The Government’s site choice is undemocratic

The democratically elected Parramatta City Council (to 12 May 2016) was steadfastly opposed the use of the recently ‘acquired’ site for the relocated museum (see Resolution 16308, 14 December 2015; Resolution 16353, 14 January 2016; and Resolution 16646, 9 May 2016)[28]. The 9 May 2016 meeting was the last meeting of the elected council, thus showing the importance placed by the elected council on the views expressed.

In June 2017 an Expert Steering Committee, none whom had significant museum experience was formed by the administrator, They approved the purchase plan in a letter dated 20 July[29] with no apparent recognition that it contradicted the views of the elected Council.[30]

We pointed out this clear error of fact in an email submission to the Inquiry on 12 September 2017[31] and its receipt and distribution was confirmed in a phone call.[32] However the false information was then repeated by Government witnesses in the Inquiry evidence of Monday, 28 May 2018[33] and remains a matter of public record. This is not only very frustrating for us, but is a clear breach of the standards expected in a democracy.

The committee urged that the agreement should be finalised agreement ‘before August’, giving no reason for this urgency:[34] Was this haste was affected by the imminent return of democratic Government to Parramatta Council? The site was ‘acquired’ less than two months before the end of the Administrator’s term of office.

(The ‘new’ council has not ratified the decision to purchase, and there is now disquiet about the demolition of the ‘Willow Grove’ heritage building on the site: Council resolution 1395 of 25 June revisited the matter, asking, inter alia, ‘NSW Government to incorporate the heritage significance of Willow Grove and the St George Terraces in any future proposal for the development of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. There has also been a major protest meeting on the site seeking retention of these buildings).

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References:

[28] These extracts come from the minutes of the elected council during 2015 and 2016, accessed over the period 31 August to 10 September 2017, from https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/businesspapers

The relevant resolutions are Resolution 16308, 14 December 2015; Resolution 16353, 14 January 2016; and Resolution 16646, 9 May 2016.The fact that it was discussed at the 9 May 2016 meeting, the last meeting of the elected council, gives clear indication of the importance placed by the elected council on the views expressed.

Resolution 16308 (Minutes, 14 December 2015)
That
Council receive and note the draft minutes of the Riverside Theatres Advisory Board meeting held on 26 November 2015, however Council wishes to disagree with comments in the Minutes under Item 3, Parramatta Culture Arts and Entertainment Plan as it is not necessarily the view of Council that the Riverbank Site would be supported as the preferred site for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.

Resolution 16353 (Minutes, 14 January 2016)
included the following recommendations in Suspension of Standing Orders, re the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, where’ The Lord Mayor ruled that the matter was one of urgency’. Resolved:

1.      That the Lord Mayor write to the relevant Ministers expressing our community’s concern about the possible relocation of Powerhouse Museum.

2.      That Parramatta City Council, through the Lord Mayor, commence a campaign supporting the possible relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to be at Parramatta Golf Course located near Parramatta High School or at Old King school or the Parramatta Jail site and the reasons therefore.

3.      That the campaign consist of a meeting to be arranged via the state members between the Lord Mayor and the Minister, appropriate correspondence to the relevant local Members of Parliament and an appropriate media campaign.

4.      That the community be made aware of the state government agenda on the Powerhouse Museum.

5.      That it be noted it is imperative that the state government understand that Parramatta City Council has policy and budget approved for the part of River.

6.      That Parramatta City Council outline the money invested through purchase of properties for Parramatta City Council to achieve our vision for our River foreshore.

7.      That it be noted if the government insists or force the location of the Powerhouse Museum on our River foreshore, it will result in a negative impact on Parramatta City Council and its vision as a River City and this is the only parcel of land that our Council can develop and invest in a public domain that will be beneficial to our local residents and business.

8.      Further, that the option of Powerhouse Museum being located on the Riverbank Foreshore will lead to a financial implication for Parramatta City Council and the City.

Resolution 16571, Minutes 11 April 2016 (p22)
‘The Lord Mayor provided details on the State Government’s recent selection of the Parramatta River Foreshore as the preferred site for the new Powerhouse Museum together with advice on the recent meeting held with the Minister for Infrastructure. Councillor Chedid raised concerns that the footprint of the proposal may eliminate Council’s vision for the Riverbank Foreshores and may have an impact on the current Expression of Interest for this area.’
Resolved: That Council staff provide a report on the action that has transpired to date in relation to the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum.

Resolution 16646, Minutes, 9 May 2016 (p22)
At the very last meeting of the elected council The Lord Mayor ruled that a motion to suspend standing orders to consider the Powerhouse Museum and the Riverbank was one of urgency. It was resolved:
(a) That Council write to the relevant Minister referencing the agreement, in principle, that the State Government would design the new Powerhouse Museum within the appropriate Council footprint to ensure that the Museum does not disadvantage Council in achieving its vision for the river and not disadvantage Council’s strategic asset on the site.
(b) Further, that a report be prepared outlining the discussions that have taken place to date.

 (There is no evidence that any such report has ever been made as part of the assessment process. We have been seeking the details of all such discussions for over two years, but cannot obtain them. There is no other discussion of the project in the minutes of the former elected council).

[29] https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/sites/council/files/2017-07/Letter%20%26%20Advice%20Commitee.pdf

[30] https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/sites/council/files/2017-07/Letter%20%26%20Advice%20Commitee.pdf . This group required the agreement to be executed quickly, but without giving a reason for this. The elected government was due to take over in less than two months.

[31] Online at http://maasbusinesscase.com/uh/Parra%20council%20re%20 land%20choice.pdf From the Inquiry on 29 August 2917: Ms Chadwick, Parramatta Administrator (transcript page 7): ... in this matter the views and the resolutions of the former Parramatta City Council are the most important. The previous Parramatta council had in December 2014 endorsed the redevelopment of the Riverside Theatre … I see that this agreement delivers that upgrade together with the cultural precinct that was anticipated there. The Hon Shane Mallard supported the witnesses by such comments as (page 8) the previous council already endorsed that position and was already a decision the council had made prior. The Hon. Don Harwin said (page 21) We have now got extensive material back to us on exactly what sort of museum presence the people of Western Sydney want. I am confident that we will be able to deliver on that response. The Hon. Scott Farlow said (page21) The council has been telling us that since 2014 (ie, stating that the previous council had supported the ‘move’).

[32] This phone call took place about 13 September 2017 but precise records were not kept.

[33] Inquiry transcript, Monday, 28 May 2018, page 12:

The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD: But there was a council resolution of a previously elected council in support of the sale and the Powerhouse project? Mr DYER: Yes, that is right. The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD: So that was guiding Ms Chadwick in her deliberations. Mr DYER: This process had been aligned with the council policy from the previous council— The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD: That is right. Mr DYER: —and all the way through to the administration period, yes.

[34] From the Panel’s letter: The NSW Government has advised the Committee that after an extended period of negotiation with the Council, it is critical to the success of the Museum project that the Heads of Agreement is executed before August 2017.