The Deputy Prime Minister has met with the University of New England about its plans for a full-blown university campus in Tamworth.
The news comes as Tamworth mayor Col Murray says a lack of federal funding could be a “deal breaker” for a second university campus in the New England region.
The University of New England (UNE) is seeking funding from multiple levels of government for a 500-person campus in Tamworth’s CBD.
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack said he was well aware of Tamworth’s push for a university, which has been led by the business community and Tamworth Regional Council.
“I have met with the University of New England in relation to this project,” Mr McCormack told The Express.
“[New England MP] Barnaby Joyce is a strong advocate for projects such as these, which are at the heart of growing communities across the New England.”
Mr Joyce declined an interview with The Express about the potential university earlier this week.
However, in a statement Mr Joyce said he was pursuing multiple options for federal funding.
“I’ve had further conversations with [Education Minister] Dan Tehan this morning regarding funding support for a Tamworth university campus,” he said.
“We were trying through the Building Better Regions Fund but it appears they may not be eligible.
“However we are still discussing other avenues for funding support, such as through the Capital Grants process.”
Cr Murray said it was “really essential” for the federal government to come to the party.
“In fact, I would suggest that it’s almost a deal breaker if the federal government doesn’t contribute,” Cr Murray said.
“We’re working very closely with the local member now to ensure that funding is forthcoming.”
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has been working hard behind the scenes, lobbying the state government for a funding commitment.
On Friday, he met with representatives from both UNE and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
UNE is hoping to hear back from the state government about a grant application before it goes in to caretaker mode at the end of the month, as the March 23 election grows closer.
A community meeting about the campaign will be held on February 13, at West Leagues Club in the Ken Chillingworth room from 6pm.