’s David Shoebridge and Robert Borsak ahead of a fresh inquiry into the Powerhouse’s $1.17 billion relocation – the same select committee that urged the Powerhouse be kept in Ultimo and western Sydney be given its own institution. Together the documents show that in mission and practice, the Parramatta Powerhouse will be much different from the institution it replaces.’…‘Refinement continues even as the Environment Impact Statement this month controversially recommended the demolition of Parramatta’s heritage sites Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. Missing from the 17 boxes of documents is the 2020 business plans developed by the Berejiklian government justifying the redevelopment of Ultimo and the building of the new Powerhouse. The architectural plans confirm the Powerhouse will open with no permanent collection display, no dedicated spaces for museum exhibitions and no on-site permanent storage for its vast collection. The collections team will be based at the museum’s Discovery Centre at Castle Hill which is to be expanded for the museum’s 500,000 collection items and it is where exhibitions will be built.’
Morris cites explanations from Museum CEO Lisa Havilah about the proposed flexible use of space, but notes that documents show that for design teams, ‘Already compromises have been made around the public floor space of the presentation spaces’, and inadequate climate control systems. And in Ultimo: ‘Staff giving the last tours are asking if it has to happen: why not leave Ultimo open until there is something built-in Parramatta? “Not one visitor has said they agree with the move,” says one. “In fact, overwhelmingly it is the opposite. The museum has provided visitors with beautiful, memorable experiences for literally generations, and the next generation will not have this family experience.” There have been tears from visitors and staff, they say: “All share a common mourning. The cold and unnecessary – and preventable – death of a perfectly healthy family member.” ‘ Read more or: Linda Morris Sun-H 21June -1
21 June, 2020
‘Parramatta Powerhouse opening delayed’
Linda Morris writes in the Sun-Herald: ‘Construction of the Parramatta Powerhouse is unlikely to finish before 2024, three years after the Ultimo building closes its doors, according to documents obtained by parliamentary order. The documents also disclose that the design team has been searching for ways to install Locomotive No 1 and other oversized steam engines and aircraft from its collection in the new museum. The Berejiklian government was forced to release thousands of documents this week around planning for the new Parramatta Powerhouse, the Ultimo creative precinct, and the fate of the museum’s very large objects. Upper House crossbenchers, including the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, united with Labor to enforce a call of papers ahead of new hearings into the $1.17 billion relocation project. The project’s timetable reveals the government is working towards ministerial approval for the new site by December, with a builder to be procured early next year and construction to wrap up sometime in 2024.’
Of considerable concern is: ‘A feasibility study commissioned in March confirmed at least 15 of the museum’s largest objects would not fit in the new building’s goods lift. This includes most of its steam engine collection, including NSW’s first train, railway carriages, its tram, helicopter, and the train indicator board that stood at Central Station directing passengers for 76 years…. Labor’s treasury spokesperson Walt Secord said the struggle to relocate the 26-tonne locomotive showed how farcical the business of moving the Powerhouse’s collection had become. “Documents show that it will cost almost a half-million dollars to simply lift the locomotive into the new Powerhouse. That is just crazy and shows that no due diligence was taken when they promised to relocate the locomotive…”.
A spokesperson for Infrastructure NSW would only say that “a timeframe for construction will be confirmed when planning approval is received and a building contractor is appointed”. One planning timetable shows the government factoring in delays this year around the cooperation of Parramatta City Council, a possible interim heritage order on the two historic sites scheduled for demolition at Parramatta, and community opposition around any fast-tracked demolition process. In March, Paris-based architects Moreau Kusunoki said concept designs for the Powerhouse, due in July and necessary before construction proceeds, were unlikely to be completed until late September. Read more or: Linda Morris Sun-H 21 June-2
20-21 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum will run out of puff in Parramatta’
Elizabeth Farrelly writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, about the forthcoming loss of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and the impact on significant collection items – and audiences: ‘Steam. Twenty-five years ago, when the Powerhouse was at its height – which is to say, properly funded and energised – you could bowl in off Harris Street and watch something astonishing. Standing centimetres from the immense, hissing and chugging 1785 Boulton and Watt steam engine, you could watch its great piston slide, its beam-arm pivot and its levers swing, forcing the massive flywheel into 20 smooth and relentless revolutions a minute.’ And ‘There’s a further level of poetry in the fact that the 1988 adaptive re-use of the old Ultimo Tramway Power House, designed by government architect Lionel Glendenning for the Bicentenary, specially installed a reticulated steam system, run from the old boiler house, to drive the dozen or so steam machines in its collection. After 30 years of neo-Liberal penny-pinching, such government investment in just making the city a more vivid and interesting place looks just as astonishing as the machine itself. Like, governments do that? Not anymore, apparently. Now, after decades of funding starvation and curatorial reductions, the Powerhouse is scheduled to close at month’s end, just as everything else reopens and years before any kind of replacement… It’s called a “move”, this project to reinstate the Powerhouse on the flood-prone south bank of the Parramatta River. But that’s not really accurate. The only thing that will relocate intact is the name. Everything else – building, site and priceless collection – will be broken up, separated, decontextualised, diminished, disrespected and mothballed. Part of the collection will go to Parramatta, but since every space in the new building is designed to double as an event space, the chance for any permanent display is slim.’
Farrelly concludes: ‘Despite ongoing public opposition and against the findings of at least one parliamentary inquiry, the Premier has reaffirmed her determination to proceed with the billion-dollar Powerhouse project. For that money, she could build Parramatta a proper museum on the Cumberland Hospital site, reinstate the demolished Moore Park stadium as parkland and revivify the Powerhouse. She heads a government whose only pride, it seems, is economic management. Why, then, waste taxpayer money downgrading priceless public assets? Oh for a little less hot air, a little more steam. The Powerhouse Environmental Impact Statement is open for public submissions until July 7.’ Read more or: SMH 20 June EF
20-21 June, 2020
‘Unusual suspect behind act of cultural vandalism’
Writing in The Weekend Australian, economist Henry Ergas strongly criticises the NSW Liberal government’s persistence in moving the Powerhouse Museum, saying: ‘Ten days from now, when the bulk of the Powerhouse Museum is closed down, one of the greatest acts of cultural vandalism in Australian history will be committed not by the lunatic left but by a Liberal government. Twelve months later, the remaining parts of the museum will also be shuttered, bringing to an end a presence in the Sydney district of Ultimo that began in 1893. In theory, the closure is merely part of a shift to a new museum in Parramatta. However, ever since the Baird government announced the move in 2014, the Coalition has repeatedly failed to explain its underlying rationale.’
He discusses the significance of the buildings in Ultimo, the destruction of the collection’s integrity, the inability to address the future of the museum’s large objects, lack of future adequate storage and danger in transporting objects, the risibility of the cost-benefit analysis, and the inadequacy of the proposed site and program. Ergas says: ‘With those analyses comprehensively discredited, the government has fallen back on touting the number of jobs it claims the project will create. But far from justifying its plans, the fact that a great deal of work is involved in demolishing an outstanding building and constructing one that is not ﬁt for purpose simply highlights the project’s folly. Of course, none of that has deterred the project’s proponents, including the Powerhouse’s handpicked board. They have, instead, descended into meaningless rhetoric, with the board claiming, in its latest submission to a Legislative Council inquiry, that the new museum, which is intended to champion the achievements of science and technology, will be a “hyper-platform” whose “social and cultural ampliﬁers … set a new benchmark in culturally diverse programming”.
Meanwhile, the museum’s purpose has been dramatically diluted. In 1961, it centred on exhibiting objects related to “the industrial advance of civilisation”. That objective, essentially unchanged for decades, informed the design of the current building. Now, however, the board describes the new project’s purpose as being to provide a structure that “will transcend scale to exist simultaneously as both intimate and iconic”, while exhibiting “the current state of place making through the themes of cultural anchors, resilience, disruption, identity and equity . But unending verbiage cannot disguise the fact that the museum element in the project is being downgraded as greater and greater weight is placed on what is little more than a retail and entertainment complex.’ But he also does not suggest the current museum should stay as it is: ‘As well as better governance, it clearly needs some refurbishing and an expanded budget for outreach and education. At most, however, that would involve outlays of $150m over three to ﬁve years — which pales into insigniﬁcance compared with the $1.2bn to $1.5bn the move to Parramatta could easily cost.’ Ergas argues that projects that ‘link this country’s past, present and future in a way that should be at the heart of Liberal values. Those are the values that lead Liberals to utterly reject the far left’s cultural vandals, who are intent on “cancelling” our heritage. And they are the values voters can and should expect the government of Gladys Berejiklian to uphold. It is not too late for that government to reverse a decision that shreds those values entirely. As the Powerhouse’s closure fast approaches, it needs to think carefully about which side it wants to be on.’ Read more or: Unusual suspect – The Aust-20 June
19 June, 2020
Inquiry submissions on line: Select Committee on the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in NSW
Following the extensive first Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in NSW, which produced an exemplary report that was ignored by the NSW government, a second inquiry was established as a ‘Select Committee on the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales’ on 27 February 2020. While we wait to hear when the first hearings of this Inquiry may take place, the committee’s website has posted 139 submissions so far, and it is understood that more will be added. Of these, only two so far are in favour of the move: unbelievably, the trustees of the Powerhouse Museum No87 (MAAS Trustees), and perhaps believably , the Western Sydney Business Chamber No80 (Borger). See all submissions so far here: Read more
18 June, 2020
Powerhouse Museum Alliance: Media callout
The Powerhouse Museum Alliance organised a media callout on the forecourt of the Powerhouse Museum at 11am on 18 June. Many people wanted to attend but numbers had to be kept below 20 because of COVID-19 safety regulations. Speakers were Jennifer Sanders (PMAlliance), Suzette Meade (North Parramatta Residents group) and Jamie Parker (Greens MP, Balmain) with others available for interview. They discussed points that have been agreed over some years: leave the museum in Ultimo in its longstanding role in a cultural and educational precinct; provision of a site in Parramatta more appropriate for its own audiences; concerns for heritage buildings in both locations; concerns for the safety and management of the collection, particularly significant engineering items; apprehension about the inadequacy of the design plans for the ‘iconic’ new museum for collection-based exhibitions; observations that the program proposals for Parramatta are to do with entertainment and that it will not be a ‘museum’ as we know it; concerns about the exorbitant cost of relocation, especially at this time when so many communities need support. See attached for information about speakers and other contacts, and key points provided by Jennifer Sanders.
Read more: PMA Media Event 18 June 2020
18 June, 2020
Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party: Compact with NSW government
Robert Borsak, leader of SFF party and chair of the Legislative Council Inquiry into Museums, posted information about his recent discussions with the NSW government, announcing that: ‘that SFF have offered to work with the NSW Government to help the State recover from the economic damage and hardship caused by the drought, bushfires, and COVID-19… The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) requires a detailed compact to be agreed with the NSW Government in return for parliamentary support in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council to ensure supply and passage of key policy reforms. This compact is based on the following key priorities:
• Immediate introduction of increased Parliamentary accountability measures;
• Immediate audit and reprioritisation of NSW infrastructure programs to incorporate key job creating investments in regional infrastructure; and
• New policy initiatives to help drive economic recovery in regional NSW.
Among several suggestions for key projects and initiatives that need support, he also insisted that: ‘As a gesture of goodwill in these difficult times, the Government must immediately announce the cancellation of the Powerhouse Museum relocation project,’ and that ‘This compact seeks the immediate audit of all infrastructure projects by Infrastructure NSW and other priorities to realign funding with a new vision to drive the State’s economic recovery. This will include … ‘Immediate announcement of the cancellation of the Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta and other wasteful projects that will be identified through the infrastructure audit.’ Read more and also Read more
18 June, 2020
‘Shooters in secret talks with NSW Coalition over legislative support’
Yoni Bashan writes in The Australian with the surprise news that: ‘The Berejiklian government has entered secret negotiations with the NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to form an alliance to will give the Coalition more numbers in the upper house and allow more legislation to be made into law…NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, will meet with SFF MPs on Thursday (18 June) to continue negotiating a compact drawn up by the conservative crossbench party. A spokesman for Mr Perrottet confirmed negotiations were continuing and said the NSW government was “always willing to talk to other parties and MPs to ensure the best outcome for the people of NSW”. SFF leader Robert Borsak told The Australian he was approached by Mr Perrottet last month and asked about mending the fractious relationship. According to Mr Borsak, who has voiced his dissatisfaction with the government on numerous occasions, Mr Perrottet asked for a list of projects and requests the government could address as a show of good faith.’ With reference to the economy, infrastructure spending and parliamentary accountability, ‘The SFF states throughout the document that its concerns are largely focused on regional and rural NSW…The compact calls for the immediate cancellation of the Powerhouse Museum relocation and “other wasteful projects” that can have their funding redirected to regional infrastructure. It names dam projects, hospitals, ambulance stations and funding for roads as priorities…Mr Borsak said he could never guarantee his party’s co-operation with the government on all issues, but that delivery of priority projects would soften existing tensions and ensure a more collaborative approach…The SFF holds five seats in parliament: three in the lower house and two in the upper house. The government relies on crossbench support to move bills through the upper house.’ Read more or Australian 18 June
18 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum: message of support’
Art critic John McDonald writes in his newsletter that ‘Against my own inclinations I’m at home writing this newsletter when I’d prefer to be at a rally in support of the Powerhouse Museum. The only reason I’m not in Harris Street is a promise to avoid large groups of people while the coronavirus is still active. This is, of course, one of the reasons why the NSW Government is aiming to fast-track the shut down and demolition of the museum – to take advantage of the lingering restrictions on public assembly and people’s natural sense of caution. It’s the latest disgusting tactic in an affair which will remain as an indelible blot on Australia’s cultural landscape. … I’m still staggered at the thought that the state government intend to wilfully destroy a major public asset at a cost of well in excess of a billion dollars ($2 billion would be closer to the mark) – at a time when the virus lockdown has made a mess of the economy. The clincher is that nobody apart from the Premier and few croneys actually WANTS this to happen.
The plan now is to begin to close down the museum at the end of the month and start clearing out the collection. As the new venue is not intended to open until 2025 this will mean four years in which the Powerhouse collection is inaccessible to the public. A large percentage of staff will lose their jobs at a time of economic insecurity, while those that remain will be unable to work on exhibitions and displays – and all because of the government’s desire to thwart legitimate protests.
The final indignity is that the proposed new building in Parramatta will have only 25% of the exhibition space of the current museum, which means the vast bulk of the Powerhouse’s priceless collection will never be seen – and will most probably sold off to help pay for the government’s vandalism. Nothing will compensate for the demolition of Willow Grove, one of the last remaining pieces of Victorian architecture in Parramatta, which will be another casualty of this wildly insensitive scheme. There are a thousand good reasons why this project should not proceed and the government has turned a deaf ear to all of them… The destruction of the Powerhouse museum is a major scandal, and the Opposition should be fighting tooth and nail to raise awareness and prevent this disaster. At this stage there’s no longer any time to waste.’ Read more or John McD 18 June
16 June, 2020
‘What we need is a more powerful house’
Writing for The Fifth Estate, urban planning and design expert Mike Brown says: ‘The idea of a new cultural facility for Parramatta is good. Stocking that facility with the Powerhouse collection just looks dumb. News of the post-pandemic economic fallout is steadily replacing the news of the pandemic itself.’ After discussions about cutbacks in the scope and programs of cultural institutions such as the National Library, the Australian Museum in Sydney and student enrolments in universities, he adds: ‘The NSW Greater Sydney Commission has moved to develop post-pandemic urban policy recommendations for government that focus particularly on the growth of long-term sustainable high-value jobs centred on its “three cities” urban structure.’ …‘At a more local level, the NSW premier’s post-pandemic policy position …to shelve the stadium refurbishment passed with little comment. However her commitment to recommence the pre-pandemic Powerhouse relocation project – MAAS, Museum of Applied Arts and Science – was met with public outcry… The original and now revived project was not reviled because Parramatta didn’t need more cultural infrastructure – it certainly does – but because the Powerhouse made sense and was loved in its current location. Attracting favourable public sentiment wasn’t helped when project incongruities were left unexplained. The cost and risk of exhibit relocation was reportedly exorbitant, as was the risk of damage to valuable ungainly yet fragile exhibits. Was the whole enterprise just about flogging government assets? Where is the detailed business case? Is the Powerhouse relocation the only realistic post-pandemic option here? Well, it’s all a matter of perspective; of vision, ambition and legacy.’ He concludes: ‘There is considerable conceptual distance between a reaffirmed decision to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta and the construction of facilities that contribute to Parramatta’s appeal and Australia’s role as a regional leader. Yet viewed against these larger backdrops the current relocation decision looks more like a sleazy real estate deal than a genuine attempt to build a stronger outward-looking Sydney… Henceforth, project delivery motivations must be elevated from “what we can plausibly get away with” to “what is the most that we can achieve for Sydney”.’ Read more or: FifthEstate 16 June
16 June, 2020:
‘… these questions still remain’
In its Facebook and email messages, the well-supported community group Save the Powerhouse writes: ‘In just 15 days’ time, the Berejiklian Government seems set to carry out its threat to close forever the mighty Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and the Powerhouse Museum Alliance has issued a statement that speaks for all of us: ”The Berejiklian Government has the Powerhouse Museum on death row… Australia’s best exhibitions of planes, trains, working steam engines, science and applied arts – our history – will be dismantled. These collections will never be seen together again. The Museum’s site will be sold to developers”. They remind us that ‘The Powerhouse Museum and its collections belong to the people of NSW, not the Premier …(yet) the Berejiklian Government is spending $1.5 billion to ‘move’ (=destroy!) the Museum 23kms west to Parramatta. But they are NOT building a museum.” This was confirmed by “Parra Milkcrate” architects Moreau Kusunoki & Genton in a recent video entitled “Powerhouse PRECINCT (NOT MUSEUM!) in Parramatta.” For video: Read more
Save the Powerhouse identifies some critical issues in the proposed ‘new museum’ including lack of adequate exhibition and storage space, justification of costs, and loss of jobs, and asks ‘How the construction of a multi-purpose centre in Parramatta equates to the destruction of an internationally renowned museum?’
And: ‘The eagerly-awaited 2020 Parliamentary Inquiry may yet produce some answers, and don’t forget that the June 30 closure date of the Ultimo museum is just another step along the way, NOT the end. There is still time and room to halt this shameful, pointless project – and we will. Write to your MP, the Premier and her Ministers to make your voice heard!’
Read more: Save the Powerhouse 16 June
15 June, 2020
‘Protecting jobs: PSA and Powerhouse in the IRC’
Following the announcement of imminent job losses at the Powerhouse Museum, the Public Service Association, an organisation committed to both providing job opportunities and protecting those that are under threat, writes: ‘As you would be aware the PSA lodged a dispute with the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) in relation to the pending closure of the Heritage Core part of the Powerhouse Museum. The basis of the dispute is the PSA’s view that management have not properly consulted with the PSA over the first stage Museum closure impact on employees’ jobs. The PSA estimates up to 120 employees will have their work impacted by the first stage closure’ and points out that: ‘Under s.65 of the Crown Employees (Public service Conditions of Employment) Award 2009 the employer is obliged to consult with the union on change that significantly impacts on employees.’ The PSA identifies a number of specific requests and says: ‘To date the PSA have been advised that a proposed Change Management Plan for discussion is yet to be signed by the Minister. As a result of the matter being before the IRC on 11 June the parties are to meet on 17 June and report back to the IRC on 19 June.’ Read more or: PSA 15 June
15 June, 2020
‘Costing dispute throws Powerhouse-Riverside Theatre deal in doubt’
in print as: ‘Costs stoush in Powerhouse, theatre deal’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The financial deal underpinning the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum could be in doubt with Parramatta City Council and the Berejiklian government in dispute over the costs to expand the nearby Riverside Theatres. Parramatta Council’s chief executive Brett Newman last week disclosed plans to build a performing arts centre across the river from the Parramatta Powerhouse came with no guarantee of government funding. The admission surprised councillors who had expected the government’s arts agency, Create NSW, to contribute to the theatre redevelopment under an agreement to create a cultural precinct along the river. Some councillors now want government to return the $100 million that had been set aside for the theatre renovations on its behalf out of the proceeds from its 2017 sale of the new Powerhouse Museum site. Under the Heads of Agreement signed in July 2017, council can trigger an official dispute by issuing written notice to government. If a resolution cannot be reached between the mayor and department secretary the matter goes to the relevant minister and eventually the courts. Construction of the Parramatta Powerhouse site can proceed only with an approved development application free of legal challenge and with full control over the land.’
