James Riley
November 17, 2015

Atlassian, Mirvac in new ATP talks

Atlassian, Mirvac in new ATP talks

Battleground: The fight goes on over the Australian Technology Park's future*

Software developer Atlassian has begun talks with Mirvac on the possibility of becoming a tenant at the Australian Technology Park. But no-one should hold their breath waiting for a quick outcome.

The two companies held initial discussions last Friday, in the immediate aftermath of the NSW Government’s decision to award the tendered sale and redevelopment rights for ATP to a consortium led by Mirvac that included the Commonwealth Bank as its anchor tenant.

The NSW Government had made it a requirement for Mirvac to contact Atlassian within 15 days of the tender being awarded, to offer the company leasing space and to see if agreeable commercial terms could be reached.

It is not clear whether a deadline for those discussions have been contractually applied, or if Mirvac is also obliged to offer space to the other tech companies that had publicly offered pre-commitments to move to the site.

The Mirvac consortium was awarded the tender last Thursday, prompting a sharp backlash from sections of the tech community. One of the Atlassian founders called the decision a "tragic missed opportunity for Australia."

Atlassian’s global head of real estate and experience Brent Harman confirmed the discussions on Monday afternoon, but said the company had not had time to fully understand the Mirvac plans, or if it fits with Atlassian's broader industry development goals.

The company was in no hurry to make a decision, Mr Harman said, adding that it needed a detailed look at the Mirvac-CBA to understand "how the numbers add up." He said is not clear how the government’s ambition for 75,000 sqm of space for tech companies can get shoe-horned into a site that includes CBA’s 94,000 sqm requirements as well.

Atlassian would require 20,000+ sqm in the medium term. There is no easy solution to any issue related to property in a city as property obsessed as Sydney.

ATP Innovations chief executive officer Hamish Hawthorn clearly hopes that Atlassian can come to commercial terms with the winning bidders, and make the move into the park.

But he laments the misinformation about the Australian Technology Park that the fight over its future has generated. The most annoying of these relates to its current role as a technology hub, as opposed to the stated ambition of the both the government and the bidders to build a technology hub.

The whole notion of technology hub – an effective, co-located ecosystem of players – is notoriously difficult to achieve, Mr Hawthorn says.

Maybe having the CBA located as an anchor tenant at ATP would provide incredible leverage for parts of the startup sector. But maybe it won't. And it is impossible to say from the evidence of a paper plan, Mr Hawthorn said.

Physical proximity in relation to a banking giant only gets you so far. It will depend entirely on how the bank engages, and the corporate mindset it brings to site, he said.

Equally, Mr Hawthorn says having Australia’s largest software developer as an anchor tenant does not guarantee the effectiveness of the ecosystem around it, either. It is complicated, he says, that’s all.

Getting the commercial settings right that cater to the needs of startups as they grow was notoriously difficult, and this is where ambitions and reality can come unstuck for policy-makers.

It is simply simply to create an environment where tiny companies can graduate to become medium-sized companies within a single site in a way that makes commercial sense. That is a reality.

*Photo Credit: Hpeterswald

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