Regions lose with central control

August 2, 2019

The government is centralising vocational education, merging 16 technology institutes and polytechnics into one:

Former Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce warns of the risks in this move:

. .  .Leaving aside the issue of transferring the control of hundreds and hundreds of millions of assets out of regional New Zealand to Wellington, there are huge risks in the proposal. Across the Tasman, New South Wales has just done something similar, merging its 16-odd TAFEs (polytechs) into one NSW-wide TAFE, and it is a cautionary tale. The merged entity lost $30 million in its first year, blowing out to $240m in its second. It’s now in the process of further reform.

Yes, many New Zealand polytechnics are currently struggling, but that’s not unique to this country. When employment is high, vocationally-minded people tend to get into work ahead of going to polytech, and roll numbers drop. It’s been made worse here by the sudden squeeze on international enrolments caused by government immigration policy which is contributing to a perfect storm of red ink.

Interestingly however, well-run polytechnics like SIT in Southland, Otago, and the Eastern Institute of Technology in the North Island, have continued to perform and make surpluses. A few board overhauls and the odd regional merger, plus a bit more tuition funding, would do wonders for the others and retain their local focus – and be much less risky.

The government’s prescription is radical surgery when much less drastic medicine could solve the problems at a much lower cost in both money and jobs:

The Government’s polytechnic and industry announcement today will cost thousands of jobs and may be the death knell for some polytechnics, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.

“Moving apprentices back to polytechnics and creating one mega polytechnic will cost at least 1300 jobs in industry and probably as much again in polytechnics.

“Employers are telling us they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics. This is a big step backwards especially when our construction sector is crying out for apprentices.

“The Government has brutally dismissed the concerns of industry and businesses who raised serious issues with polytechnic training. Industry understands the needs of industry best and who will be the best fit for them, but Mr Hipkins is blatantly ignoring them.

“Now the Minister is turning his axe to polytechnics. Under these reforms well performing polytechnics from the Southern Institute of Technology to Otago Polytechnic will lose the very essence of their successful and innovative local decision making.

“The reforms dissolve polytechnics into hollow and meaningless ‘legacy’ polytechnics. This ideology will destroy tradition, decimate organisational knowledge and the final indignity will be the mega polytechnic spending community gifted cash and assets.

“This is devastating for polytechnics and their staff and students.

“Every aspect of the vocational education sector is under attack. Apprentices are being sent back to polytechnics, polytechnics are being amalgamated into legacy campuses, jobs are being lost, cash and community assets will be ring-fenced and regional autonomy is being stripped away.

“These reforms will be disastrous for regional education and apprenticeships. Mr Hipkins is pushing ahead with ideology over what is best for students and regional New Zealand.

“National will empower the regions to make decisions around what they teach, where they teach and how they teach. We will return polytechnic assets taken by Labour and give them back to communities. We will return apprentices to industry.

“National supports apprentices and regional polytechnics and we will fight for their voice and autonomy in these ideological educational reforms.”

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt said the city will fight to save The Southern Institute of Technology:

Invercargill leaders have vowed to fight a Government decision to centralise the Southern Institute of Technology [SIT] with 15 other polytechnics and training institutes nationwide.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he was in “absolute disbelief they could do such a terrible thing to our city” and said legal action would be taken against the decision.

“They have really ripped the heart out of Invercargill with this announcement.”

The proposal also threatens the future of Telford Farm Training Institute:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said the announcement was incredibly disappointing and raised uncertainty for Telford’s future.

“Today’s announcement of the Government’s reform of vocational education through the centralisation of polytechs is another blow to rural and regional New Zealand. 

“It is the people in regions who know the needs of their people best, not a long list of public servants in Wellington.”

Community assets would be taken away, decision-making powers would be lost and as a result, Telford would be disadvantaged, he said.

“Telford’s long-term proposal was turned down because of this reform which will now cause further damage to Clutha-Southland and its workforce.”