Morris traces how the ‘Tensions between the parties date to 2017 when Parramatta Council received $140 million from the government for the parcel of riverfront land’, as well as options for the council’s 20-year arts and culture plan, including the theatre development and which parties are responsible for annual operating expenses once the theatre complex opens. ‘Some councillors want the $100 million returned to council in cash so it can renovate the theatre complex itself. They are also bristling because any expenditure of the $40 million cultural fund, including help for arts companies struggling to reestablish themselves after the lockdown, requires the consent of the arts minister…A source close to government but not authorised to speak said Parramatta had been the beneficiary of significant state investment in infrastructure including the Parramatta Light Rail, WestConnex, the Powerhouse Museum itself and Western Sydney Stadium. Any additional government contribution to Riverside would be difficult given the extraordinary impact on the state’s budget of drought, summer fires, and COVID-19, they said.’ Read more or: Costs stoush 15 June
14 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse in jobs dispute with 95 out’
Linda Morris, in the Sun Herald, announces that: ‘Management of the Powerhouse Museum has been taken to the Industrial Relations Commission in a dispute over the loss of up to 95 jobs prompted by the closure of the museum’s heritage halls. The Public Service Association alleges the Ultimo museum’s early closure, from June 30, is being carried out without proper consultation of affected staff… The PSA and Professional Officers’ Association notified the Industrial Relations Commission of a dispute on June 4, with an initial hearing convened last Thursday. They estimate 95 people will lose work, while hundreds of others face significant uncertainty following the Berejiklian government’s decision to begin mothballing the museum from June 30 – years before the opening of the new Parramatta museum.
With the Parramatta Powerhouse yet to be approved, Public Service Association assistant secretary Troy Wright said there was no reason to close the Ultimo museum unless it was to stymie opposition to a deeply unpopular project as happened with Allianz Stadium. The move comes as an internal email, headed Powerhouse Consultant budget, reported ‘‘costs to date of $45m up to the end of 2019’’. … Labor’s treasury spokesman Walter Secord said the consultants’ budget was equal to that for a new Sydney primary school. …Infrastructure NSW denied the Powerhouse Museum had spent $46 million on consultants, saying $18 million had been allocated to the museum’s relocation to Parramatta up until June 2019. This had included costs associated with the Parramatta business case, the running of the International Design Competition, and relocation logistics. This figure does not capture the full costs of the Parramatta Powerhouse’s Environment Impact Statement and planning for the redevelopment of Ultimo due this calendar year, nor the winning architect’s multi-million dollar fee.
The Powerhouse employed casual staff for a range of purposes, including supporting various exhibitions, a museum spokesperson said. Where appropriate, the Powerhouse may offer work to casual staff to relocate or digitise the collection. Neither project would likely sustain staff for a hibernation period lasting five years, Mr Wright said.’ Read more or PHM jobs dispute 14 June
13/14 June 2020
‘Parramatta should be our jewel but we’ve trashed its treasures’
In print as: ‘Parramatta could be a jewel but we trash its treasure’s
Elizabeth Farrelly writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Sydneysiders should treasure Parramatta. With her good bones, fine history and central locus, Parramatta should be a place like no other, a vivid and particular entwinement of nature and culture…Instead, we’ve largely treated her as our cesspool, chucking our dirtiest air and most cavalier attitudes her way. Now, there’s a chance to reconsider. Back when the colony was new, with a blow-in population too ignorant to grow food at Sydney Cove and too arrogant to fish from it like the locals, Parramatta saved us …Even now, Parramatta’s core plan-diagram is sweet as a nut. … Parramatta has everything a good city needs – except good government…But COVID demands we rethink…It suggests we reinstate localism, returning texture and engagement to our lives.’
Farrelly discusses types of transport, cities that are also neighbourhoods and other factors, especially: ‘It would start by taking heritage seriously, ditching a listing process that, says Councillor Donna Davis, “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”. Actually giving a damn… Transport for NSW would no longer be able, as it did on the night of May 19, to rush in under cover of darkness and demolish one of Australia’s oldest surviving pubs. The Royal Oak Hotel was built by First Fleeter William Tunks and his convict wife in 1813.’…’Secret, too, is all detail as to the precise light rail route and infrastructure. … Already, demolition is under way – on Church Street but also on the light rail’s track across the beautiful and richly endowed Cumberland Hospital heritage precinct.’
And, after citing more concerns for overdevelopment in heritage areas, she says: ‘Then there’s the Powerhouse move, which breaks apart a priceless industrial-era collection then parachutes bits of it into a billion-dollar building on a flood-prone site, destroying the lovely, Italianate Willow Grove villa and an entire heritage terrace on the way. For half the money you could adaptively re-use the glorious hospital precinct as a museum of NSW, deploying some of the state’s oldest buildings to tell its remarkable stories, from the original custodians on. It’s not too late for Parramatta to resist the slide into a mediocrity of soulless towers. Never too late to pursue your truest, most interesting self.’ Read more or: Farrelly 13-14 June
12 June, 2020
‘NSW Government takes a wrecking ball to heritage’
In her CultureHeist blog, Judith White summarises recent issues to do with the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, and the urgency of appealing to politicians to cancel the proposal. She writes: ‘The heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, Sydney, is no longer open to the public. On 30 June the NSW Government will close it for good and begin tearing the institution apart. The threatened area of the award-winning building includes the turbine hall, the engine house that is home to priceless relics of the steam-age Industrial Revolution (including the 1785 Boulton & Watt beam engine, the oldest steam engine in existence), and the boiler hall with its space, flight and transport installations… However, beginning on 1 July the Government intends to disperse the collection so that demolition can begin to make way for real estate developers who will reap huge profits from the Ultimo site.’
‘…The decision to proceed flies in the face of growing public opposition. 98.6% of people surveyed by the National Trust in May are overwhelmingly against the Government’s plan, saying that the Powerhouse and its entire collection should stay in Ultimo. The Government is also acting in defiance of last year’s report from the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and of damning evidence it heard from expert witnesses. Opponents have now deluged a fresh Upper House Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects …The bulk of submissions to the Upper House Inquiry are overwhelmingly against the plan…None of the objectors wishes to see Western Sydney deprived of cultural facilities. On the contrary, they want a more appropriate new museum built there – something that could be achieved at less than half the cost.’
As well, she observes that: ‘What the Government proposes to install at Parramatta is not a museum at all. It’s an entertainment centre. Leading museum and heritage expert Kylie Winkworth, a former Powerhouse trustee, has exposed multiple flaws in the design brief for the new building. She reveals that Parramatta will have only 25% of the Ultimo museum standard exhibition spaces, that it will have multiple entrances (a staffing and security nightmare), huge glass walls and open entrances (an air conditioning nightmare), no floors capable of supporting the large items from the collection, no conservation facilities, no adequate loading dock, a much reduced library and no secure working place for staff…It is, says Winkworth, a fantasy that “completely ignores the basic principles of museum planning”. And then, of course, there’s the well-documented risk of flooding from the Parramatta River – a disaster waiting to happen.
In Parliament meanwhile the Legislative Council faces an uphill battle to secure the release of the documents about the Powerhouse that it demanded a month ago. ..Supporters of the museum are urging people to write to both Premier Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to insist that the Powerhouse at Ultimo must remain open with its collection intact. With the “heritage core” of the museum about to be demolished, it’s an urgent request. The vandals are at the doors. Read more or: Judith White 12 June
12 June, 2020
‘The white elephants of NSW’
In the Pearls and Irritations newsletter, Alex Mitchell writes critically of wasteful government spending on unnecessary projects, saying that: ‘Recent economic policy in NSW requires the nimbleness of musical chairs. …As a result, billions of dollars have been wasted on projects that don’t stack up.’ He discusses spending on such as prisons, a desalination plant and football stadiums, where ‘public money has been squandered on projects of dubious or uncertain value…The new rationale for lavish spend is jobs, jobs, jobs. But on every major infrastructure project to date, costs have blown out without any commensurate increase in jobs: light rail, WestConnex, the Powerhouse project. How many more jobs at either of these projects? None. There are less jobs than before. An efficient public service would be able to intervene to limit the overspend. But the public service has been emasculated by the mania for getting costs off the books, i.e. reducing staff and getting rid of valuable experience…It is conservatively estimated that 3,000 public service jobs have been lost in the current financial year. The result of the purge is that staff are so terrified of losing their own jobs that no one is giving independent advice…We now have a Department of Planning that has become the tool of Coalition politics, and an “Independent” [sic] Planning Commission that rubber-stamps Government-preferred projects.’
‘With the budget in tatters as a result of the bushfires and COVID-19, the NSW Government has now announced a $3 billion “acceleration fund” for what Premier Berejiklian calls “shovel-ready” projects. But the choice of projects makes no sense at all. Why abandon the ANZ Stadium rebuild, but go ahead with the demolition of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and put up a completely unsuitable new building in Parramatta? It’s the wrong building for the Western Sydney city; it can’t house the museum’s collection; and it’s already known that the costs will blow out to at least $1.6 billion. All the new Keynesian spend will going into the pockets, ahem, balance sheets, of private developers and big building companies. If jobs are the priority, create them in the public sector – more health workers, more teachers, more fire fighters etc etc. You wouldn’t trust this lot to build your garden shed, let alone State significant infrastructure. NSW politicians are fond of saying “Money doesn’t grow on trees” and they’re right. Except when the money is ours.’ Read more or: Alex Mitchell 12 June
11 June, 2020
‘… mystery … the Premier’s stubborn desire to destroy the Powerhouse Museum ‘
John McDonald writes in his regular arts newsletter: ‘There is no greater mystery in New South Wales than the Premier’s stubborn desire to destroy the Powerhouse Museum. Even after the COVID-19 lockdown which has drained billions from the public purse – and will continue to do so for months, perhaps years – Gladys still wants to bulldoze a much acclaimed museum, demolish one of the last remaining heritage buildings in Parramatta, and erect an expensive new structure that would not even pretend to act as a replacement for what is lost. Furthermore it’s a project that nobody seems to want – nobody that is, except the Premier; Chair of the Western Sydney branch of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, and Liberal MP, Geoff Lee.’
He asks who benefits, how can the government justify the expense and exactly what kind of jobs will be created, and concludes: ‘If and when the new building is finished Parramatta will have a gigantic white elephant that has zero possibility of drawing long-term audiences and covering costs. To achieve this excellent result the government will have irretrievably vandalised a major Australian museum and wiped out another precious piece of heritage in a city already disfigured…’. Read more: John McDonald 11 June
10 June, 2020
‘Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum project powers on to next phase’
In The Australian, Ashleigh Wilson writes: ‘The Powerhouse Museum is steaming ahead with its relocation to western Sydney with the release of key planning documents underpinning the detail of the ambitious project. Ten days after the NSW government renewed its support for the proposed Powerhouse Parramatta, the museum has released a state signiﬁcant development application and environmental impact statement for public comment until July 7, marking a milestone for a project that has divided cultural circles for the past two years. Powerhouse director Lisa Havilah said the development was moving into its “next phase” before construction begins at Parramatta River…The Berejiklian government recently considered scrapping the Powerhouse move … after revelations the COVID-19 pandemic would cost the state up to $20bn in lost revenue. The Premier decided to cancel its ANZ Stadium upgrade while proceeding with the Powerhouse’s move to Parramatta, citing more than 1000 jobs to be created in western Sydney. Moving the 141-year-old institution from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta has attracted opposition from some high-proﬁle Sydney arts ﬁgures, as well as inside the Coalition partyroom and the Berejiklian cabinet itself…But the project is set to become a reality with the backing of Gladys Berejiklian, who took over the arts portfolio in April following the resignation of Don Harwin.’ Read more or Sydney’s PHM project powers on
10 June, 2020
EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for Powerhouse to Parramatta now on line
The EIS for the ‘Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta’ is now on exhibition, on-line, for just 28 days until 7 July. Prepared by Ethos Urban on behalf of Infrastructure NSW, ‘This submission to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) comprises an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a State Significant Development Application under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).’
It considers environmental and heritage matters, social and economic aspects, and (despite continuing opposition from the broader public platform) recommends the proposal to move the museum to the selected site and into the selected architectural design. The EIS could be effectively the Development Application for the project. In the link supplied here, under Attachments and Resources on the Powerhouse Parramatta page go to EIS (37). Click the down arrow for the documents and plans. Read more or for the specific document : Read more
9 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Parramatta’: Finalists now on line
Designs, architects statements and jury comments for the five finalists for the proposed museum in Parramatta, have now been made accessible on the MAAS website. You can find them here: Read more
7 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse shortlisters go on public display’
on line as ‘Powerhouse finalists revealed’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald (and reveals images on line), about how: ‘Sydney has received its first look at rival designs for Parramatta Powerhouse, showing modern interpretations of its new riverside home’ and that ‘The designs, along with design statements and jury feedback, are expected to be unveiled in an online exhibition next week.’
She reminds us that: ‘Architectural firms Moreau Kusunoki and Genton were selected as winners of the international design competition in December with their latticed steel structure of two towers. The seven-member international jury judged theirs to be a delicate and elegant design that would create a landmark cultural destination. The jury’s decision was unanimous…But it controversially necessitates demolition of the 1886 Italianate villa known as Willow Grove as well as a row of seven terraces known as St George’s Terrace.’
Providing images and descriptions of ‘rival designs’, she says: ‘The shortlisted design plans for the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum have been kept under wraps until now despite pressure from Australian Institute of Architects and the organiser of the taxpayer-funded International Design Competition, Malcolm Reading…A draft report prepared for Infrastructure NSW has recommended the development proceed despite finding the two historic buildings that are to be demolished were “one of a kind” in the Parramatta CBD and their loss would have a significant impact on the community’s connection with heritage. But the public benefits of western Sydney’s first major, world-class cultural institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the local community’s sense of place.’ Read more or: 7 June, Linda Morris SMH
5 June, 2020
‘How Sydney was spared a giant upside down hairdryer on the skyline after rejecting architect’s plans for a new museum’
In the Daily Mail, Levi Parsons and Daniel Piotrowski publish long-awaited photographs of four of the alternative designs considered for the proposed Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. They also write: ‘Political observers were beginning to suspect the ambitious Parramatta Powerhouse move would be shelved as Australia falls into a recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week Premier Gladys Berejiklian pulled the pin on the $800 million rebuild of ANZ Stadium – at least until the coronavirus crisis is resolved. But she remains determined to go ahead with the Powerhouse move, hailing it as a major job creator at a time of economic downturn.’ Read more or: 5 June Daily Mail
3 June, 2020
‘Berejiklian government’s push to freeze public servant wages blocked’
Related to the issue of the costs of the stadium at Olympic Park, and the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, Alexandra Smith reports in The Sydney Morning Herald, that: ‘The Berejiklian government is heading for a showdown with public sector workers in the Industrial Relations Commission after its push to freeze wages was blocked. Conservative crossbenchers joined Labor yesterday to stop the government’s proposed wage freeze for hundreds of thousands of public servants, including nurses and paramedics. ..The defeat in the upper house will force the government to the TRC tomorrow.’ Read more
2 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Move to go ahead, saved from COVID’s axe’
In Arts Hub, Gina Fairley writes: ‘Parramatta Lord Mayor makes plea: “Don’t turn your back on us”, while the National Trust is disappointed as Powerhouse Museum relocation comes under scrutiny and NSW Premier scrambles for cash for COVID stimulus fund.’
‘In one way this story could be told as arts conquering sports. This past weekend (31 May), NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian struck a line through the $810 million refurbishment of Stadium Australia at Olympic Park, while confirming that the build and relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta would go ahead. Berejiklian election promises were split in their delivery. The decision came as her government announced a new $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund to be used for smaller, shovel-ready projects that would create jobs, and is said will ‘touch every corner of the state’. The Stadium project was axed to fuel this fund. The Powerhouse Museum relocation – like Lazarus who will not sleep – remains on the table.’
Fairley continues with statements from supporters including Premier Berejiklian, City of Parramatta Lord Mayor, Bob Dwyer and City of Parramatta CEO Brett Newman. But she also documents opposition from such as Graham Quint, National Trust’s Director, Conservation, who said of their recent survey: ‘‘The overwhelming response to the survey we conducted was that people want the Powerhouse Museum and its collection to remain where it is’, and also notes that following the resignation of Arts Minister Don Harwin in April, ‘Labor’s Jodi McKay and Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord made a charge in Parliament, again demanding the plug on the project be pulled, claiming it ‘has always been a property deal for the Berejiklian Government’ while ‘Just a couple of weeks earlier (23 March), a further Upper House Select Committee had been announced – the Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales.’
In this precarious economic time: ‘The state government, through Create NSW, announced support via a $50 million relief fund. Many would argue it is not enough when the cost of the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation is mooted at $1.1 billion.In this territory of tensions and see-saw politics, it is hard to truly see the clear light of day. While Parramatta Lord Mayor’s pleas were heard and Berejilklian has marched forward with the project this week, it’s far from a fait accompli.’ Read more or: Arts Hub 2 June
2 June, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum: The Community Speaks
National Trust (NSW) Survey Reveals Overwhelming Vote to Stay at Ultimo’
In a media release, the National Trust NSW provides a report on its recently-conducted survey about the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo: ‘to quantify and qualify the significance of the museum in its current location at Ultimo, its built, social and cultural heritage, and the significance of its collection to the people of New South Wales.’ From 1320 responses to its survey, “The overwhelming response to the survey we conducted was that people want the Powerhouse Museum and its collection to remain where it is,” said Graham Quint, National Trust (NSW)’s Director, Conservation. “People from all postcodes across Sydney, throughout New South Wales and around the world participated and shared their views with us. The responses indicated that the Powerhouse is such a socially significant place, a fine example of built heritage in its own right and contains an extraordinary collection that tells the story of innovation, technological development, progress and advancement in Australia.” And he also advised: “The National Trust (NSW) was so dismayed to read over the weekend that the NSW Premier, in considering the relocation project for the Powerhouse, decided to proceed. We have more than 1,300 people who took the time to share their thoughts on how important this place is to them and they did this in the grips of a global pandemic as they watch the social and economic ramifications of this crisis unfold,” Graham Quint said. “It is that important to people.” ‘
‘As a result of the survey, the National Trust (NSW) has made a submission to the Heritage Council of New South Wales to consider placing the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and its permanent collection on the State Heritage Register.’ Read more or: National Trust NSW 2 June
31 May, 2020
Powerhouse Museum: opening and closing
The MAAS website announces, following the closure of public spaces due to COVID-19, that: ‘We are excited to be welcoming you back to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre. Free timed-entry tickets and physical distancing are among the measures we’re implementing in line with the NSW Government’s health guidelines to keep visitors safe during COVID-19. The 22nd Biennale of Sydney … will open from 1 June 2020. The Boulton and Watt Engine, Locomotive No. 1, the Strasburg Clock and the Touring Hall will also be open to visitors.’ ‘From 25 July – 11 October 2020, you can explore the new exhibition Maton: Australia’s Guitar, ‘ However, anticipating the proposed move of the Museum, it adds: ‘From 1 June 2020, the heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum will be closed, and the Museum will be offering bookable curator talks and small group sessions exploring the Powerhouse’s Transport, Steam Revolution and Space Galleries before the final closure of the heritage core on 30 June 2020. This program will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes experience of the Powerhouse collection.’ Read more
31 May, 2020
‘Powerhouse ‘Move’ reconfirmation is not the end’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook group writes: ‘The overnight news that “Premier Gladys Berejiklian will keep her pledge to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta”
(http://tiny.cc/ign0pz) is undeniably disappointing but, realistically, not unexpected. And it certainly does not signal the end of the community’s five year battle to save the Ultimo Powerhouse and give Parramatta the new cultural facility it wants and deserves In the past weeks, rumours have been rife about intra-Cabinet discord over the whole project, especially the estimated $2 billion (and rising!) costs…Whatever happens next, one thing is certain. This battle is not over and the movement to save the Powerhouse – this campaign, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, politicians, journalists and many dedicated individuals, will fight on until it is won. We know that Gladys is already struggling to control a rebellious Cabinet. How much longer can she hold out on the Powerhouse? Even if she has not listened to the public voice to date, could this be the last straw that finally breaks her?’ Save the Powerhouse makes suggestions about how to keep fighting, here: 31 May Save the Powerhouse
31 May, 2020
‘NSW government dumps Olympic stadium redevelopment as Covid-19 restrictions set to ease. Plans to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta will still go ahead’
The Guardian also reports on the NSW government’s decision to go ahead with the expensive, unwanted relocation: Read more or: The Guardian 31 May
31 May, 2020
‘$3 billion boost creates $100 billion infrastructure and jobs pipeline’
In a media release, ‘The NSW Government has announced a new $3 billion acceleration fund to go towards job-creating projects, increasing the government’s infrastructure pipeline to a guaranteed $100 billion. The new $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund will be used for smaller, shovel-ready projects touching every corner of the state, injecting up to an extra 20 thousand jobs back into the NSW workforce.’
