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UTAS unveils Inveresk vision

Edition 186_Concept drawing of the Inveresk campus

UTAS unveiled its masterplan for the $260 million redevelopment of its Inveresk campus in Launceston in July and also released a report on its $400 million STEM proposal for Hobart’s CBD.

In addition, the university raised the possibility that it could depart the Sandy Bay campus that has been its headquarters for 50 years.

The Inveresk blueprint unveiled in Launceston by architects, McBride Charles Ryan, describes the single largest infrastructure investment in Launceston’s history.

UTAS Vice-Chancellor, Peter Rathjen, said: “We are not proposing to build a traditional university campus.

“This masterplan outlines a dynamic higher education and research ecosystem as part of the Inveresk precinct; and the beating heart of Launceston as a university city for the future.

“It sets out a vision that incorporates modern, fit-for-purpose teaching and learning spaces a short walk to the CBD, and research facilities focused on distinctive fields of academic endeavour to drive better economic outcomes in northern Tasmania.

“Strong partnership at all levels of government has brought us to this exciting stage. The plan has been developed with the City of Launceston; and engagement with the community and industry form the foundation for the project’s success.”

The masterplan includes the construction of three main buildings. It incorporates a new pedestrian and cycling bridge linking Willis Street to the Inveresk precinct.

Australia’s Assistant Minister for Cities, Angus Taylor, said he was proud of the Commonwealth’s $130 million investment in the project.

“This is a much-awaited masterplan, reflecting the community’s desire for a vibrant, accessible university precinct, attractive to the entire Launceston community,” Mr Taylor said.

He said the campus redevelopment was at the heart of his Government’s Launceston City Deal.

“As well as generating jobs and providing quality higher education, it will deliver vital support for local industry innovation,” Mr Taylor said.

Tasmania’s Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, said: “This project will be an absolute game-changer for the north of the State and I encourage the community to have their say and get behind what is a terrific opportunity for the region.

“I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Office of the Coordinator-General, which has helped drive this project on behalf of the Hodgman Government.”

Launceston Mayor, Albert van Zetten, said: “We are pleased the university is eager to engage with the wider community on its vision for the inner-city campus.

“It is pleasing that this engagement process will occur prior to the university lodging its development application, so that the community is aware of the university’s vision and how the city and greater region can continue to enjoy the Inveresk site into the future.”

Mayor van Zetten said high-priority issues included traffic and parking management.

Following community feedback, UTAS will submit a development application to the City of Launceston to enable the project to progress.

The Examiner editorialised: “The opportunity this development has to improve our educational outcomes and the domino effect this would have on the future of our region is an exciting unknown.”

The day after the Inveresk plan was publicised UTAS released a report, Tasmanian Innovation Network — the Hobart Precinct, prepared by the Nous Group.

It outlines a vision in which Hobart’s proposed $400 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) centre would work with STEM “nodes” in Launceston and Burnie to spread the benefits of the knowledge economy.

The project was endorsed as a high priority for Federal funding when the State’s southern mayors convened at the Local Government Association of Tasmania’s annual meeting in July, sending a message of unity to Canberra.

The Nous Group report says the STEM project would “inspire more young people to engage with science by creating highly visible, interactive spaces and galleries that showcase discovery, creativity and innovation.”

A CBD location would make it easier for students from Hobart’s northern and eastern suburbs to attend university by reducing their commuting times.

Professor Rathjen said a statewide STEM network would enable experts across many fields to share the benefits of their work.

“We don’t want mathematicians only talking to mathematicians now, we want them talking to agricultural scientists, to medicos and the like,” he said.

“The hub would be headquartered in Hobart and the problems they tackle would be meaningful across the State.

“A node of that STEM facility at Inveresk … might focus on Defence and another node at Burnie [might] focus on applied agriculture.

“They can focus on what Tasmania needs.”

Professor Rathjen also told The Mercury that UTAS was facing a major decision over its Sandy Bay campus, where most of the main buildings are 50 years old and a refurbishment bill of up $700 million is looming.

He said many buildings were no longer fit for purpose in a first-class university and a decision would have to be made quite quickly.

“The big decision will be whether the university reinvests at Sandy Bay, in which case it would be there for another 50 years, or whether it chooses to build new facilities elsewhere, which gives the opportunity to do something different,” Professor Rathjen said.

Professor Rathjen will depart UTAS and Tasmania at the end of this year and believes the campus’s future location to be an issue for the university council.

Image Courtesy of UTAS

1 August 2017, Edition 186

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