The Powerhouse Move idea: Facts, June 2019 – Tom Lockley

Tom Lockley – The Powerhouse Museum ‘move’ idea: FACTS

29 June, 2019

  • These facts have been consistently asserted over the past four years, and no contradictory material has emerged. On Monday 21 January the Premier, the Arts Minster and other politicians received, by mail and by email, a copy of these facts, with a covering letter formally requesting comment or refutation, but again there has been no valid response.
  • Full references supporting each fact are available: check or email .  It is beyond belief that the Government is persisting with this project. These are the proven facts:
  1. The idea of moving the Powerhouse Museum was not researched. It was an announced political decision in late 2014. CIPMO, Create Australia and MAAS museum authorities have clearly stated that their actions have resulted from this announced decision, and there was no pre-announcement research into alternative strategies for the laudable objective of improving the cultural facilities of Western Sydney.
  2. There was no consultation with stakeholders. Even the trustees of the museum and Parramatta Council learnt of the idea from reading about it in the newspapers.
  3. This state of affairs has continued: There has never been any later consultation or research into alternatives to moving the Powerhouse Museum to the site chosen by the Government in Parramatta. A sham consultation effort in mid-2017 consisted of asking people what they wanted to see in the new museums and asking for suggestions about the use of the Ultimo site. There is little evidence that the results of even this limited consultation have influenced Government actions.
  4. ‘Moving’ the Powerhouse is a very bad idea. Of all possible projects for enhancing the cultural facilities of Western Sydney, it is hard to find one that is more expensive, more destructive and more inefficient: The largest objects have to be the last out of Ultimo and the first into any new building at Parramatta, with consequent massive costs for storage and transit. There will be a considerable resultant time delay, unnecessary with almost any other project. The specially strengthened floors (for supporting heavy exhibits) and ceiling (for suspending aircraft), as well as the extensive steam reticulation network, will be wasted at Ultimo and have to be replicated at considerable cost at Parramatta. This process wastes, at the very least, some hundreds of millions of dollars above what would be required for any other cultural / educational project.
  5. The magnificent soaring galleries of the existing building cannot be replicated in Parramatta within the proposed new building. The proposed site is smaller than the Ultimo site, and is further compromised by the current plan to build at least one commercial / residential tower on the site and by the unanimously expressed desire of Parramatta Council for the retention of heritage buildings on the site. The unresearched decision to include a Planetarium within the museum adds further difficulties.
  6. The currently planned process involves a massive degradation of the Ultimo site, again for the purpose of building commercial / residential towers to assist budgeting. There is a calculable value of heritage in institutions such as the Powerhouse Museum, and this has been totally ignored by the Government.
  7. The proposal has been the subject of almost universal criticism. The Government was forced to hold a Legislative Council Inquiry which attracted over 150 relevant submissions. Apart from the Government submission, all organizational submissions, including those of the National Trust, only two gave qualified support for the move, and all others completely opposed it. Of the over 100 individual submissions, some from very highly qualified people, none supported the ‘move’. Non-Government witnesses have been universally condemnatory of the idea. The Save the Powerhouse Facebook page exemplifies the views of the general public with over 20,000 people involved in active support. Mr Baird, asked at the Inquiry to name one arts group in favour of the move, did not do so even when given three weeks to research the topic.
  8. The site chosen by the Government had been specifically rejected by the elected council prior to its dissolution to enable forced council amalgamation. The land deal was finalised by the unelected administrator, and has not been approved by the re-elected Parramatta Council.

This is Australia’s only museum dedicated to the important interface between the applied arts and sciences and it is an act of cultural vandalism to move it from its present magnificent building on its present site, site, most accessible to the state, the country and the world.

Edited by Tom Lockley, PO Box 301, Pyrmont 2009. 0403615134.
This printing 29 June 2019