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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Is TAFE NSW planning to build a learning centre on Byron High’s playing fields?

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Parents at Byron High School are concerned that TAFE NSW may be considering building a learning centre on the school’s playing fields if its plan to locate the facility in the Byron Industrial Estate falls through.

The issue emerged at last week’s Byron Council meeting, when the Secretary of the school’s P&C, Sarah Aldridge, spoke during public access.

Byron Bay High School. Photo courtesy Byron Bay High School

‘I believe you’re aware that TAFE is looking at building a connective learning centre on the playing fields at Byron, Ms Aldridge said.’

‘The P&C are yet to find anyone who thinks this is a good idea’.

‘The school and P&C welcome a TAFE in the Shire, and the increase in use facilities. We do not believe, however, that it should be at the expense of the school’s sporting facilities.’

It was more than a year ago when TAFE NSW first expressed an interest in building a Connected Learning Centre – a digitally-focused facility specifically designed for those learning in regional areas.

Previous Council meetings have heard that TAFE’s preferred location for the centre is a piece of Council-owned land in the Byron Industrial Estate known as Lot 12.

It appears that this option remains firmly on the table, as evidenced by a motion in relation to Lot 12 passed by Council at last week’s meeting.

That motion, which formally selected a company as the preferred option for management of Lot 12, made specific reference to TAFE as a future tenant on the site.

It specified that among the issues that Byron Council would enter into negotiation over with the company – Creative Capital Company – prior to signing a deal, was accommodating the delivery of the TAFE facility by 2022.

The motion also requested that ‘a report be brought to the December meeting of Council outlining the process of delivery of the TAFE NSW Connected Learning Centre in the location proposed within the Creative Capital expression of interest, including the details of the proposed lease agreements for approval’.

However, last Thursday’s meeting heard that, in addition to its discussions with Council to build a facility to Lot 12, TAFE NSW has been quietly scouting out the Byron High School site.

‘TAFE has a proposal for the school site,’ Ms Aldrige told the meeting.

‘A couple of weeks ago, they flew a team up from Sydney to continue their plans, including doing a two-day land survey.

‘The head of TAFE is meeting with the principal tomorrow.’

The P&C strongly supports the Lot 12 option, acknowledging the benefits of for youth across the Shire at having such a facility in a central location.

Thursday’s motion, which followed Ms Aldridge’s motion, appeared to be an attempt to shore up the deal with TAFE for the Lot 12 site.

However, the exact motivation remains a mystery, as the discussion which led to this motion was conducted behind closed doors, after councillors voted to move into confidential session.

At least one councillor, independent Basil Cameron, objected to this part of the meeting being closed to the public.

He initiated a debate on the topic of confidentiality, but the live stream of the meeting was terminated prior to this discussion, leaving the public in the dark in terms of what unfolded.

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