Sydney’s search for a shiny new tech precinct is not yet over, with tech juggernaut Google announcing today its withdrawal from negotiations with the NSW government around basing its new headquarters at the planned White Bay tech precinct.
Google was one of 13 companies to enter proposals for the project, dubbed ‘Silicon Harbour’, following its reveal by former NSW Premier Mike Baird in late 2015.
The company had entered discussions with the government to establish its new HQ at the old White Bay power station, which is set to become the centrepiece of the new development.
A Google spokesperson said today the company was grateful to the NSW government for its efforts towards transforming the White Bay Power Station, but said the move into the precinct wouldn’t be possible within the company’s “timeframe”.
Google’s pullout from the project may serve as a deathblow for the area, according to Labor leader Luke Foley, who told the ABC the government will struggle to attract other high-tech companies without a strong anchor tenant such as Google.
“They haven’t done anything to bring their bold promise to fruition. The Government’s policy for White Bay and the Bays precinct is to build Chatswood by the Sea,” he said.
Foley added that lack of public transport options in and around the area was a large contributor to why Google, and possible other large scale tech companies, aren’t attracted to the space.
The government late last year unveiled plans to construct the Sydney Metro West underground railway, a new system connecting suburbs between Parramatta and Sydney’s CBD with likely stops at the precinct. The project, however, is expected to be operational in the second half of the 2020s, leaving White Bay without public transport options until that time.
A statement from Urban Growth NSW simply stated it and Google had come to a “mutual agreement” not to proceed with negotiations.
“Both parties have been through a collaborative, respectful and comprehensive process to determine a range of options for the site,” the statement read.
Urban Growth NSW chief Barry Mann acknowledged that there was bad timing around transport plans, telling the ABC that transport was an issue for Google.
“The State Government’s [since] announced a Sydney Metro West [railway], which will highly likely have a stop at the bays. The West Harbour Tunnel and the beaches link and WestConnex Stage three will be coming out on the Anzac Bridge as well,” he said.
“What it means is in Google’s initial years of occupancy of the power station they’d be in a major construction zone.”
However, as to the impact of Google’s departure on the future of the precinct and its ability to draw other tech giants, Mann said he believes it’s not “a massive drama”.
“It’s a really long-term project, it’s going to take 20 to 30 years across the entire Bays Precinct… and we’re only three years in,” Mann said.
With Google having stepped aside, the government will continue to look to advance the progress of Silicon Harbour.
The news comes a few months after the government’s Jobs for NSW arm announced its plans to open a 15,000 square metre tech hub in the CBD.