However, while: ‘The government will no longer proceed with the refurbishment of Stadium Australia, redirecting around $800 million towards the new fund for job-creating infrastructure projects’, ‘The promised Parramatta Powerhouse museum will still be delivered through the infrastructure pipeline. This project alone will create more than 1100 construction jobs in Western Sydney, 2400 indirect jobs, and keep hundreds employed once it opens. The government is also looking at options to support the arts community at Ultimo.’
Read more: NSW Govt media release 31 May
31 May, 2020
‘NSW Premier pulls the plug on stadium refurb but will keep Powerhouse move’
in print as ‘Stadium plan axed to restart economy’
Michael Koziol announces in The Sun-Herald that ‘The Berejiklian government has dumped its controversial plan to redevelop ANZ Stadium and will redirect the $800 million saving to a new $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund for “shovel-ready” projects to reboot the state’s shattered economy.’ However, ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian will keep her pledge to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, saying the project will create 1100 construction jobs in western Sydney, despite some ministers arguing for the relocation to be abandoned…Ms Berejiklian said the new $3 billion fund would increase the state’s total infrastructure pipeline to $100 billion and inject up to 20,000 extra jobs into the state’s workforce. The government did not provide examples of projects to be funded by the new $3 billion fund… The rebuild of Allianz Stadium at Moore Park is already underway and remains ongoing.’ The decision, taken by the Premier and her core leadership group, wards off internal division over what projects to jettison given budget constraints created by the pandemic. Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee, who holds the seat of Parramatta, had vigorously lobbied to keep the Powerhouse Museum move, which is now projected to cost up to $1.1 billion. In negotiating with crossbenchers over the proposed public sector pay freeze last week, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the stadium redevelopment and Powerhouse move were being reviewed.
Senior Liberals said there was agreement it had to be one or the other. But even after a $3 billion saving from the wage freeze and $810 million from abandoning the stadium refurbishment, they were well short of the $20 billion that could be wiped from the state’s coffers by the pandemic. “That’s $4 billion down, $16 billion to go,” one senior Liberal said.’
Read more or: Sun Herald 31 May
31 May, 2020
‘Old stadium, new jobs: Premier dumps ANZ stadium but stands firm on Powerhouse’
Phil Rothfield reports in The Sunday Telegraph, that: ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian has abandoned the promised $810 million rebuild of Sydney’s Olympic stadium at Homebush, a victim of the state’s COVID-19 financial disaster. Instead the NSW government has announced a new $3 billion fund for job-creating projects…The promised $1.1 billion Powerhouse Museum move to Parramatta will still be delivered, however ANZ stadium will remain untouched.’ It is claimed that ‘The Powerhouse Museum relocation will create more than 1100 construction jobs in Western Sydney, 2400 indirect jobs and keep hundreds employed once it opens.’
Read More: D Telegraph 31 May
(But PMA notes that the government’s employment emphasis is on construction development with no acknowledgement of the wider issues associated with relocating a long-established state museum, or of side-lining local preferences.)
31 May, 2020
The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre will reopen free of charge from 1 June.
We are excited to be welcoming you back to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre. Free timed-entry tickets and physical distancing are among the measures we’re implementing in line with the NSW Government’s health guidelines to keep visitors safe during COVID-19. .. From 1 June 2020, the heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum will be closed, and the Museum will be offering bookable curator talks and small group sessions exploring the Powerhouse’s Transport, Steam Revolution and Space Galleries before the final closure of the heritage core on 30 June 2020. This program will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes experience of the Powerhouse collection. Read more or: 31 May PHM reopen
29 May, 2020
‘Huge budget hit puts stadium and Powerhouse plans in doubt’
on line 28 May as: ‘Future unclear for Powerhouse Museum and stadium upgrade’
Lisa Visentin writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘The controversial Powerhouse Museum relocation and the planned upgrade of ANZ Stadium are both under a cloud, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet telling key crossbenchers the projects are being reviewed. It comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian refused to guarantee the projects would proceed as planned, as she defended the government’s proposal to freeze public sector wages for 12 months. “I’m not going to comment on any of those things, suffice to say the one tool governments have to keep jobs going is infrastructure,” Ms Berejiklian said on Thursday.’ And ‘Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Robert Borsak said Mr Perrottet described the Powerhouse move and the ANZ stadium upgrade as being “under review” during a meeting with the party’s five MPs on Thursday morning.’…’ Greens MP David Shoebridge said he also raised the issue of the Powerhouse move when he discussed the wage freeze with Mr Perrottet…Mr Shoebridge declined to reveal the specifics of the conversation but said: “It would be fair to say it (the Powerhouse relocation) doesn’t appear to be the Treasurer’s pet project.”’ Read more or: SMH Visentin 29 May
28 May, 2020
‘Western Sydney Outraged if Powerhouse Museum and ANZ Stadium Projects are Abandoned.’
In a media release, Business and community groups today urged the Premier not to break her promises to the people of Western Sydney to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta and to redevelop ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park as media reports grow about Cabinet moves to dump these ‘shovel-ready’ projects as an austerity measure. The Western Sydney Business Chamber and the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue joined forces to remind the Premier that she promised these projects to the people of the West during the last election.’ Read more (see May 28) or: 28 May, Parramatta media release
28 May, 2020
NSW Treasurer confirms that the Powerhouse project is under review
Channel 10 News featured a short interview with Inquiry chair, Robert Borsak, who stated that Treasurer Dominic Perrottet had confirmed that the Powerhouse project is ‘under review. https://youtu.be/UzcpZu7KSNQ
Save the Powerhouse Facebook says: ‘What’s more, the Premier is refusing to confirm that the project – and the ANZ stadium rebuild – will go ahead. Meanwhile the Government has published a second list of 24 projects to be “fast-tracked” with the aim of stimulating the post-pandemic economy. The Powerhouse IS NOT ON THE LIST.’ (Tranche 1 Projects: http://tiny.cc/dvwupz & Tranche 2 Projects http://tiny.cc/9wwupz)
28 May, 2020
‘Two of the NSW government’s most controversial Western Sydney projects could be delayed or scrapped to save $2 billion’
Channel 7 News followed up their previous report of 27 May with further interviews that included revealing that relocating the Powerhouse Museum and upgrading the ANZ Stadium are now in doubt. Reporter Alex Hart’s Interviews included the Premier, Treasurer, Greens member David Shoebridge, Opposition leader Jody McKay and Western Sydney’s David Borger, as well as members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance. It was noted that ‘Today an agitated Premier refused 8 times to confirm that the work will go ahead,’ and that they were advised that an official announcement about the state of the projects and the wage freeze should be made before the budget in November. Read more
27 May, 2020
‘400,000 state government workers hit with pay freeze’
During debate on the controversial issue of freezing 400,000 public sector wages as a result of the corona virus, it has been suggested that the Powerhouse move could even be scrapped. Channel 7 News reported on interviews with the Premier and Treasurer, as well as those in opposition to the move. Text included: “The govt could also scrap several major projects. The hit to the budget from this crisis will be huge and freezing public sector wages is just the start of the effort to improve the budget bottom line. Scrapping expensive, unpopular infrastructure projects is now being considered, among them the $1B plus relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the city to Parramatta. Also the $810M upgrade of ANZ stadium. The Treasurer today pointedly refused to commit to either of those projects. It’s safe to say at the moment they are not guaranteed to go ahead but that no decision has been finalised. Ultimately it will be up to the cabinet to decide their fate.’ See news here: (Go to 2 minutes in …) Read more
31 May, 2020
The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre will reopen free of charge from 1 June.
The MAAS website announces: ‘We are excited to be welcoming you back to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre. Free timed-entry tickets and physical distancing are among the measures we’re implementing in line with the NSW Government’s health guidelines to keep visitors safe during COVID-19. .. From 1 June 2020, the heritage core of the Powerhouse Museum will be closed, and the Museum will be offering bookable curator talks and small group sessions exploring the Powerhouse’s Transport, Steam Revolution and Space Galleries before the final closure of the heritage core on 30 June 2020. This program will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes experience of the Powerhouse collection.’ Read more or: 31 May PHM reopen
27 May, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum reopening left a mystery’
As museums and galleries start admitting audiences again, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes that: ‘Delays to the reopening of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo have sparked concerns that the NSW government intends to use health considerations linked to COVID-19 to prematurely close the institution to the public. While the Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Contemporary Art are reopening their doors in June in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, the museum remains closed with no date yet set for its reopening.’ ‘The museum’s heritage buildings, including the Turbine Hall with its suspended aircraft, had been scheduled to close on June 30 under plans to relocate the museum to Parramatta. The Wran Building with its entrance, theatrettes, and Touring Hall housing the Locomotive No 1 and Boulton & Watt Steam Engine – the latter regarded as one of the most significant technological artefacts to have ever reached Australia – was to have followed in 12 months.’
‘Greens MP David Shoebridge said he feared the government was attempting to refuse the people of NSW the chance to farewell the Powerhouse Museum”… “No doubt they realise the moment would be used to build opportunities to protest the government’s plans,” said Mr Shoebridge, the inquiry’s deputy chairman. “This is one of the worst examples of hiding a deeply unpopular government decision under the cover of a COVID-19 emergency response. I believe the Powerhouse will not go quietly into the night.”
Meanwhile, ‘The Environment Impact Statement for Parramatta Powerhouse still to be exhibited. Premature closure would leave the government vulnerable to protests that it was pre-empting the consultation process.’ Read more or: Linda M SMH 28 May
27 May, 2020
Pay freeze: and possibly scrap some major projects?
Alex Hart, political reporter on Seven News, reports on the NSW government’s proposal to freeze public sector wages, where more than 400,000 state government workers have been hit with a pay freeze blamed on the coronavirus. Among numerous rejections of the idea, he also reported strong opposition from leaders including Jodi McKay and David Shoebridge, and observed: ‘The govt could also scrap several major projects. The hit to the budget from this crisis will be huge and freezing public sector wages is just the start of the effort to improve the budget bottom line. Scrapping expensive, unpopular infrastructure projects is now being considered, among them the $1B plus relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the city to Parramatta. Also the $810M upgrade of ANZ stadium.The Treasurer today pointedly refused to commit to either of those projects. It’s safe to say at the moment they are not guaranteed to go ahead but that no decision has been finalised. Ultimately it will be up to the cabinet to decide their fate.’ For TV interview: Read more
22 May, 2020
‘Don Harwin becomes cactus’
Alex Mitchell, former Sydney Sun-Herald State Political Editor, documents in ‘Pearls and Irritations’, the career of ex-Arts Minister Don Harwin, saying: ‘In the halcyon days of the NSW Liberal Party’s ascendancy, Don Harwin was a fast-rising star. Then he hit a wall and fell from being one of State’s most powerful Liberal Ministers to the lowly status of an unloved backbencher. How and why?’ Among a number of examples, Mitchell says: ‘Above all, he made the demolition of the Powerhouse his pet project, despite a mass of evidence that the cost would rise to $1.6 or $2 billion, and that the move would mean splitting the prized collection…Hanging over the project has been the stench of secret property deals at both the Ultimo site and Parramatta. Last November one of his recent board appointees, Dexus CEO Darren Steinberg, had to resign over a conflict of interest in relation to Ultimo.’ And ‘A damning Upper House inquiry into museums and galleries, lasting two-and-a-half years, gathered reams of evidence from professionals that the Powerhouse project was unviable. When the inquiry’s meticulous report was published in February 2019, Harwin waited until after the Government was re-elected before contemptuously dismissing all its recommendations… At the same time, Gladys Berejiklian’s departure lounge is filling with alarming speed.’
Read more or: Alex Mitchell 22 May
20 May, 2020
‘New Powerhouse in Parramatta: webinar follow up’
Following the recent on-line webinair consultation about the proposed new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, Infrastructure NSW sent out a notice saying: ‘…We appreciate the feedback and insights shared during the session which have been considered in our preparation of the State Significant Development Application (SSDA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).’ They note that ‘this session is expected to contribute to: the EIS which is currently being finalised as part of the SSDA for the new museum, and that ‘An EIS outlines potential environmental impacts and what measures will be put in place to minimise them.’ They advise that the draft EIS will be exhibited (on their website) in full once finalised and that the community will be invited to provide feedback.
Key themes in the webinair presentation were: ‘Heritage impacts – particularly Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace ; The museum location – particularly other locations considered; The building design – particularly other designs considered ; The name of the new museum; The functionality and flexibility of the museum spaces; The creative residences – particularly how they will be managed; The timing of consultation – particularly during COVID-19.’ For report see Infrastructure NSW website: Read more As well, they supplied answers to a number of further questions on notice. See also: New Powerhouse in Parramatta – Community webinar April 23
18 May, 2020
‘Museum showdown on Macquarie Street’
Judith White, writing in Culture Heist, says: ‘Today, Monday 18 May, is International Museum Day – so it’s ironic that some museum supporters and professionals in NSW will spend the day in yet another effort to protect cultural institutions from the predations of the government which has statutory responsibility for their care. They will be making submissions, which close today, to a fresh Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council to examine “Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in NSW”.’ She provided a perceptive summary of how ‘the Upper House of State Parliament passed a motion obliging the Government to table a raft of hitherto secret documents relating to the Powerhouse plan also known as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) project.’
And further, White notes that: ‘According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the body responsible for International Museum Day, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Traditionally, in line with this objective, Australian governments have funded public galleries and museums for the cultural benefit of the population. In recent years, following neoliberal precepts, they have pressured institutions to move towards self-funding through commercial activities – entertainment programs, corporate venue hire and the sale of merchandise. A reasonable level of commercial operations can help support museums, but they cannot be allowed to replace or undermine their core function. That function is to build and care for collections of life-enhancing objects of beauty or historical interest, and make them accessible to everyone.’ Read more or Culture Heist – JW – 18 May
14 May, 2020
‘MAAS suspends payments to long-term casuals’
The Public Service Association has circulated information saying: ‘The PSA has been made aware that approximately 143 MAAS employees have had casual support payments ceased. While cafes and restaurants start opening, this decision effectively sends 143 employees to Centrelink. … All long-term casuals who have been employed in a systematic regular fashion should be found other duties, and if none can be found, placed on special leave and paid as normal.’ ‘The PSA is currently in discussions with MAAS surrounding a commitment to continue the employment of long term casuals. Unless we can gain that commitment ASAP, we will seek the assistance of the Industrial Relations Commission.’
In addition, PSA advises that, working with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), ‘The Keep Our Icons Alive campaign is calling on the Berejiklian NSW Government to increase funding for our state’s most treasured venues.’ The intent is to ‘highlight the plight of our affected members in the state’s most iconic institutions. These include Taronga Zoo, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory, Sydney Living Museums and the Sydney Opera House.’ This includes boosting the PSA Keep our Icons Alive video on social media.
Read more or PSA campaign 14 May
14 May, 2020
‘New Powerhouse Museum report approves loss of heritage buildings’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, comments on information provided in the draft report prepared for Infrastructure NSW (see 13 May, below), saying: ‘Two historic buildings to be demolished to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum were “one of a kind” in the Parramatta CBD and their loss would have a significant impact on the community’s connection with heritage, it has been found. But a draft report prepared for Infrastructure NSW has recommended the development proceed as the public benefits of western Sydney’s first major, world-class cultural institution outweighed heritage concerns and loss of the local community’s sense of place …The loss of the 19th-century Italianate villa Willowgrove and a row of terraces known as St George’s Terrace are listed among the negative social and economic impacts by the Environment Impact Statement into the $1.1 billion relocation of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, known as the Powerhouse Museum. The 2.5-hectare riverside site was also likely to have high social and spiritual significance to the local Aboriginal community and its flood-prone position warranted an early warning flooding system, including alarms and alerts to clear the public from the museum’s undercroft during big downpours.’…
‘The draft EIS and associated reports briefly went online on Wednesday morning due to a technical error, before they were recalled..Suzette Meade of the North Parramatta Action Group said: “It’s highly suspicious the EIS was notified as on exhibition this morning and then pulled hours later – it’s just more alarm bells ringing for the community on the disastrous project.” Labor’s shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said there was no better time than in the wake of the COVID economic crisis to scrap the museum’s move from Ultimo to Parramatta.”Five years and the shovel hasn’t hit the ground and the only people to get work out of this is desk top consultants.” ’ Read more or 14 May LMorris
13 May, 2020
‘NSW legislative Council: request for release of documents – motion agreed!’
As part of the lead-up to the second Inquiry into the management of Museums and Galleries, Chair of committee the Hon. Robert BORSAK, introduced a motion requesting release of current documents relating to the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The motion was strongly supported by The Hon. WALT SECORD as Labor’s Shadow treasurer and shadow arts minister; DAVID SHOEBRIDGE, from The Greens, and deputy-chair; The Hon. MARK LATHAM from One Nation; Ms CATE FAEHRMANN from The Greens; and agreed to by Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES, representing the government.
Borsak moved – successfully: ‘That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 28 days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents, created since 12 April 2018, in the possession, custody or control of the Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts, the Premier, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Create NSW, the Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Staff Agency, Infrastructure NSW or the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment:
(a) any 2019 revised business case or cost benefit analysis relating to the Museum of
Applied Arts and Sciences [MAAS] project;
(b) all documents relating to the MAAS project capital and recurrent costs, exhibition
concepts, and commercial and income-generating opportunities;
(c) all documents relating to any visitor studies, planning costs, and architectural,
museological, geotechnical, engineering, heritage and flood risk studies conducted
or the MAAS project;
(d) all documents relating to the Powerhouse Precinct at Parramatta International Design
(e) all documents relating to the Ultimo Creative Industries Precinct;
(f) all documents relating to the transfer and storage of large and very large objects for
the MAAS project;
(g) all documents relating to the proposed heritage listing of the Powerhouse museum; and
(h) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as aresult of this order of the House.’
Borsak said: ‘I am calling on these papers because we are now over five years into this fiasco.’ He, and other members (above), itemised a number of concerns about the purpose of the move, the future of the collection, the inadequacy of the design plans, the reality of attracting audiences, the costs that could be better spent in other ways, the future of the Ultimo site and other options for Parramatta and NSW. He added: ‘The $2 billion being spent on the vanity project could go a long way towards managing and funding irreplaceable heritage collections located all over regional and rural New South Wales. The money would go even further if it were spent on bushfire recovery or drought assistance. Why does this Government want to destroy our history for a few hectares on the harbour? The $2 billion Liberal-Nationals vanity project might seem like pocket change for the Government, but that money could be far better spent supporting regional and rural museums throughout the State. The project demands accountability and transparency from this Government, but we are getting none. So now we call on our standing orders and the power of this House to provide us with what the Government will not provide us.’ The motion was passed. For full transcript: Read more
… or 13 May Hansard – request for PHM documents
13 May 2020
‘Powerhouse Parramatta: Draft Environmental Impact Statement’
The Department of Planning, Industry and Development maintains a site for the development of the proposed new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, on its NSW Planning Portal for updating timelines for major projects, with relevant attached documents. For portal: Read more
For the Powerhouse project, these files include SEARS documents (Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements) for State Significant Development. On 13 May, 2020, it was announced in an email that ‘The Department is writing to inform you that the exhibition period for the Powerhouse Parramatta SSD-10416 EXH-2839 has commenced.’ and that ‘You can make a submission on the project by visiting the Major Projects Website.’
