Inquiry into the Government's management of the Powerhouse Museum and other museums and cultural projects in New South Wales

Submission from Tom Lockley

This submission addresses specifically Terms of Reference 1 (a) the proposed move of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the Powerhouse Museum, from Ultimo to Parramatta, including:

(i)             the core visions behind the move.

#8 An alternative project.

This is a quick exercise in lateral thinking done in a late night email / phone hookup.

Preliminary research and rationale:

Parramatta is the population centre of the Sydney conurbation. An increasing number of Sydney children are living in apartments. Opportunities for pushing and pulling, learning practical physics, are very limited.

This is illustrated by the numbers of Sydney children travelling to Canberra on school excursions, where a great highlight is a visit to Questacon. Canberra Questacon has a catchment population of about 510,000 people, and 515,000 people attended Questacon last year. At least 40,000 of these came from Sydney (local estimate).

Project part 1: Build a Questacon in Fleet Street area: around $400 million (‘back of envelope’ estimate by builder and museum expert)

Project part 2: Build a locally planned museum / art gallery in the Fleet Street area. The new V&A museum in Dundee, Scotland, cost £STG80 million, so $AUD200 million ought to be enough. The Dundee V&A has a floor area of 8,500 square metres (2.1 acres) and includes a main hall, learning centre, auditorium, temporary exhibition galleries and the permanent Scottish Design Galleries.

Project part 3: General work in the Fleet Street area. Indicative $400 million. To include a parking area, not provided for at present. It would become one of the great cultural precincts of the world.

Project part 4: The heritage buildings at the proposed museum site would be preserved as part of a wonderful waterside park at a cost of a few million.

Total expenditure well less than $1 billion. We think it is far better economically, educationally, socially and in heritage terms than ‘moving’ the Powerhouse -and will bring more money to Parramatta. This idea took about three person-hours to prepare – we suggest that the Powerhouse ‘move’ is so badly planned that it could not have taken any longer!

Tom Lockley and two anonymous friends. 14/5/2020