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

  • Gary Skinner
    signed 2016-08-05 14:55:19 +1000
  • Lorraine van Schie
    signed 2016-08-05 14:48:55 +1000
    Its a long way to Parramatta
  • Steven Spencer
    signed 2016-08-05 14:48:31 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo forms a long cherished key part of the cultural life of Sydney.Any government interested in the advance of Australia as a developed society would vigorously maintain this strong communicative link between society and the scientific community at the heart of Australia’s premier city.

    Thank you.
  • Ross Mewton
    signed 2016-08-05 14:47:09 +1000
    The current locaton of the Powerhouse Museum is more accessible to most of Sydney and NSW than any proposed site at Parramatta. Leave the Powerhouse Museum where it is.
  • Ivor Epstein
    signed 2016-08-05 14:36:34 +1000
  • Robyn Connor
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 14:35:46 +1000
    Sign the petition: Museums Inquiry Submission
  • Robyn Connor
    signed 2016-08-05 14:35:26 +1000
    We don’t need more apartments or hotels, darling harbour needs facilities that entertain and educate the locals and visitors
  • Martin Lawrence
    signed 2016-08-05 14:32:30 +1000
  • George Reynolds
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 14:28:10 +1000
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  • George Reynolds
    signed 2016-08-05 14:26:31 +1000
    george reynolds
  • Derek Allan
    signed 2016-08-05 14:24:53 +1000
  • Duncan Bourne
    signed 2016-08-05 14:24:36 +1000
    Duncan Bourne

    The process of announcing the move of the Powerhouse from its home without consultation with any local community or serious group of museum, education and tourism experts gives the impression of an unacceptable agenda driven by an developers and an election.
  • Michelle Lang
    signed via 2016-08-05 14:23:20 +1000
  • Russell Hansen
    signed 2016-08-05 14:23:02 +1000
  • Jennie Kirby
    signed 2016-08-05 14:22:06 +1000
  • Deirdre Evans
    signed 2016-08-05 14:20:04 +1000
  • Thomas Walder
    signed 2016-08-05 14:18:58 +1000
  • Sally Lloyd
    signed 2016-08-05 14:15:06 +1000
    Leave the Powehouse and contents in Ultimo and build a new museum in Parramatta there is enough historical items for both. In Most international there are several museums.
  • Michael Cox
    signed 2016-08-05 14:12:12 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is wonderfully well located at its present site at Ultimo and is an iconic facility for the public who visit from all parts of the country as well as the many overseas visitors. A cultural centre / museum would be of much benefit to Parramatta, but not at the expense of removing this important, purpose built treasure at Ultimo.

    Michael Cox
  • Ron Cuskelly
    signed 2016-08-05 14:09:06 +1000
    Any proposal to relocate the PHM collection will require storage of the collection until the new facility is completed and this will result in loss or damage to artefacts. Scratch the surface of any proposal to close a museum and you will find greed, corruption or ignorance or any combination of the three.
  • Sarah Jacobs
    signed 2016-08-05 14:03:35 +1000
  • Leslie Johnston
    @elrjay tweeted link to this page. 2016-08-05 14:00:13 +1000
  • Leslie Johnston
    signed 2016-08-05 13:59:56 +1000
    I am very concerned about deals being done without public scrutiny relating to future use of the existing Power House site. It has great access for residents in the eastern part of Sydney. An additional new museum in Parramatta or Penrith could offer additional facilities for displaying the heritage of NSW.
  • Roma Freeman
    signed 2016-08-05 13:57:45 +1000
    I live in regional NSW and am extremely distressed that the NSW Government is considering selling the Powerhouse Museum to developers, and relocating it to Parramatta

    Having visited the Powerhouse Museum several times over the years, when I have been in Sydney and will again, however I most certainly would not purposely visit the museum at Parramatta unless I happened to be there.

    The Powerhouse museum is situated in a Historically valuable building and it doesn’t seem that long since it was refurbished and it is one of the most historically significant buildings in the city easily accessible to visitors to Sydney.

    I also understand that there is so much historically significant material in storage that rather than go to the enormous expense of relocating the present Powerhouse Museum that another be built at a suitable site at Parramatta.

    This is a land grab by money hungry developers and a greedy government.