It appears that what was meant by ‘exhibition’ were the online documents associated with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), including Appendix B: Architectural plans and design report. However, these files were subsequently deleted and the Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘The draft EIS and associated reports briefly went online on Wednesday morning due to a technical error, before they were recalled. A spokesperson for the Department of Planning said the EIS did not include important material including key plans, reports and consultation work and it would be exhibited in full once finalised.’ (See 14 May, above, or Read more )
14 May, 2020
‘Trainwreck at Carriageworks
Carriageworks and the Powerhouse: failures of government policy’
Judith White well summarises the many issues being discussed about arts funding, saying: ‘The collapse of Sydney arts and entertainment centre Carriageworks has sent tremors through the besieged arts sector; but it also shows up the deep flaws in the NSW Government’s cultural policy, and is fuelling demands to halt its disastrous $1.5 billion plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum ‘… ‘When the old railway workshops at Eveleigh were repurposed into an arts centre in 2007, under the Labor Government of Premier Morris Iemma, it seemed a great idea: an inner-west venue that could attract big local audiences to an exciting program of festivals, exhibitions and performances, as well as becoming home to resident arts companies and making additional income from markets and corporate hire. But it required substantial public funding to be sustainable, and that was never guaranteed. State Coalition governments from 2011 onwards have been unwilling to provide support for such an eclectic, innovative program. In 2018 grants totalled only a quarter of the centre’s revenue.’
White includes comments from a number of experienced people, and concludes that: ‘A rescue plan for Carriageworks would require both funding commitment and the appointment of a suitably qualified board. … Berejiklian remains committed to the Powerhouse plan with a stubbornness inexplicable unless there is a secret deal with developers. Rumours are now swirling that the Ultimo site has already been sold. The Government’s asset sales mania bodes ill for Carriageworks, which has only a short-term tenancy on the big Eveleigh site. And it lends added urgency to a fresh examination of the Powerhouse issue by State Parliament’s Upper House committee, which is taking submissions up until 17 May.’
Read more or 14 May J White – Cultureheist
9 May, 2020
‘Carriageworks and other threatened arts venues: PMA applauds expressions of support’
Following recent news reports, letters to editors and community petitions, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance (PMA) advises its wide constituency that ‘We are extremely concerned that Carriageworks Ltd has gone into voluntary administration. We applaud the many expressions of support from the arts and cultural industries, members of the media and concerned citizens, with the aim of securing funding to establishing Carriageworks Ltd on a more sound financial footing. Knowing that this could be the first of many similar circumstances, we also commend the State Opposition’s call for an emergency Arts package to support the industry’s workers while events involving audience attendances are banned. The PMA strongly endorses the vital role that Carriageworks has played since its inception in 2007 – and will hopefully continue to play – in the cultural life of the city and State, alongside other significant, and equally threatened, arts institutions.
With reference to the Opera House, PMA member Kylie Winkworth adds: ‘The importance of Carriageworks for the small companies is that they are incubator of the next generation of musicians, singers, dancers, composers and cross media artists. These artists and small companies do need more support because rents are so high in Sydney, it is difficult for the small companies presenting new work to stay afloat, and they carry more risk. It would be a huge risk and loss if Carriageworks lost its artistic independence and was subsumed by the SOH. The two organisations have different roles. The SOH is already trying to operate like a municipal art centre; they don’t need any more encouragement to move into that space. They have a huge and controversial building program and already struggle to balance their obligations to manage a World Heritage listed site, which is Australia’s No 1 tourism attraction, and run a performing art centre. No other premier performing arts centre in the world is managing municipal off shoots with a big program of commercial events including a farmers market.’
See also, below, opinion pieces in the Sydney Morning Herald:
7 May, 2020: ‘Prowling, empire-building Opera House must leave Carriageworks to create its own art’, by Kim Williams, a former chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust, and a supporter of the Sydney Chamber Opera, a resident company at Carriageworks.
Read more or: SMH Opinion 7 May
10 May, 2020: ‘As young artists watch their dreams vanish, our cultural democracy is in peril’, by Lyndon Terracini, artistic director of Opera Australia. Read more or: Sun Herald, 10 May
7 May, 2020
‘Our income vanished’: Australia’s galleries and museums buckle in Covid-19 storm
Elissa Blake writes in The Guardian that ‘Carriageworks is only the first major casualty in what arts leaders say will be a string of closures without ‘enormous action’…The organisation had its income projections for the current financial year trashed as the coronavirus crisis unfurled, with big-ticket events cancelled or suspended. The decision to enter into administration was sealed when the New South Wales government – which currently does not have an arts minister after the recent resignation of Don Harwin – declined to guarantee future funding. Rumours are swirling about a possible takeover of the venue by the Sydney Opera House.’
Esther Anatolitis, executive director of the National Association of Visual Arts, points out: ‘But Carriageworks’ exposure to commercial headwinds is no greater than many others in the sector… The Covid-19 shutdown has come hard on the heels of cuts to Australia Council funding and a summer of bushfires that had an impact on gallery attendance and operations, most notably in Canberra… Regional galleries have been hard hit by drought, fire and the resulting loss of tourist traffic. “There’s barely been time to recover from that and now we have a global pandemic for which there is no treatment and no vaccine” ‘
Blake also reports on interviews directors of the Museum of Contemporary Arts, and the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, and the Art Gallery of South Australia, who are dealing with loss of revenue, apart from government funding.
Among many comments on the on-line site, one says: ‘It’s a bit rich for the director of the MCA to say how important it is to keep art galleries and museums afloat when it was her advocacy as Baird’s ‘cultural ambassador to western Sydney’ that led to the decision to ‘move’ the Powerhouse Museum. Moving the Powerhouse was the obvious pick she said, based on no knowledge of the museum and its collection, and without considering any other more equitable and affordable options, let alone actually asking the communities of Parramatta and western Sydney if they wanted the Powerhouse. Only the property development industry wants the Powerhouse moved. As it is, Parramatta is not even getting an actual museum, it’s another version of Carriageworks. The real museum is closed and its collections will disappear into storage.’ Read more or: Guardian 7 May
6 May, 2020
‘Sydney Opera House may take over Carriageworks as calls for state bailout grow’
Stephanie Convery, in The Guardian, writes that: ‘The Sydney Opera House has been approached to consult on the long-term viability of multi-arts precinct Carriageworks as reports emerge that the Berejiklian government is considering a proposal for the famous landmark’s trust to take over Carriageworks’ operations…. In a statement, an Opera House spokesperson said the trust “has been approached by the government to consult on the long-term sustainability of Carriageworks as an important cultural venue, particularly at this most difficult time”.’ But, she adds: ‘…there have been widespread calls for the bailout to come from the NSW government itself, as pressure grows on state and federal governments to do more to assist the arts sector in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic,’ and cites comments from Labor’s Walt Secord, the shadow arts minister for NSW, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, and Greens MP Cate Faehrmann. Read more or: Guardian 6 May
5 May, 2020
“NSW government considers Sydney Opera House takeover of Carriageworks’, in print as ‘Opera House poised to take over arts venue’
Linda Morris and Kylar Loussikian, in the Sydney Morning Herald, follow up the announcement of Carriageworks going into voluntary administration, with a report that ‘Sources close to discussions with the Opera House told The Sydney Morning Herald that a push to hand the venue to the Opera House Trust was under way before administrators were called.’
They continue: ‘In a statement issued on Monday night, Carriageworks said it had no choice but to call in administrators after restrictions on public gatherings had resulted in an “irreparable loss of income”. In April, Carriageworks froze spending and stood down half its core staff. Chief executive Blair French said he hoped the facility would be able to reopen to artists and the community once the state recovered from the effects of the pandemic.
Were Carriageworks’ corporate entity dissolved, the government would be free to appoint a new body to take over the lease via an open competitive tender process. The Opera House is regarded by senior arts bureaucrats as best placed to create a viable public program appealing to Carriagework’s traditional patrons’ However, ‘A source with knowledge of Carriageworks described the move as “a Sydney power play”. Carriageworks, the source said, had shifted cultural focus away from the harbour to communities and artists in a way that an organisation like the Opera House never could. “Sadly arts and culture for some people is about control and power and having the biggest voice.” ‘ Read more or: SMH Opera House-Carriageworks 5 May
6 May, 2020
‘NSW must protect its crucial arts institutions’
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald follows up the news that Carriageworks arts centre had gone into administration saying this highlights ‘the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on arts and culture. Everything from international shows at the Opera House to gigs in local pubs and from art galleries to craft markets have been cancelled as part of social-distancing. For culture lovers, who on some counts are more numerous than footy fans, the cancellation of this year’s arts programs adds to the pain of self-isolation. They have to get their fix online and while the arts community is showing its creativity by finding ways to reach an audience, it’s surely not quite the same…The collapse of Carriageworks raises the distinct likelihood that some treasured institutions will not survive the next few months’ and that ‘Governments, especially at the federal level, must think hard about how the arts and culture sector will emerge from this crisis.’
It also notes that: ‘The NSW government announced a welcome but fairly small $6.35 million relief package for the sector, which included tax relief for venues such as Carriageworks. Clearly, for Carriageworks it was not enough. The Australia Council has promised a $5 million national resilience fund for the arts.’ But significantly, it also reports that ‘Some are calling for NSW to drop grand plans, such as moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and to use the money for grassroots programs that will create more employment in the short-term. For a start, NSW should appoint a new arts minister to replace Don Harwin. There is still huge uncertainty about the road ahead but one thing is clear: Sydney will lose its soul without a vibrant arts community.’ Read more or: SMH Editorial 6 May 2020
6 May, 2020
‘Scrap the Powerhouse plan and use the $1.5 billion to save Carriageworks’
Clover Moore, Lord mayor of Sydney, asks: ‘What is it about Australians that leads us to chronically undervalue our arts and culture? It has not always been so, but in recent decades, we have seen diminishing funding, dwindling federal and state support, a slackening of interest among our decision makers, and a sense almost of apathy about one of the most vital sectors of our society and economy. It’s beyond time the state and federal governments ended their abandonment of artists, performers and those administering the arts organisations…Arts and cultural activities are worth $110 billion a year in Australia and in Sydney, they underpin our tourism and hospitality sectors.. But the arts can never be reduced to mere economic facts. There is the unquantifiable but very real role of the creative sector in defining us, in critiquing society and celebrating it…The City of Sydney has been working for many years to support and strengthen our creative sector – … This year we had budgeted $4.8 million for grants programs to support cultural and creative organisations. In light of the disproportionate impact of the crisis on artists and creatives, we have increased that figure to $8.3 million and may raise it further still. We are also honouring all existing grants, regardless of whether the recipient can deliver their intended program.
Governments can find the money to support the arts – but they have to want to. The NSW government has committed $1.5 billion to the incredibly unpopular and shortsighted plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum. That is money that could be better spent supporting Carriageworks and other organisations that are so vital to us all. It is crucial such institutions are supported through this period – to ensure they survive and are ready to house the performances, shows and exhibitions that will fill us with light and help interpret the world we find ourselves in when we’re able to move past the coronavirus.’
Read more or: Clover Moore, 6 May
6 May, 2020
Petitions: ‘Save Carriageworks, scrap the Powerhouse move’
Jamie Parker, Greens member for Balmain, is one of many people and organisations seeking a review of the costs of moving the Powerhouse Museum, while other organisations close. For his petition he says ‘Carriageworks has gone into voluntary administration and It’s future is in doubt unless the government steps in. We can’t let one of our most iconic institutions slip away during this pandemic, especially when the government still wants to waste over $1.5 billion moving the Powerhouse Museum! We demand that the Premier scrap this wasteful and pointless relocation and spend the $1.5 billion saving our arts and creative industries – starting with Carriageworks.’ Sign the petition >> www.jamieparker.org/carriageworks
5 May, 2020
‘Secord calls for emergency arts rescue package’
In a media release, ‘NSW Labor today accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian of ignoring the arts and entertainment sectors in her various COVID packages – putting thousands of jobs at risk. This followed the announcement last night (May 4) that Carriageworks has become the first major arts company to be forced to call in administrators –after the State Government refused to provide assistance.’ While comparing arts support programs in other states, Shadow arts minister, Walt Secord said: ‘“Carriageworks is the tip of the iceberg; there are so many other arts groups and organisations as well as individuals who are in absolute strife and at risk of going the same way…Sadly, the arts were the first hit and they will be the last to recover. They also do not have large cash reserves to fall back on.”
‘Mr Secord said he was “disgusted” by the State Government’s priorities, pointing to their decision to waste $1.5 billion on the Powerhouse Museum move from Ultimo to Parramatta. “They can spend $1.5 billion forcing the move of the Powerhouse Museum, but they refuse to artists and arts organisations survive this crisis.” Artists and arts workers have been severely impacted by restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic, but the contract nature of their work means that they have fallen through the cracks of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program.’ Read more: Labor media 5 May
4-5 May, 2020
‘Carriageworks shunted into voluntary administration’
Kylar Loussikian and Linda Morris announce, in the Sydney Morning Herald, that ‘Carriageworks, the cultural centre based in the historic Eveleigh rail yards, has become Sydney’s first major arts company to call in administrators as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc across the industry… Sources close to discussions said the decision to put Carriageworks, the largest contemporary multi-arts centre in the country, into administration was made after it became clear the NSW government would not guarantee regular grant funding due in July.’
‘In a statement, Carriageworks said the sudden cancellation or postponement of six months of activities due to restrictions on public gatherings had resulted in an “irreparable loss of income”. Chief executive Blair French said he hoped Carriageworks would be able to reopen to artists and the community once the state recovered from the effects of the pandemic.’
‘The decision will bolster calls for an immediate, targeted stimulus from federal and state governments to allow struggling arts companies to survive the pandemic.’ Esther Anatolitis, executive director of the National Association of the Visual Arts, said: ‘”Australia’s leading economists have sounded the alarm on the risks to the nation of allowing the arts industry to collapse. I implore governments to take their calls seriously – as well as the united calls of the entire industry. Public investment in companies like Carriageworks enriches all of our lives. To ensure our post-COVID-19 future is bright, there’s no time to be lost in strengthening that investment.” ‘ Read more or: Carriageworks closure – 4 May 2020
1 May, 2020
Inquiry submission: from 3 May to 17 May – 14 more days!
‘Extension of submission closing date: Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales’
The Select Committee for this second Legislative Council Inquiry has advised by email that:
‘The original closing date for written submissions to this inquiry was 3 May 2020. Thank you to those who have already made a submission. In light of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, the submission closing date has now been extended to 17 May 2020.’
See the committee website here, for terms of reference, timeline and procedure for submissions: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/listofcommittees/Pages/committee-details.aspx?pk=264
24 April, 2020
‘Full Steam Behind: Tragedy as Museum Powers Down’
Henry Ergas writes in The Australian, that current decisions being made about relocating the Powerhouse Museum mean that: ‘A wonderful link to this country’s origins are about to be lost.’ As ANZAC day approaches, he reflects on some of the important events associated with Australia’s cultural identity, and regrets that many significant objects in the collection ‘are likely to be consigned to dusty warehouses, rarely exhibited and even more rarely seen. Nor will they be the only victims of the Berejiklian government’s determination to close Sydney’s historic Powerhouse Museum, sell its valuable site and transfer its remains to a far smaller building in Parramatta.’ He writes that gone also, will be the unique Steam Room, the space needed to properly exhibit the museum’s holdings, and the ‘150 years of Australia’s heritage, with its unbroken link connecting today’s Powerhouse to the great International Exhibition of 1879, which heralded Sydney’s emergence as a global city and spawned an integrated cluster of cultural and educational institutions in the area of Sydney that is now Ultimo.’
However, he says that: ‘Properly reinvigorated, it could be a landmark rivalling Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum, showcasing its treasures not merely in Sydney but on the national and international stage. To allow its building to be destroyed, its collection effectively disbanded and its connection to Ultimo severed would therefore be an appalling waste. Yet even worse than that, it would be the surest sign that we no longer value the culture that helped make this a country worth fighting for… Closed for the lockdown, the Powerhouse may have seen its last Anzac Day. When the exhibits are dismantled, the steam turned off and the doors permanently shut, a fragment of Australia will be lost forever.’ Read more or Read more
20 April, 2020
‘Powerhouse Museum now Berejiklian Dead Cat Project’
Robert Borsak, chair of the first Legislative Council Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, and also the second Inquiry which has submissions due on 3 May, ( Read more for submission process), sent out a media release, saying:
‘Just when we thought that the opportune resignation of the Arts Minister, Don Harwin, may have resulted in some sanity being brought into the Powerhouse project, it only gets worse. Now the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, is taking over as Arts Minister. Given the disaster that has hit our community with the Covid-19 virus, the cost to the economy and the Arts community in NSW, one would think that perhaps sanity would prevail, and the government dump this vanity project? But no, it seems not.
Questions are being asked at every level, all over the state about why $1.5 billion should be spent moving the Powerhouse museum to a risky location, with a poorly designed “milk crate on stilts” that will not even have a ground floor exhibition space or underground parking, when better alternatives have been discussed for years.
“The Premier now as the Arts Minister can front the Upper House Select Committee into the Powerhouse move and explain the inadequate nomination to the State Heritage Register at the Ultimo site, the demolition of heritage buildings at Parramatta, the faulty consultation process that exploits the current inability to hold public meetings and much, much more. The scandal that has plagued this project from its very beginning, that has helped hound an arrogant Don Harwin out of office, will now be placed gently like a dead rotting cat around the neck of the Premier. Can she survive its stink? The money can and should be used better elsewhere in the NSW economy. Vanity has no place in a post Covid-19 world, especially vanity money spent in Sydney, when the bush is screaming for help and support,” Mr Borsak said.’
Read more: BORSAK MR 200420 IPowerhouse Vanity Project
17 April, 2020
‘Good news for our Powerhouse’
Jamie Parker, MP for Balmain, asks for people to sign a new petition to keep the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. He says: ‘If there is a silver lining from this pandemic, it could be in our Powerhouse Museum. Earlier this week the NSW Treasurer refused to answer when asked if the Powerhouse move would go ahead. This is the first strong signal that the government might finally back away from this wasteful and pointless relocation.’
Sign the petition to save the Powerhouse Museum.
‘The coronavirus has cost NSW around $10 billion and shifted priorities across our state. Moving the Powerhouse Museum is expected to cost a whopping $1 billion and deliver a measly cost-benefit ratio of just 1:02. You don’t need an economics degree to know that this move isn’t worth it. That is because the relocation of the Powerhouse has always been about a property deal for the government’s developer mates, not improving and investing in Sydney’s cultural institutions. It’s simple: NSW can’t afford to do sweetheart deals for developers during this pandemic.’
Read more: J Parker 17 April
16, 17 April, 2020
‘A House of cards in $10b hit’
On 16 April, Anna Caldwell reports in the Daily Telegraph, about how: ‘The NSW Treasurer refused to answer when quizzed in a party room meeting if the Powerhouse Museum move would proceed as the state battles a $10 billion virus dent in the coffers’. Dominic Perrottet ‘said the government was committed to bringing forward “shovel ready” infrastructure projects to keep the state’s economy moving, but skirted around re-committing to the Powerhouse relocation in its current terms. ‘…’Upper House Liberal Matthew Mason-Cox asked about the Powerhouse at yesterday’s meeting. The Daily Telegraph confirmed the exchange with three participants in the meeting, who agreed Mt Perrottet did not answer the question.’ Read more: Daily T 16 April
‘Got to go for Growth’
And on 17 April, Caldwell followed up, writing ‘While we may be in for an economic storm, the only way we will get through it will be by letting the private sector be free to innovate by a state government that gets it. Planning Minister Rob Stokes has been particularly adept this month in slashing red tape to support economic activity.’ After many examples associated with such as small food and grocery businesses, she notes that many ‘major state developments like the Narrabri gas project and the Star Pyrmont tower, are still waiting in the wings.’ ‘The Government is united on the idea that development and building infrastructure will chart the state’s path back to economic prosperity, but there is debate at the most senior levels of the Berejilian team about which projects should go ahead. …Premier Berejiklian yesterday dismissed any idea that the Powerhouse museum or ANZ Stadium would be abandoned, but she has not stemmed the push back in her own cabinet that the investment in those big commitments should be diverted to more pressing projects that may drive more economic activity.’ Read more: Daily T April 17
17 April, 2020
‘Have we had the last laugh on Don Harwin?’
In his regular newsletter, art critic John McDonald writes: ‘…It’s a little ironic – like Al Capone being done for tax evasion – that a Minister who has presided over the ongoing scandal of ‘relocating’ (ie. destroying) the Powerhouse Museum, has been pinged for breaking a public health and safety order. The Powerhouse saga is such a travesty it should have brought down everyone associated with the scheme.
