The NSW government has backed down on the expensive relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from inner-city Ultimo to western Sydney.
The museum will now boast four centres across greater Sydney, including the “jewel-in-the-crown” in Parramatta, and the existing Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre at Castle Hill.
The highly-politicised move, first flagged by the Liberal Baird government more than six years ago, was slated to cost as much as $645 million. The Labor opposition had promised to keep the museum at its existing Ultimo location if elected in 2019.
The news comes little more than a month after the NSW government dumped plans for the $800 million redevelopment of ANZ Stadium.
Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah said the decision was a “wonderful outcome” for the 141-year-old institution.
“[The] announcement gives us the opportunity to continue the legacy of our historic site at Ultimo while building towards our new home of science and technology at Powerhouse Parramatta,” Havilah said.
The state’s treasurer Dominic Perrottet said that the government will explore redirecting some of the funds earmarked for the move into renovations.
The government had planned to sell the current site at Ultimo to developers for up to $195 million to help offset the costs of the relocation.
Create NSW has confirmed that up to $20 million has been spent to date in planning the museum’s relocation.
Perrottet said that the government’s reversal was an “infrastructure investment in museums, not just motorways”.
The NSW government has now fast-tracked three tranches of infrastructure and development projects in response to the coronavirus.
“In a Covid world, we’ve had to look at new ways of doing things,” Perrottet said, adding that the preservation of the Ultimo site was the government’s “final decision to [maintain] this great cultural facility here in Sydney”.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, established in 1879, is one of Australia’s oldest cultural institutions.