City News

Ultimo locals question lack of details in Baird’s Powerhouse plan


Premier  Mike Baird and his Deputy, Troy Grant officially announced on the 11th of April the new location for the Powerhouse Museum.

The site, located on the Parramatta foreshore will allow for a 40 per cent increase of space for the facility.

But community groups have criticised the plan as being “vague”; “having unanswered questions”; and having several holes.

One criticism came from the Save the Powerhouse group, who claimed that a $10 million business study assessing the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta may have been smothered by the state government

They told City Hub, that they believe the state government didn’t release the KPMG report because it was unfavourable of the move.

Save the Powerhouse Campaign Coordinator, Patricia Johnson, said “it is pretty widely believed this report has been buried.”

“A number of experts who are very well integrated into the museum world have all heard and reported separately the same rumour,” Ms Johnson said.

Ms Johnson also said that this sort of behaviour is endemic in the state government.

“That of course follows a precedent. We are of course aware of the campaign against the forced amalgamations.”

“The exact same thing happened. A report was also commissioned by KPMG about the forced amalgamations; it was produced and immediately buried because the government didn’t like what it said.”

“It is not extraordinary if they did the same thing again,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Deputy Premier and Minister for Arts, Troy Grant did not deny the existence of a paper.

A spokesperson told City Hub that the report could not be release because it was in its “preliminary phases” and its contents “remain in cabinet in confidence.”

“A preliminary business case has been prepared for Cabinet and its contents remain Cabinet in Confidence. Now a site has been selected, a final business case can be prepared and will be completed by the end of the year,” the spokesperson said.

Save The Powerhouse has also questioned why the West needed a second Powerhouse, when the government spent $33.6 million in 2014 on upgrading the MAAS Discovery Centre in Castle Hill, which had previously been used as the primary storage facility for the Powerhouse.

It closed in 2014 for refurbishments and is due to reopen this year.

A spokesperson for Mr Grant said that the purpose of the refurbishments was to expand storage capacity and improve on the facility’s public displays and educational aspects.

Ms Johnson said that the Discovery Centre could play a bigger role.

“Rose Hiscock, the former director [of the Powerhouse] in her 2020 vision said that one of her goals was to open to open up the Powerhouse Discovery Centre to greater community involvement and tapping the potential of Sydney’s west,” Ms Johnson said.

“She said a little later in 2014 that she wanted the Discovery Centre more integrated with other museums and put it at the centre of operations.”

But the spokesperson for Mr Grant said that the Discovery Centre would work in conjunction with the Powerhouse museum to provide state of the art cultural facilities for the west.

“The Powerhouse Museum and the Discovery Centre are two very different venues that, together with the Sydney Observatory at Millers Point, form the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences network,” the spokesperson said.

Parramatta Mayor, Paul Gerrard said that he was “thrilled” with the Baird government’s decision.

“We are thrilled with this decision and we look forward to partnering with the State Government during the design process to deliver the people of Parramatta and Western Sydney the world-class cultural institution they have long deserved,” the Mayor said.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to build the world’s next great museum here in Parramatta. We will work closely with the Government, in consultation with the community, to ensure that design excellence is achieved and that Parramatta’s Powerhouse is a landmark building for all of Sydney.”

State Opposition Leader, Luke Foley also supported the relocation of the Powerhouse, but called for the Premier not to sell the current site in Ultimo to developers.

“My challenge to the government is, if you’re shifting the Powerhouse keep the land you own in Ultimo and deliver a new school to the people of the inner city,” Mr Foley said.

Whilst admitting that the announcement and its subsequent support was a forward step for the government’s plan, Ms Johnson said that the fight to keep the Powerhouse in Ultimo is not over.

“This is certainly not the end for us. It is just another motivating factor for us,” she said.







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