THE first sods were finally turned at the site of the new TAFE Gippsland Port of Sale campus on Wednesday.
Shovels in the ground marked a crowning glory for a number of local stakeholders, who have waited and campaigned for some 20 years to see the project come to fruition.
After numerous false dawns, disappointing iterations and near misses due mainly to funding changes, a central TAFE campus for Sale and district students is set to be up and running by 2022.
The new Port of Sale campus will deliver education and training facilities for a range of industry and academic disciplines which will meet industry and community needs, and provide greater access to training for students across the region.
The development will provide purpose-built facilities for a variety of courses, including health and social services, early childhood, carpentry, engineering and automotive trade.
The state government unveiled designs for the new $25 million campus in June, to be build on land previously occupied by the Sale Netball Association and Gippsland Armed Forces Museum at a greenfield location between Punt Lane and the South Gippsland Highway.
The new TAFE campus has been designed by Victorian architects GHD Woodhead Architecture, and is being built by McCorkell Constructions.
State Training and Skills and Higher Education Minister Gayle Tierney was scheduled to turn one of the sods, but had to withdraw after her flight was delayed.
In a statement, the minister said it was a huge boost for the region to be able to offer such high quality education.
“The Port of Sale development is another great example of the cutting-edge training facilities we’re building to meet the needs of local students and industry as they adapt in a changing economy,” she said.
TAFE Gippsland chief executive Grant Radford said the benefits would be far reaching.
“Our Port of Sale campus will meet local industry and community needs with its central location providing greater accessibility to training for students across the region.” he said.
“We are delighted to get the Port of Sale campus construction works underway and we fully expect the centrally-located campus will further boost the vocational training participation in the Wellington Shire region.
“This is about delivering on our commitments to staff, students and the community and the new campus at Sale will provide a quality vocational training experience and first class training facilities suited to a range of local industry disciplines.”
Having served on Wellington Shire council for nearly a decade, councillor Carolyn Crossley said discussions about a central TAFE campus in Sale to replace the ageing Fulham facility had been on the cards the entire time.
With the new campus now a reality, Cr Crossley described it as “very well-deserved for the community.”
“The community has waited and fought for this over many, many years,” she said.
“The council has been involved in that process and the TAFE Gippsland board – so it’s a coming together of all those to see this building start to come out of the ground.
“It’s so important for the cohesion of a community to have TAFE training accessible to the community.
“The current Fulham campus is 15 kilometres out of town and not all people have access to their own transport so it’s been a real block to people taking on extra training.
“Now that there is a new campus accessible to the community I’m sure that our community will rush in and it will be a boom to the businesses with the new skilled trained workforce.”
Cr Crossley paid tribute to the work of fellow councillor Malcolm Hole, and former long-serving councillor Darren McCubbin, who she said had been major players from the start in getting a major TAFE campus built in Sale.