By ALLISON HORE
Five years after the decision was made, the NSW Government has backflipped on the plan to move the Powerhouse Museum from its Ultimo site to a new location in Parramatta.
The relocation and staged closure of the Ultimo museum, which was expected to cost between $420m and $645m, was due to start on 1st July. But now the industrial-science museum will remain open in Pyrmont with a second location to be opened in Parramatta.
“Sydney is a global city of more than 5 million people and this will allow us to provide an outstanding visitor experience in the areas of technology, science, engineering and design at two major locations,” Berejiklian told 9 Newspapers.
“It will mean far more people have access to many more of the amazing exhibits held by the Powerhouse and, importantly, help us create vibrant centres to inspire learning in the fields of sciences and applied arts for the next generation.”
The state government’s initial decision to move the Powerhouse museum to a new Parramatta site with only 25% of the display area of the existing museum was met with widespread opposition from the community. Critics of the move, including members of the community, parliamentarians and museum experts, questioned the necessity and viability of the move.
For activists who have been fighting to protect the museum, which attracts over 1 million visitors annually, the decision not to go ahead with the move has been welcomed. Patricia Johnson from the Save the Powerhouse lobby group told City Hub that it is “wonderful news” and state member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, agrees.
“This is a fantastic win for the collective effort of so many people within the community,” Parker said. “This needs to make a turning point in the way the governments deal with arts and culture not to mention heritage.”
But the question still remains over the fate of the heritage buildings in Parramatta that are to be removed to make way for the construction of the new museum. The two buildings which are due to be demolished in the $1.17 billion plan are a historic maternity hospital turned villa, Willow Grove, and a row of terrace houses called St George’s Terrace.
The construction union has thrown their weight behind the Parramatta locals who want to see the buildings preserved, with CFMEU NSW announcing a green ban on demolition work from 30 June.
“These green bans mean no work can be done to destroy these historically significant sites,” Darren Greenfield, secretary of the CFMEU’s Construction Branch told ABC News. “We hope the Government listens to the people of this community, which are many, that are against the destruction of these buildings.”
Parker agrees with these concerns, and says that while he celebrates the success of the “Save the Powerhouse” campaign in ensuring the Ultimo site is retained, the fight for heritage isn’t yet over.
“While this is a fantastic win, the government’s proposal to destroy heritage buildings in Parramatta and ignoring the plight of Carriageworks demonstrates there’s so much more we need to do,” he said.
Johnson said the announcement was “not the end of the road”. She said that moving forward the Save the Powerhouse lobby group would be coordinating with community leaders from Parramatta. They will also continue to lobby the government to ensure that the Ultimo Powerhouse is fully funded and resourced.
The second Powerhouse Museum in western Sydney is scheduled to open in 2024. The NSW government expects the development will create more than 1,100 construction jobs and 2,400 indirect jobs, and will employ hundreds of people upon opening.