By Lauren O’Connor
The City of Sydney have recommended employment and heritage sites at the Australian Technology Park (ATP) be contractually protected in the event of its privatisation.
An independent review into the “opportunities and risks relating to the sale of the ATP” commissioned by the council was examined on Monday February 23.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore found that the report raised concerns about access to Redfern Station, the loss of public space and pedestrian links in the inner-city suburb.
“If these sites are sold and redeveloped for residential uses our community and the NSW economy could miss out on the jobs and innovation high-tech industry brings. In the past five years, 40 per cent of all new jobs in Metropolitan Sydney were created in our area,” the Lord Mayor told City Hub.
“Together they are part of a hub for high-tech industries, science and design located close to our major universities. These institutions and the public land they occupy are also important to [the City’s] future.”
Liberal councillor Edward Mandla said the sale is a good idea considering the objectives of the site have not been reached. A former National President of the Australian Computer Society, Clr Mandla recalls speaking to entrepreneurs at the Park in its early days.
“I remember as clearly as yesterday how the CEOs told me how the park was failing and doomed. It started out as a great concept – low cost rental for entrepreneurs in a motivational environment where they could collaborate. Today, the place is pretty much all multinationals and the startups have moved on,” he said.
Clr Mandla said a Mayoral Minute was “dropped on [the council] with no notice” on February 23 and said the ATP sale was beyond the authority of the City of Sydney.
“The goal was to be a technology park to help Australian startups, it isn’t that anymore so the government is looking at it and saying: ‘well the goals have failed, we need to sell this and turn it into more commercial area,” he said.
“It’s got nothing to do with the City of Sydney, it’s got nothing to do with the Lord Mayor but she loves commentating on State matters.”
Premises for the National Innovation Centre, heritage locomotive and functioning blacksmith workshops, a Seven network office complex and a number of research and technology firms are housed at the site.
A spokesperson for the technology park Melanie Ryan told City Hub in January that tenant’s contracts and historical sites were the main focus during the Expression of Interest period.
“The standard to which the heritage must be maintained and the kinds of requirements that are in the act in relation to obtaining approval…remains the same regardless of the owner. Heritage is one of the main things outlined as part of the key sale terms, if the park was to be sold,” Ms Ryan said.
The City of Sydney passed a motion on February 23 in response to the independent review by Hill PDA Consulting. It recommended Premier Baird and the Planning minister place protections around existing tenancies, access to public spaces and reinvestment of sale profits.
“There is no certainty that proceeds from any sale would be reinvested in essential public facilities and infrastructure in the precinct. Development for alternative uses could lead to the loss of a critical mass of technology businesses and incubator space that has assisted new local businesses,” the Mayoral Minute reads.
Labor councillor Linda Scott said residents of Redfern, Alexandria, Darlington and Eveleigh ‘expressed their deep concern’ to her about the sale and the consultation process.
“I think the process surrounding the sale of the ATP is a dramatic breach of faith with the community and the Liberal State government have chosen the wrong time to do this and it’s understandably made the community very suspicious of what they’re trying to achieve,” she said.