THE campaign for a full-blown university campus in Tamworth is steaming ahead, with a community meeting due to be held in mid-February.
As the University of New England (UNE) awaits a decision on it’s multi-million dollar funding application for a 500-person campus in the city’s CBD, Tamworth education advocate Mitch Hanlon said there was growing support for the idea, and people were starting to engage with the process.
“I’ve been getting phone calls from business people and parents who have children at uni, and they’re all very supportive,” Mr Hanlon said.
“Business people are saying it’s a great way to stimulate Tamworth’s economy, and to diversify it. The parents say it would give their kids options.
“I’m chuffed that people are starting to realise the possibility, and what it could bring to the community.”
The meeting will be held on February 13, at West Leagues Club in the Ken Chillingworth room from 6pm.
Mr Hanlon will give a background presentation about why Tamworth should have a university, and the benefits it would bring.
A UNE representative will then provide details about the organisation’s business case and funding application.
Following the meeting, Mr Hanlon will ask for people to put their hand up to form a working group, to continue pushing the project.
Former real estate agent Richie Thornton said he’s seen the Tamworth university idea knocked back dozens of times over the past 20 years.
However this time, Mr Thornton is hopeful the support from the community and Tamworth’s population trajectory will get the proposal against the line.
“In the past, I could understand why it might have been overlooked – but now, I can’t see any argument against it,” Mr Thornton said.
“The population has got to the stage where it’s an absolute must, not just for now, but for the future.
“Most regional cities the size of Tamworth already have one.
“It’s time, everything is pointing towards it being needed. It’s the next logical step for the city.”
While UNE want the campus close to the CBD – the Tamworth velodrome has been suggested as one site – some in the community believe an inner-city location to be too small.
However, Mr Hanlon said an “architecturally-designed building, that goes up not out”, was the goal, pointing to the University of Newcastle’s new law school or the University of Technology Sydney’s campus.
“A well designed building would set the standard for our town,” he said.
“People will want to emulate that, and it will push a higher standard of development.
“We don’t want the sprawl. It’s actually cheaper to build up, and growth is not about more one-storey buildings, it’s about integrating it with the community.”
Others have also cited the city’s water limitations as a barrier, however Mr Hanlon said a university “may very well force the government to act earlier”.