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Innovation, sustainability, community and heritage

In its submissions to UrbanGrowth NSW, the state-owned corporation responsible for the sale process, the local community has come to the defence of the ATP as a successful publicly owned venture. Friends of Erskineville (FOE), Alexandria Residents Action Group (ARAG) and REDWatch have all taken up what will be lost to the state’s economy, the local community and internationally significant heritage, if the sale proceeds. Here we deal with them under the ATP banner themes.

Innovation

In its submission, ARAG highlights the innovation and technology focus for which the ATP was established, because of its proximity to a number of Sydney’s major universities.

The ATP was set up to be an incubator for technology and innovation and has, despite many challenges, succeeded in that endeavour.

Along with the Defence, Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and National ICT Australia (NICTA), ATP is home to ATP Innovations, which partners with technology based start-ups and entrepreneurs to help them grow, achieve success and find investment through the support of personalised assistance and mentoring.

These three organisations are seen as having world leading expertise.

[In late 2014] following the G20 Summit, the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel visited NICTA, which speaks volumes about its value and reputation. Staff at the DSTO have developed world leading research on behalf of the Defence Department and continue in this leading edge work today. ATP Innovations has worked with more than 80 businesses over the last several years, helping them raise over $121 million, sell products across the globe, and for eight, sell their businesses. Their role is to incubate growth, but also to help transform technology businesses into high value companies.

Australia can no longer rely on our resource and agricultural sector and should be investing heavily in discovering and developing the technologies of the future.

The vision for the ATP was to form a “specialised employment node” that would provide highquality, high technology employment for the area, and, as already noted, ATP Innovations has been successful in fulfilling this incubator role. However, a private owner is not required to continue this initiative, thus jeopardising the continuation of the ATP as a technology cluster. Without a future owner being required to continue this incubator program, it is likely that small startups will be priced out of the business park.

Maintaining the ATP in public ownership will allow for further development of the site with a continued focus on the future – which will also create jobs for the local area.

 

Sustainability

A sustainable city requires adequate public space. The ATP currently provides the community use of open spaces and facilities such as the Vice Chancellor’s oval and the tennis courts.

 

All three groups identify the importance of the site in providing open space as well as cycle links and pedestrian access to Redfern Station, vital for a sustainable city. Groups have also asked that the site not be sold until planning for the Central to Eveleigh corridor is finalised so community infrastructure, such as schools, playing fields etc., can be included on the ATP site if required to cater for the increased population.

 

FOE notes: The three nearby train stations at Redfern, Macdonaldtown and Erskineville are all without mobility impaired access. Only a single elevator is planned for Redfern in the foreseeable future. Insufficient requirements are being set for access to the site and there is a very real concern that development of the ATP prior to the formulation of a strategic transport plan for the site will generate intolerable pressure on existing local infrastructure.

 

Community

The ATP is located within the Central to Eveleigh corridor development, which is also being managed by Urbangrowth NSW. The sale of the ATP was announced in the same month that community consultations about Central to Eveleigh began.

 

The timing has led to FOE’s concerns that community consultation has not been open, transparent and meaningful, and that the plans to privatise the ATP are occurring prior to a vision for the entire Central to Eveleigh corridor being conceived which undercuts any effort that has been made to consult with the community and likely threatens the holistic integration of such an integral part of the development.

 

Heritage

The considerable industrial and cultural heritage of the site, which is recognised as being the best intact example of industrial and rail heritage anywhere in the world, may not be safeguarded in the sale process.

 

Those aspiring to buy into ATP will need to detail how they would manage the heritage sites. However, a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage said the requirement for changes to the site to be approved by the Heritage Council could not ensure the continued access to the site. “Access is a matter for the owner and not a requirement of the Heritage Act,” she said. This could also impact on the future of the operating blacksmith workshop when its lease expires.

 

REDWatch’s submission explains: As a government entity there is the expectation that the heritage machinery will be preserved, publicly accessible and that there will be suitable interpretation, educational and cultural activities conducted around the important physical and state heritage of the site.

 

It would be possible for a private owner to fulfil obligations for the retention of the onsite heritage by taking possession of the machinery collection as part of the sale and then locking it up in the smallest possible space. It would be preserved but not be accessible to the public.

 

For this reason REDWatch cannot support the sale of the Locomotive Workshop Building and the National Innovation Centre and the machinery collections being privatised … [and] supports the Council report recommendation that heritage buildings and assets should be excluded from any potential sale and retained in government ownership with public access.

 

A long-time campaigner for the preservation of the site for historical tourism, Brian Dunnett, who worked at the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop, as did his father before him, stressed the importance of “the human side of heritage”. The human side is easily neglected by a government so patently interested in stakeholders at the expense of local people and local culture.

 

The selling-off of public property is sacrificing the long-term interest of the people for the short-term goal of raising revenue, according to Sydney University Professor of Economics, Frank Stilwell.

 

UrbanGrowth has indicated that if the sale goes ahead the sale proceeds will go towards delivering Central to Eveleigh priorities like an upgrade to Redfern station. Locals have long questioned state government logic that upgrades to Redfern station should be funded by selling off local assets to pay for state budget responsibilities. During the time of the Redfern Waterloo Authority, SSH founding editor Trevor Davies argued strongly against the Labor government decision that the Redfern station upgrade should be linked to the sale of North Eveleigh.

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