Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Culture or Property?

Kirsty Needham, Property values drive Powerhouse out of CBD, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 2015


Peter Tully’s ‘Urban Man’ at Powerhouse Identity and Jewellery exhibition 2015. Photo: Meredith Foley.

Why does the city have to lose a cultural icon, the Powerhouse Museum, treasured by families as an interactive temple to technology, to reinvigorate culture in the west?

Where did the idea that the CBD must lose something, in order for western Sydney to gain, come from?

It would be absurd for a government to fund an upgrade to Westmead Hospital by shutting down a hospital in Sydney’s east.

The Baird government’s announcement that the Powerhouse will move to Parramatta, and its existing site in Pyrmont sold off to apartment developers, is an obvious loss for families being sardined into ever-more apartments in the city.

But the shift to Parramatta will also be a loss to children across NSW, adding an extra 30 to 45 minutes to public transport journeys from north, south and eastern suburbs.

The Transport NSW website trip calculator says a journey from Botany to the Powerhouse takes 45 minutes. Botany to Riverside Theatre in Parramatta is 1 hour 20 minutes. From Wollongong to Parramatta takes 2 hours 22 minutes.

The Powerhouse is next door to the largest tourism destination in the city – Darling Harbour. It attracts twice as many visitors from interstate (20 per cent) and elsewhere in NSW (14 per cent) than the Australian Museum.

Half of the Powerhouse’s 381,582 visitors last year were Sydneysiders. In the bullseye centre of Sydney, kids from the east, west, north and south have equal access.

The Powerhouse annual report outlined ambitious plans to tap into the Darling Harbour redevelopment, and the education and cultural industries in Ultimo. But the rug was pulled from under the museum with a key phrase in the State Infrastructure Strategy released in November: “The Powerhouse occupies a constrained (but very valuable) site.”

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