“This creates further uncertainty for staff and students at Telford who have already been through enough.” . . 

Successful organisations like SIT and Otago Polytech could have been used as a model for other institutions that were floundering.

Instead the successful are being sacrificed because of others’ failures and the regions lose autonomy to central control.


Rural round-up

July 2, 2019

Still no certainty over future of Telford -Richard Davison:

South Otago advocates for farm institute Telford have given mixed reactions to reports its long-term future remains undecided.

Reports surfaced this week that new Telford operator the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) had not received confirmation from the Ministry of Education about its future beyond the end of the year.

Doubts that annual ministry funding of $1.8 million would extend beyond December 31 had led SIT to freeze recruitment of international students and rendered longer-term planning for the 55-year-old institute near Balclutha ”difficult”, the reports said. . . . 

Definition of ‘rural’ vital for healthcare :

The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network welcomed the Health Research Council’s decision to fund a research proposal to develop a consistent definition of ‘rural’.

NZRGPN represents almost every rural medical practice in the country, as well as the Rural Hospital Network and Rural Nurses.

“Securing funding for this research proposal, which will be led by respected clinician and University of Otago academic Dr Garry Nixon, is an important development for all of New Zealand,” said NZRGPN Chief Executive, Dalton Kelly.

“Generating a clear and consistent definition of what we mean by ‘rural’ sounds mundane and, frankly, boring. But the lack of a consistent definition is leading to inefficient and poorly designed policy and the inability to accurately measure rural outcomes.” . . 

Kiwi search brings more birds into the fold:

One of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation programmes in the country has a raft of new birds to add to its work after a successful ‘prospecting’ exercise in May. Ten volunteers identified eight new breeding pairs, two breeding pairs that were already known about and five new male birds that can now be tagged and added to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project operated by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust in the mountainous forests of inland Hawke’s Bay.

The Trust recently released back into the wild its 300th kiwi reared over 11 seasons as part of the nationwide Operation Nest Egg initiative. This is where eggs are retrieved from nests, incubated and hatched under specialist care, and the resulting chicks reared in predator-proof areas to a size where they can safely be released back into the forests from where their eggs were taken. . . 

Agriculture profits grow:

Operating profit for the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries combined increased $1.0 billion (up 22.1 percent) to $5.6 billion in the 2018 financial year, Stats NZ said today.

Food product manufacturing, and grocery, liquor, and tobacco product wholesaling, which are related to the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries, also had increased profits.

Growth in the primary industries reflects favourable seasonal factors and export prices over this period, as seen by increased exports of beef, lamb, dairy products, logs, and kiwifruit. . . 

 

Genesis invests in McGrath Nurseries:

McGrath Nurseries Ltd, one of New Zealand’s largest and most successful fruit tree nurseries, has been sold to New Zealand investors.

New Zealand based Genesis Private Equity has purchased the nursery business, which is a major supplier of apple, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, apricot and cherry trees to commercial growers all around the country. McGrath Nurseries is the dominant supplier in the New Zealand summerfruit industry, growing more than 90 per cent of cherry trees and more than 75 per cent of apricot trees planted here; and is one of two major New Zealand apple tree nurseries, growing a significant proportion of this country’s apple trees. . . 

 

Female butchers are slicing through the meat world’s glass ceiling – Leoneda Inge:

Kari Underly is slicing through half a hog as if it were as soft as an avocado … until she hits a bone.

“So what I’m doing now is I’m taking out the femur bone,” she explains to a roomful of about 30 women watching as she carves the animal. “The ham is a little bit of a drag, if you will, ’cause we have to make money, and not everybody wants a big ham.”

Underly is a fit, 46-year-old master butcher from Chicago. Her father and grandmothers were butchers. She put herself through college cutting meat. These days, she encourages other women to enter the business. . . 


