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

  • Judith Spragg
    signed via 2016-08-06 10:54:36 +1000
  • Helen Matthews
    signed 2016-08-06 10:29:23 +1000
    Helen Matthews, Greenwich. Sydney.
  • Gavin Imhof
    signed 2016-08-06 10:26:17 +1000
  • Mariana Moonsun
    signed 2016-08-06 10:16:26 +1000
    I fully support this submission and it’s better idea to create a similar kind of museum in Parramatta. It’s part of our culture as Australians and deepens us as a people.
  • Faye Lake
    signed 2016-08-06 10:07:24 +1000
  • Lesley Gibson
    signed 2016-08-06 09:49:09 +1000
    There will always be opportunities for government to make money through development, but there is only one opportunity to keep and improve the PHM in its unique, and appropriate position.
  • Ian Kingsford-Smith
    signed 2016-08-06 08:56:32 +1000
  • Sarah Lay
    signed 2016-08-06 08:44:04 +1000
  • Rob Parkes
    signed 2016-08-06 08:42:18 +1000
  • Jeffrey Hamilton
    signed 2016-08-06 07:56:54 +1000
  • David Green
    signed 2016-08-06 07:19:05 +1000
    With recent restrictions in foreign lending giving pause to the market, if you give the Powerhouse to developers in a falling market, it will look foolish and corrupt and bad government.

    Don’t make yourselves look like corrupt fools stealing public assets – you’ll end up vilified forever.

    Take care of public assets – and you might actually have a conscience you can live with !
  • Liz Thornton
    signed 2016-08-06 01:21:50 +1000
    Why not build another Casino in the Place where Power House once educated and delighted kids and adults not mention TOURISTS who have “done” our meagre cultural offerings?
  • Diane Dell
    signed via 2016-08-06 01:07:33 +1000
  • Xenia Iona
    signed 2016-08-06 01:01:17 +1000
    Does the current NSW government’s audacity, foolhardiness and arrogance have no bounds? Or it’s unabated greed? Or its dictatorial manner of governance?
  • Timothy Kalina
    signed 2016-08-06 00:38:10 +1000
    Although I am an American who lives in Chicago I have often used the Powerhouse for my aviation research and the staff at the Powerhouse have always been extremely helpful and friendly.

    What an invaluable resource and asset you have in the Powerhouse. It would be criminal to destroy simply to build yet more luxury housing for the privileged.

    Sad to see political land grabbing like what is all too common here in Chicago.

    Please keep the Powerhouse as is and where is!
  • Francine Bartlett
    signed 2016-08-05 23:29:47 +1000
  • Keira de Rosa
    signed 2016-08-05 22:47:38 +1000
  • Gretchen Gamble
    signed 2016-08-05 22:37:50 +1000
  • Barbara Hoffman
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 22:33:24 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Margaret Reynolds
    signed 2016-08-05 22:28:34 +1000
  • Leigh Howlett
    signed 2016-08-05 22:04:14 +1000
    Flogging off the Powerhouse Museum to a property developer to permit the building of yet more expensive apartments is an appalling proposition. Nobody is fooled by the State Government attempts to pit Western Sydney against Eastern Sydney. Leave The Powerhouse Museum alone! Leave the Powerhouse Museum in the former Powerhouse building in Ultimo which gave the museum it’s name. Parramatta deserves to have a separate branch of the Powerhouse Museum; this would expand the available exhibition space and permit more of the museum’s collection to be on exhibition.PS I grew up in Granville, 1 mile from Parramatta.
  • Malcolm Sinclair
    signed 2016-08-05 22:02:43 +1000
    I see no reason to remove the Powerhouse Museum

    from its present location.
  • Rosanna Perillo Boutin
    signed 2016-08-05 21:58:56 +1000
    Hands off our Powerhouse Museum!!! It’s part of our social-cultural precint at Ultimo – a close buddy of the ABC , Sydney Institute as well as UTS. We want it to stay where it is. The state government hasn’t got exclusive rights to decide what stays and what doesn’t in our own city.
  • Sally McQuinn
    signed 2016-08-05 21:33:43 +1000
  • Kevin Heys
    signed 2016-08-05 21:27:55 +1000
    The PowerHouse at Ultimo is deeply connected with the Educational infrastructure of TAFE and University of Technology Sydney.

    The collection and is accessibility is of critical importance to the integrity of TAFE, UTS and the International Convention centre at Darling Harbour.
  • Danny Christensen
    signed 2016-08-05 21:18:36 +1000
    The powerhouse( although they have taken away its name) already is a major tourist attraction and is on the hop on hop off tour bus trip. It houses the oldest( of its type) Boulton and Watt steam engine in a building that fits so well with all its displays. It shows innovative technology of the past which must be revered as a pointer to what future technology and innovation is possible. Parramatta does not have a comparable site in terms of industrial and technological significance. It is situated at the hub of technology with UTS, Ultimo TAFE, the ABC and many new tech startups in the area. There is a synergy between these enterprises that must be fostered rather than splitting them up and losing that coming together of minds that new tech needs for innovation and creativity
  • Kerry O'Reilly
    signed 2016-08-05 20:57:56 +1000
  • Jane Stadermann
    signed via 2016-08-05 20:51:13 +1000
  • Andreea Kindryd
    signed 2016-08-05 20:49:19 +1000
    Even Blind Freddy can see it makes no sense to sell the land and close the museum. can’t they add?
  • Jillian Thompson
    signed 2016-08-05 20:40:17 +1000