White Bay Power Station | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


White Bay Power Station

Item details

Name of item: White Bay Power Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Utilities - Electricity
Category: Electricity Generator/Power Station - coal/gas/oil
Location: Lat: -33.8667598526 Long: 151.1772691360
Primary address: Victoria Road, Rozelle, NSW 2039
Local govt. area: Leichhardt
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT2 DP1063454
LOT3 DP1063454
LOT4 DP1063454
LOT6 DP1063454
LOT40 DP791553
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Victoria RoadRozelleLeichhardt  Primary Address
Robert StreetRozelleLeichhardt  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
UrbanGrowth NSW Development CorporationState Government 

Statement of significance:

White Bay Power Station was the longest serving Sydney power station and is the only one to retain a representative set of machinery and items associated with the generation of electricity in the early and mid twentieth century. It retains within its fabric, and in the body of associated pictorial, written archives and reports and oral history recordings, evidence for the development of technology and work practices for the generation of electrical power from coal and water. This development of power generation at White Bay contributed to the expansion of the economy of Sydney and New South Wales.

As a result of its remarkably intact survival, it retains the unique ability to demonstrate, by its location, massing, design, machinery and associated archives, the influence and dominance that early power-generating technology exerted on the lives and urban fabric of inner cities in the first half of the 20th century. The extant items within the surviving operational systems are of an impressive scale and exhibit a high degree of creative and technical achievement in their design and configuration. They encompass all aspects of the generation of electrical power, and represent all phases from the inter-war period through to the more sophisticated technologies of the mid 20th century. They are of exceptional technical significance with research potential to yield information not available from any other source.

Aesthetically, White Bay Power Station contains internal and external spaces of exceptional significance. These spaces include raw industrial spaces of a scale, quality and configuration which is becoming increasingly rare and which inspire visitors and users alike. Externally, it is a widely recognised and highly visible landmark, marking the head of White Bay and the southern entry to the Balmain Peninsula and its industrial waterfront. It retains a powerful physical presence and industrial aesthetic and is the most important surviving industrial building in the area .

White Bay Power Station has strong and special associations and meanings for the local community, for former power station workers and for others who have used the site, and is of high social significance. It is a potent symbol of the area's industrial origins and working traditions, aspects of community identity that are strongly valued today by both older and new residents. It it one of the few surviving features in the area that provide this symbolic connection.

It is the only coal based industrial structure, dependent on a waterside location to survive adjacent to the harbour in the Sydney Region. It also forms part of a closely related group of large scale industrial structures and spaces (White Bay Container Terminal, Glebe Island Silos, Container Terminal and Anzac Bridge) which along with the White Bay Hotel, define a major entry point to the city from the west.

It is of exceptional structural significance to the State of New South Wales. (Design 5, 2004)
Date significance updated: 23 Feb 04
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Unknown
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1912-1958


Historical notes: 2004 Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Award recieved.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
White Bay Power Station is important as part of the States development of electrical power for industry and the growth of local and capital development across the State in the first 70 years of the 20th century. It is the only power station in NSW to retain in situ a full set of both structures and machinery from this period. (Design 5, 2004)
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
White Bay Power Station has a rare ability to demonstrate once common and standard work practices of the early to middle 20th century which are now almost entirely discontinued through changes in technology and occupational health and safety. It is a rare surviving element in an area of Sydney which was once almost entirely dependent on such industries for its livelihood. (Design 5, 2004)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
White Bay Power Station retains a broad range of spaces and elements including machinery, which are exceptional for their raw industrial aesthetic qualities. As an assemblage of structures the White Bay Power Station retains exceptional aesthetic value as an icon of early to mid 20th century industry, an important component of a rare group of harbour side industrial structures and a promiment marker in the cityscape signifying the entry point from the west. In particular the two chimney stacks are visible from many parts of the inner west and are a constant point of reference.
Its design and construction while typical for its time is now a rare surviving example of such industrial buildings and machinery complexes. It also demonstrates technological achievements of its time in the erection of the 1927 reinforced concrete structures and the 1958 boiler house, with its large area of steel framed and glazed curtain walling. (Design 5, 2004)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
White Bay Power Station has strong and special associations and meanings for the local community, for former power station workers and for others who have used the site, and is of high social significance. It is a potent symbol of the area's industrial origins and working traditions, aspects of community identity that are strongly valued today by both older and new residents. It is one of few surviving features that provide this symbolic connection.
For former employees at White Bay Power Station, this place provides a link to their past working lives and evokes memories of people and events that remain important to them today. It represents the post-war period of power station operation, and through the retention of technologies, systems and machinery it has the ability to evoke this period and demonstrate the production methods and working conditions of the time.
White Bay Power Station is a widely recognised landmark, the most important surviving industrial signature building locally and the marker of the entry to the Balmain peninsula and its industrial harbour. It retains a powerful physical presence and industrial aesthetic. (Design 5, 2004)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
As a now rare and intact surviving early 20th centruy industrial complex in the inner Sydney Harbour region and particularly in Balmain, White Bay Power Station contributes considerably to our understanding and appreciation of these areas and foreshores as formerly places of heavy industry and intense port activity.
As an early power station for the early 20th century tram and rail network, it was a vital component in the expansion and daily life of suburban Sydney.
White Bay Power Station contains a complete and in situ assemblage of machinery, spaces and elements comprising all the systems and processess for the generation of coal-fired electricity from the early to mid 20th century. This is the only surviving assemblage in NSW and it has the potential to yield information not found anywhere else in the State. (Design 5, 2004)
SHR Criteria f)
As the only intact Power Station of its type left in NSW, with one complete power generating system retained in situ for conservation, its rarity is firmly established. (Design 5, 2004)
SHR Criteria g)
Retaining as it does a complete system of steam turbine generation of electricity from burning of fossil fuel, the White Bay Power Station is highly representative of this generation of power station. Other modern power stations use similar technology, albeit more modern and efficient. White Bay represents that type of early electricity generating technology which required the building of power stations close to the customer. As a complex of structures, buildings and machinery, it demonstrates the full configuration and processes of an early to mid 20th century city power station. (Design 5, 2004)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementWhite Bay Power Station CMP Jan 28 2004
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementA draft conservation managemnet plan has been submitted for endorsement. Mar 8 2012
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementRevised Conservation Management Plan Final Version submitted Sep 3 2013

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0101502 Apr 99 271546
Regional Environmental PlanCity West REP No. 26 - Sch. 41120 Oct 92 1259386

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Section 170 register199874Pacific Power  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 2003White Bay power station 1919 - 1984 : an oral history / produced by Cinetel productions for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. [video recording]
Management Plan (HC endorsed)Design 5 Architects2004White Bay Power Station, Conservation Management Plan
WrittenGeraldine O'Brien2003The power has flickered, but the future spark is lit (SMH 26/11/03)

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5001335
File number: S90/00306

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