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

  • Keith Tognetti
    signed 2016-08-05 17:37:32 +1000
  • Prudence Black
    signed 2016-08-05 17:33:53 +1000
  • David Lloyd
    signed 2016-08-05 17:24:18 +1000
    It makes sense to keep museums in the capital city where tourists are more likely to visit . Only greedy developers want them moved to the outer suburbs.
  • Lesley Carnus
    signed 2016-08-05 17:22:31 +1000
    Sydney, as an international city, needs MORE CULTURAL EVENTS AND SITES rather than less. The Powerhouse Museum with the new walkway from Central Station (built at taxpayers’ expense) is now even more accessible for local, state, interstate and international visitors.

    Many of my friends and visitors from overseas complain about the lack of culture in Sydney, that if you don’t like beaches than there isn’t much to do here. Closing the Powerhouse would be a giant step backwards for attracting visitors to our city.
  • Anne Wale
    signed 2016-08-05 17:17:54 +1000
    People love this Museum in THIS location and are fighting long and hard for it. We all see through the land grab behind the sale. Leave it be Mr Baird!
  • Heather Phillips
    signed 2016-08-05 17:17:41 +1000
  • Julie Banks
    signed 2016-08-05 17:13:44 +1000
  • Sean Corrigan
    signed 2016-08-05 17:04:11 +1000
  • Martha Ansara
    signed 2016-08-05 17:00:06 +1000
    It is important that the Powerhouse remain one of the complex of museums in and around the CBD in Sydney which make the city such a cultural attraction. It would be great to develop an equivalent museum in Parramatta but not at the expense of the Ultimo Powerhouse.
  • Deb Y
    signed 2016-08-05 16:59:56 +1000
  • Anita Beuthien
    signed 2016-08-05 16:59:41 +1000
    I support the Powerhouse Museum remaining in Ultimo. We now have a much bigger population than when it was first established, so really should be able to support both sites..we also have enough exhibits to fill both. Adding to that, visitors to Sydney are much more likely to visit the museum in Ultimo, closer to the many other attractions closer to the city.
  • Marion Barker
    signed 2016-08-05 16:58:27 +1000
  • John Kenyon
    signed 2016-08-05 16:58:11 +1000
  • Maria Soria
    signed 2016-08-05 16:57:50 +1000
  • David Phillips
    signed 2016-08-05 16:54:44 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is an international standard treasure in a heritage building, of interest to locals and overseas visitors. By all means give western Sydney a museum, but it would be shortsighted vandalism to demolish the present museum
  • Kevin Armstrong
    signed 2016-08-05 16:54:32 +1000
  • Ian Ferrier
    signed 2016-08-05 16:48:20 +1000
  • Elaine Diffey
    signed 2016-08-05 16:47:19 +1000
    Selling off the Powerhouse Museum and substituting a lesser museum in the suburbs is unworthy of a city the size of Sydney and culturally ignorant and destructive.
  • Pat Zinn
    signed 2016-08-05 16:47:01 +1000
  • Jen Burn
    signed 2016-08-05 16:39:54 +1000
  • Sarah Cowl
    signed 2016-08-05 16:38:36 +1000
  • Matthew Wilkie
    signed 2016-08-05 16:25:02 +1000
  • Michael Clark
    signed 2016-08-05 16:22:57 +1000
  • Peter Mitchell
    signed 2016-08-05 16:19:16 +1000
    It doesn’t make sense to close a unique community resource in the inner city and substitute it with a newly built substitute inaccessible to travellers and the current communities served by the Powerhouse.

    Build whateveris required in Parramatta but not at the loss of the wonderful historically significant Powerhouse Museum. You could sell off the opera house and move it to the west if you applied the logic of the Baird government to it.
  • Paul Vonwiller
    signed 2016-08-05 16:09:06 +1000
    I think the Power House Museum should remain where it is at Ultimo. It is more centralize. Easy for those to get there. Compared being at Parramatta is most awkward and being out of the way.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Paul Vonwiller
  • Emine Sermet
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 16:05:05 +1000
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  • Tim Davis
    signed 2016-08-05 16:04:18 +1000
    If the Powerhouse at Ultimo is closed, it is no longer practical for me to remain a member which I have been for some years.
  • Daniel Burn
    signed 2016-08-05 16:02:50 +1000
  • Juliette Annand
    signed 2016-08-05 16:00:46 +1000
  • Christine Murtagh
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 16:00:09 +1000
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