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. 

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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

  • Angela Penhallow
    signed 2016-08-09 12:29:21 +1000
  • Melissa Kang
    signed 2016-08-09 09:32:58 +1000
  • Michael Rohanek
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-09 09:11:09 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Michael Rohanek
    @michael_yeahman tweeted link to this page. 2016-08-09 09:11:06 +1000
  • Michael Rohanek
    signed 2016-08-09 09:10:25 +1000
    I agree with setting up a museum of Arts and Applied Sciences in Parramatta, but not at the cost of moving the Ultimo MAAS. The Government talks about this being the ‘Smithsonian’ of Sydney. Did you know the Smithsonians in Washington have several locations? if you want to serve the people of Sydney, build more museums, and don’t move the current one. It’s in the great spot for tourism, accessible by all across Sydney. Not many will travel to Parramatta from outside Sydney’s west to get to the museum, especially international guests. Please, build a MAAS at Parramatta and share the museum’s content between the two. Besides this whole thing looks like a property grab which is quite poor form. Museum belongs in Ultimo, leave it there.
  • Ross Dunn
    signed 2016-08-09 08:26:20 +1000
  • Francesca Harriman
    signed 2016-08-09 04:30:53 +1000
    The Powerhouse should stay where it is accessible to visiting tourists. The building is perfectly utilised for large exhibits.
  • Ken Dally
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-08 21:25:18 +1000
    Petition to save Powerhouse Musiem: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Ken Dally
    @Cowcakes tweeted link to this page. 2016-08-08 21:25:15 +1000
    Petition to save Powerhouse Musiem: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Ken Dally
    signed 2016-08-08 21:24:11 +1000
    I live near Orange NSW. The Powerhouse Museum, in it’s current location, is far more accessible than Parramatta as I generally stay in the city where the proximity of multiple museums, galleries and theatres always makes a visit worthwhile.
  • Elizabeth Bailey
    signed 2016-08-08 21:06:34 +1000
    Elizabeth Bailey I oppose the sale of a wonderful historic building in Ultimo. I know many overseas, country and interstate tourists visit Powerhouse Museum and I believe are unlikely to visit Parramatta. Though it is a population centre visitors will stay near the harbour and CBD.
  • Fergus Fricke
    signed 2016-08-08 20:27:46 +1000
    The Power House is brilliantly situated, close to Central Station where it is now, for residents in the whole of Sydney to access. Please be sensible and leave it where it is.
  • Frank Johnson
    signed 2016-08-08 20:14:17 +1000
    The museum’s current location is perfect for the heritage of the building and its accessibility to ALL Sydney and tourists.

    We must also ensure that ALL the exhibits are preserved and the collection expanded.
  • Ian Tuit
    signed 2016-08-08 19:32:40 +1000
  • Jeremy Oorloff
    signed 2016-08-08 18:17:42 +1000
  • Peter Madvig
    signed 2016-08-08 17:24:20 +1000
    Cannot understand the desire to move the Powerhouse Museum – a grand place in a special setting. Something NEW for Parramatta, yes – but please don’t touch the PHM. What next – the Sydney Opera House???!!!
  • Dave McKeough
    signed 2016-08-08 17:08:21 +1000
    Move the Castle Hill exhibits to Parramatta instead.
  • John Penhallow
    signed 2016-08-08 16:10:09 +1000
  • Barbara Ickl
    signed 2016-08-08 15:21:14 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is an intricate part of Sydney and plays an important role in being an accessible museum for people from all walks of life. Moreover, a museum in Parramatta ought to be an independent matter and does not warrant the destruction of a heritage listed site like the Powerhouse to receive funds. It is an insult to the history of Sydney to suggest the destruction of the Power House and will make us an even lesser player as a sophisticated tourist attraction.
  • Alan Graney
    signed 2016-08-08 15:05:39 +1000
  • Maureen Gibson
    signed 2016-08-08 15:02:54 +1000
    It is unthinkable that the NSW Government could contemplate selling off part of our industrial and engineering heritage that houses the Powerhouse Museum/Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. One only has to walk along the Goods Line from Central station to realise what an important heritage profile the Powerhouse has. To remove the building from the streetscape and replace it with another high rise contemporary building removes the whole context of the history of Ultimo – between Central and the Powerhouse site.

    Could there be a better building to house an enviable collection of transport related exhibits? I seriously doubt it. To hear the exclamations of visitors, young and old, as each area of the museum opens up its wonders confirms the validity of the collection and its method of display.

    I believe the Government has a responsibility to conserve this built heritage and to continue supporting the museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in their mission to present and display pieces in their extensive collection to the people of NSW, interstate and international visitors.

    This does not mean that I do not support a museum in Parramatta, I certainly do, but not at the cost of loosing the heritage site at Ultimo.
  • Monika Hauber
    signed via 2016-08-08 14:17:58 +1000
  • Tracey Clancy
    signed 2016-08-08 12:46:16 +1000
    The either/or argument is a fallacy. The museum should remain where it is, in Ultimo. Another should be built in the west, further than Parramatta, perhaps in the Penrith district.
  • Alethea Dean
    signed 2016-08-08 12:29:31 +1000
  • Tim Mendham
    signed 2016-08-08 12:22:50 +1000
  • Richard Saunders
    signed 2016-08-08 11:33:52 +1000
  • Bernard Huxtable
    signed 2016-08-08 11:31:38 +1000
    A very poor decision which will look tawdry as years go by.
  • Elena Abagi
    signed 2016-08-08 11:30:56 +1000
    Pkease think of the generations to come… must know and celebrate his roots. Diversity of Culture is vital to us HUMANS….
  • Eran Segev
    signed 2016-08-08 11:30:43 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is an amazing resource for children in particular. Western Sydney deserves one too, not instead.
  • Martin Hadley
    signed 2016-08-08 11:23:47 +1000
    The capitlal city of this prosperous state deserves the Powerhouse where it is AND a good museum out west for the kids out there.

    Kids who regard school as a kind of punishment, have a great time at a well run museum.