NSW govt forced to reveal case for Powerhouse Museum move

April 19, 2018
The NSW government may be forced to release the business case for moving it to Parramatta.

The campaign to save the iconic Powerhouse Museum in inner-city Ultimo from being sold off to private developers and moved to a flood-prone site in Parramatta has received a sizeable boost by a motion passed by the NSW Legislative Council that will force the NSW Coalition government to release the "business case" for their plan within two weeks.

Greens MP Jamie Parker successfully moved the motion on April 12, with the support of Labor, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, Animal Justice and a maverick Liberal member, former fair-trading minister Matthew Mason-Cox.

Parker said: "Earlier this week, the government announced plans to withhold their business case for the Powerhouse demolition for three months after their final decision is made. This means committing $1.5 billion to blow up the Powerhouse and move it to Parramatta without telling the public why it’s a good idea.

"Since the beginning, I’ve said the Powerhouse relocation isn't about creating a world-class museum in western Sydney, it's about ripping off the public by letting greedy property developers snatch up land in Ultimo. Today we're a step closer to revealing this truth."

Mason-Cox, who earlier publicly opposed the Gladys Berejiklian government's original plan to demolish and re-build two football stadiums at a cost of $2.5 billion, said the government had developed a "perverse culture of secrecy".

"The key problem with the Powerhouse decision is that the decision came first, followed by the business case and a pretend consultation process," he said.

The Powerhouse Museum's planned shut-down has been declared "an act of cultural vandalism" by the Legislative Council parliamentary committee investigating the move. Former museum trustee and consultant curator Kylie Winkworth described it as the "wilful demolition of a world-class museum".

Stewart Little, secretary of the Public Service Association, which represents museum employees, said a national icon like the Powerhouse Museum should not be treated so shabbily. "Staff have been left completely demoralised by the shambolic way the state government has approached this issue from day one," he said.

Labor opposition leader Luke Foley has finally been forced to move towards opposing the museum shift, after initially endorsing the idea. He said he could not support the "dismembering of a great cultural institution".

"Western Sydney deserves its own cultural institution, not the leftovers from the Powerhouse Museum which I understand will be strewn across Sydney."

Under pressure, the government is apparently proposing to leave some of the museum at Ultimo, sell off part of the site to developers and move the rest to Parramatta and at least one other western suburb.

As Winkworth wrote, the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum would merely result in construction of a "cut-down version of the museum in Parramatta, on a site which is not just at risk of flood, but whose themes and content bear no relation to Parramatta's stated cultural priorities or notable cultural opportunities."

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