By Lauren O’Connor
The Australian Technology Park (ATP) will be sold and subdivided in coming months to accommodate the State Government’s Central to Eveleigh development. Leaseholders and residents of Eveleigh and Redfern have expressed concern that the railyards and heritage buildings are not protected from redevelopment.
Greens spokespeople and community activists met on January 20 to oppose its privatisation, which will include the sale of 13 hectares of heritage buildings, Eveleigh rail yards and industrial workshops.
Preliminary community consultations have been going on for a year, but the precinct’s sale has not been confirmed. The period in which developers can submit an expression of interest for the site closes on January 30.
Owner of Wrought Artworks, Guido Gouverneur has leased the Eveleigh locomotive workshop since the early nineties. He said his blacksmiths forge is open to the public and very popular with passers-by. A second-generation blacksmith, Mr Gouverneur said the government has a responsibility to encourage industrial facilities in Sydney’s CBD and keep the State’s heritage accessible and unprivatised.
“This was surplus land that the state government set aside…so that jobs and technology would remain in Australia; this was about our children’s future,” he said. “Now with the site possibly being sold over for apartments that type of activity will no longer being nurtured.” Mr Gouverneur, the long-term tenant of the blacksmith workshop, was asked to give consent for a subdivided sale. He was one of only 30 people who did not give consent and despite this the application was approved.
“I’m not sure why they’re allowed to subdivide the site into individual lots and then sell them as a collective lot,” he said. “It’s always been that the site should be seen as a whole, not as a series of small individual separate entities.”
Greens Candidate for Newtown Jenny Leong said
during a tour of the workshops that keeping the site public would honour its former workers.“ We need to see heritage as being about more than just buildings. We need to see heritage as being part of our living heritage and culture,” she said. “[That is] one of the great things that we will see lost if this site is privatised.”
“We have the opportunity to maintain a world class heritage and innovation centre in the middle of Sydney for future generations,” Ms Leong said.
In 1988 the Smithsonian Institute Washington DC, USA, wrote to recommend the State Government preserve of the Eveleigh Rail Workshops. The letter said the precinct was an extremely rare and well-preserved example of turn of the century rail shops. “If it would be of any help in the campaign to convince the NSW Government of the historical value of the shop complex, I would observe that such turn-of-the-century railway shops, with essentially original equipment intact, are now a great rarity world wide,” it said. Program Director of the Central to Eveleigh project, Troy Daly, said consultations run by UrbanGrowth indicated the community repeatedly expressed its desire to conserve ATP’s history.
“We recognise…[the] need to preserve all the great things that are there currently and actually build on things,” said Mr Daly.
“That’s the challenge, it’s getting the mixture of old and new correct. The community re-enforce this: you’ve got an area with some of the richest, most diverse social history…”
On December 9 UrbanGrowth held a workshop and spoke to over 100 people about the Central to Eveleigh development. In February a document called the Urban Transformation Strategy will be released. Money from the sale of the ATP may fund the Central to Eveleigh corridor development.
“[The] sale hasn’t been confirmed yet and we’re just exploring what would happen. The price we might receive if we do that would be tied into the Urban Transformation Strategy,” Mr Daly said.
Activist group RedWatch has been involved with UrbanGrowth community consultations and was under the impression there was little formal planning for ATP. “It seems to us from what we’ve been told, that the sale… cuts off its nose to spite its face. They have not actually done proper planning for what’s going to happen along the corridor,” RedWatch spokesperson Geoff Turnbull said.
The group contacted Lord Mayor Clover Moore seeking greater transparency between State Government and community stakeholders. “They’re planning to flog it off before they actually get into the process of planning…that’s why we’ve asked the City of Sydney to do an assessment of the impact of the sale,” he said. “At the present moment it really is a matter of putting pressure on the state government to say we are opposed to the sell off.”
ATP spokesperson Melanie Ryan said there has been a lengthy process of consultations with the property market since 2012 and tenants know its ‘business as usual. Two stages, an application of interest and an expression of interest are completed. A tendering process will begin in coming months.