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Wrangle continues over Powerhouse Museum

Powerhouse Museum at night.  Source: Powerhouse Museum.

Trevor Kennedy, Powerhouse Museum vandalism seems a monumental crime, The Australian, 15 June 2015

The NSW government seems to be determined to prosecute one of the most outrageous acts of vandalism we have seen in many years: the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum.

It seems extraordinary that what otherwise appears to be a sensible and reasonable government would embark on such an exercise without appropriate consultation and consideration of many of the critically important aspects involved.

Just think for a moment how lucky Sydneysiders are (and have continued to be since the Queen Victoria Building was saved from demolition) for the precinct we enjoy. Start at the Art Gallery of NSW, then there is the Mint and the Barracks, Australian Museum, the Botanic Gardens, Opera House, Police Museum, Customs House, Museum of Contemporary Art, Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, SH Ervin, Observatory, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Maritime Museum, Chinese Gardens, Powerhouse — plus the cathedrals and other sandstone treasures. This a feast for the eyes, the heart and the soul for Australians and tourists from everywhere. Why would you want to destroy one of its gems?

Two reasons appear to be being advanced: moving the Powerhouse to Greater Western Sydney would advantage communities neglected in terms of cultural institutions, and probably the most important of all: the release of valuable land for redevelopment — the exact same argument that was advanced for the destruction of the QVB.

Clearly no politician, or anyone else for that matter, would argue that GWS is not entitled to a greater share of the cultural wealth of the nation. But putting a bulldozer through the Powerhouse is not a sensible or appropriate answer — or certainly not one that has been convincingly explained to us so far.

At this stage reasonable requests for the NSW government to pause, take a deep breath and consider alternatives have been met with a blatant: “No, the decision has been made.”

There are many ways in which GWS’s entitlements to a greater share of our cultural heritage can be achieved — not the least in using many of the wonderful historic sites that exist there. The Powerhouse, AGNSW, MCA and others have great collections that can be shared easily — indeed would benefit from the exposure — in the area.

Clearly GWS is a political powerhouse these days and will determine the future of governments. There is complete unanimity on all sides of politics to appear sympathetic to its needs and aspirations.

But surely we don’t need to put a bulldozer through the Powerhouse to achieve this.

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See also: Michaela Boland, ‘Powerhouse Museum move from Sydney city ‘a land-grab’, The Australian, 12 June 2015