Latrobe City Council has grudgingly acknowledged a merger between Monash University Gippsland and the University of Ballarat is inevitable.
It will now seek to have input into the merger, but took the opportunity to take a final swipe at Monash, with a last-minute word change to its resolution on Monday night.
Council was due to vote on whether it accepted the merger was likely to proceed, but removed the term “accepts” from its resolution and replaced it with “acknowledges”.
Latrobe City Mayor Sandy Kam said council expected more consultation than it got on the matter, but it “needed to move forward”.
She vowed to advocate for a university model that catered to the Gippsland community.
This could include a push for research and development in brown coal and the revival of engineering degrees no longer offered by Monash.
“We want to have the best university we can to cater to the Gippsland community and you can’t do that from an arm’s length,” Cr Kam said.
The resolution included another word change which indicated council would seek to be engaged on the proposal’s “development”, rather than its “implementation”.
Councillors Sharon Gibson, Michael Rossiter, Dale Harriman, Darrell White, Graeme Middlemiss and Sandy Kam voted in support of the amended resolution.
Cr Kellie O’Callaghan abstained from voting and Crs Peter Gibbons and Christine Sindt did not support the resolution.
Cr Sindt had first attempted to move an alternate motion which excluded any reference to the merger being likely to proceed and focused on the fact council was yet to receive some correspondence it had requested.
This included decades of meeting minutes from the Monash University Gippsland Advisory Council and an update on the institution’s financial status by Victoria Auditor General Dr Peter Frost.
But Cr Sindt failed to gain majority support from her fellow councillors.
“The Monash brand opens doors all over the world,” she said.
“If we lose Monash it will be the equivalent of losing two power stations. It will tear the heart out of the Latrobe Valley,”
Cr Graeme Middlemiss said despite his “disgust” over the merger proposal, the region had lost Monash.
“We’ve all fought the game and lost,” Cr Middlemiss said.
“The thrust is to get on and try to make something out of a bad deal.”
Cr Middlemiss said he was disappointed by a “lack of action” by state and federal politicians on the merger issue.