By: Georgina Campbell
Victoria University is getting an even sweeter deal for its former Karori campus than first thought.
That’s because the former government exempted it from paying the Crown 20 per cent of net profits from the sale of the campus.
In 2014 the Ministry of Education transferred the campus to the university for just $10.
Victoria then deemed it surplus to requirements and put the campus on the open market. Those offers are due on Friday.
The university is selling the campus within five years of the transfer so it is required to pay 20 per cent of its net profits to the Crown.
However, former Finance minister Steven Joyce and former Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment minister Paul Goldsmith decided to give the university an exemption.
Some estimates of the site’s value are as high as $20 million.
The revelations come as an eleventh-hour meeting over the campus was held on Thursday morning between new Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Wellington mayor Justin Lester and local ward councillors.
Hipkins said he was unable to comment on the situation while negotiations are ongoing.
Victoria University chief operating officer Mark Loveard said a letter from the former ministers wished the university well in its endeavours to make use of its fixed assets to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff.
National Party tertiary education spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the request from Victoria University was assessed against clear criteria developed by officials.
“Ministers at the time agreed with the recommendation from the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission that Victoria University should retain 100 per cent.”
Onslow-Western Ward councillor Diane Calvert said she was disappointed.
Calvert said a better solution would have been to return what was likely to be millions of dollars back to the community.
“That campus was paid for by the public, by taxpayers, so that money could have been returned to local taxpayers, the community, to help them fund the purchase of some of the sites, for more community facilities, to support social enterprises.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education appears to be back at the bargaining table after a breakdown in negotiations with the university under the Public Works Act.
It wants to buy some of the site for a technology hub.
Last month the university said it was fully compliant with the Act and after 18 months of dialogue it had received no workable offers for the main campus site.
“We have now moved into a formal tender process. If the Ministry of Education decides to make an offer it will be considered alongside other offers received through the formal tender process”, Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford said.
On Thursday, Loveard said the university was continuing to follow the requirements of the Public Works Act.
Wellington Central MP Grant Roberson said as far as he was aware the ministry was pursuing its interest in part of the site.
“The Ministry of Education and Land Information New Zealand have made it clear that the university is able to talk to other potential buyers for the site but they have to be clear that there is still a Public Works Act process underway.”
Crown property deputy chief executive Jerome Sheppard said Linz was working with the ministry as it sought to resolve matters regarding the former Karori campus with the university.
Following Thursday’s meeting Wellington mayor Justin Lester said it was too late for the ministry to purchase the whole site through the Public Works Act.
He said it would continue to pursue its interest in the land earmarked for a technology hub.
“They can’t then go away from that and amend it at this late stage so they’re working in line with what the original expectations were.”
Source: NZ Herald