Save the Powerhouse Museum Rally

(3pm, Harris Street, Ultimo)

Thank you, Patricia (Johnson, MC), hello, everyone.

The City strongly opposes the closure and sale of the Powerhouse Museum here at Ultimo and we have passed a resolution to that effect. We also support the expansion of cultural facilities in western and south-western Sydney - the two are not mutually exclusive.

The proposal is outrageous - it is cultural, social and economic vandalism and that is because the Powerhouse Museum is a vital part of Sydney's heritage, history and culture.

After the Australian Museum, it is our second oldest cultural institution, dating back to 1879 when the government established the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum, following the success of the famous Garden Palace international exhibition.

By 1893, renamed the Technological Museum, it moved to the building in Harris Street that still stands beside the Sydney Technical College. Eventually, as the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, it expanded into the former Ultimo power station, given a masterful reworking by the then-Government Architect, Lionel Glendenning.

It was inspired by the great railways stations and exhibition halls of the 19th century, and provided a fitting showcase for enormous objects like the Catalina flying boat and the amazing Boulton & Watt steam engine, as well as the delicate fabrics and ceramics, the musical instruments and other treasures of its amazing collection.

It opened to the public in March 1988 and though it made the most of the new building, the size of the collection is such that there are about 50,000 items in storage at Castle Hill. Those items could well form the core of a "Powerhouse West" at Parramatta if the reason for selling the site truly was to do something for western Sydney.

The City sees the Powerhouse as an integral part of the Cultural Ribbon we identified in Sustainable Sydney 2030, linking the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery, the Opera House, around the foreshore to the Walsh Bay theatres, a promised cultural facility at Barangaroo and up here to Ultimo.

It also plays an important role in the emerging Ultimo-Pyrmont-Chippendale precinct of innovation and creativity, and with the revitalisation of Darling Harbour and the Goods Line project, it will become even more significant.

Where is Baird's vision?

We are having an assessment made of the Museum's heritage status - for both the building and its contents - and to research the museum's significance to Sydney's economic and tourism sectors. We need to argue the case for its significance to Sydney in economic as well as cultural and social terms.

When we receive this research we will convene a round table of institutions, organisations, and interested individuals in the whole Ultimo-Pyrmont-Chippendale-Haymarket creative and innovation precinct to explore ways in which we can capitalise on opportunities arising for the museum's location within the precinct and adjacent to the Goods Line and a revitalised Darling Harbour.

I have written to Premier Baird and Arts Minister Troy Grant asking that the government support the Museum's own 2020 strategic plan which consider its Ultimo location, close to the CBD, as "vital" to their success.

Director Rose Hiscock said last year any western Sydney site "would need to be a satellite from this site".

I call upon the government to develop a comprehensive strategy for cultural infrastructure in the west and south-west and allowing the Powerhouse to build on its fantastic role here in Ultimo.

I urge you all to keep up the momentum against this social and cultural vandalism.