What will go into the blig black hole in Ultimo?

The NSW Government has once again announced that the Powerhouse Museum will be moved from its current Harris Street, Ultimo location to a riverside site in Parramatta, next to the Riverside Theatre, which will undergo unspecified redevelopment and become 50 per cent state-owned.

The government has remained stum on what it will do with the current Ultimo site, but it is widely expected to be sold off for unit development.

What we know

The NSW Government has reached an agreement with Parramatta Council for a massive investment in new cultural infrastructure in Parramatta, which is the first major step in the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Sydney’s west.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “the $140 million agreement laid the foundations for a vibrant arts and cultural precinct in Parramatta and secured the best site for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.

“Today is a major step forward in the NSW Government’s commitment to relocating the Powerhouse Museum to Western Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The relocated Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta will be the anchor for arts and culture for the region, and now the site for the museum is locked in.

“The Powerhouse at Parramatta will include the best exhibits currently at Ultimo, and will build on them. The new Powerhouse in Parramatta will be bigger and better than anything this State has seen and will be a drawcard for domestic and international visitors.”

The $140 million in-principle agreement will see:

  • The NSW Government purchasing the riverfront site for the Powerhouse Museum (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences).
  • The City of Parramatta committing $40 million to fund and grow arts and culture in the community over the next 20 years.
  • A partnership between the NSW Government and the Council for a $100 million redevelopment of the Riverside Theatre with the State taking a 50 per cent interest in the project.

The NSW Government said it will retain an arts and cultural presence at the current Ultimo site following the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, and is undertaking a business case to determine the future of the site.

More info needed

The NSW Labor Opposition said the Berejiklian Government has bungled the Powerhouse Museum move from Ultimo to Parramatta at every step of the process – “continually chopping and changing” and providing no detail on the fate of the Ultimo site.

Originally, the then Premier Mike Baird said it would cost “$10 million to relocate the Powerhouse” but it has spiralled to a minimum of more than $1 billion.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Arts Minister Don Harwin have provided no answers for what was going to happen to the Ultimo site and were unable to state the final costs.

“Today’s announcement only related to buying the Parramatta land. This also gave rise to even more questions, putting further doubt into the community’s mind on the Government’s ultimate plans for the Ultimo site,” Labor said.

“NSW Labor is calling on them to release the business case and detail the scale of the development plans at the Ultimo site.”

And Parramatta is stuck with the decision

The NSW Government’s decision comes just a month before popular council elections are held, which means that councillors elected in September will have to honour the agreement.

And the decision to commit to the sale of council assets so close to an election was criticised by at least one community group.

“We are highly suspicious of a state government-appointed administrator selling major Parramatta council assets one week short of caretaker mode and six weeks before council elections,” Suzette Meade, president of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group told The Sydney Morning Herald.  

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