SCONE'S TAFE campus has officially been sold to Racing NSW, the state government has confirmed.
Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee confirmed on Tuesday morning that the Flemington Drive property had changed hands for $4 million, pledging that the revenue would go towards teaching and learning facilities in the Hunter.
Possible projects the funds could go towards include a multi-trade workshop for Scone's connected learning centre, a Newcastle TAFE welding workshop upgrade and hair, beauty and business "delivery spaces at Muswellbrook's campus.
The finalised sale comes in the face of opposition from several groups who describe the campus as an invaluable education asset in the Upper Hunter horse capital.
Mr Lee said TAFE NSW will continue delivering courses on the site for up to three years. The Newcastle Herald has reported the sale is subject to a lease back to TAFE NSW for one year, plus two one-year options.
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said members were "appalled at the haste" of the sale, arguing it showed that funding connected learning centres would come at the expense of TAFE assets.
"This sale casts real doubt on the long-term future of the Flemington Drive site once the three-year lease-back expires," he said. "At a time when we should be expanding the role of TAFE in regional areas, the NSW government has sold off the campus to private interests."
Mr Lee pointed to the connected learning centre as a boost for local training "by offering a wide range of new and in-demand courses".
"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.
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'Landys said the site would offer extensive courses for the thoroughbred racing industry. "Racing NSW intends to keep the site as an education facility and significantly expand its current use," Mr V'landys said.
"[We] 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 sales like Scone allowed the organisation to "modernise its teaching and learning facilities".
"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.