To recap briefly: The move is completely unnecessary; It will destroy museum visitation; Parramatta doesn’t want it, having originally asked the government for better arts facilities, not a tricked-up science museum; It will be wildly expensive, with no change fom $1.5 billion, and counting.
The entire process has been shrouded in secrecy, with the Minister leading the way in arrogant disregard of expert opinion and public opposition. The only compelling reason anybody has suggested is that the NSW government is eager to sell the Powerhouse site to its pals, the developers. With the recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown expected to cost many billions it would be sheer madness to proceed with the Powerhouse project – but the government is still not prepared to face reality, even as another inquiry gets underway.
To be fair to Don Harwin, the Powerhouse is the nasty stain on his record, although regional galleries may argue they could have done better under his reign. .. Don Harwin gave the impression that he had a genuine enthusiasm for the arts, and was responsive to many appeals for support. The Powerhouse debacle showed the other side of his character as a ruthless political operative.’ Read more: JMcD 17 April
15 April, 2020
‘Harwin saw state become a construction powerhouse’
Writing on-line for The Australian, Matthew Westwood documents the achievements of former Arts Minister, Don Harwin, and also some of the controversies he aroused. ‘Don Harwin’s fall from grace as a minister in NSW’s Berejiklian government was as humiliatingly tabloid as they come. … among other things, he was leader of the government in the Legislative Council — but The Daily Telegraph zeroed in on his arts role and the implication of privilege while the rest are doing it tough.
And it was the arts that Harwin clearly loved. Even his detractors concede that his enjoyment and commitment were genuine.’
After listing many of the major arts development projects Harwin supported [many of which have been criticised for under budgeting, lack of consultation and transparency in planning], Westwood says: ‘By far the biggest of the state’s cultural projects is the new Powerhouse Museum, which the government intends moving from its present location at Ultimo in Sydney to a purpose-made building in Parramatta. … Opponents say the government, and in particular Harwin, has stubbornly resisted calls for a more responsible outcome for the Powerhouse’s existing home in Ultimo and its collections of historically significant industrial, scientific and design objects. The new Parramatta building, designed by Paris-based firm Moreau Kusunoki Architects, puts the museum on “stilts” because the riverside site is prone to flooding. Labor leader Jodi McKay has called for the plan to be scrapped and, as revealed by The Australian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has urged his cabinet colleagues to abandon it.
An upper house inquiry last year rejected the Parramatta move and condemned the “staggering” lack of detail, analysis and evidence to support the costly plans. The government’s response, signed by Harwin, asserted its intention to proceed, full steam ahead. That was an unsatisfactory answer for inquiry chairman Robert Borsak, who last month launched a second inquiry, determined to bring greater transparency to the government’s plans.
With Harwin’s removal, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has taken over the arts portfolio. The obligations will be relatively few during the lockdown and perhaps a door has been left ajar for Harwin’s return. In his absence, the Premier could do worse than approve financial assistance for the state’s arts sector. While the cultural building works continue during the COVID-19 crisis, companies large and small are struggling to survive. Read more or here: M Westwood 15 April
15 April, 2020
‘Have your say on proposed development projects’
The two groups, Friends of Ultimo and Save the Powerhouse, summarise current opportunities to speak out, at a time when face-to-face meetings are impossible. They say, on Facebook, ‘The NSW Government is visibly using the current lockdown to attempt to push through controversial developments when the community has less power to oppose them. As well as listing opportunities to speak about 1) Harbourside shopping development, and 3) Pyrmont Peninsula place strategy (which includes building on the Powerhouse site), they advise:
(2) “NEW POWERHOUSE” PARRAMATTA
– …you can direct your submission to the Impending Upper House Inquiry on “the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales” at http://tiny.cc/73m2mz and/or take their survey (Survey Monkey) at http://tiny.cc/65m2mz. Submissions and survey close on 03 May 2020.
– You can also comment by taking a “SwipeEngage” online survey https://swipengage.com/#/new-powerhouse-parramatta and/or by emailing your submission to email@example.com before Monday 20 April 2020.
Read more: Have your say 16 April [See also related news reports below]
13 April, 2020
‘Downfall of a NSW Minister and the future for the arts’
In her CultureHeist newsletter, Judith White summarises the background of Don Harwin’s tenure as Arts Minister, and his forced resignation. She discusses his relationships with the corporate sector and his colleagues in Parliament as well as opposition to some of his preferred arts projects. Among other issues, she says: ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin’s resignation on 10 April has sparked renewed calls for Premier Gladys Berejiklian government to abandon his cherished $1.5 billion, developer-driven plan to demolish the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and relocate to a flood-prone site at Parramatta. But with Berejiklian herself taking over the arts portfolio for now, it will take a mighty upheaval to halt the destructive plan.’… ‘Not only has the Berejiklian government ignored the plight of arts workers; since the COVID crisis began it has ploughed on with its Powerhouse project. Infrastructure NSW has been running a “consultation” process that museum supporters describe as fake – a box-ticking exercise. She cites museum consultant Kylie Winkworth as writing of a webinar sessions in early April, that: “not one person spoke in favour of the move. The PHM’s CEO [Lisa Havilah, a Harwin appointee] outlined the facilities for conferences, performances, immersive digital experiences, events and functions, cafés, 40 apartments, a dormitory for schools, and some exhibition space… There was no mention of any museum until someone asked. Oops, that was revealing.” ’
‘But meanwhile a new door has opened’ says, White. ‘On 23 March came the announcement of a further Upper House Select Committee on the issue, under the cumbersome title: “Inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales”… The inquiry will also look at the issue of long-term funding of museums and galleries, including the damage done by the spending cuts known as “efficiency dividends”. Submissions by individuals or organisations can be made HERE, where there is also the option to complete a straightforward online questionnaire. Both submissions and questionnaire are open until 3 May.’ Read more or here: Culture Heist HW 13 April
12 April, 2020
‘Calls to scrap new Powerhouse Museum after Arts Minister resigns’
Linda Morris, with Andrew Taylor in the Sydney Morning Herald, documents how ‘The Bereijklian government has been urged to abandon the new Parramatta Powerhouse Museum following the departure of the project’s leading advocate, the former Arts Minister Don Harwin. Opponents doubled down on their criticism of the $1 billion relocation project with the arts sector calling on the NSW Premier to instead give urgent priority to immediate heart-starter measures to revive the state’s cultural life.’ Despite expressions of support from Museum of Contemporary Arts chair, Simon Mordant, ‘Greens MP and deputy chair of the Upper House Inquiry into the Powerhouse project, David Shoebridge, said it was now time for the government to “admit its mistake, step back, and save this iconic institution”.’ And Executive director of the National Association of Visual Arts, Esther Anatolitis, asked ‘…if it still made sense to “relocate a world heritage 26-ton locomotive plus the rest of the museum’s important collection, when we could instead imagine a cultural institution that’s truly of and by western Sydney?”. “COVID-19 austerity aside, the new minister will need to assess this decision carefully,” she said.’
Read more or: Calls to scrap new Powerhouse Museum – LM 12 April
12 April, 2020
‘At snoopy Pearl Beach, locals are asking: who dobbed in Don?’ Lisa Visentin and Jordan Baker, in the Sydney Morning Herald, attempt to trace the source of information for Arts Minister Don Harwin’s travel to the country: ‘Was it a local? His Labor rivals? Or his factional enemies? Questions are intensifying over who betrayed Don Harwin.’ Read more
‘Factional hit’: Blame game grips Liberals over minister’s downfall’
Lisa Visentin and Jordan Baker also investigate the background to Harwin’s resignation, suggesting, among other suggestions: ‘Liberal insiders say fallen state government minister Don Harwin was betrayed by his own party colleagues in a “factional hit” designed to destabilise Premier Gladys Berejiklian.’ Read more See also: SMH Harwin 12 April
11 April, 2020
‘Top priorities for NSW’s next minister for the arts’
Executive Director of NAVA (National Association of Visual Arts), Esther Anatolitis, writes: ‘Following the resignation of the New South Wales arts minister due to his infringements of COVID19 public health laws, NAVA outlines the key priorities facing the incoming minister. “There’s never been a more critical time to be NSW’s minister for the arts – nor a more impactful one,” said Anatolitis. “There is so much good work to be done right now, so I very much look forward to welcoming NSW’s new arts minister. After a number of critical examples of funding impacts, including cuts to funding from the Australia Council, she adds: “Another priority will be the Powerhouse Museum. Does it still make sense to devote a billion of the state’s dollars to the relocation of a world heritage 26-ton locomotive plus the rest of the museum’s important collection, when we could instead imagine a cultural institution that’s truly of and by Western Sydney? COVID19 austerity aside, the new minister will need to assess this decision carefully…”. Read more or: Top priorities for NSW’s next minister for the arts – NAVA
11 April, 2020
‘Now is the time to save the Powerhouse and $1.5 billion’
In the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, [and aware of costs associated with the earlier NSW bushfires], Greens MPs David Shoebridge and Cate Faehrmann announce in a media release that: ‘With NSW in the grip of a pandemic that looks set to wipe out the state’s arts and entertainment industries without significant government support, along with the threat of a state-wide public sector wage freeze, proceeding with the controversial Powerhouse move now is a criminal waste of money.’
Shoebridge said: ‘“In the middle of a terrible pandemic this is not the time to flush $1.5 billion down the river on a controversial project with so few public benefits. These funds can and must be redirected to where they are needed right now, to refurbishing the existing Powerhouse, saving the arts and paying people’s wages.” And Faehrmann said: ‘The creative industries in NSW now have a completely different set of priorities to what it did when this budget was brought down. The Powerhouse move must be the first on the chopping block and the $1.5 billion saved should go straight towards keeping our creative industries afloat through a combination of wage subsidies and grants.’ Read more: The Greens 11 April
11 April, 2020
‘PREMIER: WHEN YOU APPOINT A NEW ARTS MINISTER … ALSO DITCH $1.5 BILLION POWERHOUSE MUSEUM PROPERTY DEAL’
In a media release, Labor leader, Jody McKay, and Shadow treasurer and arts minister Walt Secord, write: ‘Last night (April 10), Mr Harwin resigned after police issued him with a $1000 fine for breaching public health orders involving his Pearl Beach holiday home. This will require the Premier to appoint a new Arts Minister. Ms Berejiklian should also take the opportunity to “ditch” the costly Powerhouse Museum plan.’ McKay says “The Powerhouse Museum has always been a property deal for the Berejiklian Government. We would rather see the $1.5 billion re-directed to other priorities.” And Secord adds: “…in these extreme economic circumstances with tens of thousands unemployed, it was hard for the Premier to justify the Powerhouse Museum splurge.” Read: Labor Media release 11 April
10 April, 2020
…and Arts Minister Don Harwin resigns!
Late on Good Friday, 10 April, 2020, Don Harwin announced his resignation, providing both reasons and apologies for his actions. See: Harwin’s resignation statement 10 April
Again, the event hit headlines everywhere. See for example:
11 April, Daily Telegraph: ‘MINISTER QUITS OVER HOLIDAY HOME SCANDAL’
Anna Caldwell reports (in print as: Beach Blues: Out on his Arts’, ‘Don and Dusted’ and ‘Don’s party has crashed’) that ‘Embattled NSW MP Don Harwin has offered his resignation as Arts Minister to Premier Gladys Berejiklian for staying at his Central Coast holiday house and breaching coronavirus restrictions.’ Read more
11 April, Sydney Morning Herald: ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin quits after holiday house scandal’
Alexandra Smith and Lisa Visentin also announce Harwin’s resignation, and his apology, as well as Premier Berekjiklian’s regrets, and speculation of his successor as Minister. Read more
10-11 April, The Australian: ‘Arts Minister quits in holiday house scandal’
Yoni Bashan reports about how ‘NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin, who was fined $1000 for allegedly breaching a public health order set by his own government, resigned from cabinet on Friday, days after being photographed at his holiday house on the NSW central coast.’ He adds: ‘Several cabinet ministers told the Weekend Australian on Friday night Mt Harwin had acted recklessly by meeting with senior colleagues while, unbeknown to them, hosting a newly arrived guest at his property from the UK…’. Read here: The Australian Harwin Quits 10-11 April
9-10 April, 2020
Scandal as Arts Minister Don Harwin flouts lock-down bans on non-essential travel
As the Easter holiday approached, and people everywhere obeyed current government rules about non-essential travel during the coronavirus crisis, and pleas for
Sydneysiders to stay out of regional NSW, the Daily Telegraph discovered that Arts Minister Harwin (and advocate for relocation of the Powerhouse Museum) had moved to his holiday house at Pearl Beach with a visitor who was later identified as ‘self-isolating’ after returning from London. Dozens of news outlets across the country reported on Harwin’s situation; the Premier ordered him back; the police fined him $1000; and he apologised – but many of his colleagues criticised his selfishness and some across all political parties, and newspapers, demanded he be sacked. See below,
Photographs of Harwin in some of the reports: Harwin – news pics 9-10 April
Anna Caldwell in the Daily Telegraph: Read more or: Harwin’s hideaway – DT 9 April
Lisa Visentin in the Sydney Morning Herald: Read more or: Harwin’s apology SMH 9 April
Riley Stuart at ABC: Read more or: Harwin ABC 9 April
A list of dozens of responses in news media around NSW and Australia: Harwin’s list 9-10 April
9 April, 2020: Parramatta webinair: invitation for consultation feedback, by survey:
Following the announcement on 24 March (see earlier report below), where the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) expressed concern that: ‘Yesterday Sydneysiders found in their letterbox a postcard from the NSW Government telling them that due to COVID-19 there would be no public consultation regarding the hotly contested relocation of the Powerhouse Museum’, the organisers of the alternative ‘webinair consultation’ process, sent this email to participants:
From: Powerhouse Parramatta <firstname.lastname@example.org>
‘Thank you for attending this weeks’ webinar about the new Powerhouse in Parramatta. The presentation is available to download on the InfrastructureNSW website http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/projects-nsw/new-powerhouse- museum-in-parramatta. We appreciate you taking the time to attend the event and sharing your feedback on the project. We also encourage you to share feedback on our online survey, available here: https://swipengage.com/#/new-powerhouse-parramatta
Next week we will provide responses to all questions that were raised during the webinar and taken on notice. As discussed during the event, we will be hosting a second webinar for the community to find out more about the project.
This session will be 23 April, 1pm – 3pm. To RSVP, please reply via email.’
8 April, 2020
‘Fake museum consultations under cover of Covid-19’
In CityHub, Kylie Winkworth draws attention to the inadequate consultancy process associated with the recent ‘webonair’ event about the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, writing: ‘Years of crippling drought, devastating fires, and a pandemic with no end in sight. Any one of these disasters should give the NSW Government pause to review its unpopular, destructive and absurdly expensive scheme to demolish the Powerhouse Museum (PHM), and build something half the size at Parramatta. The government says it’s ‘the new Powerhouse’. To the rest of us, this is the building resembling two abandoned milk crates on the banks of the Parramatta River. Whatever it is, it’s not the real Powerhouse, and it’s not a museum. Read more or: City Hub – KW – 9 April
6 April, 2020
‘Ticking the Consultation Box for the PHM’s `move’ to Parramatta’
Jennifer Sanders and Kylie Winkworth, from The Powerhouse Museum Alliance, write that the Alliance ‘rejects the faux consultations on the Parramatta museum, now underway by Infrastructure NSW, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. It is not community engagement when you are only consulting on decisions that have already been made. That is called ‘ticking the box’. The government has made all the decisions on the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) and the Parramatta development, without regard to community opinion. Now it needs to show it has consulted.’
‘From Premier Mike Baird’s thought bubble in November 2014, the NSW Government has never considered any other options for a new museum in Parramatta, nor listened to community or expert views. The base case has always been that the Powerhouse Museum will be sold and demolished. This is what has driven the government’s plans from day 1. And this is why the people of Parramatta will never be allowed a genuine say on a new museum, where it goes, and what it is about.’
‘… The `move’ of the Powerhouse is a front for a monstrous property play at the expense of NSW taxpayers and generations of donors to the Powerhouse Museum. Communities have never been asked about keeping the PHM in Ultimo. The NSW Government does not have community consent for the closure and demolition of the Powerhouse Museum, and the eviction of its collections from their purpose designed buildings and state of the art facilities at Ultimo. Another round of faux consultations will not give this toxic project legitimacy.’ Read here: PMA Statement on Consultation 7 April 2020
3 April (and 4, 8, 10 April), 2020
Cuts in Australia Council arts funding 2021-2024
In an announcement with listed recipients, ‘The Australia Council has today announced that 144 arts organisations will receive a share of $31.7M per annum in funding offered through the revised Four Year Funding for Organisations program. CEO Adrian Collette AM said the new measures, delivered within the Council’s existing budget, were essential during this critical period when the cultural and creative sectors are experiencing immediate and enormous challenges due to the impact of COVID-19.’ Read more
However, this involved many serious cuts to funding for organisations, resulting in the following examples of concerns.
4 April, 2020
In ARTS SECTOR REELING AFTER LATEST AUSTRALIA COUNCIL ANNOUNCEMENT, Clive Paget, from Limelight magazine, says: ‘While new funding has been allocated for some, all companies will face cuts of 30 percent over the next 12 months.’ Read more
8 April, 2020
Esther Anatolitis, CEO of NAVA (National Assn of Visual Arts, which missed out on funding), says in The Guardian, ‘Australia’s arts have been hardest hit by coronavirus. So why aren’t they getting support?’ Read more or: Coronavirus and arts – Guardian 8 April
10 April, 2020
Angad Roy, in ‘Boomers vs Millennials: arts funding dropped, hits young artists over high-brow establishment’, in Michael West Media, refers also to: ‘In NSW, the Berejiklian government continues to remain obstinate on its plans to spend $1.5 billion relocating part of the Powerhouse Museum to a flooded site in Parramatta. Museums Consultant Kylie Winkworth suggested that 10% of the Powerhouse relocation costs would fund 15 new regional institutions, yet the governments continue to pursue its development plans instead of supporting the broader arts sector.’ Read here: Boomers vs Millennials – arts funding
31 March, 2020
‘Pyrmont planning strategy released’
Architectureau newsletter comments: ‘The NSW government has released details of a strategy for the planning of the Pyrmont peninsula, pressing ahead with a community consultation process despite the COVID-19 outbreak,’ where, ‘In a statement, planning minister Rob Stokes said, “The planning system is keeping people in jobs, unlocking investment opportunities and keeping the economy moving through this unprecedented crisis.’ But the report also points out that ‘The Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy is the result of a controversial review by the Greater Sydney Commission of the planning framework for the area, which was initiated by the state government in the wake of a planning department recommendation that the proposed Star Casino hotel tower be refused planning permission. When the review was published in October 2019, it was criticized by the City of Sydney for its speed and for its intervention in the local planning system.’ “Feedback from the community and businesses will play a crucial role in setting the vision for this important precinct so we’ve moved consultation online to make it easier for everyone to share their ideas safely from home,” said Stokes.
See the NSW government announcement here.
On 2 April, Save the Powerhouse and Friends of Ultimo, on Facebook, criticise the government’s procedure for the inadequacy of on-line consultation, and for the elimination of issues such as the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the planning project, in particular, where it says: “…We’re not aiming to canvass your views on issues that have already been subject to consultation or that are subject to other processes, such as a new or developed Sydney Fish Market or the Powerhouse Museum relocation.”
Read more: Save the Powerhouse-Friends of Ultimo
25 March, 2020
‘Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales – Invitation to make a submission’
The Hon Robert Borsak MLC, Committee Chair of the first, and now second, Inquiry to be made into the Government’s management of museums and cultural projects, sent out an invitation to all interested people, saying:
‘A NSW Legislative Council Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales. The terms of reference for the inquiry, information guides and media release are attached for your information. On behalf of the committee, I would like to invite you to make a submission to the inquiry. The closing date for submissions is Sunday 3 May 2020.’ Also available is an on-line questionnaire: ‘Responses to the questionnaire may be used in the committee’s final report.’
