Add your submission on the Powerhouse

Please add your name to the submission below to tell the government that you support the Powerhouse staying in Ultimo and want the government to support the arts and museums of NSW. 

For more information, see our Museums Inquiry FAQ

Dear Chair,

I welcome this opportunity to make this submission to the Standing Committee on Museums and Galleries.

Further to section 1 e. of the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, my comments are in relation to the sale and relocation of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.

I support the government’s plans to develop a new museum in Parramatta. But the location, form, facilities and content of the new museum must be based on deep consultation with communities in Parramatta and western Sydney. The new museum should not be predicated on the closure and sale of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo.

Parramatta deserves, and has been asking for, cultural institutions reflecting its own past and present cultural significance and activity, and has expressed concern for the continuing integrity of its heritage sites. The government has the funds in its $600m cultural infrastructure fund to build a new museum in Parramatta. It also had an $860m stamp duty windfall last year.

If the government was serious about cultural equity between central and Western Sydney, it would be spending a good proportion of this fund in Western Sydney and regional NSW. It would be sharing significant state collections locked up in storage, it would already have a plan for digital access to the state’s collections, it would be requiring cultural institutions to reach a statewide audience, and it would be partnering with federal and local governments to fund cultural infrastructure in Western Sydney and regional NSW.

So far no new money has been allocated for Western Sydney cultural infrastructure beyond the sale proceeds from the Powerhouse Museum. The recent capital works grants for regional NSW allocated just $385,000 for cultural infrastructure across communities that represent 30% of the population of NSW. 

The Powerhouse Museum has a 135-year connection with the CBD as the second-oldest state museum. As the only museum of its kind in Australia – with a world class collection valued at $400m and held in trust for the people of NSW - it is therefore of state, national and international interest to have it easily accessible in the centre of a significant capital city.

The PHM’s exhibits, stories, audiences and community connections  are indivisible from the Ultimo Power Station building, its grand soaring spaces which are so appropriate for the power and transport collections, its supporters, volunteers and benefactors, and not least the vital neighbourhood connections, developed over 120 years. These include the museum’s education partners, its links with the design industries, tourism businesses in Darling Harbour, and the thriving innovation culture and start-up companies in Ultimo.

Relocating the museum to Parramatta will reduce access for visitors from regional NSW and other parts of Sydney as well as for international visitors.

The Powerhouse building is listed both on the National Trust’s register and as a local heritage item in the City of Sydney. It is too significant to destroy.  No government in the civilised world has ever demolished a major state museum less than 30 years after it opened in an award winning, fit for purpose, landmark building. It is a reckless waste to sell off costly museum infrastructure which is in good condition, and which was built for an asset life of 100 years.

I share the concerns of many regarding the recent underperformance of the Powerhouse. But this has more to do with the issues of leadership, governance, exhibition renewal, and a savage redundancy program causing the loss hundreds of experienced staff, and the impact of the compounding efficiency dividend. PHM staff numbers have more than halved in fifteen years. Education positions have gone from 27 ten years ago to just three in 2015, which is the reason why school visits have fallen. None of these issues will be fixed by moving the museum.

A more rational and visionary solution would be to build a new museum in Parramatta as a creative partner to the Powerhouse in Ultimo.

Selling the Powerhouse at Ultimo will not generate enough money to replicate the size and facilities at this site elsewhere. It’s estimated the sale of the Ultimo site may realise somewhere between $150-200m. The cost of replicating the existing museum facilities in Parramatta will be upwards of $600m, not including the cost of moving the collections and building new storage. So at best the government is pledging only 1/3 of the replacement cost of the PHM.

As a result, the taxpayer will be the loser in the demolition and destruction of valuable cultural assets at Ultimo, while paying for a smaller new museum in Parramatta.       

Thank you for considering my submission.


GOAL: 500 signatures

Will you sign?

Like this to spread the word:

Showing 350 reactions

  • Bronte Currie
    signed 2016-08-15 08:15:37 +1000
    What a loss it would be to sell off this extraordinary site that holds so many educational opportunities to developers, rather than working to reignite it’s spark and utilise an amazing resourse right in the heart of the city.
  • Vanessa Whitty
    signed 2016-08-14 14:56:43 +1000
    Vanessa Whitty
  • Emma Roberts
    signed 2016-08-14 12:50:13 +1000
    As a pre-service teacher I am very concerned about the increased cost of access to the Powerhouse Museum should it move. At this moment it is accessible by train which makes excursions more affordable for all students. Moving the site to somewhere like Parramatta would mean a large cohort of NSW students would need to be transported by private, hired coach which means a significant cost burden to individual students. Keep these spaces accessible if you want to support Quality Teaching in NSW.
  • David Matthews
    signed 2016-08-14 08:34:41 +1000
    Why does this government think it can continually sell off public land to developers without proper public consultation. The money that the government achieves from the sale of the current Powerhouse Museum site will not fund even the construction of a new museum at a much reduced size in Parramatta

    The sums don’t stack up!! Why won’t the government put money into the current site and continue to build on the world class museum currently there , accessible to everyone !!! The gGovernment continue to claim that Darling Harbour is a world class cultural development , so why don’t they want a world class cultural institution

    Which has sush a long standing association with the site maintained and improved ?

