The Gungahlin Town Centre land sales this week has been surrounded by controversy but one of the auction results is good news for a community seeking more businesses and jobs and less residential development.
Registered training organisation Canberra Business and Technology College bought two of the smaller blocks for $5.1 million and $4.2 million, as part of expansion plans.
The other two blocks, including the biggest, went to Ryan Capello’s Core Developments, the company building a range of multi-unit apartment projects across Canberra.
Canberra Business and Technology College operates four sites – two in the city, one in Belconnen and one in Gungahlin, and is looking to expand, especially when international borders reopen, by 2024.
It offers management, business and commercial cookery courses and has also applied to be a Higher Education provider so it can train cyber security professionals.
The mix of students is 60 per cent domestic and 40 per cent international domestic. During the pandemic, overseas students were able to move from interstate to study under COVID concessions extending their stay.
College operator Akhilesh Arora said the business hoped to meet the intense demand for chefs in the hospitality industry and the Federal Government’s desire for 18,000 cyber security professionals to be trained over the next five years.
“Canada and the UK are getting most of the chunk of students from Vietnam, Thailand, India and China,” he said.
“When it opens up again we want to be prepared with a bigger campus and more courses.”
Initial plans for a building include at least four levels including a commercial kitchen on the ground floor, two levels of offices, a floor of student accommodation and probably another floor of affordable apartments as required by government.
The ground floor could also include a retail outlet that would open at night and sell food created by the students.
If the College’s application was successful, it would build a cyber security campus on the second block, with cyber labs and artificial intelligence machine learning facilities and student and affordable accommodation, said Mr Arora, who has an IT background.
He said the purchase would allow the college to consolidate its vocational courses on the one campus but the college would retain its other sites.
Core Developments paid $6.85 million and $5.1 million for the two bigger blocks of 10,510 square metres and 6822 square metres.
The land sales netted the ACT Government a total of $21.25 million, and came amid rancour in the Legislative Assembly when a Greens motion calling for the auctions not to proceed and other planning measures, which the Liberals planned to support, was withdrawn.
Greens MLA Andrew Braddock who sponsored a petition calling for further land sales in the Gungahlin Town Centre to be suspended until the government acted to attract more commercial development there, had proposed the motion which highlighted differences between the two governing parties.
The Liberals called the Greens spineless and the episode a stunt when the motion was withdrawn due to conflict of interest with a committee inquiry and a decision to go into talks with Labor on the issue.
It appears the Assembly shenanigans were part of Greens gambit to embarrass Labor into discussing the issue, which has been exercising the minds of the Gungahlin community concerned at the Town Centre becoming a dormitory without economic activity and jobs.
Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford welcomed a business operator expanding in the Town Centre but said the land sales proceeded under a flawed planning system and the Town Centre had still lost four blocks governed by inadequate rules.
He supported the efforts of Yerrabi MLAs to highlight the Town Centre planning issues and the council still wanted land sales to pause until they were addressed to ensure a viable Town Centre.
The petition remains open until June and has attracted nearly 600 signatures.