Uni urged to hand over ‘holiday unit’ to support lifesavers

A GROUP of academics in Armidale have been accused of rendering the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club impotent, just so they can keep a holiday home on state-owned land.

Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser has urged the University of New England to hand back its lease over its former department of marine sciences building in the Arrawarra Headland Reserve.

He told parliament the building had not been used for research since the department's transfer to the Southern Cross University in Lismore.

"They duck down and have holidays in this particular unit," he said.

"There is no research done. The university no longer has a marine biology school."

The Woolgoolga SLC hopes to leave its current undersized and time-worn facility to take up residence at the current Marine Rescue NSW site about 200m away.

It plans to replace the current building with a new, purpose-built surf rescue facility.

But it cannot make the move unless Marine Rescue NSW can relocate to the university's building at Arrawarra.

"To have a bunch of academics hiding in the ivy-covered halls in Armidale and refusing to co-operate with these two fantastic services, run by volunteers, is an absolute disgrace," Mr Fraser said.

Woolgoolga SLC president Les Pepper said the group had been waiting months to find out whether it would get a new home.

"I think it's just a matter of them (UNE) not wanting to let it go," he said.

"We keep being told they're agreeing to let it go and it will happen any minute. But it's been a long minute."

A University of New England spokeswoman said the facility was still used for "research intensive schools" rather than holidays for professors.

She added the university had agreed in principle to a request to share the facilities and was working with Coffs Harbour City Council to formalise the agreement.