City News

Powerhouse move could cost NSW $2 billion

On track for a major cost blowout. Photo: Supplied

BY SELIN KEMENT

The cost of moving the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta will be as much as $2 billion over a seven-year period.

Lindsay Sharp, a former Director of the Powerhouse Museum estimates that the cost of relocating the museum “could well exceed $2 billion on what we may infer from previous calculations. What can safely be said is that there will probably not be much change left from $1.5 billion and it might go as high as $2 billion, in 2024 dollars.”

Expenses such as parking, placement of facilities and cost escalation during this period have yet to be determined.

Documents show that the NSW Government and the MAAS Board of Trustees have known since July of 2015 that the estimated cost for the move would be at least $450 million, while also knowing that the upper figure for sale at the Ultimo site would not exceed $250 million.

On Friday, February 17, a Parliamentary Inquiry into the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum heard the construction of the Parramatta site alone could cost $600 to $800 million, according to an architect from COX Joe Agius.

“Certainly in terms of our scope the primary purpose of the preliminary business case was to inform the Government’s decision as regards a site selection which best serves the MAAS’s strategic objectives,” he said.

“Our particular scope was fundamentally to test fit concepts for MAAS on two preferred sites arising out of previous studies – namely the riverbank site and the Parramatta golf course site.”

The purchase of the land on Parramatta River and the movement of the museum’s collection will also add to the cost of the relocation. The river’s value currently sits at $150 million.

Mr. Agius told the inquiry that should there be a risk of flooding, the construction costs could further increase. Yet despite these risks, there are also areas of potential for the museum.

“I must say that, yes, it is impacted by flooding, but there are many institutional buildings that are on flood-prone sites. In fact, we have just completed the Newcastle law courts, which are more adversely affected by flooding than this particular site.”

Despite these areas for growth, there are also major concerns regarding loss of cultural heritage from the site. A report examining the NSW Government’s planning and cost process on the move showed that there would be a waste of existing cultural/heritage artefacts that would amount to a loss of roughly $150-460 million, with most of these artefacts being irreplaceable.

The report also highlights the proposal for development could be a disadvantage to NSW taxpayers, stating that there has been little consultation with communities and Greater Western Sydney on the expectations of long standing supporters for the museum.

Member of Parliament for the Balmain electorate Jamie Parker, says that the government will be paying up to a hundred million dollars per kilometre with the extra distance.

“This project will cost hundreds, probably at least a billion dollars more than originally projected. The government is now starting to realise the enormous costs of this proposed move and the fact that they’re sale of the land would only cover a tiny fraction of the overall cost of the Powerhouse Museum. “

But Mr. Agius said that Parramatta is an area that is turning into its own CBD.

“An institution of this scale and this importance in Parramatta has the power to change and transform Parramatta as a strong second central business district.

Other members of the inquiry refused to answer questions that directly related to the specific costs on the project.

Mr. Parker says that the timing for construction is yet to be confirmed.

“All they’re looking at now is the business case which will make a decision on how and when and why the government has said they would like to start the project as soon as possible but they still haven’t even bought the land.”