    The cost of moving the Powerhouse to Parramatta would be much higher overall than building a completely new Museum at Parramatta and leaving the one in the city of Sydney where it is.
  • Amanda Sapienza
    signed 2016-08-05 13:57:28 +1000
  • Alesoun Marsden
    posted about this on Facebook 2016-08-05 13:54:20 +1000
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  • Helen OBoyle
    signed 2016-08-05 13:53:48 +1000
    I share Jamie Parker’s cultural and financial concerns regarding the move of the Powerhouse Museum to Ultimo as an alleged “solution” for culturally enriching the West in a financially-responsible manner.

    People in the city on business who have just a couple hours to spare can pop in to see one or two of the museum’s special exhibits. I even made the point of visiting the Powerhouse during a 27-hour layover I had in Sydney some years ago. Of all the things I could do in Sydney, THAT and dinner with a friend were the main things I chose to do during my time in the city. Its industrial and technical focuses different from other city museums, which tend to be more conventionally arts focused. Also, it is linked to the industrial heritage of the Ultimo area. That diversity and link to local past is why it makes sense to keep it in the city, where it is as accessible to tourists and the many others from regional areas that come to the city for cultural, business, or shopping reasons.

    As certain Liberal officials frequently tell people when speaking on this issue, Parramatta is located near many residential neighbourhoods that house people who could become visitors to a museum constructed in Parramatta. But this applies equally — and maybe more so — to ANY museum constructed in Parramatta. It may well be that given a menu of options suggested by community leaders, residents in that area would prefer dollars invested in some other type of museum in their area. Parramatta has its own rich history of aboriginal lands, early sandstone buildings, and Australia’s convict past. It has a fascinating “if walls could talk” type of historic precinct that was recently heritage listed, which locals feel strongly about, and on which Jack Mundy has announced a Green Ban — the same industrial action that saved buildings in Sydney’s historic Rocks district from demolition decades ago. What’s already IN Parramatta is likely a great focus for enhancing its cultural environment, and for investing dollars in, to preserve.

    Perhaps if more access to cultural treasures that have been centralised in the CBD is desired, a “best-of” exhibit hall in Parramatta’s historic precinct that offers 1 or 2 concurrent every-6-months changing exhibits from various cultural venues in the city that some of those living in the West say that they find challenging to visit – the MCA, the Australian Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Powerhouse Museum, and other smaller historic exhibit spaces – would be interesting and offer a diversity of cultural experience that is not provided by relocating the full campus of JUST ONE of NSW’s key museums to that area. If the government is trying to address an issue of perceived cultural deprivation in the West, why not include all CBD museums’ collections in what is shared with Parramatta? Community polls could drive the topics of exhibits, to ensure that the locals they want to visit, would find the exhibits relevant and worth their time.

    Large items, difficult and costly to move, such as the locomotive and other industrial objects could remain in place, in Ultimo, at the main campus of the Powerhouse Museum, while smaller exhibits could be on loan to the “Cultural Gallery” in Parramatta. There would even be opportunity for fusion BETWEEN COLLECTIONS of various museums under one roof, with multiple museums curating a selection of pieces around a single theme.

    A focus on smaller works would also allow more creativity in site selection. Right now, the proposed site of the Powerhouse Museum is at an old car park that experiences flood events regularly. This is not an ideal location for any sort of museum, because of the humidity inherent in flooded premises, but if someone’s heart is set on it, it can be made to work by adding costly dehumidification equipment and focusing the display in that building on small, easy to transport pieces that can be QUICKLY relocated to higher ground or offsite when storms threaten.

    I am willing to be a witness to the committee to discuss these and other reasons I am against the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum, from the perspective of an international visitor and a local resident.

    Thank you.
  • Alesoun Marsden
    signed 2016-08-05 13:53:42 +1000
    The Powerhouse building is a valuable resource that is well placed & connected with transport that makes it accessible for locals & tourists alike. It’s a link to our past, our history & heritage. We need our publicly owned spaces to be protected & preserved for future generations not sold off for a quick buck for governments & developers. The politicians will move on leaving a trail of destruction & secret deals behind them & our Common Wealth will be gone with them. It’s not theirs to sell.
  • Alissa Ho
    signed 2016-08-05 13:52:08 +1000
    The relocation would inconvenience the majority of museum visitors, as parramatta is a fair way to travel. Would another option be to build residential floors above it?
  • Jill Hartley
    signed 2016-08-05 13:51:42 +1000
    The Powerhouse Museum is so special for Darling Harbour & should not be sold off for any price. A new museum must be built at Parramatta for the community of Western Sydney to also have ease of access to the fabulous facilities that we all love so much.