A public meeting was held last week, attended by over 300 concerned members of the public, to discuss the future of the university’s Karori campus.
The campus, potentially worth over $20 million, is currently unused by the university after the Faculty of Education moved to Kelburn this year.
Ownership of the campus was granted to the university on April 30, 2014 by the government for “university use”—within less than two years the university is no longer using the campus and is considering selling it, being able to do so at nearly twice the price.
Members of the community voiced concern at the meeting that if the university sells the campus, residents would lose access to arts, sports, and community spaces there.
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The campus has netball courts, tennis courts, cricket nets, a gymnasium, a marae, a dance studio, a field, and a 400-seat hall which is often used for school assemblies and productions.
University chief Operating Officer Mark Loveard said the university will consider whether the campus will be used as a teaching facility, as student accommodation, or whether it should be sold, and that the university will continue consulting with the community.
Loveard said a report on the options and the ‘next steps’ would be considered in June by the senior leadership team. The senior leadership team and University Council will decide the future of the site by October.
Resident Kay Webster asked if the university would consider selling the land back to the Crown for the same $10 million it paid for it, but Loveard said that under the Public Works Act, the sell-back price would have to be at market value.
An online petition called “Save the VUW Campus for the Karori Community” had 945 signatures at the time of print and called the campus one of Karori’s “last vibrant community spaces.”
Rob Gourdie, who helped set up the petition, said he fears that if the campus is sold to developers Karori would become a “dead suburb,” and would lack identity because “it’ll have lost its focal point.”
Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson asked the Ministry of Education officers present if the taxpayer would still have to buy the land back at market value if it wanted to use it for any educational purpose in the future, for example a secondary school.
Ministry tertiary education manager Roger Smyth said that was correct, but there were no plans for a new school in Karori.