Former kayaker takes on leadership of polytech
‘‘The fact I am new on the Taranaki scene has some advantages in that I do not arrive with any preconceptions. I am looking forward to getting to know the region and the people.’’ John Snook
An international kayaker turned education guru has taken the reins of Taranaki’s troubled polytech for the next two years.
John Snook, who has lead several other education institutes around New Zealand, was the pick of more than 30 applicants to take over the role of chief executive at Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (Witt) in February.
Snook said he would watch the polytech in action to start with and listen to staff and others involved. ‘‘The fact I am new on the Taranaki scene has some advantages in that I do not arrive with any preconceptions. I am looking forward to getting to know the region and the people.’’
The 49-year-old, who has signed a twoyear contract, said he was aware of how the push for change in the tertiary sector could have a significant impact on polytechs, and Witt faced a challenging future as one of the smallest in the country.
Snook replaces Barbara George, who left in October after five years. George left on a high after a pass mark from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority but had a tumultuous reign, including repaying more than $3.5 million to the Tertiary Education Institute Commission after problems with a certificate, financial difficulties, and falling enrolments.
Snook, who lives in Rotorua with his partner, has three children and three grandchildren.
He had previously been deputy chief and acting chief executive of the Waiariki Institute of Technology, turning it into a quality-assured organisation, and was a member of the Universal College of Learning council at the time of the Whanganui Polytechnic merger. After leaving Waiariki he set up Action Consulting Group Ltd and the New Zealand Institute of Business and Technology, and also launched a TEC-funded bicultural research journal.
He was a top kayaker – representing New Zealand at four world championships and also four rafting world championships.
Council chairman Robin Brockie said the appointment was an exciting one because of Snook’s breadth and depth of educational knowledge and business expertise. ‘‘I was genuinely surprised by the interest in the Witt role, given the fact that there is an expectation of significant change.’’
Acting chief executive Lyal French-Wright will return to his position as deputy chair.