Polytech reforms likely to fail - Shane Reti

By Tema Hemi

Warnings of job losses and campus closures have surfaced following a government announcement of plans for a polytechnic mega-merger.  According to National Party Spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti, Treasury documents released last week show the planned polytechnic reforms are likely to fail.

The mega-merger proposal has met opposition but the Tertiary Education Union say it's long overdue. 

Sharn Riggs of the Tertiary Education Union says, "I think it's given people a sense now that they can move forward because we've had a polytechnic system that has been broken and continues to be severely broken."

George Tongariro of Whitireia New Zealand says, "I'm looking forward to being a part of that process and making sure we have a tertiary system that's fair for all."

Reti describes the polytechnic mega-merge as a lazy centralised approach by the government.  

"Eighty percent of people in the public consultation said they were not in support of the one mega polytechnic.  The minister should have taken that on board so I think the minister needs to stop."

Hipkins says the government has looked at management strategies to ensure they don't end up in a worst-case scenario with the reform.  

"The risks of not doing anything are very very high.  We'll see the sector losing more staff ... we'll see more campuses close if we don't take action."

Despite lobbying, the single national campus remains the government's preferred option. 

Reti says, "If you look at their own risk analysis, they assess the impact of these reforms as extreme to major.  So in their own documents the impact will be extreme."

Hipkins says disruptions to students, apprentices and trainees will be minimised by "a carefully managed, phased transition plan".

"Since February through to now we've been consulting.  We've done a lot of work to smooth that transition to provide as much stability during transition as we can."

Hipkins says the new institute will start on April 1, 2020 and will be a new kind of organisation that provides on-the-job and off-the-job learning.