Greens Oppose Privatisation of the Australian Technology Park

The Australian Technology Park is of great significance both for its heritage and ongoing contribution to the community in Sydney. The Greens want to keep this vital site in public hands. 


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [12.43 p.m.]: Today I speak about an area in my electorate that is under threat—an area that is very much valued by the community and is of great significance not only for its heritage but also for its contribution to the present day and into the future. The Australian Technology Park and Eveleigh Carriageworks precinct sits at the heart of the crossover between the wonderful suburbs of Redfern, Eveleigh, Alexandria, Darlington and Erskineville. The New South Wales Government announced plans to privatise and sell off this site and, at the same time, UrbanGrowth was seeking to "consult" the community on plans for the Central to Eveleigh corridor. An announcement on the successful bid for the privatisation of the site is imminent.

Today I will focus on the history and the significance of the Australian Technology Park site and what it means for the community members who live in the area. Construction of the yards commenced in 1884 and the first workshop opened in 1887. The manufacture of locomotives commenced in 1907 and the extensive new locomotive workshop opened that same year. The site continued to grow and expand throughout the twentieth century until the advent of diesel locomotives in the mid-1960s. Manufacturing and repairs eventually ceased on the site in the mid-1980s and it was converted to its existing public use as the Australian Technology Park in 2009. Its rich history closely links the innovation of the past with the innovation of the present day and of the future.

The Australian Technology Park was once the site of Australia's largest industrial complex, the Eveleigh Railway Workshops. The site has been recognised both nationally and internationally for its heritage significance. The site is equally important for its social and industrial history, being the site of important struggles for historic working conditions, including work-free weekends, amenities and fair pay. The Greens have strongly objected to the idea of privatising this site since it was first announced and we will continue to do whatever is possible to ensure that this important heritage site is preserved and remains accessible to the local community.

We need creative ideas that improve public assets, not the privatisation of valuable public resources. Preserving Sydney's rail heritage should be a priority. Heritage should be seen as a living thing and it should not be about locking up places for the uber wealthy to access or for private companies to use. The community should be able to access green and open space and to be a part of that living heritage. We know that people who live around the area have almost no green space left—it is a high-density area—and now we are being told that this area will potentially lock out the community from the beautiful industrial sites that have been a part of our lives for many years.

It is not only The Greens who are strongly opposed to the sell-off the Australian Technology Park; there has been strong community opposition to its privatisation, including from Redfern Eveleigh Darlington Waterloo Watch [REDWatch], the Alexandria Residents Action Group, the Friends of Erskineville and many start-up companies that have started a petition that thousands of people have signed to save the Australian Technology Park site as a technology hub. Tom Forgan, founding chief executive officer of Australian Technology Park, and Stan Jeffrey, founding director of Australian Technology Park Innovations, have come out in support of maintaining this important site as a technology hub. The City of Sydney's report found a number of risks involved in the privatisation and there are concerns about the expressions of interest process and the lack of transparency. It was a pleasure for me to visit the site and to be taken on a tour recently by Brian Dunnett.

I visited Guido the blacksmith and saw the working blacksmith within the railyards. I also got to speak to a number of the tenants in the innovation and technology hub areas who are key to making the site work. A forum held earlier this year included Geoff Turnbull from REDWatch; Professor Lucy Taksa, who has written extensively about the history of the Eveleigh workshops; Dick Butcher, who spoke about his time as an apprentice welder in 1956 and how he became chief engineer and welding inspector at Eveleigh; Peter Tighe, who was the former National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union; Mark Buttiging, who also spoke as a State organiser with the Electrical Trades Union; and Brian Dunnett. They all spoke about how this site is significant not only for its rail heritage but also for Sydney's industrial heritage, which is why it needs to be protected.

This week UrbanGrowth will hold a community consultation about the north Eveleigh site. We are not hearing about affordable housing targets; we are hearing about 20-storey buildings in this area. We are not hearing about more open and green space; we are hearing about more density without support. We know that this community can stand together and win—we have seen an interruption to the Alexandria Hotel demolition plans. This community will come together and call on the Government to cancel plans to privatise the Australian Technology Park site and to keep it in public hands.


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