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The Government’s tertiary education reforms will be wider than first though and will strip power and assets from regional polytechnics like Otago Polytechnic, which could be detrimental to the Otago brand, List MP based in Dunedin Michael Woodhouse says.

“National has obtained a Cabinet paper which outlines the Government’s proposed changes, the Government will take this paper to Cabinet on Monday.

“The reforms will mean regional polytechnics will be renamed as subsidiaries of a newly formed statutory entity called New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST). After two years polytechs and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) will be dissolved.

“This is disastrous for regional education and apprenticeships, and will be detrimental to our region’s brand. Identity matters for Otago. Its name is globally recognised, and it appears there will be a damaging loss of the Otago brand.

“The Government’s ‘we know best’ attitude will mean the organising of apprentices will be taken from industry, who know the needs of Otago best, and instead will be given to one polytech.

“Cash assets and community legacy assets will be ring fenced at the new head office, and all other assets will be taken away and consolidated. Current boards will be sacked on day one including local members, and will be replaced by a subsidiary board, and regional leadership groups will be advisory only.

“Otago Polytechnic is one of the highest performing Polytechs in the country, with a reputation for being nimble to the needs of its community. The loss of autonomy signalled by this change could be very bad for the region.

“The Government is proposing to remove out of region provisions as well. The Auckland Campus is a big part of the financial strength of Otago Polytechnic. Its closure would severely weaken it.

“The Government has said it is committed to the regions. But it is destroying a polytech which is integral to our community. This is a case of Wellington telling Otago what to do. Education Minister Chris Hipkins should be addressing the problems where they are and leaving successful institutions like Otago Polytechnic alone.

“National will return polytechnic assets taken by Labour and give them back to communities. We will return polytechnic decision making back to communities and the regions. We will return apprentices to the industry.

“We know how important Otago Polytechnic is to Otago. National will fight these reforms, we will fight for regional New Zealand and we will fight against idealistic educational reforms.”

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