Fears for training of future farmers

February 7, 2019

The government is throwing millions at fee-free tertiary education but there’s no cash to spare for training future farmers:

Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis said the liquidation of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre a month ago was the latest sign that the government needed to overhaul certificate-level tertiary education for staff in the primary industries.

“This has been an issue for a long, long time. A lot of providers have come into the industry and set up training but a lot of them have left or have struggled and at the end of the day it comes back down to it’s not financially viable to run training for young farm staff because they don’t get enough funding from the government.”

Mr Lewis said there was a shortage of trained farm staff and some courses did not provide the skills that farmers needed in their workers.

Craig Musson from the National Trade Academy said few tertiary institutions were still offering certificates in skills for land-based industries and those that were, were struggling.

He said too few students were enrolling and government funding was inadequate for the costs involved.

“In our sector it’s not a classroom, white board and a teacher. You have to have tractors, motorbikes, quads. You’ve got to have fencing, you’ve got to have stock and with all that comes repairs and maintenance and replacement of equipment and a normal business doesn’t have those same costs,” he said.

Mr Musson said the government paid about $10,000 for each full-time agriculture student studying a certificate course and institutions received a further $3000 to $4000 in fees.

That was not enough given the small class sizes and high overheads for courses in farming skills and it was especially hard if students dropped out and could not be replaced, he said.

Mr Musson said more education providers would go out of business unless things improved.

“It’s obviously just getting more and more difficult for the providers that are left and eventually it becomes that it’s not financially viable to do the training any more,” he said.

“You only have to have a bad year as far as feed costs and then you’ve got fuel costs because we have to travel to farms to do the milkings, we have to do field visits and that’s a massive cost that most providers would not have either.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said changes would be made as part of wider reform of the vocational education and training system and the government was aware there was urgent need in the agriculture sector.

“We’re looking very closely at the agricultural sector given its importance to the New Zealand economy, the desperate need for more skilled labour in that area, but actually the problems facing agriculture are the same as problems facing many other industries around the country so we’re looking very closely at vocational education generally,” he said. . . 

Neal Wallace says a new training model is needed:

. . .By its very nature educating primary sector students is more expensive and intensive than other vocational courses.

It requires students to live on working farms, to be given a student-centric education – you can’t teach fencing on a blackboard – and it comes with high compliance and pastoral care costs. Taratahi had a ratio of one staff member to 10 students. 

But it appears to have finally succumbed to the millennial factor.

Fewer young people are choosing farming as a career, while numbers of potential students have shrunk because of successive years of low unemployment allowing those who would normally seek training to go directly in to work.

Telford and Taratahi have struggled to grow their rolls in recent years and are required to repay the Tertiary Education Commission $10 million for being funded for more students than were enrolled.

Not dismissing the obvious distress to students and staff, collapsing on the eve of Taratahi’s centenary adds to the misery.

But its centennial legacy, from what can best be described as an educational train wreck, is that Government and education officials can no longer ignore the essential issue of creating a sustainable sub-degree funding and administrative model for primary sector education.

Tina Nixon also notes two fundamental problems with the future success of primary sector vocational training:

The government: The present government [and those of the past] has never really understood the sector, the cost of training or really got to grips with the woeful performance of the Tertiary Education Commission [TEC], the body that decides what will be funded and how.

This became patently evident when I first became involved with Taratahi.

I suggested that it got into training beekeepers, which, as it turns out, has been lucrative.

The process for actually delivering beekeeping courses took months –  TEC should be geared up alongside NZQA to get ahead of industry demand but it doesn’t – they lag  at least a year, sometimes a lot longer.

TEC is without a doubt one of the most bureaucratic organisations I have ever interacted with, and I have worked with a few.

It has not served the country and its governments well. I applaud the current government for looking to overhaul the tertiary sector, but I condemn it for the short-sightedness about how best that overhaul is carried out.

If the TEC and its current administration survive the next year, then this government will have failed the sector.

The government’s decision not to fund Taratahi was based on advice from TEC —  behind closed doors with no chance for Taratahi to talk directly to the ministers involved.

