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The issue of returning the Metro/Minerva is still alive at the highest levels

On Tuesday 15 March at the Legislative Council Budget Estimates, Arts Minister, The Hon. Ben Franklin and Create NSW Kate Foy assured Labor’s Shadow Minister for the Arts and Heritage, Walt Secord, that the government’s intention to include the Metro/Minerva Theatre.

The issue of returning the Metro/Minerva is still alive at the highest levels.

Transcript excerpt as follows:

The Hon. WALT SECORD: At the time he made comments to the people who had purchased the site that he was looking at compulsorily acquiring it to protect it. What has happened in the steps to protect the Minerva and preserve it?

The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN: I appreciate your raising the question. I am a passionate believer that Sydney needs more theatre space. It is just incredibly important for obviously arts and culture in this space where we know that every theatre, or major theatres, have often years-long queues of productions trying to get in. We know from a range of different reports that have been done that there is a market and an appetite for new theatres in this space. We know that a report from EY, for example, shows us that an 1,800-seat theatre would bring over 350,000 interstate visitors and almost 25,000 international visitors to New South Wales from 2025 to 2040, putting almost half a billion into the economy. These are—

The Hon. WALT SECORD: But the Minerva—

The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN: I am getting there. The point is, I believe what the former Minister believed, which is that we need more theatres. I believe we need another 1,000-seat 1,500-seat and 2,000-seat theatre in Sydney. I am looking to do what I can there. In terms of the Minerva, I am a new Minister. I am meeting with the group. Have there been any steps to compulsorily acquire the land? No. But I am very focused and passionate about ensuring that the Minerva returns to being an extraordinary centre for arts and culture as a performance space, if at all possible. I will be doing what I can to see that happen. But I am not going to pre-empt those sorts of decisions, particularly those with budgetary impacts, otherwise I might get given a stern talking to by the gentleman on my right.

The Hon. WALT SECORD: The previous Minister also asked Create NSW to prepare a report into the Minerva. What is the status of that investigation?

The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN: I will throw to Ms Foy.

KATE FOY: Yes, sure. That was in 2020. We co-funded a feasibility study with the City of Sydney into the restoration of the Minerva. Certainly, that study found that it could reopen and operate sustainably as a performance venue. Certainly, the detail about whether that—it could accommodate 1,000 seats. So that is certainly possible. That is what the finding of that report was. Just to put it in context, we have Central Element, the current owner, who has lodged an integrated development application with the City of Sydney. That work is on foot, and we put in—Create NSW put in—a submission. While we did not comment on the nature of the development application or the specifics of it, we were very strong in asserting that—we countered Central Element's view by saying the restoration of the Minerva to 1,000-seat theatre was entirely possible.

The full transcript is available here.

Ms Foy incorrectly notes Central Element as the Metro-Minerva's owner, the building is still owned by Abacus Group, where Central Element has only an option of sale on condition their Development Application is approved.

The DA is currently under review.

The option expires in April.

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