Wednesday, 13 February 2019 12:53

Lifeline for agri training school

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Government funding has been allocated to keep Telford running. Government funding has been allocated to keep Telford running.

Balclutha's troubled Telford agricultural training institution has been thrown a one-year lifeline by the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), Invercargill.

Its future had been in doubt with the liquidation of Wairarapa’s Taratahi Agricultural Centre which took over running Telford when it was sold by Lincoln University in July 2017.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has now agreed to SIT running Telford this year.

The Government will contribute $1.8 million to support SIT’s Telford programmes, enough to teach about 200 students on-campus or by distance learning New Zealand-wide.

“This is a great outcome for Telford students who want to continue their studies and complete their qualifications, and for the students who were looking forward to starting at Telford this year. It also keeps investment and jobs in the local community,” Hipkins said.

Some staff will lose their jobs, but Hipkins said he was pleased that most Telford staff – about 20 fulltime equivalents – will be employed by SIT, with their existing rights and benefits maintained.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said he was thrilled that Telford would continue in 2019, but revealed that a proposal to secure its future longer term was rejected by the Government. 

“Working with the Southern Institute of Technology and other stakeholders to develop a solution, I’m glad the gates of this fine institute will remain open,” Walker said.

“Together, we had worked incredibly hard to offer a long-term solution.

“However, the Government turned down the long-term proposal last week and asked us to go back with a plan to keep it open for one year.”

Walker said the one-year agreement was only a starting point.

“It’s incredibly disappointing the long-term proposal was turned down. Telford’s staff and students, and the wider farming community, deserve long-term security and certainty.

“Even more disappointing is this Government’s willingness to spend $80m creating a new skills and employment initiative announced in Northland this week, yet won’t spend money down south retaining long-standing services.

“This Government does not have a plan for agriculture training... as evident in this process as no direction has been given,” said Walker.

Hipkins said the primary industries are a vital contributor to the NZ economy and top-class training and education in the sector is essential.

“The Government will be working... to reform vocational education and training so that it meets NZ’s future needs.”

 Hipkins said that on top of the $1.8m, SIT will get more Crown money for expenses if Telford closes at the end of 2019.

“I appreciate SIT’s willingness to step in and its speedy and pragmatic response,” Hipkins said.

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