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

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Showing 350 reactions

  • Brian Addison
    signed 2016-08-05 13:44:41 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is part of the heritage fabric of inner Sydney and loved by locals and visitors alike – it must not be allowed to be moved from its present site.
  • Damian McDonald
    signed 2016-08-05 13:42:08 +1000
    Damian McDonald
  • Josephine Davidson
    signed 2016-08-05 13:40:57 +1000
  • Bridget Berry
    signed 2016-08-05 13:37:39 +1000
  • Julia Stapleton
    signed 2016-08-05 13:37:25 +1000
  • Jane Roy
    signed 2016-08-05 13:32:51 +1000
  • Michael Clarke
    signed 2016-08-05 13:26:07 +1000
  • Ngar-Yi Ho
    signed 2016-08-05 13:25:26 +1000
  • Gabrielle Coltrona
    signed 2016-08-05 13:23:46 +1000
    gabrielle coltrona
  • Alan Cinis
    signed 2016-08-05 13:23:06 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is perfect where it is.
  • Victoria Pye
    signed 2016-08-05 13:22:53 +1000
  • Greg Newall
    signed 2016-08-05 13:21:56 +1000
  • Wendy Smith
    signed 2016-08-05 13:19:26 +1000
  • Rhonda Green
    signed 2016-08-05 13:19:02 +1000
    Do not sell the Powerhouse in Ultimo, it is a major tourist attraction and should not be sold to fund one in Parramatta.
  • Daniela Shield
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 13:18:17 +1000
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  • Gina Pronesti
    signed 2016-08-05 13:17:52 +1000
    I do not support moving cultural institutions out of the city. It makes for a dead city no one wants to come to.
  • Daniela Shield
    signed 2016-08-05 13:17:45 +1000
  • Louise Gilbert
    signed 2016-08-05 13:16:12 +1000
  • James Cruz
    signed 2016-08-05 13:16:09 +1000
  • David Pollard
    signed 2016-08-05 13:15:25 +1000
    In short, we need to keep the existing Powerhouse Museum, and the unique building that houses it, for the people of Sydney and NSW in general, and to build a second, though maybe smaller and more specialised, museum for the people of Parramatta and the far western suburbs of Sydney at Parramatta.

    David Pollard
  • Jennifer Bestel
    signed 2016-08-05 13:15:23 +1000
    Government needs to be more responsible about preserving culture and heritage. Motivation to develop in the inner west seems to be mainly motivated by greed.
  • Robert Alexander
    signed 2016-08-05 13:15:14 +1000
    Leave the Powerhouse Museum where it is & share the exhibits (& others for which there is currently a lack of room) with the new intended museum at Parramatta. Share the cost of admission with both museums & add a ferry ride thus creating a tourist attraction for both Sydney & Parramatta.
  • Robert Britton
    signed 2016-08-05 13:15:05 +1000
    The Ultimo site’s significant technological, creative and educational precinct ‘partners’ include the UTS, Sydney Institute of TAFE and the ABC. It has ready accessibility through the train and bus hub from Central Station’s Devonshire Street Tunnel via ‘The Goods Line’ proudly unveiled by Planning Minister Rob Stokes in August 2015 and who said at the time “will be a link to the arts, education and cultural institutions”.
  • Doris Harrison
    signed 2016-08-05 13:12:13 +1000
  • Patricia Wesley-James
    signed 2016-08-05 13:11:16 +1000
  • Catharine Pruscino
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 13:10:34 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Catharine Pruscino
    signed 2016-08-05 13:09:58 +1000
  • John Pretty
    signed 2016-08-05 13:09:56 +1000
    We need two Museums, one at Ultimo and one in the West.
  • Peter Adrian
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 13:04:20 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Peter Adrian
    signed 2016-08-05 13:03:35 +1000
    The Powerhouse itself is an important element to the history and development of inner Sydney. Having its more recent use as a museum only add to this value. Attempting to relocate it to make money from redevelopment of the site is a poor short term fix that should NOT be contemplated any further.

    There is plenty of material not currently on display that could be used at a second museum at Parramatta.