For the full message, with all necessary information about making submissions to the Inquiry, and responding to the questionnaire, Read more here: Borsak – invitation to submit to 2nd Inquiry ; Factsheet – Making a submission ; TOR – Museums and cultural projects in New South Wales
24 March, 2020
‘Sydneysiders shocked as Premier uses COVID-19 to bypass public consultation on the contested Powerhouse Museum Relocation’
The North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) issued a media release, expressing concern that: ‘Yesterday Sydneysiders found in their letterbox a postcard from the NSW Government telling them that due to COVID-19 there would be no public consultation regarding the hotly contested relocation of the Powerhouse Museum … With the Premier just recently ignoring the community calls for the project; which plans to demolish Parramatta’s much loved heritage to be halted, this is just another slap in the face.’ [Refer: announcement of consultation on 19 February, below]
NPRAG Spokesperson, Suzette Meade said “ MAAS is forging ahead asking the community – whilst in the middle of extreme uncertainty about their jobs, keeping their home and just staying alive during a worldwide pandemic – to scan a QR code or call them about a museum project, it is disgusting.”
“Public meetings are an essential part of any development process. If the government cannot hold these due to a public health crisis, then they need to immediately suspend this until the public is able to meet. The country is in a crisis. We are in lockdown! Does the Premier seriously expect the people of Sydney to discuss spending $1.5 billion dollars to unnecessarily relocate a museum while people are losing their lives? The Premier’s decision to go ahead with the Powerhouse Museum project while the country is being confronted by a pandemic, is totally irresponsible, inappropriate and incredibly insensitive.”
Read more: NPrag Media Release 25032020
23 March, 2020
MEDIA RELEASE: INQUIRY INTO THE GOVERNMENT’S MANAGEMENT OF THE POWERHOUSE MUSEUM AND OTHER MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL PROJECTS IN NEW SOUTH WALES
The NSW Legislative Council announced that: ‘A new Upper House inquiry will shine a spotlight on the NSW Government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum – in particular, the rationale for its proposed relocation from Ultimo to Parramatta. The inquiry will also consider the adequacy of the NSW Government’s support for museum and cultural initiatives more broadly. A select committee has been established to conduct the inquiry, chaired by the Hon Robert Borsak MLC. Mr Borsak chaired the previous inquiry into the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, which ended in February 2019, prior to the 2019 state election.’ After providing more details, it continues: ‘The committee is receiving submissions until 3 May 2020. Alternatively, interested individuals are invited to submit their comments by completing an online questionnaire, open until the same date. Public hearings will be held in the coming months. For information about the inquiry, including the committee membership and the terms of reference, please visit the Select Committee’s website. For media release and submission guidelines, Read more or here: Second Inquiry – submissions and questionnaire
18 March, 2020
‘Arts budgets in the age of catastrophe’
Judith White writes on her cultureheist website, that ‘In the panic over the coronavirus, arts organisations are pleading for support as performances and festivals are cancelled, museums and galleries close and whole areas of the country are threatened with lockdown … Brace, instead, for greater shocks to come. There’s a Federal Budget due on 12 May and State budgets in May and June. Faced with the final disappearance of the surplus that never was, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg will be looking to cut spending wherever he can get away with it – and for Coalition governments, the arts are always first in line for the chop. Nowhere is this more so than in NSW, where Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has already warned that his June budget will be “horrible”. If the Berejiklian government had any vision or integrity it would take the dual climate and health emergencies as the opportunity to halt its ill-conceived “cultural infrastructure” plans, much criticised by eminent arts professionals, and redirect the money to sustaining the sector through the crisis.’
As part of this issue, she says: ‘There have always been better ways to use the $1.5 billion estimated cost of dismantling the historic Powerhouse Museum and relocating part of it to Parramatta, to a site repeatedly flooded as it was in the torrential rains of early February. Following that catastrophe a Sydney Morning Herald readers’ panel came down 85% in favour of abandoning the relocation. Perrottet and Premier Berejiklian will not be taking such an eminently sane course. In sticking to their Sydney-centric, pro-developer plans they paint themselves, as Perrottet did in the press on 28 February, as “championing progress against a throng of nominal progressives all standing athwart the city yelling ‘stop’.” This has enraged those who followed the previous parliament’s Inquiry into Museums and Galleries which probed the extreme secrecy surrounding the project and aired the many well-informed objections to it.’ After discussion about recent ‘… heated exchanges on Macquarie Street’, White continues: ‘The government remains obdurate, and that means questions remain about what secret deals have been done over the Ultimo site of the present museum. Late last year Darren Steinberg, chief executive of property developer group Dexus, resigned from the MAAS Trust which oversees the Powerhouse, citing conflict of interest over the potential acquisition of the Ultimo site. He had been on the board for less than a year – one of Arts Minister Don Harwin’s appointments. You have to wonder what has been going on.’ She reminds us that ‘Museums consultant Kylie Winkworth points out that an architect-designed regional museum could be built for $10-$15 million, so that 10% of the Powerhouse relocation costs would fund 15 new regional institutions, giving heart to local communities,’ and concludes that ‘The remaining funds should go to supporting the arts through the present crisis and beyond, restoring some of the spending cuts that have devastated organisations large and small.’
Read more or here: Judith White – Arts budgets in the age of catastrophe
The world-wide CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) and its effect
The World Health Organisation has identified the Coronavirus, COVID-19, as a pandemic, becoming a serious threat to Australia by March 2020, with prospects of many months and even years before a solution is found. Sweeping across the globe, spread at first from local cities and communities overseas by travellers and then multiplying in numbers in new locations, it has caused the greatest social and economic disruption anyone can recall or imagine.
Repercussions in Australia? In efforts to reduce contagion, for example: individuals have to stay at home and ‘self-isolate’; thousands of businesses and education institutions have closed; tens of thousands of jobs lost; beaches, parks and other public places out of bounds; events reliant on crowds and audiences cancelled. Museums, galleries, theatres and sports venues are also closed, with events such as exhibitions, conferences and meetings held on line.
In NSW, with promises of substantial government financial compensation from the state and federal budgets, following on from the costs that still have to be met from bushfires early in the year, questions are continually asked about the NSW government’s rationale for persisting with expensive projects such as the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. (See also, Letters to the Editor).
9 March 2020
‘Conflict of interest seemed to be a recent development’
In recently-obtained minutes of the MAAS Trust’s board meetings, Kylar Loussikian and Samantha Hutchinson, in their CBD report in the Sydney Morning Herald, uncover issues to do with government appointments of people to such Boards who have real or potential conflicts of interest. They ask: ‘Then there’s the question of what to do with the lucrative plot of land left over once the Powerhouse – officially the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences – moves. As CBD revealed in December, Dexus chief executive Darren Steinberg unexpectedly quit the museum’s board in August due to a “possible conflict” over the land’s sale. Cynics, of course, suggest the decision to move the Powerhouse to Parramatta had as much to do with unlocking its inner-city digs for apartment and commercial development as it did with bringing a valuable cultural institution to Sydney’s west.’
CBD draws attention to issues raised in Trust minutes including ‘ “[MAAS chief executive] Lisa Havilah updated Trust on the Creative Industries Precinct Business Case, the masterplan being developed and the proposed market sounding for the site”, the minutes of the July 10 Meeting, attended by Steinberg read,” …and … “Trust requested a full briefing of the draft master plan and market sounding from Annette Pitman, Create NSW”.’ Read more or here: 9 March CBD
8 March, 2020
‘Why Parramatta won’t have a new ‘Powerhouse’ Museum’
A detailed summary on Save the Powerhouse group’s Facebook page notes: ‘For 5 years Save the Powerhouse has said that Parramatta deserves the Museum of its choice. Whatever structure the Parramatta community finally gets on its riverside flood plain, it won’t be the “New Powerhouse” museum – NOR EVEN A REAL MUSEUM – that the Government is desperately promoting. Why? THE ORIGINAL POWERHOUSE WAS CREATED AND CUSTOMISED FOR ULTIMO through the Sulman Prize-winning transformation of the former Ultimo Power Station by visionary architect Lionel Glendenning, so it cannot be transplanted anywhere else.’
The report considers issues including: FAR TOO SMALL, NOT A GENUINE MUSEUM and COST, and concludes: ‘For a fraction of this sum Parramattans could have had the museum they wanted, AND IT COULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETED BY NOW!’
For the full report: Read more or here: 8 March Save the Powerhouse Summary
7-8 March, 2020
The Readers’ Panel – the Powerhouse Museum?
The weekly panel in the Sydney Morning Herald which documents feedback from readers on current issues, asked: ‘Should the $1.5 billion relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta be abandoned and the money put into regional communities?’
The graph shows that 85% recommended abandoning the relocation. See the figures here: 7-8 March SMH readers opinion
6 March, 2020
‘Hollywood historian to assess a rich heritage’
In their CBD column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Kylar Loussikian and Samantha Hutchinson ask: ‘How does one manage to bungle every angle of an astonishingly-expensive purpose-built new art precinct to be built smack bang in the centre of Greater Western Sydney? Just ask Arts Minister Don Harwin and his bureaucrats, who have managed to not only infuriate residents near the Powerhouse Museum’s current Pyrmont site but also those near its new home on the flood-prone banks of the Parramatta River…Cynics fear the museum’s current inner-city digs will soon make way for major commercial and residential developments.’
‘As CBD reported late last year, Dexus chief executive Darren Steinberg made a quiet exit from the MAAS Trust, which runs the museum, after it became clear the property giant had some interest in acquiring the site. He had been appointed less than a year earlier.
Now the Heritage Council is assessing what parts of the current museum site should be added to the state’s heritage register. The more of the site that ends up on that register, the more difficult (and expensive) it will be for development on the property…In January, a report to the government recommended nothing be added to the heritage register because renovations conducted in 1988 for the museum’s opening had trashed the original  building.’
‘But this column can now report a curious new addition to the five-member Heritage Council, one which has yet to be announced or made public in any way. Harwin’s former chief-of-staff Brian Lindsay was added to the panel on February 6…“Mr Lindsay, as an historian, brings this particular expertise to the Council,” a spokesman said when we inquired on Thursday. Lindsay is, to be fair, a historian … at the very least of Hollywood films. His 2016 tome, Category Fraud, investigates how some actors and directors have gamed the, err, Academy Awards… Lindsay, meanwhile, was last year appointed to chair the State Archives board “representing the history profession”. He arrived just in time to oversee another of Harwin’s projects — inexplicably merging the Historic Houses Trust (now known as Sydney Living Museums) into the State Archives.’ Read more or here: 6 March CBD comments
6 March, 2020
‘Think with your brains, not your bottom’
As one of 10 comments about the corona virus, NRL campaign anniversaries, cemetery land management, recent welcome regional rainfall and other issues, Ray Hadley asks:
6: The decision by former Premier Mike Baird to move the Powerhouse Museum out to Parramatta is fraught with danger. Firstly, while the government is rightly crying poor given the recent battles with fire and flood, it’s hard to justify the $1.5 billion spend. Then you have the problem of historic buildings being knocked over to accommodate a building housing historic items (I struggle to understand that concept) and the fact that the museum would be adjacent to the upper reaches of the Parramatta River which means, as we have seen recently, flooding becomes a problem. Knock it on the head, Premier. Read here: 6 March Hadley
4 March, 2020
‘Plans for high towers dwarfing Sydney’s Central station spark concerns’
Associated with concerns about over-development in the city (including redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum site), Matt O’Sullivan writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Plans to allow for buildings up to 206 metres high at the southern end of Sydney’s CBD, including a 39-storey tower planned for tech giant Atlassian, have stoked fears that they will dwarf the landmark Central railway station and lead to “adverse visual impacts”. An area named the western gateway is the first stage of a massive redevelopment of the 24-hectare Central precinct, which extends from the railway station to Cleveland Street.
While the redevelopment of the precinct has received substantial support, the proposal to permit towers up to 206 metres high has raised concerns that the sandstone train station will be “overwhelmed” by the new high rises nearby.
The National Trust said the increase in the allowable building heights was “totally out of context with the surrounding area”, pointing out that Central Station’s clock tower is 75 metres tall and “even the nearby UTS tower is only 120 metres”. “No amount of design guidelines, setbacks or urban design provisions can negate such height,” it said in a submission to the Department of Planning. “There are only nine towers over 200 metres in height in Sydney, and certainly none of these are located in this area.”
The rezoning at Central is part of the biggest shake-up of planning controls in the core of the CBD in more than four decades. It will also allow for towers higher than 300 metres near Circular Quay, Town Hall and Barangaroo, which is significantly above the cap of 235 metres at present.
The Heritage Council argues that the significant increase in the maximum building heights at the western gateway is not in keeping with the character of the area, and will result in “adverse visual impacts” on Central station. It wants the planned building heights to be reduced. Read more or: 5 March Central – SMH
4 March, 2020
‘NSW Premier’s deputy John Barilaro in bitter feud over Powerhouse Museum’
Yoni Bashan writes in The Australian, about how: ‘In a sign of escalating tensions within the Coalition over competing city and rural priorities, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has begun vigorously campaigning for cabinet colleagues to drop their commitment to the $1.5bn relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from the inner city to western Parramatta, saying the funding needs to be reallocated to struggling regional communities.’ …
‘Last week, Mr Barilaro was queried about the Powerhouse Museum by Ms McKay during question time. He provided a lengthy reply about rural and regional communities in distress — but he stopped short of denouncing the project. Instead, he endorsed it. “It is a fair question, a question about priorities,” he said. “If I thought that regional and rural NSW was missing out because we did not have the ability to support our regions, then of course I would have concerns.” However, Barilaro then spoke privately with Opposition Leader Jodi McKay – and others – in the lift ‘once question time had finished.’
‘Several government sources said they agreed that the Powerhouse Museum project was a thorn in the government’s side. But they were more concerned by Mr Barilaro’s indiscreet conversation with the Labor leader, and why he would provide her with ready ammunition against the government. “If he wants to have an argument about it, take it to cabinet,” one source said.
McKay is reported as saying: ‘ “We have a government … that is privatising assets that belong to all of NSW, to fund those questionable projects in Sydney, and to pay for cost blowouts in Sydney.” The museum relocation was signed off by former NSW premier Mike Baird as an election commitment in 2015, a decision made after the museum submitted a business case requesting funding. “The current premises were designed for 19th and 20th-¬century collections and have constrained the museum’s capacity to move with the times,” government documents state.’ Read more or here: Australian 4 March 2020
4 March, 2020
Budget summary, proposed expenditure, Minister for the Arts (including Powerhouse)
Portfolio Committee No. 1, Premier and Finance, examined the proposed expenditure for the various portfolio areas for Minister Don Harwin, including The Arts. On pages 4-11 of the Hansard transcript, questions were asked about the move of the Powerhouse Museum. These included potential display of all designs; involvement of the MAAS Trust; assessment of flood risks; access for audiences during floods; stages of design development; consideration of heritage buildings; role of staff in Create NSW. To see full transcript: Read more And to read the extract about the Powerhouse Museum and Create NSW, read: 4 March Budget extract
4 March, 2020
‘CEO flummoxed over new Powerhouse access’
Save the Powerhouse Facebook reports on questions and answers in the Legislative Assembly Budget Estimates hearing on 3 March, and the news reports that followed. They say: ‘…The flooding issue was a dominant theme at yesterday’s Legislative Assembly Budget Estimates hearing when Shoebridge, new Committee Chair Robert Borsak and Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord, pressed Arts Minister Don Harwin, Powerhouse CEO Lisa Havilah and other Government officials for more details about the planned “New Powerhouse” at Parramatta. While the Minister gave his customary uninformative (slippery?) performance, Havilah was visibly more hesitant. Having asserted confidently that the MAAS Trust had “signed off” on the selected winning design for the new museum she conceded that it would necessarily be built at or above the “one in a hundred years flood level ‘ of 7.5 m above ground level. “Will it be on stilts?” Secord wondered. She added that “not all objects will be above the flood level – PARTS WILL BE ON A LEVEL THAT WOULD FLOOD.” Secord’s question “How does the public access a building so far above ground level? Lifts, escalators – or what?” appeared to fluster Havilah. Scratching her head, she launched a flurry of vague remarks about the planned creation of a “civic link” with public access “via elevation from the river side.” … Shoebridge wanted to know:
(1) if the Minister and panel were aware of the historical severity of floods at Parramatta – he was assured that “a flood impact assessment will be prepared.”- and
(2) the proposed completion date for the New Museum – Havilah revealed that the date is “not yet known” because the project (now at stage 3) has not yet reached the “procurement” stage, to select a builder, Only after that, she said, can a project completion date be decided…So long for the promised 2023 opening!’
For a full account of the day’s proceedings please check the Legislative Council Hansard transcript for March 3: To see transcript: Read more And to read the extract about the Powerhouse Museum and Create NSW, read: 4 March Budget extract
1 March, 2020
‘Rival Parramatta Powerhouse Museum Designs remain under wraps’
Following considerable criticism of both the arguably inappropriate design of the ‘new museum’, and the demolition of heritage buildings, Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, announces that ‘The peak body of architects [Australian Institute of Architects] has called for the release of all shortlisted design plans for the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum, saying it would be in the interests of public and professional transparency. The organiser of the taxpayer-funded International Design Competition, Malcolm Reading, has also supported the exhibition of the shortlisted plans to demonstrate the relative merits of the winning design and protect the integrity of the competition process.
The runners up in the competition remain under wraps almost 10 weeks after the International Design Competition jury judged that the standout design for the riverfront site came from the partnership of French architecture practice Moreau Kusunoki and Melbourne-based practice Genton. Mr Reading said it is customary for the designs of all architect teams to be displayed as part of an online gallery at the same time as the winning design is announced…’
‘ A spokesperson for Arts Minister Don Harwin said the government looked forward to sharing the shortlisted designs with the public “in the near future”… The NSW president of the Australian Institute of Architects, Kathlyn Loseby, said before the institute endorsed the competition process, it was assured each proposal would be exhibited and the institute would be briefed. It was essential to ensure proper transparency of the taxpayer-funded competition process for the sake of both public and professional confidence, Ms Loseby said. It was preferable that any physical exhibition should take place in Parramatta. Mr Reading pointed to a page link showing that the government committed to the designs’ release by the end of 2019.
At least two other short-listed designs retained one heritage building, but how the six architecture teams resolved heritage issues and arrived at their concepts on the constrained flood-prone site remains unknown. All teams signed up to confidentiality clauses as part of competition terms.’ Read more or here: Rival Designs under wraps
28 February, 2020
‘Parramatta: Powerhouse Museum relocation inquiry’
Joanne Vella writes in the Parramatta Advertiser that: ‘A fresh inquiry into the State Government’s $1.5 billion relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has polarised the community.
The Greens and Labor have backed the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Party motion to launch the inquiry. Greens MP David Shoebridge said the inquiry was made more urgent after the recent floods at the proposed new $645 million Powerhouse site. “We need to ensure the safety of the Powerhouse’s priceless collection and it really does beggar belief that the government is proposing to place it beside a river on a flood plain,’’ he said. “We will also be passing a close eye over the proposed budget given the billion dollar cost overruns that almost every infrastructure project has faced under the Coalition.”
Mr Shoebridge said the community’s campaign was also a key reason for maintaining scrutiny. “There is a compelling case for Parramatta to have its own world class cultural institution that responds to its unique history from First Nations, to invasion and colonisation and the vibrant surge of migrants in the post war period,” Mr Shoebridge said. Opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord described the design as a “monstrosity on stilts’’. The design also spells the demolition of heritage-listed Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace at Phillip St. North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group welcomed the inquiry particularly about the demolition of 1870s Italianate villa Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. “NPRAG is very pleased to hear further scrutiny into the Powerhouse Museum debacle is starting soon,’’ spokeswoman Suzette Meade said.’ Read more: 28 Feb P Adv. Relocation Inquiry
27 February, 2020
‘Fresh inquiry into Powerhouse Museum’
Hard on the heels of all recent reports, Linda Morris , in the Sydney Morning Herald, advises: that: ‘A fresh parliamentary inquiry has been launched into the Berejiklian government’s $1.5 billion plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, as well as disparities in funding support for city and regional galleries and museums. The future of the museum and its priceless collection will be scrutinised by the same select upper house committee which urged last year that the museum’s relocation to Parramatta be abandoned and western Sydney be given its own world-class institution.
