THE community is still wrapping its collective head around the state government's sudden decision to almost halve its funding of the Tamworth university campus.
It seems everyone, including Tamworth mayor Col Murray, was caught off-guard when the government reduced its commitment from $43 million to $26.6 million, leaving the University of New England's proposed 500-person campus $16 million short.
"There are lot of disappointed people," Cr Murray said.
Cr Murray said Deputy Premier John Barliaro had told the council the pool of money the $43 million was due to come out of – the Growing Local Economy fund – was "pretty much fully expended at this stage".
"I argued that there were many other funding buckets," Cr Murray said.
"For example, at the Wagga byelection, at least $130 million worth of commitments were made.
"I would argue Tamworth is entitled to some similar consideration, given it has such a strong need."
Cr Murray reiterated council had been repeatedly told $43 million was the agreed upon figure by both the NSW government and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson.
The Leader contacted Mr Barliaro for an interview, but he declined and a spokesperson did not answer specific questions put to him.
However, in a statement, they said the government supported the university project and would continue to work with stakeholders.
"While the Commonwealth government has primary responsibility for funding of higher education, we recognise the value that such an investment in Tamworth would provide, both economically and socially," the spokesperson said.
New England MP Barnaby Joyce was also frustrated by the NSW government's sudden back-down.
He has "all but secured" the $10 million the federal government was being asked to contribute, but couldn't see it contributing any more at this stage.
"I've trodden on a lot of toes to get it," Mr Joyce said.
"I can't go back to all the ministers who reluctantly agreed to the $10 million, and ask them to double that and add a bit more [to make up the $16 million]."
With university infrastructure falling under the responsibilities of state governments, Mr Joyce has faced an uphill battle getting the federal funding, given there "isn't a specific pot for it to come from".
"I will continue working as best I can with Kevin Anderson to see this asset is delivered," he said. Cr Murray and UNE are due to meet with government representatives in Armidale today.