Take a share in the UTAS’ relocation

FUTURE: University of Tasmania Northern Expansion project director James McKee and Pro vice-chancellor David Adams discuss business opportunity. Picture: File
FUTURE: University of Tasmania Northern Expansion project director James McKee and Pro vice-chancellor David Adams discuss business opportunity. Picture: File

Businesses in Northern Tasmania will have several opportunities to benefit from the University of Tasmania’s $260-million Inveresk relocation, project director James McKee declared.

The university is progressing designs and community consultation for its move from Newnham to Inveresk.

In an interview with The Examiner, Mr McKee spoke about the opportunities available for a range of businesses during the university’s build and transition.

He said the immediate opportunities would be for architecture, engineering and construction businesses to create the bricks and mortar precinct. 

“That will bring enormous opportunities for business,” Mr McKee said. 

The university has been working with the Launceston Chamber of Commerce to hold symposiums to assist businesses to be involved in the build, with a view that “as much work as possible goes to local firms”.

“We’ve stated our ambition that, where possible, we want to work with local businesses, within the restraints of the procurement policy,” he said. 

“Holding these symposiums is really a way of helping them come together to compete better against other competition that necessarily needs to be part of the procurement process.”

As the Inveresk precinct is created, Mr McKee said more people working and traversing the area would provide opportunities for new businesses to establish.

He said the university would leave most basic business services to the private sector.

“The old model was, the university was a mini-city where you replicated a hairdresser and a banker and everything else,” he said.

“A city university doesn't do that.

“One of the things we’ve been putting a lot of effort into is how people move seamlessly between the site and the city.”

Mr McKee said the university was not likely to have traditional businesses on-site at its new campus. 

“We will fill gaps if there are gaps but most of the time what we’d prefer to do is work with businesses for those services,” he said. 

“Rather than build a couple of large food outlets – we may have one or two for convenience- actually focus on how do we move people to where those food outlets are.

“Our first principle is where the private sector can provide that closely, with easy access to the right sort of experience and price for our students – then we’d rather work with them.”

Mr McKee said if no private sector business could provide the service “then we would fill that gap ourselves”.

“Our first preference is to work with existing businesses or new businesses that pop up to service our students and have a relationship with them.”

He expected existing businesses in the proximity of Invermay Road and around the Willis Street development should see a boost in trade with more people in the area.

How will the move affect businesses in Newnham?

Mr McKee believes the university’s move from its Newnham campus will provide better outcomes for businesses, housing and industry in the area.

“On the campus itself there are a couple of businesses,” he said. 

“You’ve got the bank, a hairdresser and a book shop and a few other traditional university-based businesses.”

Mr McKee said as it stood, the university at Newnham is “somewhat of a bubble”.

He said about 95 per cent of UTAS staff lived south or west of Launceston, and about 75 per cent of students were the same.

“There’s a fair chunk of AMC students that live out there and there are certainly cheaper housing spaces for students,” he said.

The project director does not expect businesses in Newnham will see a downturn when the campus is shifted. 

“The AMC is staying where it is and the housing at the lower end of the market will still be needed for students who are studying at Inveresk,” he said. 

Mr McKee said the future of the campus, presuming it becomes a multi-use facility, will “put more people back into Newnham and Mowbray”.

“It is an upside because we’re shifting what is currently a bubble and whatever is developed there will mean more people are actually out there, living, working and playing,” he said.

Chamber’s push 

The Launceston Chamber of Commerce, with the financial support of the Department of State Growth, has appointed a regional business coordinator to engage with businesses and industry groups to assist in winning work on the Inveresk precinct

“It is fundamental for the region’s economy that as many local businesses as possible benefit from this $260-million project,” chamber executive officer Neil Grose said.

“This is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of Northern Tasmania and the chamber is being proactive in ensuring that local business comes first in this huge construction project.

“It is important to begin this process as early as possible, so that when tenders are called our local enterprises have the best possible chance of success.”

Led by Luke Curtain, the project will ensure businesses are briefed on the type of work available and what business’s respective capabilities are.