Sale of the Melbourne Campus at Toorak

In December 2006, Deakin announced that the purchaser of its Melbourne Campus at Toorak was a joint venture between private developer, Hamton and ISPT No 3 Pty Ltd.

Permission to sell the Campus was given by the former Victorian Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Lynne Kosky, MP.

Due to the heritage aspects of the site, the sale generated considerable community debate and some vocal opposition.

Frequently asked questions about the sale

Who is the purchaser of Deakin's Toorak Campus?
The purchaser of Deakin's Melbourne Campus at Toorak is a joint venture between private developer, Hamton and ISPT No 3 Pty Ltd.

In announcing the successful tenderer, Deakin's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Walker said that Hamton/ISPT met all the criteria for the tender.

Will Hamton/ISPT be required to protect the heritage aspects of the site?
Yes, absolutely. All existing heritage registrations associated with the site will apply to Hamton/ISPT.

Prior to the sale process, Deakin spent considerable time and resources identifying the heritage overlays applicable to the site.

What is Hamton/ISPT planning to do with the site?
Hamton/ISPT's proposal treats the site as two distinct parts: the heritage area which includes the Stonington Mansion; and the non-heritage area with its medley of 1970s-era buildings.

At the announcement of its successful bid, Hamton/ISPT confirmed that its primary interest was in developing the non-heritage land to the rear of Stonington Mansion. Spokesperson, Mr Phil Quin said: 'It has always been our intention to isolate the sensitive front part of the site, encompassing the Mansion. In this regard, we are very keen to work with the Federal, State and local Governments to find a way to preserve the Mansion on a smaller, more affordable parcel of land.'

How did Stonington Mansion come to be in the possession of Deakin University?
In 1992, Deakin merged with Victoria College as part of the Dawkins' reforms to higher education which restructured the sector and resulted in the mergers of a number of Victorian universities and colleges with consequent property transfers.

Victoria College's Toorak Campus became part of Deakin's property holdings. Its name changed to the University's 'Melbourne Campus at Toorak'.

Was the sale necessary?
Yes. In mid-2006, Deakin's Council resolved that with the imminent completion of a series of new, multi-million dollar buildings at the University's Melbourne Campus at Burwood, the much smaller Melbourne Campus at Toorak would become surplus to requirements from the end of 2007.

Although Deakin has maintained the Melbourne Campus at Toorak since acquiring it in 1992, it has always been very hard to make the historic buildings work for the University; upkeep costs are high and having two metropolitan campuses involves the duplication of services and increased costs.

From both a strategic and economic perspective, therefore, it made sense for the University to look to sell the site, with the approval of the State Government.

Some people have said that Deakin sold a 'gift'. Is that true?
No, not at all. The Melbourne Campus at Toorak was transferred to the University, as part of a merger, along with all the on-going expenses and along with responsibility for the activities carried out there. It became a physical asset of the University and, as such, could be sold with State Government approval.

Approval to sell the Campus was granted by the then Victorian Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Lynne Kosky, MP. This approval was not unconditional. In addition to noting that heritage controls would transfer to a new owner, the Minister required that the sale be conducted in accordance with Government Land Monitor policy. The Minister also stipulated that the proceeds of the sale must be used towards capital developments across Deakin's campus network.

At the announcement of the successful bid by Hamton/ISPT, Deakin confirmed that all criteria set by the State Government and the University had been met. On 20 December 2006, Land Monitor approval was granted to accept the successful tender on the relevant terms.

Was enough done to try and find a public, rather than a private, buyer for the site?
Yes. Deakin made every effort to attract the widest range of potential buyers. It notified the City of Stonnington of its decision to sell at the earliest opportunity so that the Stonnington Council, and others, would have time to work with any potential 'public' buyers or groups of buyers. Moreover, at the request of the Mayor of the City of Stonnington, the University extended the closing date for tenders by six weeks to give all possible tenderers additional time to develop their bids.

Once the bids were in, Deakin evaluated them based on the criteria which had been set, including compliance with Government Land Monitor policy. An important consideration was the manner in which the heritage areas were to be treated by each potential buyer.

Why couldn't Deakin just sell the non-heritage part of the site and keep the heritage part open to the public?
Deakin University is a tertiary educational institution. Its principal aim and responsibility is to nurture and support a range of high-quality research and teaching programs that benefit the community. It has finite resources to do this and so must manage these as effectively as possible. The decision to sell the Melbourne Campus at Toorak was not taken lightly. An investment in new facilities on the non-heritage part of the site would not have been an effective use of the University's resources, and while Deakin recognises the importance of the Stonington mansion and gardens, they are not central to its research and teaching programs. For these reasons, the decision was taken to sell the Melbourne Campus at Toorak with the proceeds, as required by the Minister, directed to improving facilities across Deakin's campus network.

Deakin has been described as 'greedy' in the media. Was price the driving force in Deakin's choice of purchaser?
No. Deakin's aim at all times was to achieve the best possible outcome for both the future of the heritage-listed aspects of the site and the future of the University. While price was a key consideration in the evaluation of tenders, it was by no means decisive. The tenderers' response to the heritage areas of the site, and appropriate and acceptable conditions regarding the sale itself were also major factors of influence.

The State Government's permission to sell the Campus was conditional on the price being not less than the Valuer General's valuation. Hamton/ISPT's bid exceeded this mark and the University's reserve.

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

26th November 2009