    The sooner there is a independant investigation into this governments links to large construction companies and developers the better. The secret land deals made without public knowledge to benefit only these groups must be exposed and the politicians behind them made to account

    Premier BADS brown paper bag deals must stop or Inner Sydney will become another culture less high rise slum of the future.
  • Annette Blinco
    signed 2016-08-12 17:02:19 +1000
  • William Blinco
    signed 2016-08-12 17:01:09 +1000
  • Robert Pulie
    signed 2016-08-12 16:17:42 +1000
  • Jolyon James
    signed 2016-08-12 12:32:34 +1000
    As an Honorary Associate and long term supporter of the PHM I would regard the moving of museum as a great loss to urban Sydney and the wonderfully appropriate (heritage) site it is on.
  • Janet Niven
    signed via 2016-08-12 10:15:24 +1000
  • Elizabeth Kwan
    signed via 2016-08-12 09:47:08 +1000
  • Eleanor Cook
    signed via 2016-08-11 17:30:39 +1000
  • Sam Crichton
    signed 2016-08-11 17:11:34 +1000
  • Hartley Cook
    signed via 2016-08-11 17:05:03 +1000
    I am the President of the NSW Chapter of the Art and Antique Dealers Association of Australia. at our recent AGM all present expressed their dismay at the suggested moving of the museum which is most closely associated with antiques and decorative arts. The Powerhouse is our equivalent of the awesome Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The AAADA strongly supports the views expressed by Jamie Parker
  • Saul Deane
    signed 2016-08-11 15:45:34 +1000
    The Powerhouse is the keystone in the design and tech hub that has evolved around it due to it’s history and position. This hub will lose complexity and may die if you remove the powerhouse, it cant be artificially replaced elsewhere.

    If it is sold will it be Auctioned off or will this be another “commercial in confidence” mates deal ?
  • Sue Paterson
    signed 2016-08-11 12:05:09 +1000
    The Powerhouse museum belongs to the people of NSW & Sydney is the most convenient place for it to be located.

    Its ludicrous to relocate it – unless of course its really about building apartments on the valuable land?
  • Lynette Cantrill
    signed 2016-08-11 10:46:26 +1000
  • Danny Sampson
    signed via 2016-08-10 16:32:29 +1000
  • Damian Collins
    signed via 2016-08-10 15:00:50 +1000
  • Madeleine Read
    signed 2016-08-10 14:37:50 +1000
  • Jason Koh
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-10 13:25:37 +1000
    (to help save the Powerhouse) Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Jason Koh
    signed 2016-08-10 13:24:32 +1000
    The Baird government must stop its wanton destruction of culture and heritage in its singular focus on financial gain.
  • Mary Read
    signed 2016-08-10 11:54:01 +1000
  • James Cassidy
    signed 2016-08-10 08:37:27 +1000
    The historic POWER HOUSE MUSEUM should be conveniently available tp international visitors in Australia’s largest city NOT obscurely located in Parramatta Park ! And Not moved for the convenience of Rapacious Developers. This highly undesirable move is proposed by a haircut in a suit. Son of Bus Top Baird who as Transport Minister allowed at least THREE children to be killed at bus stops before he realised that some long delayed preventive measures should be implemented by his putty set party. J Cassidy
  • Dines Larsen
    signed 2016-08-10 07:44:20 +1000
  • Monika Baumann
    signed 2016-08-09 21:52:03 +1000
  • Sandra Langtree
    signed 2016-08-09 20:55:56 +1000
    Please keep the Powerhouse Museum in its current location. Enough is enough Mr Baird, stop selling off our public assets to your developer mates.
  • Andrew Procailo
    signed via 2016-08-09 19:16:48 +1000
  • Judith Strachan
    signed 2016-08-09 17:39:47 +1000
    It is uneconomic to move such a valuable cultural asset vital to the CBD of Sydney.
  • Nellie Flannery
    signed 2016-08-09 13:38:35 +1000
  • Catherine Brock
    signed 2016-08-09 13:25:13 +1000
    It is vital that the Powerhouse Museum remains in its current location. It is a wonderful resource both for our children and children who come to visit as tourists with their parents.