9 Dec 2023

NZ risks becoming 'laughing stock' over Te Pūkenga change

6:34 pm on 9 December 2023
Te Pūkenga

File photo. Photo: supplied

New Zealand risks being seen as a "laughing stock" if the government's new tertiary education strategy is rushed through, the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce says.

Chief executive Arun Chaudhari said while Taranaki employers will welcome a more regional focus, international students in particular, did not like uncertainty.

"Rather than rush it through they need to just have a good plan, otherwise, we'll just become a bit of a laughing stock when it comes to getting overseas students," he said.

The government has signalled Te Pūkenga will be replaced by eight to 10 institutions within eight months.

It has begun the process of disestablishing the super-institute which combined 16 polytechnics and nine workplace training providers on 1 January this year.

Chaudhari said overseas student numbers have not recovered at the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki since Covid and the institute had lost a lot of academics which has had a flow-on effect for its overseas student intake.

"We've lost a huge amount of international students ... and it will be a long time before they return."

Chaudhari said the government needed to get alongside tertiary education leaders and make sure they were well briefed and onboard with its proposed changes.

The chamber wants the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki to become a leader in training for the renewable energy sector, but needed clarity from the government.

"And then move out of the way so that industry can take control of how they wish to operate but we just need support rather than interference from the government," he said.

Meanwhile, the New Plymouth mayor welcomed the dismantling of Te Pūkenga, but warned that the Western Institute of Technology needed millions of dollars worth of investment.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Neil Holdom said the Labour government recognised the institute needed $20 million worth of upgrades but did not deliver.

"We have the second oldest technical institute in New Zealand that needs major capital investment.

"We've got really good people there with really tired infrastructure."

He was hoping for better from the new coalition government.

"They were talking about $20 million, we're talking more like $120 million and I think if we can meet somewhere in the middle, $100 million would probably be a really good start."

Holdom said the money would go into classrooms and creating a quality, modern facility for learners and educators alike.

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