12 February 2024

Public Service Union calls out NSW Premier over 'broken promise' after museum closes for 3 years

| James Day
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three men protesting with a fake coffin

Public Service Association head Stewart Little (left) with other protesters carrying a ”coffin” declaring the Powerhouse Museum’s temporary closure a death sentence. Photo: PSA/Facebook.

On Sunday, 4 February, the Ultimo-based Powerhouse Museum in Sydney began a three-year closure, a move the Public Service Association considers has broken a key election promise of the NSW Labor Government.

The science and technology museum will reopen in 2027 after renovations the Powerhouse executive and State Government consider to be urgent, through its $250 million ”heritage revitalisation”. That value is half what the previous Liberal government promised, and many believe it is inadequate.

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NSW Arts Minister John Graham said the building had significant problems that must be addressed without further delay, including leaks from the roof and large cracks in several walls.

But in a protest last Thursday, local residents, museum workers, experts and enthusiasts joined union members in their demand for a delay to its closure. According to the online petition that has more than 5000 signatures, the Ultimo site’s closure is premature and unnecessary.

Powerhouse founding director Lindsay Sharp said the government should keep it open until the Parramatta museum was opened in 2025, and there was approval for its refurbishment in a development application and construction contract.

Museum building with the Sydney CBD skyline in the background

Mr Little said there were priceless artefacts at the Powerhouse that could not be safely transported, and if the site was not preserved as a museum they would be permanently lost to the people of NSW. Photo: Powerhouse Museum.

Exhibits are being relocated to the Powerhouse’s Castle Hill storage site, which opens on the weekend as a museum. But PSA head Stuart Little believes there’s not enough funding for them to be moved back after the renovations are complete.

“We are deeply concerned that Lisa Havilah, the CEO the Liberals appointed to oversee the destruction of the Powerhouse, has kept her job,” he said.

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”Our members are reasonably concluding that the reason Minister John Graham can’t show us the refurbishment plan for the museum is because he knows the community will be outraged.

“Workers at the site have been promised a copy of the Change Management Plan, telling them where they will be working over the next few years, and that hasn’t been provided either.

“The Premier made an election promise just last year to preserve and refurbish the site and we intend to hold him to that.”

Community consultations began last Monday and will continue until Sunday, 25 February.

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