THE Upper Hunter byelection fight has turned to education, with the state government pledging to deliver a $3 million TAFE upgrade for Scone weeks after confirming the sale of the horse capital's existing campus.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced on Thursday the government would add a multi-trades workshop and mobile training storage to the area's Connected Learning Centre in a "major expansion" for the site.
"Investment in education and training is critical and these new state-of-the-art facilities will have a positive, tangible impact on jobs for locals in the Upper Hunter," Mr Barilaro said.
"The workshop will deliver hands-on skills and meet industry demand for additional practical training such as wool classing, horticulture, small motor maintenance, welding, animal studies, chemical skill sets, agricultural fencing, and chainsaw operations.
"Following the sale of the Scone TAFE campus at 2 Flemington Drive, we are putting that money straight back into the community by way of projects like this."
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A condition of the sale is that the site be leased back to the government for three years, but critics have queried what will happen beyond that deadline.
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said in March members were "appalled at the haste" of that $4 million sale, arguing it showed that funding connected learning centres would come at the expense of TAFE assets.
Upper Hunter Labor candidate Jeff Drayton said the trade didn't measure up.
"The smaller, cheaper Connected Learning Centre is no replacement for a full TAFE campus," he said.
"Locals will see through today's announcement - $3 million for a workshop to be shared across all trades doesn't compare to a fully-funded TAFE.
"This is TAFE-light and it's not good enough for the people of Scone. I will fight for the skills training our region deserves."
Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V'landys said courses for the thoroughbred industry and other trades would be offered there.
The government said construction at the Connected Learning Centre was due to begin late this year and could be complete for the second semester of 2022.
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