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NSW Government reverses plans to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum

NSW Government reverses plans to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum
July 5, 2020

In a joint statement made yesterday by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, the NSW government has surprisingly reversed its decision to relocate Sydney’s Powerhouse museum from its Ultimo site to Parramatta.

This decision reversal comes more than five years after the announcement was initially made in February 2015, a month before the NSW election, when the then premier, Mike Baird, announced the controversial plans for the Powerhouse move.

The NSW Government now intends for the existing museum to stay open while operating along with a new Powerhouse facility planned for western Sydney.

Premier Berejiklian and Treasurer Perrottet stated that the museum at Ultimo would be spared from sale for commercial and residential towers with Perrottet adding that the decision was “an infrastructure investment in museums, not just motorways".

Their statement describes the new Powerhouse at Parramatta as the “jewel-in-the-crown” for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

The government remains committed to building a $645 million museum in Parramatta, as well as retaining the Ultimo venue. It is forgoing the $195 million it expected to receive from selling the Ultimo site, bringing the total cost to the budget to $840 million.

The government's decision was welcomed by opponents of the project who had argued the museum's closure at Ultimo amounted to cultural vandalism and economic waste.

Perrottet advised that the existing museum at Ultimo would complement the new Parramatta centre noting that the decision they had made was “the right decision for the people of our state” adding “in a Covid world, we’ve had to look at new ways of doing things.

“We’ll have a world-class facility for the people of western Sydney, a world-class facility here in Ultimo and that’s what our people deserve here in our state.”

Perrottet also advised that the NSW Government’s final decision to preserve the Ultimo site will “ensure that the people of central Sydney maintain this great cultural facility here in Sydney.”

Berejiklian added that “this will allow us to provide an outstanding visitor experience in the areas of technology, science, engineering and design at two major locations.”

The Powerhouse's Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah, said the NSW government’s announcement gave the museum the opportunity to continue its legacy at Ultimo while building towards its new home of science and technology in Parramatta adding "It is a wonderful outcome for our institution.”

City of Parramatta Council Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer today welcomed the government’s commitment to deliver a world-class museum in Parramatta noting that "the decision to retain the Powerhouse museum at Ultimo should not compromise the investment we were promised for an iconic cultural institution in western Sydney.

“Parramatta is the centre of global Sydney and the engine room of NSW’s economy. We deserve a world-class cultural institution that recognises and nurtures our region’s thriving arts sector, supports thousands of jobs, and drives visitors to our great City."

Earlier this week, City of Parramatta Council reaffirmed its support for the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta and for the retention of two important local heritage sites – Willow Grove (a two-storey heritage villa) and St George’s Terrace (a row of modest Victorian period homes).

This followed Sydney residents and the construction union CFMEU NSW weighing in on the campaign to save the two heritage buildings slated for demolition to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta.

Darren Greenfield, Secretary of the CFMEU's Construction Branch, called on Premier Berejiklian to save the properties while highlighting that "these green bans mean no work can be done to destroy these historically significant sites.”

Newly reinstated Arts Minister Don Harwin, who on Friday was cleared of wrongdoing during lockdown, congratulated the "passionate" campaigners and museum staff enthusing "we are delighted about the fact that this museum is going to get a whole new lease of life, this museum here at Ultimo and the museum at Parramatta - this is a great city already for its museums but we really are going to become the museum capital of the Asia-Pacific."

Minister Harwin advised that 98% of the Powerhouse collections were in storage so there would be easily enough to fill two museums.

The SMH is today reporting that the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is likely to re-emerge as a museum of fashion and design.

A briefing document obtained by The Sun-Herald shows planning under way for the Powerhouse Fashion and Design Museum within a fashion and design precinct.

Image top: Powerhouse Ultimo; image centre: design for planned site at Parramatte and image above: Akira Isogawa Exhibition at Powerhouse Museum 15th December -30th June 2019. Credit: Karen Sweaney Editor Australasian Leisure Management

About the author

Karen Sweaney

Editor, Australasian Leisure Management

Artist, geoscientist and specialist writer on the leisure industry, Karen Sweaney is Editor of Australasian Leisure Management. Based in Sydney, Australia, her specific areas of interest include the arts, entertainment, the environment, fitness, tourism and wellness.

She has degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney and Geological Oceanography from UNSW.

Read more from this author

Related Articles

29th June 2020 - Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum continues tours and extends exhibitions

29th May 2020 - City of Parramatta urges NSW Government to deliver on relocating Powerhouse Museum

28th February 2020 - 22nd Biennale of Sydney exhibition reimagines over 100 objects from Powerhouse Collection

17th December 2019 - Moreau Kusunoki and Genton architects to design Sydney’s new Powerhouse

9th May 2019 - Global architects shortlisted to design new Western Sydney Powerhouse Museum

16th April 2019 - Powerhouse Museum celebrates 50th Anniversary of the moon landing with virtual reality experiences 

24th January 2019 - NSW Government announces international design competition for new Powerhouse Museum

27th July 2018 - Powerhouse Director to step down after public funds used to pay for fashion party

26th July 2018 - Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum used public funds to support fashion event

12th June 2018 - Massive tower developments to fund relocation of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum

30th April 2018 - New features announced for relocated Sydney Powerhouse Museum plus plans for current Ultimo site

5th August 2017 - NSW Government to purchase Parramatta riverfront site for new Powerhouse Parramatta

7th May 2017 - Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to host International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes

11th April 2016 - Powerhouse Museum to be relocated to the banks of the Parramatta River

5th June 2015 - Sydney community fight to save Powerhouse Museum

26th February 2015 - Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to relocate to Parramatta


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