U Tas is going to town, whatever the time it takes

VC Rufus Black says that even without a Sandy Bay campus sale the university will continue to relocate into Hobart’s CBD

“We would have to do it more slowly and fund it over a longer period of time,” he told Leon Compton on ABC radio in Hobart yesterday.

Selling land on the existing campus, for housing is fundamental to the city move but it requires rezoning by Hobart City Council.

The university plans to turn Hobart city into a university town, with teaching and research, performance and service functions embedded in the downtown. But it is widely opposed, by people who do not want new housing in Sandy Bay and those who do not want U Tas going to town. And is has long been unpopular with U Tas staff who like the existing campus.

The university had a recent win when council approved redevelopment of the former forestry commission building in the city, intended as a jewel in its yet unforged teaching and learning city crown (CMM May 4). But it came at a price, with council now requiring more community consultation and there is a parliamentary inquiry into the university, which has very broad terms of reference (CMM May 9).

To all of which Professor Black indicated equanimity yesterday, agreeing to keep consulting, “in any change that affects the character of a city you would expect real conversations,” he said.

Not that he has much choice. The university is said to have bought all the property it needs in the city and the prospect of selling it to pay to update Sandy Bay for a permanent stay would be a comprehensive, perhaps career concluding defeat.

Which Professor Black does not appear keen to contemplate. When asked yesterday if he wanted a second five-year term (the first is up this year) Professor Black replied, “I will sign-up for the mission, however long that is. That’s what I am here to do.”