Powerhouse museum still in dark about funding

There no budget and no opening date for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, a parliamentary committee has heard.

Peter Collins

The museum is also yet to receive one dollar of the $75 million in targeted philanthropic donations it announced it was seeking more than two years ago.

The NSW select committee on the government’s management of the Powerhouse Museum heard evidence about the troubled project this week, two days after the government announced planning consent for the new museum which was first mooted more than five years ago.

The government first trumpeted plans to relocate the existing Ultimor Powerhouse Museum to a new site, with the sale of the old building to partly fund the new facility, in 2015.


MAAS trustees board president Peter Collins Board told the committee this week that the Powerhouse Museum had been through a turbulent time and faced a lot of controversy “to put it as diplomatically as possible”.

“I see my job as trying to get everybody on the same page and to move this forward,” the former NSW arts minister  said.

MAAS Chief executive Lisa Havilah admitted the museum had not yet received any of the required $75 million in donations in more than two years.

Lisa Havilah

“Can you confirm that not one dollar has been put into your bank account?” deputy chair and Greens MP David Shoebridge aske.

“I can confirm that,” Ms Haviland replied.

But she said a campaign committee had been appointed and she was confident of raising the sum, including by giving donors naming rights for museum wings.

Ms Havilah also confirmed there was no operating budget to run the new museum or an opening date for the Parramatta site.

Ms Havilah said “a very robust business case” was currently being considered but the museum would attempt to supplement government funding with its own revenue streams.

Mr Shoebridge suggested that “unless you get a substantial increase in ongoing government funding you’re not going to be able to get the lights on are you?”

Ms Havilah agreed that government investment was needed but said the museum would also generate revenue via commercial programs, events, retail and expanded hours.

“Yes we will require government investment, but we are taking very seriously our responsibility to offset that investment,” she said.

‘Biggest and best’ museum

Announcing the government’s planning consent for new Parramatta Powerhouse over the weekend, Arts Minister Don Harwin said Sydney was getting “the biggest and best museum in NSW”.

“With a focus on science and technology, Powerhouse Parramatta will be the museum’s flagship site and hold the revered Powerhouse collection it is renowned for,” he said.

Mr Collins told the committee on Monday he was confident the board was getting appropriate communication and support from the government.

However he admitted the “missing part of the jigsaw” was the absence of a funding decision for renovating the Ultimo site, which the government announced last July would remain despite the construction of the new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta.

“We don’t know our budget yet, he said have a detailed submission and have provided the government with various options. We’re waiting to see which of those it will be.”

He said he expected to know by the end of April.

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5 thoughts on “Powerhouse museum still in dark about funding

  1. Wow just when we thought the dumb Government spending was in Queensland and the Central Coast Council. $75 million in donations expected but no action for 2 years ( no wonder they got nothing ) And saying that the sale of the current site will partly fund the new one at Parramatta, maybe they need a inflated price like what the Government paid for the paddocks near the new Sydney airport, then they will have money left over. Projects like this are important to keep people working in our State, lets get the Parramatta site developed with plenty of emphasis on having the settings for functions large and small in a unique environment that will give some revenue stream in the future.

  2. This Fiasco has continued from the day it was first announced 5 plus years ago.
    Having personally made numerous public submissions to Keep the existing site and the new annex of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to be placed in a better location than has now been Approved

    Its not that many members of the Public haven’t consistently been crying out to say this Idea was not mature one As the Business case that eventually was revealed it was Flawed. And now operational funding issues.

    This latest step in the process is to effectively continue NSW Government destroying the heritage values of Paramatta. As Willow Grove being a place of significance to the indigenous people and one of the dewinding number of Heritage building that it has sought to remove in Parramatta.

    Its odd that we have a State government that in recent times has been totally focused on ways to destroy the Built History of Paramatta , And this time it is to make way for a museum that suppose to curate our Build History and the Life of colonial Sydney.

    A classic Government against the people story.
    A focus of this journey of MAS to be in Parramatta and retain the existing Power house site.
    This story would make any body who wished to donate to the Museum think twice that their investment in this flawed activity.

    1. Ahh…
      If the Liberals can just get rid of our Built History buildings they can create their own
      preferred Built History using your paper cutouts
      The Libs don’t really like Parramatta.
      How long have we been waiting for the new aquatic centre?

  3. I am the son of one of the board members (now deceased) responsible for the creation of the Power House in Ultimo. As a small boy in the 60’s I remember my father one day took me to what was then the “Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences” located in Harris St, Ultimo, adjacent to UTS. I remember how amazing it was to see whole steam trains and crazy clocks and all types of machines and gizmos, all standing in evidence of the creativity and inginuity of mans dedication to the development of technology, well before computing.
    Later I was eagerly on one of the first through the doors when the new Museum opened to the pubic. There were huge crowds at the opening and interest was so high.
    Given I have a long and intimate family insight into the Power House and the huge effort and work of all those who got it established, I am totally disgusted to see the Museum being put on the “back burner” by the State Government – their lack of commitment and progress is truely sad.
    Friends of the Power House need to rally and support
    Science and technology in iteself is nothing but just an academic study – but once applied by man to real life – it is truely wonderous as seen yesterday by the NASA “Perceverance” landing on Mars yesterday 18/2/2021

  4. Leave our heritage sites alone!

    Fix the sea level tide problem st Parramatta, rehabilitate the destruction of Thompson Square and Windsor Bridge and leave the t museum where it is , and
    don’t sell off this Heritage site.

    Overseas Tourists have no interest in training to Parramatta to see the Powerhouse snd you can’t even manage tge cureenf heritage sites which you are destroyj h with infill!

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