The wide-ranging inquiry will investigate the vision behind the move, governance of the project, including the effectiveness and adequacy of planning, the business case, design briefs, project management, public reporting, costs and cultural and demographic justifications. Greens MP David Shoebridge said special focus would be given to the consequences of floods after the carpark on the riverfront site was on February 10 turned into a swimming pool during the one-in-a-10-year flood event. Terms of reference also include the heritage status of the site at Ultimo and Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace, historic buildings at Parramatta slated for demolition per the winning designs by Moreau Kusunoki and Genton. The motion to hold an inquiry was backed by Greens and Labor, and was carried on voices in the upper house without there being a vote.’ Read more or here: 27 Feb Fresh Inquiry
27 February, 2020
‘Plans made for Sydney to get its own Victoria and Albert Museum’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘The former NSW Land Titles building would house a museum for the decorative arts under plans advanced by a government review to revamp the historic sandstone ribbon of Macquarie Street’, saying that documents show that: ‘The idea for Sydney’s answer to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was raised by former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull with the director of the Powerhouse Museum last year.’
Turnbull and former Prime Minister Paul Keating have been working on a new ‘vision’ for Macquarie St and The Domain since late November 2018… “It is anticipated that the NSW government will respond to the review later this year,” the spokesperson said. ‘If such a museum was supported by NSW Cabinet and managed by the Powerhouse Museum, its collection would need to be split between the new CBD museum and the Parramatta Powerhouse, now in the detailed design phase …”Early discussions involve a proposed cultural precinct at the end of Macquarie St including a decorative arts museum,” according to Trust minutes obtained under freedom of information laws. “Any work on this will require a business case to the NSW government, which will consider timeframes and budget.”
The Powerhouse Museum is expected to maintain a fashion and design gallery at Ultimo after it relocates to Parramatta in 2023. A second business case looking at Ultimo’s redevelopment is close to finalisation. Chairman of the Trust, Barney Glover, said on Wednesday the museum remained committed to the Powerhouse Museum having a major presence in Sydney and Parramatta.
The proposal comes as notice was given to list the Powerhouse Museum’s engine house and turbine hall, second boiler house, office building and switch hall for heritage listing,’ which ‘ “… does not even mention in the assessment criteria the Powerhouse Museum, its Sulman award-winning adaption, and elegant Wran building, the tram depot for which the power station was built, the in situ gantry cranes and relics, and collection items directly related to the functions of the site; its cultural significance as the major landmark of the 1988 bicentenary, nor the well demonstrated social value of the museum for the people of NSW,” she said.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Robert Borsak flagged in NSW’s Upper House the reopening of a parliamentary inquiry into the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation – its vision, governance, risks to the collection, issues of flooding, heritage status and its future presence in Ultimo. Labor and the Greens say they will back Mr Borsak’s motion.’
Morris notes: ‘In 2017, architects McGregor Coxall completed a masterplan to “unlock a hidden gem and create new linkages between Hyde Park, the Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the CBD, tying the site into the wider ‘cultural ribbon’ that spans the Sydney CBD”. The plans show a pedestrian plaza at the rear of Sydney Hospital, with new government office space and a refurbished Land Titles office.
Like the V & A Museum, the priceless Powerhouse collection ranges across architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, theatre and performance. Were Sydney to get its own standalone Powerhouse decorative arts museum, Parramatta’s museum would likely focus on science, technology, and engineering and maths.’ Read more or here: SMH 27 Feb
26 February, 2020
‘Questions in Parliament: Robbie & Wendy show dominate NSW Parliament – Powerhouse and Harwin interview’
Walt Secord, Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts, distributed documentation of a confrontation in Parliament, where Adam Searle, Leader of the Opposition, Penny Sharpe, Deputy Opposition Leader, and himself, Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts, interrogate Don Harwin as Minister for the Arts, about the government’s approval to demolish heritage buildings in Parramatta to develop a site for the proposed relocated Powerhouse Museum. Searle asks: ‘My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Arts Minister. Given the Minister’s 10 April 2019 comments on ABC Radio where he told broadcasters Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer when asked if heritage property Willow Grove would be demolished to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum that “No, we have not said that at all”, will he now admit that he misled the local community, the media and the people of this State?’ Penny Sharpe asked: ‘How does the Minister explain the disparity between his 18 April 2019 statement that Willow Grove will not be demolished and his 19 February 2020 statement that it was “an accurate answer at that particular point in time”?’ And Secord, after being asked to rephrase his question several times, persists in asking: ‘Would the Minister elucidate his answer in regard to the Willow Grove retention? Is it the Parramatta Council, the Premier or the Minister who fibbed to the community?’ The question appeared to remain unresolved. Read more: 25 Feb 2020 NSW Parliament
25 February, 2020
‘Intent to consider listing Ultimo Tramways Power House on the State Heritage Register’, and invitation for submissions
Writing as a Delegate of the Heritage Council of NSW, Tim Smith, Director Operations, Heritage NSW, in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, sent out a message to interested people and organisations, saying: ‘I am writing to advise that the Heritage Council of NSW resolved, at its meeting of 12 February 2020, to give notice of its intention to consider listing Ultimo Tramways Power House on the State Heritage Register in acknowledgement of its heritage significance to the people of New South Wales. This advice is in accordance with section 33(1)(a) of the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW). Any members of the community, owners, managers, organisations or other interested parties are invited to make a written submission regarding the proposed listing and significance of Ultimo Tramways Power House. Submissions should be posted or emailed to the Heritage Council of NSW at the following address during the public submission period commencing on 26 February 2020 and closing on 24 March 2020 (to email@example.com and see links below for address).’
However, it has been pointed out by others who have advocated over many years for heritage listing, that the ‘nomination that does not even mention in the assessment criteria the Powerhouse Museum, its Sulman award winning adaption and elegant Wran building, the tram depot for which the power station was built, the in situ gantry cranes and relics, and collection items directly related to the functions of the site, its cultural significance as the major landmark of the 1988 bicentenary, nor the well demonstrated social value of the museum for the people of NSW.’ For nomination document: Read more and letter here: Ultimo Tramways Power House
Strong criticisms of 2020 Nomination for State Heritage Listing:
For those wanting to make submissions supporting the nomination for heritage listing, it should be pointed out that many who know the Powerhouse Museum well find the revised nomination deeply flawed, poorly researched, and an exercise in understating the significance of the site, even the partial elements under consideration. The PMA will provide further advice on errors, omissions and mistakes, with a list of points people may wish to include in their response.
As well as the comments made at the time, (see 1 March, below), see also some of those submitted for review, before 24 March, 2020: Read here for some submissions made to review the inadequacies of the nomination.
1 March, 2020
‘Shonky State Heritage Register nomination must be rejected.’
A member of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance exposes critical issues with the nomination as it exists, saying ‘The Heritage Council has advertised a nomination for State Heritage Listing for the Ultimo Tramways Power House for the State Heritage Register. This shonky nomination grotesquely misrepresents the significance of this site and must be rejected. This is a nomination for a place which doesn’t exist. The nomination is deeply flawed, poorly researched and ignores the history of the site from Ultimo Power Station to Powerhouse Museum. The developer-friendly curtilage on which the nomination is based cuts the Powerhouse Museum in half. It is inexplicable that the Heritage Council has put this grossly distorted, factually incorrect nomination on exhibition to be considered. This substandard nomination ignores the last 40 years of the site’s rebirth as the Powerhouse Museum.‘
1 March, 2020
“ULTIMO TRAMWAYS POWER HOUSE” HERITAGE LISTING A HOAX?
Save the Powerhouse Facebook posted an extended critique of the proposed listing (see full entry, with explanatory plan here: Save the Powerhouse- Heritage Listing a Hoax
It said that: ‘The Heritage Council of NSW (an “independent statutory body” in the Department of Premier and Cabinet!) … resolved, at its meeting of 12 February 2020, to give notice of its intention to consider listing Ultimo Tramways Power House on the State Heritage Register in acknowledgement of its heritage significance to the people of New South Wales.” The letter (sent to a local group) goes on to explain that the former “Ultimo Tramways Power House” (Station) is potentially of State significance historically for being the first large state-owned electricity generating station in NSW“ – completely true.
But what does this fictitious title “Ultimo Tramways Power House” that the Heritage Council has dreamed up actually refer to? Museum specialists who have analysed available information … fear that it is designed to mask the intention, not overtly stated, TO LIST ONLY THE EXTERIOR SHELL (without interiors) of the original Power Station building, not the “Museum“ as we know and understand it. A further puzzle is the fact that this part of the Museum (ie former Power Station + contents) was already locally heritage-listed years ago by the City of Sydney. So this proposal would effectively “delist” the Museum.
If you are confused by all this, so are we! A sick joke by our warped NSW Government? Another blatant attempt to stack the odds in the Government’s favour? Or merely one more example of such blundering ignorance that it cannot even get the right name for the institution it aims to place on the heritage list?
One thing that the Heritage Council’s letter makes clear is that we now have the opportunity to protest strongly against this travesty of a proposal, and demand that the Powerhouse Museum in its entirety (ie including the Sulman-price-winning Wran building and the Harwood Building) must be placed on the State Heritage list.’
25 March, 2020: Read here for some submissions made to review the inadequacies of the nomination.
February 28, 2020
‘Sydney’s seven deadly sins of development? No, I call it a symphony’
Dominic Perrottet, NSW Treasurer, provides a controversial critical response in the Sydney Morning Herald, to Elizabeth Farrelly’s article [below] about the Seven Deadly Sins of city over-development, and lack of concern for heritage and environment. He says: ‘Truth is, I relish reading Farrelly’s Saturday columns, partly for their passion, purpose and prose, but mostly because I disagree with just about every word. Like some kind of inverted compass, they help to affirm my political bearings, in a back-to-front sort of way. There is one thing we do have in common: we both love Sydney. A lot. Where we diverge is in our vision for the kind of city we want Sydney to be. Hers, it seems to me, is terminally pedestrian – a Sydney returned to some romanticised mid-century heyday, a lightly bustling outpost with none of that nasty urban sprawl (working sprawlers be damned) or diabolical economic ambition. It’s a vision I find confusing, sad and out of touch with what 99 per cent of Sydneysiders know as reality.’ He provides his rationale for development, and adds: ‘So our government is getting on with it. We’re building infrastructure – roads, rail, schools and hospitals, museums, stadiums – as if our children’s lives and livelihoods depend on it, because they do. We are putting an end to the wasteful squandering of our city’s talents, and investing to get centrepieces such as Circular Quay up to world-class scratch…But it also means the people proposing new developments need to get real, and design buildings that respect and augment Sydney’s unsurpassed beauty, not monuments to ego that trample all over it. This is a vital part of the balancing act we must perform: embracing the new, while preserving the heritage we love…If we get it right, Sydney’s global future will be a richly textured masterpiece: old and new, loud and soft, fast and slow, cities and suburbs, jobs and culture, industry and open space, utility and beauty – all in harmony for the greater good of our people. Sinful? No. Symphonic.’ Read more or here: 28 Feb Perrottet
22/23 February, 2020
‘Sydney and the Seven Deadly Sins of City-Making’
Elizabeth Farrelly, in the Sydney Morning Herald, discusses the idea that : ’It’s often said that we get the cities we deserve. This implies that cities have a resonance that is not only emotional and aesthetic but also moral. And because our cities shape us, as much as we shape them, these fascinating habitable artefacts easily amplify our virtues – and our vices. Further, because in recent decades our cities have been so strongly shaped by neo-liberalism, and because neo-liberalism needs us to be our worst possible selves – the vices overwhelmingly dominate virtues. Therefore let us ask: what are the Seven Deadly Sins of City Planning?’
She reminds us that ‘Traditionally, the Seven Deadly Sins are as follows: sloth, wrath, gluttony, envy, lust, avarice and pride’, and traces a number of recent government projects that demonstrated these ‘sins’. Among them, she cites the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum as an example of ‘Lust’, ‘Gluttony’ and ‘Sloth’.
‘Lust? Lust may sound improbable as a city-making ingredient but, at least at a metaphorical level, drives the habitual prostitution of our public lands, institutions and buildings to private corporations. Consider Barangaroo, pimping out hectares of the last remaining public inner-city waterfront for the private profit of Crown Casino, or the Bays Precinct or the Powerhouse, scandalously destroying a venerable public institution so the site can be privately redeveloped.
Gluttony is everywhere. On medieval definitions, gluttony is not just over-eating but dwelling overmuch in earthly thoughts. It drives our disdain for heritage, where refusal to transcend the mundane or recognise the critical importance of narrative in our shared lives allows the wanton destruction of treasured ancient fabric. In the new-Powerhouse destruction of Parramatta’s pretty Italianate villa Willow Grove, in the vast, ultra-shiny proposals for the Bays Precinct, Parramatta Road, Marrickville and Haberfield, the richly storeyed nature of our city is repeatedly trashed by planning tsars with little imagination and less courage.
And so to sloth. Again, you might think this plays no part in cities but, again, it’s everywhere. Sloth, or laziness, drives our government’s refusal properly to define contractual relationships – as in the new light rail, where even the Auditor-General recognised “inadequate planning and tight timeframes” increased costs by half a billion dollars and decreased benefits by a billion. Such sloth – evident too in the stadium redevelopments, and the Powerhouse move, where contracts were let before a business case was even developed – is a form of bad parenting that subjects public amenity to developer whim.’ Read more
‘The Powerhouse Museum: Significance, Consequences, Opportunities; reviewing a museum’s history as a unique cultural asset in its state capital’
Jennifer Sanders, associated with the Powerhouse Museum as curator and Deputy Director from 1978, and a longstanding member of AMaGA and ICOM Australia, published an article in the Australian Museums and Galleries Association magazine, Vol 28/1, Summer 2020. She makes a strong argument for the Museum’s continuing location as a state museum in the centre of Sydney, while also advocating a regional cultural centre in Parramatta, saying: ‘The Museum’s building — its historic fabric and contemporary architecture, and its Ultimo location — together with its diverse collections, are intrinsic to the overarching narrative that forms the Powerhouse Museum. The Powerhouse Museum is born of the Industrial Revolution. It is unique for the synergy between the Museum’s extraordinary collection and the magnificent spaces of the 1899 Ultimo Power House, one of Australia’s earliest and most imposing industrial buildings, and the contemporary architecture of 1988 that is the Powerhouse Museum today. The Museum has proven to be a well-purposed, award-winning museum with impressive flexibility, character and ambience. The Powerhouse encompasses a long history of distinctive cultural events inscribed in the heart of the city’s history.’
Sanders points out that: ‘A NSW Parliamentary Upper House Inquiry has for some years been examining many of these issues, and public submissions from people from across NSW, Australia and the world about various options that would retain the purpose-built Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and not see a major public building torn down. Despite all submissions carefully arguing a contrary case, the NSW Government is continuing with its $1.5bn-plus plan to ‘move’ the Museum to Parramatta…’. She notes that ‘The historical overview in fact reveals why so many people and donors, who have always known the Powerhouse Museum and its distinctive technological history as an integral part of Sydney’s cultural infrastructure, became so astonished when the proposal arose to move the institution right out of the city and away from its long term partner-museums (notably the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Sydney’s historic houses today forming Sydney Living Museums). This collection of historic public institutions with linked histories in the civic heart of a city forms a cluster that distinguishes the most vibrant capitals world-wide.’
She adds that: ‘For many of the Museum’s staff, the last few years have been very difficult and disheartening… Yet the redevelopment project describes a museum embarking on the ‘the largest cultural infrastructure project currently being undertaken in Australia’. Dozens of Powerhouse Museum alumni, and nine Directors emeriti, have raised reasoned and well-documented objections to the current plan, highlighting the project’s disruptive logic for what it is — in effect, the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum as a Sydney asset, arguing that a completely different cultural asset at Parramatta will be the outcome. It should be said that all defenders of the Powerhouse Museum’s retention support the case for a major facility at Parramatta — but believe that Parramatta’s own civic leaders and community should have been consulted about the best case for their cultural needs in the heart of a western-Sydney centre. The Powerhouse would be an ideal civic partner — along with other Sydney museums — to ensure that the state’s collections can be regularly shared with western Sydney citizens and form the basis of ongoing educational displays and exhibitions, as the greater Parramatta area deserves.’
Of the Parramatta site, she says: ‘It will have less exhibition space, with fewer Museum objects on display. It will have less on-site access to the varied Powerhouse collections — to be stored off-site and dispersed around NSW — that is, if sufficiently safe, secure and accessible locations can be identified and negotiated. The Powerhouse collection will never again be presented as an integrated and powerful statement of Australia’s cultural heritage, and our place in the world.’ Read more: J Sanders MaG 2020
19 February, 2020
‘Expression of Interest: New Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta Community Reference Group’
The MAAS website advertises: ‘The Powerhouse is inviting members of the community to work with us during the design and planning of the new Powerhouse through the establishment of a Community Reference Group. The Community Reference group will represent a diverse range of local community organisations, the business community, schools, youth, cultural organisations, and/or neighbouring residents who have an interest in the project.’ It says: ‘If you are interested in becoming a member of the Community Reference Group, please provide a written submission of up to 500 words…’ (and identifies questions to respond to).
‘Expressions of interest will be received by 4 March 2020. The Powerhouse will then select the most appropriate respondents, with a short interview undertaken if required, and thank all those who expressed an interest. The first meeting will be held in March 2020 and selected members must be available to attend this meeting. In order to participate, you (or a representative from your organisation or community group) will be required to attend each meeting (to be held every six weeks, or at key project milestones). The meeting location will be provided upon appointment.’ For full information and contact details: Read more or here: MAAS Community engagement Feb 2020
See also 24 March, for expressed concern from NPRAG for cancellation of public meetings: NPrag Media Release 25032020
18 February, 2020
‘Powerhouse design brief asked architects to consider historic demolition’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, notes that: ‘The Stage 2 design brief, released to the public on Monday and prepared by Create NSW, did not push for the retention of the 1886 Italianate villa known as Willow Grove, and instead urged designers to consider its removal “should it be required”.’ Instead, she writes: ‘Architects were encouraged to consider the demolition of a historic Victorian building in order to make way for Parramatta’s new Powerhouse Museum, despite the NSW Premier’s assurance in 2019 that efforts would be made to try and save local heritage. …The International Jury was unanimous in its decision on the chosen concept, designed by Moreau Kusunoki. The winning architects did not opt to retain Willow Grove and a row of Victorian terraces, known as St. George’s Terrace, nearby.’
‘ “The documents show that Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her government never intended to protect Willow Grove – and engaged in a cruel hoax on the community,” Labor’s Walt Secord said. But a spokeswoman for the Premier denied Mr Secord’s claims and said …that all finalists were asked to consider heritage aspects and be “sympathetic to the local heritage site”. “The design brief also allowed for the removal of the heritage buildings, should it be required. The submitted concept designs made clear that it is not possible to deliver on the design ambitions of the brief and deliver city connectivity while retaining Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.”’
‘The broad principles of the brief, prepared on behalf of Create NSW, show much attention was paid to the museum’s integration into the cultural fabric of Parramatta, and its orientation to the riverfront. Planners referred to the museum as being “fine grain” in its structure, meaning it would be made up of multiple smaller elements rather than one large block. According to the plans, there will be multiple entries, with no single front door, multiple places to stop, soft edges and no harsh lights. It will be open until late in the night and have intimate retail offerings, while also being a working precinct. A minimum 18,000 square metres of exhibition and public spaces was specified, configured across six column-free exhibition spaces. Three of these were commissioned without museum standard environmental controls.’
Read more or here: SMH Linda M 18 Feb
17 February, 2020
Powerhouse Precinct Parramatta
International design competition: Stage 2 Design Brief
A Stage 2 Design Brief has been issued, following the announcement of the French company Moreau Kusunoki as Lead Design Architect, working with Australia’s Genton as Local Design Architect, to develop the plans for the proposed relocated Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.
Public concerns continue to be expressed for the excessive cost of the unnecessary project, the inappropriateness of the spaces, the location on a flood-prone area, the demolition of heritage buildings, the lack of consultation with local people about their preferences for a local museum and gallery – and the strong opposition to removing the state Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo with no current advice about the future of that site.
The extensive Brief includes: ‘We envisage the Powerhouse Parramatta as a hyper-platform, a building with limitless potential which continuously evolves. The built form treads lightly on the site, creating a porous ground plane…’ And ‘A new curatorial strategy will focus on integrated and immersive programs that promote interaction and inspire and connect people of all ages and backgrounds.’
But the Brief also raises new issues. Some public responses include:
– ‘Concern for the 25% smaller space for exhibitions, not all with environmental controls’
– ‘Concern for the potential triviality of an emphasis on ‘iconic objects’, ‘immersive experiences’, a constantly changing rolling program, grand art commissions, and extravagant screen-based content.’
