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

  • Peter Greenland
    signed 2016-08-07 11:11:07 +1000
    I write as a resident of regional NSW.

    Keep the Powerhouse where it is and fund another museum for Western Sydney.
  • Marla Skartvedt
    signed 2016-08-07 10:24:36 +1000
  • Zena Davies
    signed 2016-08-07 09:37:34 +1000
  • Felix Prael
    signed 2016-08-07 08:22:02 +1000
    Felix Prael
  • Patrick Niland
    signed 2016-08-07 04:55:33 +1000
    Dear Mr Baird, I know that you are under immense pressure but please do the right thing by the people and leave the Powerhouse Museum where it is. Thank-you.
  • Graham Barr
    signed 2016-08-06 23:57:55 +1000
  • Nicola Beard
    signed 2016-08-06 22:03:15 +1000
  • Shannon Biederman
    signed 2016-08-06 21:24:53 +1000
  • Sally Bray
    @aussiefarmstay tweeted link to this page. 2016-08-06 20:13:24 +1000
  • Sally Bray
    signed 2016-08-06 20:13:07 +1000
  • Marius Webb
    signed 2016-08-06 19:04:40 +1000
    For Sydney to maintain its international status it must have high level attractions aimed at the widest possible demographic. And they must be in Sydney!
  • Jennifer Jungheim
    signed 2016-08-06 18:33:05 +1000
    The Powerhouse should remain in its city location, accessible by tourists and residents, as in other global cities; and remain in its appropriate and purpose-restored building.
  • Bernice Melville
    signed 2016-08-06 18:12:15 +1000
    As a Foundation Member of the Powerhouse who joined because of the Museum’s links to the heritage to the area I am appalled by this heartless so-called economic decision.

    Please can we maintain some ‘heart’ in the city. My grandaughter was devastated when I told of the plans to move it, She has been there so often over the years and has loved it and its history.

    People need connection to history. If the Powerhouse Museum is moved it will no longer be the ‘Powerhouse’ Museum – just another building holding exhibits from another place with no ‘roots’ in the new location.
  • Dereka Ogden
    signed 2016-08-06 17:54:16 +1000
    We need this wonderful museum in the city where more people can access it.
  • Albert Lightfoot
    signed 2016-08-06 17:23:13 +1000
  • Roslyn Diffey
    signed 2016-08-06 17:13:08 +1000
  • Paulune Markwell
    signed 2016-08-06 16:26:12 +1000
    Added to this hasty ill conceived idea regarding the PHM is the ill conceived idea of Sydney Modern. The NSW Government should put this gallery in Western Sydney near the geographic heart of Sydney. There should not be attritikn of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain land was was insightfully set aside by our forefathers. The Art Gallery should address the needs of Greater Sydney and not make land grabs of prestge Harbour locations.

    Pauline Markwell
  • Peter Wolfe
    signed 2016-08-06 16:01:07 +1000
    Build another museum in the West, leave the Powerhouse where it is.
  • Kerrie Pierce
    signed 2016-08-06 15:45:42 +1000
  • Margaret Brandl
    signed 2016-08-06 15:18:57 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is situated in the CBD and is a living visible vestige of Sydney’s sharing, like London, in the 19c embrace of technology. It takes its place in that world and now the world of today with its emphasis on design and science. DO NOT close it down. Leave it as part of our diminishing 19c


    Build a museum for Western Sydney that embraces their HISTORY.
  • Robin Silvester
    signed 2016-08-06 14:54:27 +1000
  • Andrew Kremer
    signed 2016-08-06 14:16:48 +1000
    The Powerhouse has heritage significance, is an important cultural asset,

    It was awarded the Sulman medal for its outstanding architectural achievement.

    To provide equitable cultural emphasis in the metropolitan area, a new gallery for the arts, possibly a branch of the Art Gallery of NSW should be a greater priority for the west of Sydney.
  • Timothy Wong
    signed 2016-08-06 13:50:36 +1000
    Parramatta is deserving of its own cultural centres like a museum – but this should not be at the expense of the current location of the Powerhouse Museum. There is room and in fact a need for two such museums.
  • Jennifer Dowling
    signed 2016-08-06 13:33:10 +1000
  • James Barker
    signed 2016-08-06 13:00:31 +1000
  • Cate Gibson
    signed 2016-08-06 12:06:40 +1000
  • Robyn Kremer
    signed 2016-08-06 12:00:41 +1000
    Now linked by a wonderful pathway from Central Station, the Powerhouse is accessible to millions and its exhibitions are always inspiring.
  • Mary Mortimer
    signed 2016-08-06 11:46:12 +1000
    If it is demolished, and (some of) the Powerhouse collection is moved to Parramatta, it willl not be accessible to the many school students from regional NSW who visit Sydney to experience the significant museums in their capital city.
  • Boyd Hore
    signed 2016-08-06 11:24:46 +1000
    Leave the POWER HOUSE MUSEUM where it is . As an attraction in the city it’s self , and not out west .
  • Murray Howlett
    signed 2016-08-06 11:22:47 +1000