So, Taratahi doesn’t even know what was presented – but the $30m touted by some as what was required for the organisation to continue  is wrong. What they needed was $5 million – pretty much the same amount it had repaid of the previous administration’s legacy debt. . . 

A request for just $5 million was turned down when the Provincial Growth Fund showers much more on far less worthy projects.

So what of the future?

If the community leaders consign all that has been learned and achieved by Taratahi in 2-1/2 years into the dustbin, then they will be condemned to creating yet another failure and snub some of the best educationists in the industry.

What we need  to see is Taratahi rise again in the next few months – underpinned by all the good systems and knowledge built up in the past two years, within a newly-framed tertiary education sector with the required funding levels. With all that in place, it will become an enduring engine room for primary sector talent development.

The primary sector can do some on-the-job training but that is no substitute for what can be done in dedicated training institutes like Taratahi and Telford if they are properly funded.

 


$490,191 per job

February 5, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund, like KiwiBuild, has over promised and under delivered:

Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund has created just 54 jobs in its first year, making a mockery of the Government’s claim to be helping regional New Zealand, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Fund is all about maximising NZ First’s re-election chances in 2020 but the Prime Minister is fully on board, turning up in small towns supposedly with an open cheque book and a feel-good soundbite. Trouble is, it’s big on hot air and miniscule on substance.

“Despite all the hoopla, only 38 of the 135 announced projects have received funding and just 3.4 per cent of the funding has actually been paid out. That’s $26.6 million for 54 jobs, or the equivalent of $490,191 per job.

That money would employ a lot of teachers, nurses or police officers.

“That’s a dismal outcome considering the mountain of press releases, town hall meetings and hyperbole being rolled out by this Government. Mr Jones would have you believe he’s the saviour of the provinces but the only thing he seems intent on saving is his political career.

“The facts about the PGF are elusive and the Government hasn’t willingly disclosed what’s really going on. It has taken endless questioning by National to penetrate the layers of Government obfuscation.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ claims become more fanciful every time he speaks. Prior to Christmas he claimed 4000 jobs had been created as a direct result of the PGF. A day later that had jumped to 9000. In reality the Fund is as shambolic as KiwiBuild – an epic fail that has seen just 47 of 100,000 houses actually built.

“What’s worse is that the Government fails to understand the basics of employment, in terms of helping young, unemployed Maori in particular. Their job prospects have dimmed as a result of 90-day trials being dumped and the massive increase in the minimum wage.

“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions are just politics.”

The regions do need investment in some areas which are government business including infrastructure and health services.

It started by axing funding for roads and irrigation and has done nothing more for health services. Instead of helping, it is refusing to help Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, is funding SIT to take over Telford Farm Training Institute for only one year and is closing rural maternity centres.

Instead of investing money where there is genuine need it has allowed the PGF to give out money to projects at what looks like whim and, in many cases, without a proper business case.

It has also provided a serious disincentive to real and sustainable job creation in the private sector with the threat of so-called fair pay agreements that would take us back to the bad old days of the 1970s.


Rural round-up

January 16, 2019

SIT plans takeover of Telford – Giordano Stolley:

The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) will submit a proposal to Education Minister Chris Hipkins to take over operations of the troubled Telford agricultural training campus in Balclutha.

A statement from the Clutha District Council yesterday afternoon quoted SIT chairman Peter Heenan as saying that he was “encouraged by the support from all parties at the meeting for SIT to pull together a proposal for the minister’s consideration”.

Mr Heenan made the comments at a meeting at the district council offices.

While the statement provided no details of the the proposal, Clutha Southland National Party MP Hamish Walker, said: “They [SIT] are looking to take over operations at Telford.” . . 

Funding call for Telford training farm campus staff:

The Clutha community is trying to raise funds for staff at a financially troubled rural training campus, mayor Bryan Cadogan says.

