THE NSW Teachers Federation has slammed the state government for listing the "irreplaceable" Scone TAFE NSW campus for sale.
Federation relieving deputy secretary post schools Phillip Chadwick said the government's 2015 Smart and Skilled reforms had made some courses unaffordable and led to a reduction in the number on offer.
"The government has taken six years to run down or white-ant the enrolments at Scone TAFE so they can sell the property off for a song," Mr Chadwick said.
"Those types of facilities are absolutely irreplaceable and we're just incredulous they would be, at this point in time, trying to liquidate an asset such as that when it's so vital to the training needs of the community in the post-COVID environment.
"It's not just people in Scone, it's the people of NSW.
"The government needs to remember they are merely the custodians of resources such as this, they are not the owners."
Mr Chadwick said TAFE NSW had not consulted adequately with staff and students and only contacted the federation after the site was listed online.
He said the sale followed the July 2019 opening of a TAFE NSW Connected Learning Centre in Scone's Main Street.
"It's impossible to replicate the practical activities you can do on 17.9 hectares on a quarter-acre block in a suburban street," he said.
"How do they expect the people of Scone to accept that that's an improvement, that they're protecting and enhancing, they're actually moving forward and developing TAFE? What they're simply doing is they're providing lip service to the people of Scone to confuse and distract them from the real issues that they're gutting a viable resource within their local community."
Mr Chadwick said residents of NSW rural communities "should be extremely concerned when a CLC opens in a location away from a TAFE campus - that's a pretty good indication that in a very short period of time that the government intends to sell off the local TAFE college".
A spokeswoman for TAFE NSW said it was committed to delivering high-quality training across the Upper Hunter but the site had been "significantly underutilised".
"By allowing others to acquire this surplus site, TAFE NSW can reinvest any proceeds into new, modern training facilities and services across the region," she said.
"Importantly, TAFE NSW will continue to offer training and qualifications that meet local enrolment demand and industry skills requirements from the Scone campus.
"This includes qualifications in farriery, agriculture, ageing support, business administration and veterinary nursing.
"TAFE NSW will continue to add new courses at Scone based on local demand and skills needs."
She said the campus offered five qualifications last year, but would offer 14 this year in conjunction with the CLC.
The Herald understands there were 114 enrolments at the campus last year and two staff members are based at the site.
Colliers International agent Andrew Graham has co-listed the 2 Flemington Drive site - which is partially leased by Local Land Services - for expressions of interest.
Mr Graham said the site had received "strong and good interest", which he expected to continue and to come from overseas.
The listing said the site is being "progressively vacated by TAFE NSW" but that it would maintain a presence on part of the site for at least a year.
The listing said flexible zoning allowed a range of uses, subject to approval, including housing, eco tourism and entertainment.
Shadow Minister for Skills and TAFE Jihad Dib said 2020 had reinforced the "crucial value of a great public TAFE".
"I cannot understand why this government persists in destroying our world class TAFE system," Mr Dib said.
"This is yet another example of an out-of-touch government that thinks closing and selling TAFE campuses is a good idea in the middle of a skills crisis and massive youth unemployment.
"The government may argue they are building CLCs, and whilst this may be good in places where there are no existing educational facilities, a CLC does not hold a candle to a fully functioning and resourced TAFE campus in the same locality.
"I simply do not trust in the government's claim they will not privatise TAFE, nor walk away from a full commitment to providing an outstanding public vocational skills education through the TAFE system."
Greens MP and education spokesman David Shoebridge said the Hunter will need a "radical economic transformation, including in the skills of its workforce" as the coal industry continues to shrink.
"It's near criminal to proceed with the sale of Scone TAFE campus right now," Mr Shoebridge said.
"This will seriously impact the future of working people in the Hunter who need these facilities to provide to retrain and upskill as the coal industry continues its inevitable decline.
"What makes this sale even worse is that it's a freshly refurbished campus with the facilities needed to do this retraining."
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said he'd like to see a registered training organisation use the site to deliver equine and agricultural courses.
The Newcastle Herald reported in September 2015 the Baird government was considering selling the full Scone site and parts of the Belmont, Glendale and Muswellbrook campuses.
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