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

  • Christine Murtagh
    signed 2016-08-05 15:59:26 +1000
  • Timothy Bidder
    signed 2016-08-05 15:57:59 +1000
    Timothy Bidder, This is a form of historic cultural genocide the removal and demolition on the powerhouse museum buildings which is listed on the National Trust`s register not to mention the risk of damage to rare historic items in the relocation. This idea is just crazy and makes no sense. We need to have museums in our major capital cities to attract international tourists !

    Please do not remove the powerhouse!
  • Timothy Bidder
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 15:57:38 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Glenn Watson
    signed 2016-08-05 15:57:01 +1000
    I simply can’t make sense of any of the NSW government’s plans to move the Powerhouse – financial, cultural, heritage – anything. This has to be stopped before this enormous waste of money and resources gets underway.
  • David Payne
    signed 2016-08-05 15:53:52 +1000
    The Government currently has the opportunity to extend the current World Heritage Area in Parramatta to include the Cumberland Hospital / Fleet Street / Gaol precinct thus incorporating numerous highly significant heritage buildings into the World Heritage Area. This has the potential to create certainly the most significant heritage site in Australia. This is what we, the people of Western Sydney, want. We don’t want high rise buildings within this heritage precinct as is planned by the Government and we don’t want a greatly diminished version of the Powerhouse Museum dumped on a flood prone site in the CBD.
  • David White
    signed 2016-08-05 15:53:52 +1000
    David White
  • Chris Cameron
    signed 2016-08-05 15:52:37 +1000
    It is imperative that the powerhouse stays in Ultimo and that the land does not get sold to developers leading to more overcrowding and traffic problems along Harris St. Why not build an additional branch of the Powerhouse in Parramarra and leave the one in Ultimo which serves a great purpose to everyone. I enjoy taking my grandchildren for a day at the powerhouse and exploring new things but there is no way I would do this if it was located to Parramatta.
  • David Wilson
    signed 2016-08-05 15:48:33 +1000
  • Jennifer Wang
    signed 2016-08-05 15:45:56 +1000
    Shame on you if you sell the Powerhouse in Ultimo, but please build a second affiliated and equally decent Powerhouse at Parramatta.
  • Robyn Lee
    signed 2016-08-05 15:45:41 +1000
    This proposal to move the Powerhouse is cultural and heritage vandalism, and without any vision or insight at all.
  • Sean Fitzgerald
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 15:42:51 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Sean Fitzgerald
    signed 2016-08-05 15:42:16 +1000
  • Pauline Lockie
    signed 2016-08-05 15:41:41 +1000
    There is no reason why Sydney can’t have more than Powerhouse museum, just like the Tate in the UK has several regional outposts. This is just more short-sighted development by the Baird Government designed to put profits above people.
  • Roy Bishop
    signed 2016-08-05 15:32:42 +1000
  • Rhondda McMurray
    signed 2016-08-05 15:31:57 +1000
    Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. It makes no sense. Let the Power house stay here and give Parramatta something of their own.
  • Trevor Kennedy
    signed 2016-08-05 15:30:56 +1000
    This NSW government decision is one of the silliest and potentially most unecvessary expense a government has ever made.
  • Ray Beharrell
    signed 2016-08-05 15:27:42 +1000
    The Powerhouse has been a great attraction in the city for many years, why change it’s location now and lower the attendance for Sydney dwellers and visitors
  • Jan O'Leary
    signed 2016-08-05 15:27:12 +1000
    This proposal has no merit and destruction of this historic building would be criminal.

    The only sensible solution would be to make the Powerhouse viable in its current location and create a museum with a different theme in the west.
  • Gilian Clapham
    signed 2016-08-05 15:26:24 +1000
    This is the most short-sighted quick-fix response to Sydney’s cultural heritage that will result in a lose-lose for all the residents of Greater Sydney . We can do better than a firesale of irreplaceable assets to rapacious developers -how about enforcing existing planning laws for a start ?
  • Warren Allsopp
    signed 2016-08-05 15:22:59 +1000
  • Mark Marusic
    signed 2016-08-05 15:22:28 +1000
  • Narelle Skinner
    signed 2016-08-05 15:10:54 +1000
    It is time to stop selling off buildings in Sydney to developers. It only advantages the developers while disadvantaging everyone else in Sydney and NSW. The Powerhouse Museum is in a convenient location for all Sydney-siders to reach by public transport. It must stay where it is, in an historic building which should be preserved.
  • Donna Maegraith
    signed 2016-08-05 15:10:04 +1000
  • Jake Harvey
    signed 2016-08-05 15:10:02 +1000
  • Robert Baker
    signed 2016-08-05 15:05:58 +1000
  • Judith Maher
    signed 2016-08-05 15:05:40 +1000
    I’ve just returned from Milan, Italy….a city and country already with an embarrassment of riches in terms of cultural institutions….and they still found the foresight and money (in an economy FAR worse than NSW’s) to develop the Fondazione Prada in an old distillery and HangarBicocca in an old Pirelli factory.

    Institutions like this add depth and interest to any city and provide an opportunity for human focus, interaction and awareness. Society in general (and Sydney in particular) need this more than ever before in the face of the online and digital onslaught.

    Get corporate support, develop an industrial site at Parramatta/Rhodes/Homebush and use it to display some of the Powerhouse collection that’s languishing in archives….but don’t sell the Powerhouse to developers for a once only financial gain….
  • Clancy Walker
    signed 2016-08-05 15:01:15 +1000
  • Carol Lynch
    signed 2016-08-05 15:00:41 +1000
    Don’t make the mistake of culling all of the entertainments available for families in Darling Quarter: you may find it becoming a ‘dead precinct’ with no one but convention goers and residents therein. Sydney city deserves a world class technology museum such as The Powerhouse!
  • Michelle Brown
    signed 2016-08-05 15:00:05 +1000
    Surely a city of 5 million people deserves more than one technology museum – build one for Parramatta but keep the Powerhouse open – it belongs to the people of NSW not developers!!
  • Sacha Zunic
    signed 2016-08-05 14:59:51 +1000
    The latest in a string of idiotic moves by this government. The idea of shifting it to Parramatta is ludicrous. There is no viable reason other than a land and development grab. Invest in the present site, promote it and it can still be a vital part of Sydney’s culture.