Plans for a $10 million research centre in Tauranga have been scrapped because Waikato University wants to focus on Hamilton.
The blow comes after the university reviewed its services and decided to concentrate more on its home campus.
This shifting focus has worrying implications for Tauranga, which relies on a Waikato University campus in Durham St for university education. The university had earlier signalled it would work with Bay of Plenty Polytechnic to boost services here.
The world-class centre with 40 staff was to have been established in the new Environment Bay of Plenty building at Sulphur Point, with construction to start next year.
But the university has sent the regional council a letter saying it will not shift into the Cross Rd building.
Earth Sciences' Professor Terry Healy said the university had completed a review of its direction and decided to concentrate on the Hamilton campus.
Professor Healy told the Bay of Plenty Times that every academic was disappointed.
The centre, which would have involved post-graduate students, planned to carry out ground-breaking studies in coastal marine and environmental sciences including global warming and aquatic farming.
Another factor was cash.
Professor Healy said there was enthusiasm in the Bay but "in the end we didn't get a lot of sponsorship from people in the area. And in this day and age, universities don't get a lot of money from the Government for capital works."
The University of Waikato Foundation Trust was seeking up to $5 million from the Western Bay's businesses, councils and trusts.
The project had a major setback when the government turned down the university's application for a $5 million Partnership for Excellence grant last year.
At the time of the project launch in September 2003, the university said the centre would pump skills and talent into Tauranga - helping it become a true university city.
The university today issued a statement confirming vice-chancellor Professor Roy Crawford was working on a new vision - and said Tauranga would benefit.
Professor Crawford said the university was still committed to students in Tauranga and would continue to offer courses.
"We intend to continue to build close relationships within the community and work with business to ensure what is offered meets Tauranga's needs.
Our goal is that students have the knowledge, skills and understanding they require for this region to continue to prosper."
Waikato University Tauranga campus pro vice chancellor Alan Nielson said the relationship between the university and the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic was still strong. He said the campus was still committed to focusing on the regional needs alongside the polytechnic.
Mr Nielson would not comment further on Mr Crawford's "vision" and how it could impact on Tauranga's tertiary opportunities. He said it was a "work in progress".
Priority One chief executive Ross Stanway said the centre would have been a big shot in the arm for Tauranga.
"It's disappointing - but the university is doing other things in the city."
The university was working with the commercial sector to develop business management programmes.
Environment BOP will forge ahead with its new Tauranga building. Council staff would take up two-thirds of the space and the rest would be leased to tenants.