SIT plans takeover of Telford

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - GIOR­DANO STOLLEY

THE South­ern In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (SIT) will sub­mit a pro­posal to Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Chris Hip­kins to take over op­er­a­tions of the trou­bled Telford agri­cul­tural train­ing cam­pus in Bal­clutha.

A state­ment from the Clutha District Coun­cil yes­ter­day af­ter­noon quoted SIT chair­man Peter Heenan as say­ing that he was ‘‘en­cour­aged by the sup­port from all par­ties at the meet­ing for SIT to pull to­gether a pro­posal for the min­is­ter’s con­sid­er­a­tion’’.

Mr Heenan made the com­ments at a meet­ing at the district coun­cil of­fices.

While the state­ment pro­vided no de­tails of the the pro­posal, Clutha South­land Na­tional Party MP Hamish Walker, said: ‘‘They [SIT] are look­ing to take over op­er­a­tions at Telford.’’

He said de­tails needed to be ironed out in the next week, but SIT would be pro­vid­ing cour­ses from the Telford cam­pus as well as dis­tance­learn­ing cour­ses.

Taratahi, the train­ing in­sti­tute run­ning the cour­ses at Telford in South Otago, was last year placed in in­terim liq­ui­da­tion at the re­quest of its board.

Asked about the staff at the cam­pus, Mr Walker said the pro­posal would need to ad­dress staffing ar­range­ments.

He could not say whether SIT had pro­posed to pay the salary ar­rears of the staff.

On Jan­uary 8 the Otago Daily

Times re­ported staff had been in­formed of a pro­posed pay freeze, which was due to be­come ef­fec­tive the next day.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, Mr Heenan ex­pected the pro­posal to be sub­mit­ted to the min­is­ter and Cab­i­net by the end of Jan­uary.

Apart from Mr Heenan and Mr Walker, Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cado­gan, New Zealand First MP Mark Pat­ter­son, mem­bers of the Telford Farm Board as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from SIT, the Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion, the NZQA and the Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Union (TEU) at­tended the meet­ing.

Mr Cado­gan said in the state­ment his thoughts were with Telford staff at this ‘‘dif­fi­cult time’’ say­ing he ap­pre­ci­ated their ‘‘com­mit­ment and loy­alty to Telford and its stu­dents. There is a lo­cal de­ter­mi­na­tion for Telford to con­tinue its long his­tory of ser­vic­ing agri­cul­tural stu­dents and the in­dus­try.’’

Mr Pat­ter­son said: ‘‘They have out­lined a pro­posal.

‘‘It is hugely pos­i­tive that there is a pro­posal on the ta­ble.’’ He de­clined to pro­vide any fur­ther de­tails of what the pro­posal was.

TEU or­gan­iser Kris Smith, who also at­tended the meet­ing, cau­tioned that while it was happy with the SIT pro­posal, it still needed to be ap­proved.

‘‘We will be urg­ing the min­is­ter to ac­cept the pro­posal and to pro­mote it among his Cab­i­net col­legues,’’ she said.

She praised SIT for be­ing proac­tive and com­ing up with a so­lu­tion for Telford.

Se­nior shear­ing tu­tor Ken Payne said there had been a TEU union meet­ing about the pro­posal, but that he could not dis­cuss the de­tails of the meet­ing.

‘‘All I will say, there is a glim­mer of hope. There is some light at the end of the tun­nel.’’

Com­ment could not be ob­tained from SIT yes­ter­day .

Taratahi was run­ning res­i­den­tial cam­puses in Wairarapa and Re­poroa in the North Is­land, as well as Telford. Across all cam­puses it em­ployed about 250 peo­ple, but the SIT pro­posal re­lates only to the Telford cam­pus, which has a staff of about 30.

Mr Cado­gan also an­nounced that he and Mr Pat­ter­son were launch­ing an on­line cam­paign to raise funds for the staff who had not been paid.

‘‘We need the staff to stay in there and they need to put food on the ta­ble,’’ he said, urg­ing res­i­dents of Bal­clutha to come to their help.

Peter Heenan

Kris Smith

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