The NSW Government today announced the Upper Hunter community will have continued access to local equine training with the successful sale of TAFE NSW's holding at 2 Flemington Drive, Scone to Racing NSW.
However the local community and the Labor opposition have strongly opposed the sale with questions being raised how existing courses for farmers and the equine industry can be conducted once the site is no longer operated by TAFE.
This was the only specialist rural campus in the Hunter region.
Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the revenue secured from the sale will be invested in additional modern teaching and learning facilities for the region.
This includes a storage and multitrade workshop for the new multi-million dollar Scone Connected Learning Centre, a welding workshop upgrade at TAFE NSW Newcastle, construction of new hair, beauty and business delivery spaces at TAFE NSW Muswellbrook and the expansion of carpentry delivery at Belmont.
"The site of 2 Flemington Drive will continue to deliver world-class equine training locally," Mr Lee said.
"For more than 130 years, TAFE NSW has bought and sold sites across the State to adapt to the evolving needs of industry and community," Mr Lee said.
"The new TAFE NSW Scone Connected Learning Centre has boosted local training available by offering a wide range of new and in-demand courses."
"The NSW Government is committed to TAFE NSW remaining a comprehensive public provider of vocational education and training."
CEO of Racing NSW Peter V'landys AM said the sale was a win-win for all.
"Racing NSW intends to keep the site as an education facility and significantly expand its current use," Mr V'landys said.
"Racing NSW will offer extensive courses for the thoroughbred racing industry, which is one of the largest employers in the region and will also work with TAFE NSW and the local community to ensure there is the right mix of other courses available at the facility to provide the necessary skilled labour for the region."
TAFE NSW Managing Director Steffen Faurby said the sale of underutilised assets such as the Flemington Drive site allows TAFE NSW to modernise its teaching and learning facilities, while reducing maintenance and operational costs for unused spaces.
"As the state's economic drivers shift, and the training needs of local communities and industry change, so too does the demand placed on our training facilities and assets," Mr Faurby said.
"Making changes like this ensures TAFE NSW can continue to provide local communities right across the state with the latest learning technologies, in contemporary, flexible environments.
"Communities across NSW are realising the benefits of this commitment and investment through increased training opportunities linked to job outcomes."
The site of 2 Flemington Drive will be sold to Racing NSW for $4 million, a price which exceeds the independent market valuation. The sale is part of a competitive market process.
TAFE NSW has secured the rights to continue the delivery of courses onsite at 2 Flemington Drive, for up to three years at nil cost.
NSW Labor has condemned the Berejiklian Government for disrespecting the wishes of Upper Hunter residents and fast-tracking the sale of Scone TAFE the day before a community meeting about the future of the campus.
The sale happened amid calls for disgraced Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen to resign over shocking allegations of lewd behaviour in NSW Parliament and alleged sexual misconduct.
NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay and the Shadow Minister for Skills and Tafe Jihad Dib are due to attend a community forum and roundtable discussion opposing the sale with the NSW Teachers Federation, the Public Service Association of NSW and other stakeholders tomorrow.
Ms McKay said the rushed sale is a kick in the guts to the Upper Hunter community.
"It is utterly shameful of the Government to rush this sale through as shocking allegations emerge against Michael Johnsen. I am bitterly disappointed in the sneaky and underhanded actions of the Government," Ms McKay said.