Dozens of staff at Telford agricultural training campus near Balclutha are stuck without pay while their employer’s future is decided.

The Telford training farm in South Otago is part of the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, which was placed in interim liquidation late last year.

More than 30 tutors and support staff at Telford had their wages suspended on Friday. . .

Synlait plant registration renewed – Sally Rae:

Synlait has successfully renewed the registration of its Dunsandel plant, allowing it to continue exporting canned infant formula to China.

The registration was issued by the General Administration of Customers of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC).

Synlait chief executive Leon Clement said GACC had strict criteria that overseas manufacturers must meet to maintain registration.

New pasture legume hard to fault – Jill Griffiths:

THE PERENNIAL forage legume tedera is on track for commercial release in 2019. Dr Daniel Real, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), said difficult seasonal conditions in Western Australia this year had provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the potential value of tedera.

“Rain at the end of February created a false break,” Daniel said. “All the annuals germinated but then died, and the dry autumn left nothing in the paddocks. The annuals were non-existent but the tedera was looking good.”

Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) is native to the Canary Islands and was brought to Australia in 2006 through research conducted under the auspices of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. . . . 

Deliberate food contamination needs harsher penalties:

A recent member’s bill which seeks to introduce harsher penalties and offences is good to see, but any action from it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact, says Federated Farmers.

The bill is from National’s Nathan Guy and it comes in the wake of last year’s Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences here and back over the ditch, says Feds Food Safety spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Thousands of strawberries had to be destroyed as needles started showing up in the fruit across stores. The needle scares crushed spirits and trust. . .

How one innovative company is using bees to protect crops from disease – Nicole Rasul:

Billed as an “elegant solution to a complex problem,” Bee Vectoring Technology, or BVT, is a Toronto-based startup that is using commercially reared bees to provide a targeted, natural disease management tool to a range of agricultural crops.

The bumblebee, one of nature’s hardest workers, is the star of the BVT method. Hives that contain trays of powdered Clonostachys rosea CR-7, which the company describes as “an organic strain of a natural occurring endophytic fungus… commonly found in a large diversity of plants and soils all around the world,” are placed near a fledgling field. . .

Cheaper to get your 5+ a day at the end of 2018:

Avocados and lettuces were much cheaper than the previous summer, but egg prices hit a record high in December 2018, Stats NZ said today.

“Overall, getting your five-plus (5+) a day servings of fruit and vegetables was cheaper in 2018,” consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said. Fruit prices were 3.8 percent lower in December 2018 than in December 2017, while vegetable prices were 7.5 percent lower.

“Bad weather in 2017 reduced the supply of many vegetables, pushing up their prices,” Ms Duoba said. “Growing conditions were mostly more favourable during 2018, boosting supply and lowering prices.” . .


Rural round-up

January 15, 2019

Bid to save Telford – Neal Wallace:

Invercargill’s Southern Institute of Technology is preparing a lifeline for the Telford campus of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, which was put into liquidation before Christmas.

At a meeting at the South Otago campus today SIT agreed to prepare a proposal for Education Minister Chris Hipkins, in which it will become the education provider.

Telford Farm Board chairman Richard Farquhar hopes a deal can be secured in time for this academic year.

Information is being sought from Taratahi’s liquidator for a proposal to Hipkins, who, if he supports it, will then seek Cabinet approval. . . 

Helping others succeed – Tim Fulton:

Leadership starts with self for the 2018 Dairy Woman of the Year Loshni Manikam. Tim Fulton reports.

After 20 years of life in rural New Zealand Loshni Manikam has a real insight of the Kiwi agricultural psyche.

“I believe there’s this huge gap,” Manikam says.

“I feel like farming people know how to care about land, stock, neighbours – everything except themselves and I want to help change this.” . . 

Sharemilkers ready for competitions – Sally Rae:

Southland herd-owning sharemilker Luke Templeton jokes he has had a couple of moments of weakness lately.