– ‘Inadequate attention to providing well-informed stories expressing the significance of the broad collection across science and technology, decorative arts and design and social history’, for reference, research and appreciation.’
-‘Little understanding of the time needed to plan a range of exhibitions with a vastly reduced professional staff.’ (See the record of exhibitions 1988-2018 here. )
Some public comments made to the PMAlliance sum up:
‘It is clear that the government never intended to create a museum as it is commonly understood. What they are doing is a big commercial development with some exhibition galleries attached that are far inferior and just a fraction of the size of the PHM … Class A asset stripping. What a con.’
‘They have no interest in the collection or in doing properly curated exhibitions. That is why there is not one person with museum experience at any level of the project structure, nor in the senior management, nor the neutered MAAS Trust, nor on the design competition jury.’
‘In the Stage 2 design brief they ask for the building to have a 100 year life…These people have had an irony bypass. Trashing the PHM after just 32 years.’
‘Sorry, that’s a multi-purpose arts facility with a small museum on top, NOT the Powerhouse Museum. Save the REAL Museum in Ultimo!’
To see the Design Brief: Read more with attachments: Read more
12 February, 2020
‘The Site of the Future $645 Million Powerhouse Museum Copped Lots of Flooding Over the Weekend’
Sarah Ward, in Concrete Playground, asks: ‘Wild weather saw the Parramatta site inundated with floodwaters — what does this mean for its future?’ and reports: ‘As rain bucketed down on the city over the past weekend, it caused the Parramatta River to flood. In the process, it also inundated the Powerhouse Museum’s new site with water. As City of Parramatta Councillor Donna Davis has documented on Twitter, that led to a submerged carpark right where the relocated museum is set to stand. Obviously, that doesn’t bode all that well for an institution that’ll be filled with valuable artefacts.’ She continues: ‘Since 2017, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance — a body opposed to the move, advocating for the museum to stay at its current Ultimo location instead — has noted that the Parramatta spot is on a floodplain and susceptible to both river flooding and overland flash flooding. Its findings stem from council papers, plans and submissions, which place the riverside site in an area within the one-in-20 and one-in-100-year flood zones. That means that the odds that a flood will happen in any given year are as high as one in 20.’ Furthermore: ‘Since 2017, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance — a body opposed to the move, advocating for the museum to stay at its current Ultimo location instead — has noted that the Parramatta spot is on a floodplain and susceptible to both river flooding and overland flash flooding. Its findings stem from council papers, plans and submissions, which place the riverside site in an area within the one-in-20 and one-in-100-year flood zones. That means that the odds that a flood will happen in any given year are as high as one in 20.’
Read more or here 12 Feb Concrete playground
10 February, 2020
‘Labor calls on Premier to abandon Powerhouse relocation’
In a press statement, Labor Leader, Jodi McKay, ‘has renewed calls for the $1.5 billion Powerhouse Museum relocation to Parramatta to be abandoned, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s chosen site is flooded due to heavy rains spilling in to the Parramatta River.’ And ‘Labor Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord has described the Parramatta design as a “monstrosity on stilts”.’ ‘Ms McKay concluded saying: “Rather than going through the ridiculous expense of moving museum exhibits across Sydney, Labor believes Parramatta deserves its own new arts and cultural precinct. We would save Willow Grove and honour the treasure that it is”.’
Read more: 10 Feb Jodi McKay
10 February, 2020
‘Parramatta Powerhouse site flooded’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports: ‘The site of the new Powerhouse Museum has been inundated with floodwaters from the swollen Parramatta River, underlining the vulnerability of the $1 billion project to flood. The ground floor of the four-level car park and the grassy riverfront was partially submerged in an area where the museum is to stand.’ Despite reassurances provided to her about the design of the proposed new building to deal with flooding, Morris also notes: ‘In a letter to the upper house inquiry into the museum’s relocation from Ultimo to Parramatta, river hydrologist Dr John Macintosh said the decision to locate the museum on this site would result in visitors being exposed to “unacceptable flood hazard” and “potentially expose the collections to damage or destruction if the site was inundated with floodwaters”. And: ‘Parramatta City councillor Donna Davis said the flooding was not unexpected. “This is a site where frequent flooding is common and that will always experience the fastest flowing and deepest water,” she said. “Why would you house items of international and cultural significance on a site that is at such a high risk of flooding?” ‘
Read more or here 10 Feb SMH parra flood
7 February, 2020
Museum billing ‘will allow steamrolling of objections’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, documents the implications of how: ‘The new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta has been declared a state-significant project in what opponents say gives the Berejiklian government license to override community or council objections to bulldozing of historic buildings on site…. The designation of state significance bypasses Parramatta Council’s development controls and comes as Labor steps up opposition to the billion-dollar project in the wake of the state’s ‘‘black summer’’, proposing the taxpayers’ contribution of $645 million be diverted to bushfire recovery… Infrastructure NSW deemed the project to be of state significance in a letter dated January 13 requesting the Department of Planning start assessment. Its application specifies demolition of the existing fourlevel Riverbank car park, Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace. Built in the 1870s, Willow Grove is an example of a Victorian Italianate two-storey villa and once served as a maternity hospital. Along with St George’s Terrace, it is a locally listed heritage item.’
‘Opposition spokesman for the arts and treasury, Walt Secord, predicted the views of the local council, locals and community groups would be subverted by the development process as they were for WestConnex when, he said, the views of the community had been ‘‘steamrolled’’. ‘‘Because the Berejiklian government does not have the community on board, it will ram the Powerhouse Museum through the approvals process,’’ the shadow treasurer said.’
Lisa Havilah, the museum’s chief executive officer, also confirmed there would be no traditional planetarium in the new museum. Instead, a largescale contemporary, immersive screen space would present science and astronomy programs…‘‘We are trying to create a space for the future that is flexible, immersive and will continue to present great frontend technology programs for young people.’’ ‘
‘Museum consultant Kylie Winkworth said planning for the Parramatta facility had been secretive, compared to Museum of London’s open process of community involvement when it proposed shifting to the abandoned Smithfield market. In NSW, the public had had no say in the site selection assessment and on the museum’s themes and content, she said. The public had yet to see the shortlisted competition designs, let alone voice a preference… was not so much a museum for the people but a statement of architecture, with the museum’s collection deemed unimportant. ‘‘It is much cheaper to deliver with empty spaces than to develop an actual museum with proper exhibitions,’’ she said. Read more or here: 7 Feb Linda Morris SMH
30 January, 2020
‘Lisa Havilah’s ambitious plans for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum’
In the February issue of the Australian Financial Review’s arts magazine, Jane Albert documents the career path of Lisa Havilah, chief executive of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, and interviews her about her plans and visions for the relocated museum. ‘For an arts administrator, getting one’s hands on the reins of any state-backed arts institution is a plum job. Being put in charge of one that’s on the cusp of a top-to-toe transformation is especially attractive. Certainly the NSW state government, with a weather eye on the voters of western Sydney, is keen to tout the new Powerhouse as being its largest cultural investment since the Sydney Opera House.
Running the Powerhouse is also a controversy-prone job. Uprooting the museum has angered some powerful and influential figures…’. ‘Indeed the move, first mooted in 2014, caused so much anger that a NSW Upper House inquiry recommended the existing Powerhouse be revitalised and a new institution built in Parramatta. Nevertheless, the current NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Arts Minister Don Harwin and his close ally Havilah are ploughing ahead towards an opening date of 2023.’ As well as discussing plans for the museum spaces and programs, comparisons are made with previous working relationships and her art gallery, rather than museum, experience and expectations. Read more or here: AFR Mag Feb 2020 Havilah
or: 30 Jan AFR Havilah
30 January, 2020
‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian rejects questions about Parramatta’s heritage’
Joanne Vella, in the Parramatta Advertiser, records that: ‘Premier Gladys Berejiklian deflected questions about saving a heritage-listed Parramatta building despite talks to students about Parramatta’s rich history. Read more:
29 January, 2020
‘Taking out the Trash while NSW Burns‘
Museum expert Kylie Winkworth writes for City Hub/Alt Media, about the impact of unprecedented bushfires where ‘Repairing the impacts of the fires and drought will take years, even decades… The government’s spending priorities need to change; or so one would think. But while people were distracted by the bushfire crisis, the hazardous air quality, and the seeming death of nature itself, the government got to work, taking out the trash for its most extravagant and toxic project. In mid-January it pressed on with the next stage of the demolition of the Powerhouse Museum, setting in motion the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Parramatta museum.’
‘It was left to community activist Suzette Meade to winkle out of the government that the new museum will be built on the rubble of St George’s Terrace and Willow Grove. Only last February the Premier promised to retain these listed heritage buildings, at least for the duration of the election campaign. If the government had any qualms about the contradiction of building a museum on a heritage crime scene it wasn’t letting on. There was no mention of these heritage losses in the media releases. It seems that Parramatta’s big new cultural landmark requires the sacrifice of its authentic places, culture and heritage.’ …
‘And as for the fate of the real Powerhouse Museum, it is already being written out of history and barely rates a mention in the EIS letter. Even so, the hidden purpose of the faux museum Architecture project at Parramatta is to provide cover for the demolition of the PHM, and the appropriation of its land and assets for property development. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Act is not listed in the section covering the statutory framework… The Trustees are not mentioned as agents or stakeholders in the project, they are already disempowered and irrelevant. Nor are the museum’s donors, members, volunteers, former trustees and Life Fellows identified as stakeholders. The people who have done most to create the Powerhouse Museum and its collections are written off, like the museum itself… All this a double cultural tragedy for NSW and Parramatta. There is the missed opportunity for a new museum about Parramatta’s remarkable history and contemporary cultures. And there’s the demolition of the real Powerhouse Museum, Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences which has been in Ultimo since 1893. Read more or here: 29 Jan 2020, KW CityHub
13 January 2020
‘Request for Environmental Assessment Requirements, for new Powerhouse in Parramatta’
On its Major Projects Planning Portal, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment opened a page for the construction of the New Powerhouse at Parramatta. It includes a range of design plans showing proposed elevations, site maps and layouts.
A timeline identifies points in the process of development, the current status starting point being a heading ‘Prepare SEARs’. It is possible to register interest in this page for access to updates. For the Portal, Read more or here Read more
But what is the SEARs Request? Attached to the planning portal is a letter from Michael Oliver (director of Planning for ETHOS Urban, a ‘national urban solutions company)’, to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, written ‘on behalf of Infrastructure NSW, the proponent for the proposed the development of the New Powerhouse’. The letter is a ‘Request for Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEAR)’ document, for the New Powerhouse at 30B Phillip Street, Parramatta’, which is needed ‘for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed development.’
Attached to the letter is a substantial supporting document which ‘provides an overview of the proposed development, sets out the statutory context, and identifies the key likely environmental and planning issues associated with the proposal. This request is accompanied by concept plans prepared by [successful architects] Moreau Kusunoki with Genton which illustrate the proposed development.’ For letter and attached document: Read more or here: New Powerhouse- Request for SEARs
Responses to the Ethos letter and document:
22 January, 2020
Kylie Winkworth raises issues with the letter and its attached document:
‘The EIS request for the new museum at Parramatta has quietly gone up on the Dept of Planning website. This must be stage 2 of the ‘taking out the trash’ project. The letter/briefing paper has been prepared by a firm called Ethos. Apparently.
For the first time there are cross sections of the Parramatta museum showing a few planes and helicopters in a trophy hall but otherwise it is a museum in name only, with no vision, no compelling concept or rationale and nothing to say about the content. It is a brutal, overbearing building. The larger building is set so far forward on the site it leaves just a few metres for a vestigial river walk. One artist rendering from the north looking across the river shows a bridge across the river connecting to what they have called Civic Link, located on the site of the demolished Willow Grove. It will be a massive wind tunnel. The bridge will not actually be built as part of the project, although it was in the original brief. The cost of this, if it is feasible, will be pushed onto Parramatta City Council. So the Civic Link has no destination, it just dumps people on the narrowest bit of the riverbank.
MAAS is barely mentioned in the letter. Its Act is not listed in 6.6 covering the statutory framework. The Trustees are not mentioned as agents or stakeholders; nor are the museum’s donors, members, volunteers, former trustees and Life Fellows identified under 9.0 community and other stakeholder engagement. It is clear the actual Powerhouse is being stolen and downsized to a regional arts centre.
It is very concerning that the government is forging ahead despite the bushfires, the grinding drought in regional NSW and the consequent cost, and the need for more cultural and tourism investment in regional communities. The letter is dated 13 Jan. It would seem our letters to all Liberal and National Party MPs calling for a re-think have had no effect.
It is concerning that the contact person noted on p. 2 of the letter is Tom Kennedy who managed the demolition of the Sydney Football Stadium. That does not bode well for the longevity of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace, set for certain demolition.
Half the PHM will be closed by June so things are getting to the pointy end. There is very concerning news on the move of the collection. They intend to move the 1855 No1 Loco and its carriages to the rail museum at Thirlmere. This museum was under direct attack by the Green Wattle fire and had to close for some weeks in December: Read more
I understand at least one carriage was moved out of the museum. It is incredible that the trustees would agree to move the museum’s most significant item of rail heritage, the foundation object for the history of railways in Australia, to an under-resourced museum at risk of bushfire when it is safe and so well displayed in a purpose designed, climate controlled museum environment at Ultimo. The money wasted putting this priceless object in harm’s way would be better spent restoring the Zig Zag Railway, damaged by fires in December. Read more I am afraid the government’s fearless recovery leader Mr Barilaro just doesn’t get it.
25 January, 2020
Tom Lockley responded to the Ethos letter, about erroneous ‘facts’:
‘I submit that this letter should not be accepted by your department because there is a fundamental error of fact in the first line, where Ethos Urban refers to Infrastructure NSW as the proponent for the proposed the development of the New Powerhouse at 30B Phillip Street, Parramatta. The facts are that Infrastructure NSW only called for the urgent investigation of the idea of moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta in the State Infrastructure Strategy Update (November) 2014. The project was announced by the then Premier on 26 November 2014 and thus the Government was the proponent of the ‘move’ idea.
No investigation of the merits of the idea was ever done by any competent authority, no investigation of alternatives was ever made, there was no prior consultation with stakeholders (even with the Trustees of the Museum) so no professional organisation such as Infrastructure NSW could possibly be the proponent.
Infrastructure NSW made the position clear in its Business Case Summary, released on April 18 2018. It is the agent of the government, ordered to carry out the project. ‘The Business Case takes as its starting point the Government’s decision to locate the Powerhouse Museum on the Riverbank site in Parramatta’ (page 2).
Ethos Urban’s letter should be withdrawn and replaced by an accurate letter making it clear that the sole proponent of this project is the Government itself.’
23 and 25 January, 2020
Save the Powerhouse Facebook raises concerns over “New Powerhouse” Development approval timeline (https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse/)
Writing of the Ethos document associated with the SEARs request, Save the Powerhouse notes: ‘The document is very long, and adds nothing to what we already knew, while failing to address any of the questions that still hang over the “move” project … Nonetheless, a few points stand out, most obviously:
– With three cosily associated departments involved, this is a blatant case of Government “marking its own homework”, virtually guaranteeing a favourable environmental assessment statement.
– The “pro-movers’ have always had problems with naming this project. Since the move was announced in early 2015, the proposed museum has been called variously the “Parramatta Powerhouse”, the “Parramatta (cultural) precinct”, the “new MAAS museum”, etc… And now it becomes simply the “New Powerhouse”, ambitiously promoted as the future jewel in Parramatta’s cultural crown, but with no indication of its location in the title, which won’t be helpful to potential visitors.
In any case, as has often been observed the real Powerhouse museum in Ultimo took its name from the old power station that was adapted to house it. There is no disused power station at Parramatta.
– We learn that one of the “Alternatives considered” was “Do nothing”, which would result in cancelling the “move” while “the existing museum at Ultimo would continue to operate “WITH INFRASTRUCTURE REACHING THE END OF ITS USEFUL LIFE”. “This approach was not supported as IT WOULD RESULT IN SIGNIFICANT EXPENDITURE FOR LOW BENEFIT.” According to expert analysis, both these statements are untrue…
As we are still hearing rumours that some Cabinet Ministers are increasingly worried about this huge and escalating cost, we urge them to speak out now and earn the eternal respect of thousands of community members in Ultimo who want the real Powerhouse to stay where it belongs and in Parramatta, where they have rejected the idea of a “second-hand”, cut-down Powerhouse, because they want their own museum to REFLECT LOCAL HISTORY AND CULTURAL VALUES… Please SIGN and SHARE our PETITION http://chng.it/2cNV29SDZc asking the NSW Government to donate the $1.5 billion to bushfire and drought relief.
22 January, 2020
‘Jodi McKay calls on Berejiklian government to keep promise to Parramatta and save Willow Grove’
In a press release: ‘NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has demanded the Berejiklian Government consult with the people of Parramatta over its controversial and increasingly troubled $1.5 billion Powerhouse Museum relocation – ensuring the beloved heritage building Willow Grove is saved and incorporated into a future Parramatta arts and cultural facility.
On a visit to Willow Grove today, joined by Shadow Minister for Heritage Kate Washington and Federal Labor Parramatta MP Julie Owens, Ms McKay accused the Premier of breaking a promise to the people of Parramatta [February 2019]. Instead, in mid-December, with NSW distracted by devastating bushfires, her Government approved a bizarre, heritage-destroying design that was described by Labor as a “monstrosity on stilts”.
“The people of Parramatta weren’t consulted – and even worse, they were lied to.” Ms McKay noted the Government was preparing to knock over another local icon, the Royal Oak Hotel established in 1813, which has long been cherished by Parramatta Eels fans after a big game. She said Labor supported bestowing a brilliant arts and cultural facility upon Parramatta that respects heritage. “There are so many new buildings going up these days, and people in Parramatta know we need to balance that with a sensitivity to the rich history that makes this area so special,” Ms McKay said. Ms Washington added: “You don’t celebrate history by destroying history. The awful irony of bulldozing irreplaceable heritage buildings to make way for a new museum seems to have been lost on Gladys Berejiklian and her Government.”
Read more: 22 Jan Jody McKay
Visiting the Powerhouse Museum 2020-2021′
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) website provides a brief schedule for the proposed closure of the museum. It says: ‘The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo will remain open to the community until June 2021 with a staged closure commencing from July 2020… From July 2020 to June 2021, the community will be able to access the Museum via the Harris Street entrance when the Goods Line entrance is closed. The Museum’s program of temporary exhibitions, education programs, Lab digital workshops, Members’ Lounge and its café and store will continue to operate until June 2021. The Museum’s permanent exhibitions will close in June 2020. Following 2021, a targeted community and regional program will allow the Museum to continue to engage with the people of NSW.’
As well, amid speculation of sale to developers and various proposals from Arts Minister Don Harwin, it says: ‘The Government has previously announced the Business Case would be expanded to include an arts and cultural space in Ultimo so that it could consider the best possible use of the space at Ultimo. A masterplan will be developed for Ultimo followed by a rigorous Business Case process. When this is finalised an announcement will be made by Government.’ In the meantime, it is understood that packing of the collection is taking place, and that controversial plans for moving precious large items such as the No 1 Locomotive and others, are being made. Read more or here, [with corrections to earlier relocation history]: Powerhouse closure dates 2020-2021
A new decade, with new priorities? Australia in bush-fire crisis
Across Australia, the New Year opened during weeks of news documenting devastating bushfires raging across rural land, forests and towns, and city outskirts, particularly in the coastal areas of NSW, Victoria and South Australia, as well as in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, while spreading smoke for thousands of kilometres in all directions, from the ACT to New Zealand. Hundreds of homes and properties were lost, with farm stock, native animals and crops destroyed and thousands of hectares burned out, often in national parks. Notable was the generosity of thousands of volunteers who joined those in the Fire Services, working to points of exhaustion, and some brave firefighters died along with those who sadly lost their lives in trying to save their homes. Mass evacuations took place in some locations, sometimes by naval ships or local boats.
Immediately, communities everywhere, from well-known public figures to ordinary folk at home and at work, joined funds to raise millions of dollars to support those who were suffering such losses. Questions were asked of governments regarding what should now be identified as necessary changes of priorities in government expenditure in these circumstances, as well as about the effects of climate change, and the best precautions for the future.
Every newspaper in Australia, and those in many other countries maintained constant headline updates, including on this Google bushfire update link: Read more