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

  • Lillian Kristall
    signed 2016-08-08 10:50:02 +1000
  • Sarah Newton
    signed 2016-08-08 10:49:09 +1000
    Insanity to move it! Give Parramatta there own museum but leave the Powerhouse in the city! Only morons would move it.
  • Rachel Low
    signed 2016-08-08 10:45:39 +1000
  • Teresa Wilkinson
    signed 2016-08-08 10:36:25 +1000
    I live locally and have been a frequent visitor to The Powerhouse Museum for over 17 years, colluding to destroy the Powerhouse at Pyrmont as an excuse to move the Museum to Parramatta reflects the values of the current NSW Government, we have had enough of over building in this area and need to maintain this icon of education and exhibition
  • Antony Lewis
    signed 2016-08-08 09:58:52 +1000
    As a practicing engineer – the powerhouse museum sits in my memory as an inspiration for what can be done. Ultimo and the old power house gave this context and its relocation loses this.

    Parramatta as the founding of NSW white governance and the stories of where aboriginal and white people first met has its own history and a separate museum with context makes sense.
  • Tarona Jones
    signed 2016-08-08 08:16:43 +1000
  • Kerri Heavens
    signed 2016-08-08 08:10:18 +1000
    Sydney is big enough to support several museum’s and Parramatta certainly deserves to have it own but not at the expense of the Powerhouse museum which is a favourite place to visit for all of my family. The purpose built building is wonderful so much space to house a first class collection. The push by the State government to relocate the museum is only so they sell the site and get their greedy hands on yet more money. Shame on you!
  • Margot Jolly
    signed 2016-08-08 07:58:38 +1000
    It is so important that our premier design museum remains in the city in Ultimo!
  • Victoria Read
    signed 2016-08-08 07:35:17 +1000
  • Mark Fox
    signed 2016-08-07 23:10:10 +1000
  • Craig Channells
    signed 2016-08-07 21:52:03 +1000
  • Peter Murray
    signed 2016-08-07 21:23:49 +1000
    It should be unthinkable that any responsible government could contemplate shutting down and selling off an iconic, perfectly functional, public asset of great historic, cultural and social value in the heart of a major city. Equally, that it should be done for some short lived financial gain that will be far less than the credible replacement value of the asset.
  • Megan Johnston
    signed 2016-08-07 19:28:27 +1000
  • Luke McLean
    signed via 2016-08-07 18:55:33 +1000
    As a father of 3 young boys who are interested in their history I am dumbfounded by the logic behind moving such a valuable educational establishment such as the Powerhouse Museum from the centre of Sydney. Whilst I am supportive of providing another site in Sydney’s West and the benefits that will provide I cannot do so if it means losing the Ultimo site at the same time. The Museums extensive collection deserves to be on display for all of the children and general public of Sydney to see and the NSW Government would be well served in providing multiple sites to provide the opportunity for all regardless of where they might reside.
  • Judith Johnson
    signed 2016-08-07 18:19:56 +1000
    I would like the NSW Govt. Planning to seriously consider providing TWO Powerhouse Museums.

    Create a new Museum in the Parramatta/West Precinct, thus maintaining the existing Museum for Sydney Central citizens and for Tourists.

    There are sufficient items now in storage to furnish both venues with excellent displays, and for the Education of our school children.

    Normally in any major city in the advanced western world we find museums located close to the centre of the city eg Madrid London New York etc.

    Why is the current Powerhouse Museum being sold..? It doesnt make good sense for the future generations !
  • Paul Desney
    signed 2016-08-07 18:18:16 +1000
    I worked when I was young for the architect Lionel glendenning, who won the sulman award for the powerhouse museum. The building itself combined with the restoration of the old building is of architectural significance by a significant australian architect and should be preserved on that basis alone. Anything else is ignorant and barbaric.
  • Judy Schneider
    signed 2016-08-07 17:44:04 +1000
    With the increased density of apartments around the CBD, the current location of the Powerhouse Museum is ideal for recreational and cultural pursuits of residents, let alone tourists to Sydney. Central and Town Hall stations are accessible by the majority of Sydneysiders, whilst Parramatta is not convenient for SW, Northern, Eastern or Northern Beaches residents.
  • Max Orr
    signed 2016-08-07 16:17:09 +1000
  • Emma Frater
    signed 2016-08-07 16:05:07 +1000
  • Kay Williams
    signed 2016-08-07 15:44:03 +1000
    This unthinkable vandalism of public institutions and public and crown Crown Land is becoming the Hallmark of the Baird Governments management of its social and environmental responsibilities. The embracing of a singleminded , narrow economic rationalist policy approach is harming our public estate and our civic life.

    The inevitable long term consequence of such oppression of community in favour of vested interests will ultimately feed the flames of social unrest and shatter the consesus to be goverened. Our social fabric and environmental sustainability are threatend by activities which could result in legislative challenge if the community had the resources to take such costly action. By the time government understands the consequences in political terms it will be too late for the planet and for maintaining community harmony and culture.

    As David Suzuki noted on his last Australian visit: ’the Barbarians are in charge!"
  • Jennifer Kent
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-07 14:52:28 +1000
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  • Jennifer Kent
    signed 2016-08-07 14:46:36 +1000
  • Swetik Korzeniewski
    signed 2016-08-07 14:14:01 +1000
    This is a fine purpose built renewal- exemplary of how old and valuable buildings can be given new life and purpose.To destroy this, built at citizens expense, would be an act of wanton Barbarism. Parramatta deserves an Art museum which contains the visual arts as well as technology. The AGNSW has a huge collection in storage-rarely seen. The Powerhouse cannot be “moved”.It will be partially or wholly destroyed. Part of its collection could be shared with a new comprehensive art centre in Parramatta. Anything less is a patronising gesture to the “Westies”.The whole notion of "moving’ the “Powerhouse” is poorly conceived by the culturally and city planning ignorant who refuse to take unbiased expert advice.
  • Norbert Lambert
    signed 2016-08-07 13:35:04 +1000
  • Francis Harpley
    signed 2016-08-07 13:12:27 +1000
  • Harold Bruce
    signed 2016-08-07 13:06:26 +1000
    I have spoken to many people about the issue of re-locating the PHM to Parramatta and they all say that it is very unlikely they will ever visit this new Museum, except for very special exhibitions.

    Leave the PHM where it is, so everyone can visit it. Most overseas tourists only have a short stay in Sydney and would not be able to include a visit to the Museum in Parramatta.

    Also the cost of re-locating to Parramatta is to much for the taxpayer to take on. There are many exhibits in storage which could be displayed in a NEW Museum in Parramatta, leaving the present PHM in Ultimo where it has always been.
  • Rebecca Spindler
    signed 2016-08-07 12:52:57 +1000
    This is not a genuine solution for the people of Parramatta or Ultimo. If Baird does not think we see how cynical this exercise is to help his developer mates, he is wrong.
  • Priscilla Pun
    signed 2016-08-07 11:36:41 +1000
    Two museums are better than one for our growing population. Don’t sacrifice another of sydney’s cultural assets for more residential development. It’s not just about the Harbour – its more about quality of life regardless of where people choose to live. What will be this generation’s legacy to our descendants?
  • Marco Giavitto
    signed 2016-08-07 11:22:01 +1000
  • P Greenland
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-07 11:12:03 +1000
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