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Powerhouse to be drowned

Gladys Berejiklian is serving up the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta, to the dismay of residents across Sydney. Credit: Save the Powerhouse group

BY ALEX EUGENE

The government made its devastating announcement this week the Powerhouse Museum would move from Ultimo to Parramatta. Up to 90% of the museum’s collection could be moved 25km across Sydney, at an expected cost of $1billion.

After years of protest from the community, the site of the iconic venue will now most likely become home to residential blocks, and so far, nothing more than a vague promise of “a cultural facility”.

“There’ll be one Powerhouse Museum here, it will be across the river at Parramatta,” said Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Save the Powerhouse group decried the announcement, saying: “[The government] will plough blindly on with their own profit-driven agenda, seemingly unaware that they are losing many of our votes across Inner and Western Sydney.

What can we do? Continue to make our protests heard, as loudly as possible, and trust that justice will be done at the ballot box in early 2019, when it will still not be too late to save the Powerhouse,” they said.

To make matters worse, the museum will be built on an old David Jones carpark near the Parramatta River, which has flooded many times in the past – which was one of the reasons DJs got rid of the site in disgust.

Professor Lindsay Sharp, the founding Director of the Powerhouse Musuem, said he was shocked and disappointed at the plans.

“It is going to flood repeatedly. It will require very expensive and highly risk-prone remediation – reducing the new museum budget even more and endangering irreplaceable collections,” he said.

Kylie Winkworth, a heritage consultant and former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum, said it would be safer to have an art gallery at the DJs site, which could have rotating exhibitions by artists. This would support the arts community but also pose less danger to materials kept at such a risky location.

Ms Winkworth said the government should be consulting the public to arrive at a decision about the two venues.

“We strongly support the development of a distinctive new museum at Parramatta, based on open consultations about the form, focus and themes in the new museum, and its location.

“However the Powerhouse Museum must continue as a major museum and education and tourism attraction in Ultimo, not a remnant cultural space. The headquarters of Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences should remain at Ultimo, with the Powerhouse as its flagship brand,” she said.