A gallery member ejected, a confidential email revealed and allegations of rushed decisions made for a heated council debate.
The land deal between the City of Launceston and University of Tasmania was the hot topic at Monday’s council meeting.
The majority of speakers from the public gallery and aldermen voiced their support for the land deal, citing the significant economic and social benefits that would come from the $260 million investment.
Ten aldermen voted to transfer five sites at Inveresk to UTAS in exchange for the construction and land associated with the National Automobile Museum Tasmania’s relocation to Lindsay Street.
Alderman Danny Gibson abstained, saying a better outcome should have been negotiated for the half-circular car park at Inveresk.
He said there was no mention of the council-owned Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in the report on the asset exchange.
It was ludicrous to have not questioned the automobile museum move further and appalling that the council had not finished its parking study before the land decision was made, Ald Gibson said.
“I believe if there wasn't a function to celebrate the achievements of the Vice Chancellor [before he leaves UTAS] this Thursday in Launceston that we would have negotiated a better outcome.”
He also asked the council what was the intent of an email sent by acting general manager Mike Tidey last week to the aldermen
“I quote, a robust debate in council that does not result in the required absolute majority will significantly damage relations and our reputation, especially when the university has been organising speakers to attend the meeting supporting the proposal,” he said.
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Mayor Albert van Zetten cautioned Ald Gibson and said it was a confidential email that he was reading from.
It was at this point in the meeting where Mr Basil Fitch, who had already spoken against the asset exchange, was ejected from the room for continuing to call out across the chamber.
Mr Fitch warned Ald Gibson that a code of conduct complaint would be brought against him and urged him to not ask questions about the confidential email.
Alderman Gibson pressed on, repeating his question.
“It has been a long process of working to address the issue of trying to achieve the outcome of the relocation of the university to the inner city site,” acting general manager Mike Tidey said.
“I think that through that process, as aldermen have been advised, there was a point now of an expectation that we had reached an agreement.
“For us not to proceed would be something that is regrettable, given the effort that had gone into it.”
CityProm, the Launceston Chamber of Commerce and the state government all sent representatives to speak in support of the university campus transformation.
“We are working towards creating a world class university campus in this city ... and a world class precinct beyond what the university will deliver,” Alderman Janie Finlay said.
While traffic management and parking were acknowledge by the aldermen, they shared a sense of trust that the issues would be addressed before the university was built, she said.
Alderman Robin McKendrick asked if there was a way to ban people engaged in university activities from the public car parks at Inveresk, to ensure there was a way for the public to access the other tenants.
He was told it could not be guaranteed but parking at the Willis Street site “should preclude the need to park” at Inveresk.
At the conclusion of the meeting former aldermen Basil Fitch confirmed that he planned to appeal the council’s decision.
The appeal will be on the grounds that the decision was not made in the public’s best interest because it does not safeguard the public’s access to the QVMAG.
“They haven’t done a proper assessment of the traffic, parking or sewerage and until they do we will keep on appealing,” he said.
The story Asset exchange between UTAS and city council approved first appeared on The Examiner.