Mr Templeton (30) signed up for both the FMG Young Farmer of the Year and the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards.

Next month, he will compete in the Otago-Southland regional final of the Young Farmer of the Year.

The practical and theoretical modules of the event will be held at the Tokomairiro A&P showgrounds in Milton on February 16, followed by an agri-knowledge quiz at the Milton Coronation Hall at night. . . 

Pair to attend congress in US :

Tyla Bishop hopes a trip to the United States in July will broaden her understanding of global food production.

Tyla (17), a year 13 pupil at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru, is one of six TeenAg members from throughout New Zealand chosen to attend the 4-H Congress in Bozeman, Montana

She lives on a 700-cow dairy farm in the Waitaki Valley and is working on another dairy farm during the summer holidays to help pay for the trip. . .

Stricter penalties proposed for contaminated food:

National’s Food Safety spokesperson Nathan Guy is backing calls from the food and grocery sector for tougher penalties for those who intentionally contaminate our food or threaten to do so.

“My Member’s Bill seeks to achieve what Damien O’Connor appears unwilling to do – protect New Zealanders from those that would threaten our food safety, be they reckless pranksters or people intent on nothing less than economic sabotage.

“Recent events here in New Zealand and across the Tasman, such as the strawberry needle scares, have identified the need for greater sanctions to prevent these sorts of idiotic behaviours. The food and grocery sector has been ignored in its calls for tougher laws. . . 

Horticulture supports harsher penalties for food contamination:

Horticulture New Zealand supports a Member’s Bill, announced today, that will introduce harsher penalties for people who intentionally contaminate food, or threaten to do so.

“Recently, we have seen some incidents of intentional contamination of fruit in both Australia and New Zealand and people need to understand the full and serious implications of such sabotage,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says. . . 


Rural round-up

January 5, 2019

Fish and Game do it again – Alan Emmerson:

Here was I listening to the radio to be shocked by the news that 82% of Kiwis saying they were concerned or very concerned about pollution of rivers and lakes.

Then we had Fish and Game chief Martin Taylor telling us that the problem was fair and square farmers fault.

Unsurprisingly I have issues with that.

For a start why don’t you get ten people in a room and ask them their concerns. I’ll lay you dollars to donuts that pollution of our rivers and lakes isn’t the major concern of eight of them.

Let’s take that a bit further. As the vast majority of us live in cities our exposure to rivers and lakes isn’t great. Certainly not eight out of ten. I’d be surprised if it was over two. . .

A-grade farming in a sensitive environment – Tony Benny:

A Canterbury dairy farmer is in tune with his environment. Tony Benny reports.

He says farming in a part of Canterbury regarded by many as too challenging environmentally Tony Dodunski has achieved an A rating for his farm environment plan audit and is achieving his production goals as well.

Tony and wife Clare farm 190ha next to Lake Ellesmere, which is rated the most at-risk in New Zealand with agriculture having a significant impact so farmers in the area are in the environmental spotlight. . .

Telfordstaffremaininlimbo

Uncertainty remains for Telford staff as they approach a critical point in their future with the beleaguered agricultural institute.

Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, which provides courses at Telford, in Balclutha, and other on-farm campuses, was placed in interim liquidation on December 19.

At the time, liquidator Grant Thornton said it understood wages and salaries were up to date and the organisation would continue running “as per normal” over Christmas.

However, the Otago Daily Times has learnt Telford staff expect to receive their final wages on Wednesday, leaving them facing an uncertain future. . .

Climate research leads the world:

A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across NZ’s agriculture and forestry sectors. . .

Home buyers warned of sex and smell – Jono Edwards:

A Dunedin pig farmer is warning potential home buyers of the sex and stink that come with rural living.

Recently Pieter Bloem, who lives on the Otago Peninsula, noticed the property across from his on Highcliff Rd was for sale.  

On Boxing Day he decided to place a sign on the road reminding interested parties what they were in for. . .


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