Victoria University to sell Karori campus, possibly bringing $20 million windfall
The Ministry of Education let down Karori and Wellington residents by granting a teachers' college in the Wellington suburb of Karori to Victoria University, Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson says.
The university is to dispose of the Karori campus, which was transferred to it for $10 in 2014.
The site, potentially worth more than $20 million, was the university's teacher training college, but education staff and students moved to Victoria's main campus in Kelburn in February.
The ministry did not consider other potential education needs for Karori before it transferred ownership of the campus to Victoria, Robertson said.
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When it applied to have the title transferred in 2010, the university was planning to keep using the site.
"They were using the college then; by the time final deeds were signed it was clear the university had moved on."
Some real shortcomings in the Government's process had been highlighted by what had happened, and the university, which had followed the correct process, had done "very, very well out of this", he said.
The campus is used by many sporting groups and community groups, including for netball, cricket and dance, and by the next-door Karori Normal School.
Karori resident Andrea Crawshay said the many local children who used the campus facilities would be the losers from the decision to offload the campus.
"You just need to drive through there and see the people using it on a day-to-day basis."
She wanted Wellington City Council to buy the campus and then hire out the facilities. There was also a lot of space that could be subdivided and sold.
Vice-chancellor Professor Grant Guilford said the campus's role had long been a subject of debate at Victoria, mostly because of its distance from the university's other main campuses in, or close to, the central city.
"This isolation has always created a sense of disconnection for staff and students at Karori."
Victoria was communicating directly with key stakeholders, including the council and the two childcare facilities located on the Karori campus, on what would happen next.
The process of offloading the campus could take up to two years.
Victoria had looked at ways it could use the site, including whether it could be student accommodation, chief operating officer Mark Loveard said.
"At the end of the day it comes down to our students and staff really want to be on the main campus, where they have access to support and services."
The university would offer the campus back to the Government. If the offer was declined, the university would look at offering some parts of it back to the original owners, as required under the Public Works Act.
Any money earned in selling the campus would be "recycled" to provide excellent learning and research opportunities for the next generation, including "youngsters from Karori", Loveard said.
Claire Douglas, deputy secretary for graduate achievement, vocations and careers at the Ministry of Education, said it was up to the university to decide what facilities fit their purposes.
Steve Stuart, deputy secretary sector for enablement and support at the ministry, acknowledged earlier community interest in a secondary school being developed on the site.
"Now that Victoria University has initiated the process to make the land available we will re-check and update our population projections so that we can be clear about the Ministry's long-term view of overall schooling needs in Karori," he said.
The university would hold a public meeting in September to answer community questions about what the decision would mean for them. For now Victoria would continue to let residents use the campus facilities.
WHO USES THE CAMPUS?
Tennis: The Karori Tennis club, with 320 members, used the tennis courts when its own three courts were in use, while Tennis Central used them for junior tennis on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
Netball: Five hundred netballers – 66 teams from 12 schools in the western suburbs – used the courts every Saturday during the season.
Taekwondo: Karori Taekwondo has been using the Mackie Gymnasium on the campus for 30 years.
Dance: The campus's dance studio was used by the Fiona Haines dance school five days a week.
Cricket: Around eight of the Karori Junior Cricket Club teams used the Campbell St nets on the site for practising, and the nets were heavily used by children and adults casually over summer.
Kelly Sports: Provided sports and activity programmes at the campus, specifically a summer netball competition, and a sports skills programme for year 1 to 4 Karori students.
Karori Normal School: Used the hall, courts, green space and Ako Pai Marae regularly.