Senate speech: UTAS' Sandy Bay development needs scrutiny

For some time now, the University of Tasmania, with its own funds and extra taxpayer funding and support from the three tiers of government—local, state and federal—has been transferring from an idyllic park-like Sandy Bay campus into the inner city of Hobart. Whilst initially generally agnostic, if not slightly favourable to the proposal, I admit that I am beginning to harbour some real doubts.

The cost of the move, at hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars, is concerning. The aesthetics and surrounds of the move from the park-like campus to an asphalt, concrete inner-city site makes it less attractive. In recognition of this glaring deficiency, there is now talk about greening up aspects of the city. Again, it is right to ask at what cost and why, when a perfectly good site is already inhabited. During the term, with students in the city, there will be a rich coffee and McDonald's fast food economy. During the vacation, one assumes, the city will be a ghost town. The move into the city has seen the purchase of hotels for student accommodation, which will impact tourism accommodation, which in turn will see the conversion of rental properties into B&Bs, which will put extra pressure on our housing market.

One of the reasons for the move is to provide equity or ease of access to the campus by those from the northern suburbs. It is a very worthy concern, but would an enhanced public transport system help overcome that issue at a lot lower cost? For students from the south of the city, access will be commensurately more difficult. The Sandy Bay site and buildings are dated, but I am advised they are basically functional and capable of being retrofitted and upgraded. In raising these doubts I remain to be convinced and suggest a genuine, independent analysis be undertaken as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of the move.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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