Extra $8.5 million pumped into Tai Poutini Polytechnic ahead of wide sector change

The Government will pay an additional $8.5 million to troubled Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TPP) so it can continue to operate over the coming year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

The funding boost is needed to keep the polytechnic on the South Island’s West Coast running and to improve quality, pending wider sector changes, Mr Hipkins said. A business case of options for TPP has been deferred for the same reason.

The financial lifeline comes as the Tertiary Education Commission prepares to write-off $24.878 million (GST inclusive) of debt owed by TPP to the Crown resulting from under-delivery between 2010 and 2016, as it simply cannot afford to repay this amount. The TEC will be releasing a report detailing the findings of its investigation into TPP later today.

Mr Hipkins said it has been clear to all for some time that TPP is in serious trouble, and that substantial change is needed. However, the challenges faced by TPP are not unique and sector change is critical to a sustainable future for our institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs).

“While this change is worked through with the sector, the extra funding is a strong demonstration of the Government’s commitment to tertiary education delivery on the West Coast.”

Tai Poutini Polytechnic is one of 16 ITPs providing vocational education and training delivery across New Zealand that for a number of reasons have seen student numbers dropping alarmingly over the last eight years, Mr Hipkins said.

“This situation has left us with a group of ITPs some of which, like TPP, are facing immediate and pressing challenges to their financial viability and sustainability, and are unable to modernise teaching and learning to better meet the needs of learners and employers. For others the challenges are less imminent, but getting closer.

“It is critical we address these challenges across the whole network, rather than just one organisation at a time. We need a lasting solution to this long-standing challenge.

“We are focussed on lifting regional economic development, meeting the educational needs of the community and local employers, and a high quality and sustainable regional network is needed that delivers for students and employers in a rapidly changing world.

“While work continues on this process, I have decided to defer a decision on TPP’s business case. This is important to ensure that TPP continues to be supported this year and any changes at TPP are aligned with the wider direction for ITPs.

“I would like to thank TPP’s Crown Manager Murray Strong and acting Chief Executive Alex Cabrera for their work on this business case.” 

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