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

  • Ian Debenham OAM
    signed 2016-08-05 13:02:03 +1000
  • Jim Morris
    signed 2016-08-05 13:01:51 +1000
    Sydney and Parramatta should both have powerhouse museums. We have sufficient collections in storage for exhibition.
  • Peter Bestel
    signed 2016-08-05 13:00:38 +1000
  • Fiona Lam
    signed 2016-08-05 12:59:33 +1000
  • David Bubb
    signed 2016-08-05 12:58:25 +1000
  • Sarah Neal
    signed 2016-08-05 12:54:17 +1000
  • Wendy Crane
    signed 2016-08-05 12:53:12 +1000
    Im sorry very sad about the Powerhouse departing

    from Sydney to Parramatta, surely we can have two

    Museums, really silly to take our Powerhouse away from Pyrmont
  • Graham Pont
    signed 2016-08-05 12:52:06 +1000
    Moving the Powerhouse would sadly destroy its genius loci: that is, the sense of its important historical connections with the present site. Parramatta deserves a new branch of the Powerhouse designed on modern principles and representing a different culture: compare the old and new Tate Galleries in London.
  • Craig Boaden
    signed 2016-08-05 12:52:04 +1000
  • Jennifer Kerr
    signed 2016-08-05 12:51:34 +1000
  • Emma Devoss
    signed 2016-08-05 12:51:09 +1000
  • Maria Nugent
    signed 2016-08-05 12:50:22 +1000
  • Willam d'Anthes
    signed 2016-08-05 12:50:01 +1000
    The Powerhouse is an integral part of Ultimo and the new Darling Harbour
  • Nicola Hassan
    signed 2016-08-05 12:49:52 +1000
  • Lesley Garrett-Jones
    signed 2016-08-05 12:49:46 +1000
    Please leave the Powerhouse museum where it is. It’s not yours to sell off or move. It belongs to the people of NSW and we want it left where it is in Central Sydney!
  • Andrew Jennings
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 12:49:17 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission to Stop the PowerHouse Museum in Ultimo being destroyed
  • Andrew Jennings
    @AJenningsSyd tweeted link to this page. 2016-08-05 12:49:15 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission to Stop the PowerHouse Museum in Ultimo being destroyed
  • Tony Shorter
    signed 2016-08-05 12:48:03 +1000
    The Museum should be left where it is. It is in the middle of many Sydney tourist attractions. Bugger the developers. They have destroyed enough of Sydney as it is, along with Chopper Bairds reputation.
  • Daniel Taylor
    signed 2016-08-05 12:47:17 +1000
  • Andrew Jennings
    signed 2016-08-05 12:47:03 +1000
  • Andre Tammes
    signed 2016-08-05 12:45:54 +1000
    Please consider the weight of community concern, local, national and international. Please ensure that this results in the only sensible conclusion – retention of Ultimo and the provision of excellence in Parramatta. Thank you.
  • Jon Firth
    signed 2016-08-05 12:45:10 +1000
    Please don’t move the Power House, it’s where it belongs!
  • Neil Berecry-Brown
    signed 2016-08-05 12:44:32 +1000
  • Gilbert Grace
    signed 2016-08-05 12:42:24 +1000
    The attrition of staffing and service mimics the tactics of General Motors and the Great American Trolley Car Consipracy. Dismantling by stealth the light rail systems of America and replacing them with buses, done through a front company of stooges. All done in the name of “efficiency”. It is now costing billions to restore light rail in America and Australia. Lessons not learned?
  • Terry Reynolds
    signed 2016-08-05 12:42:07 +1000
  • Jacqui Sykes
    signed 2016-08-05 12:40:37 +1000
    If you can find $17billion to fund the destruction of Inner Western Sydney through WestConnex, then $600million to build something constructive like a museum in Parramatta is cheap by comparison. Leave the original Powerhouse Museum where it is.
  • Janet Len
    signed 2016-08-05 12:39:56 +1000
    Janet Len
  • Thomas Hikade
    signed 2016-08-05 12:37:08 +1000
  • Solution Psychology
    @Practice_MgrSPC tweeted link to this page. 2016-08-05 12:36:37 +1000
  • Jane Stephens
    signed 2016-08-05 12:35:28 +1000
    The Powerhouse museum is an integral part of the CBD and needs to remain in its current location