In answer to a question from Labor’s Walt Secord Arts minister, Don Harwin confirmed there was no reliable Parramatta River data spanning 200 years which showed the site’s propensity to flood.
A water level gauge in Parramatta close to the site and in operation since 1979 found there had been one flood event in 1988 that took waters above the one in 100-year flood level.
Terms of reference also include the heritage status of the site at Ultimo and Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace, historic buildings at Parramatta slated for demolition per the winning designs by Moreau Kusunoki and Genton.
The motion to hold an inquiry was backed by Greens and Labor, and was carried on voices in the upper house without there being a vote.
“Our initial focus will be on the safety of the priceless collection especially given the recent flooding on the proposed Parramatta site,” said Mr Shoebridge, who will act as the inquiry’s deputy chairman.
“We will also be passing a close eye on the proposed budget given the endemic cost overruns that every significant infrastructure project has faced under this government.
”There continues to be strong concerns from the Parramatta community about not just the design but the location and purpose of the Powerhouse Museum. My concern is that we are going to get a series of sub-standard sites and lose this grand institution that we all love.”
The inquiry comes as this masthead revealed plans were well advanced to turn the former NSW Land Titles building into a museum for the decorative arts managed by the Powerhouse Museum.
The idea for Sydney’s answer to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was raised by former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull with the director of the Powerhouse Museum last year as part of a proposed revamp of the cultural precinct of Macquarie St East.
At the same time, controversy erupted this week over the scope of state heritage listing of the Powerhouse’s Ultimo site.
Former museum trustee Kylie Winkworth said the state heritage nomination was highly selective, protecting only the “left-over bits of heritage sites that the state government doesn’t need to demolish for its development ambitions”.
As to the inquiry, Mr Harwin said he was happy to “have the opportunity to further discuss this great museum project”.
“We are delivering on our promises for NSW; the new Powerhouse will be the first cultural institution in Western Sydney,” he said.
Linda Morris is an arts and books writer at The Sydney Morning Herald