The Union Court redevelopment may be seriously stalled by an ongoing court case with between ANU and ANU Union. The ACT Supreme Court has scheduled the hearing for October, and the Union intends to continue operating until they are heard.
The Union disputes ANU’s right to demolish the Union operated buildings. Negotiations have been ongoing since last year, and were unsuccessful, resulting in both parties taking the other to court. While specifics of both cases are unclear, the ANU case against the Union will be heard this month, while the Union case against ANU is scheduled for October.
The Union has claimed it will “continue to trade in its current premises until there is a resolution of this matter”, meaning ANU bar and all other stores not moving to the Pop-Up will remain open. Should ANU attempt demolition or eviction of any Union held property, it is likely the Union would seek an injunction, similar to the injunction to stop works on The Gods Café granted by the ACT Supreme Court last week. If this delay occurs, the redevelopment completion date (currently the summer of 2019) would likely become mid-2019.
ANU may request the Court hear the case sooner. While it’s unclear if the Court would grant this request, the enormous costs to the ANU would probably factor into the Court’s decision: a recent Canberra Times report revealed that each day of delay costs the university $120,000. The Union has not commented on whether it would accept a settlement.
The Union holds an unusual status outside the normal parameters of tenancy. It appears the ANU owns the property, but made an agreement granting the Union control and maintenance of the site, including revenue collection. This ambiguity has the potential to complicate the case, and may have partially motivated the late hearing. Observer will continue our investigation of the legal details.
Students’ reactions have been largely negative. While many celebrate the continuation of much-loved ANU Bar, more despair at the potential elongation of Union Court disruptions. Some have even argued that the Union should be forced to fold, through a Special General Meeting (SGM). If this were to occur, the students present and voting would have total power to direct the Union to do whatever they decided. However, to call this meeting would require 100 student signatures, and it’s unclear whether those against the Union are so numerous.
The Gods and ANU Union cases stall the majority of the redevelopment, but work is continuing elsewhere. The Concessions Building, housing ANUSA & PARSA, will close this week, as will Manning Clark. A fence will soon appear between Sullivan’s Creek and the Arts Centre, which will also be subject to isolated work.
Michael Turvey, Skanda Panditharatne & Jonathan Tjandra contributed to this report.