Community members and politicians have slammed the state government’s decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.
The announcement by Premier Baird and the Minister for Arts, Troy Grant, that the current site would be sold to developers came after months of speculation around its future.
Yimmy Serfert, the Chair of the Ultimo Village Voice organisation said that there are more sustainable options that have been ignored.
“Why should this be at the expense of inner-Sydney residents?” she said.
“The answer is to better support the original Powerhouse in Ultimo and at the same time, to establish a new, affiliate, “Parramatta Powerhouse” in the western suburbs, using some of the inestimable profits the Government is making from sales of other high-value Sydney sites.”
It is estimated the Powerhouse museum’s collection is three times its display size, leading some to argue for an extension rather than relocation.
“Western Sydney deserves its own cultural institution to be proud of and the Powerhouse Museum is a terrific cultural icon to be housed locally in the region,” Mr Grant said.
The overall plan will see a $30 million injection into arts funding in the state with the lion’s share going to the west. A total of $10 million will be spent on the Powerhouse Museum relocation and $7.5 million will be provided to help support local artists.
The announcement came under a week after a report commissioned by the Sydney Business Chamber titled “Building Western Sydney’s Cultural Arts Economy – a key to Sydney’s success” that recommended the move.
David Borger, the western Sydney Director of the chamber said that it was time the funding gap closed between the two Sydney hubs.
“Cultural Arts in Western Sydney has been grossly underfunded since the region first developed. If we are going to shift the needle on jobs we need our western Sydney CBDs to become interesting places that can attract a smart workforce,” he said.
The decision has riled the community that will be losing the museum.
They have especially criticised the government’s plan to have the site redeveloped for high density residential apartments.
The Convener of Pyrmont Action, Elizebeth Elenius, said the move has become typical of the government’s attitude towards heritage in the city.
“To sell the site for private development would be a betrayal of the public interest and once again, demonstrates that the government treats our heritage and community with distain, when the mighty developer dollar beckons.”
Premier Baird said that any money raised would not leave the arts.
“We’ll guarantee that proceeds from the urban renewal of the existing site in Ultimo will go toward the new museum in Parramatta,” he said.
Ms Elenius acknowledged the need for an institution in the west but said that the existing Powerhouse Museum is bound to the site.
“The Powerhouse has strong historical and educational links at its current site in Ultimo, including to UTS and the Sydney Institute of Technology which was its original home,” she said.
The decision has also come under fire from Labor, the Greens, and local independents.
Jamie Parker, the member for Balmain, described the proposal as a “slap in the face for Sydney-siders”.
He also suggested the site, if sold, could be put to better use.
“Our public buildings and land are being sold off from under our feet. If the broader community supported the move of the museum, the Powerhouse building could be a new school, or library, or cultural centre,” he said.
The state Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, said the move defied the original vision for the museum.
“It belongs in Ultimo, adjacent to the hubs of tourism, cultural institutions, Darling Harbour, higher education, and Sydney’s tech start-ups, which link with its core purpose,” he said.
While the Ultimo community at large have been outraged by the move, it is the youngest amongst them who will be most affected.
Eight year old Sunday said she is going to miss the “dancing robot downstairs” the most.
She and her family are regular visitors to the museum and she described the museum as one of her favourite places.
“A long time ago I came here for my birthday at the Harry Potter exhibition. It was one of the best days of my life,” she said.