Care urged over polytech name

By John Cousins, Stephanie Worsop

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QUESTION OF IDENTITY: Debate is rising over the naming of the merged Bay polytech.
QUESTION OF IDENTITY: Debate is rising over the naming of the merged Bay polytech.

Nervousness about the proposed new name for the Bay's merged polytechnics has prompted some of the region's MPs to urge that the new organisation tread carefully.

"The name is less important than the process. It needs to be a name that the Bay can identify with and accepts," said Simon Bridges, the MP for Tauranga.

"I would be really interested in hearing locals' views on the name."

Tauranga's Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Rotorua's Waiariki Institute of Technology merged on May 1 to become the fourth-largest technical institute in New Zealand. But the disclosure that the new institution was proposed to be called Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology sparked controversy.

Read more: Editorial: Toi Ohomai rolls off the tongue just fine

Tauranga's deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said he felt people would struggle with the name and he regretted the loss of location in the name.

"The best thing would be something easily said every day."

The MP for Rotorua, Todd McClay, said the new institution's council needed to make sure it was an open public process. People identified with the institutions and the council needed to consider geographical recognition in the name.

Every indication so far had been that the new institution, operating under the temporary name of Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, would engage with the public, he said.

"They will get a sense of where the public view is. They should continue to engage with the public to ensure they deliver to everyone."

It was important the council was flexible and open enough to consider every position that came from the public, Mr McClay said.

The MP for Bay of Plenty, Todd Muller, said he did not have a strong view about the proposed new name. "If that is where it lands, that is fine."

Read more: Running Man mania takes hold in the Bay

However, he suspected there would be people who did not like the proposed name. The new institution would have to be clear on the reasons and context for the change and why it resonated for the community. "That will be the test for me."

Mr Muller said it was always a challenge when two well-established entities merged, and there were concerns from two distinct communities of interest over what to call the new institution.

The man who will sign off on the name, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Steven Joyce, also said he did not have a strong view on what the name should be.

"I have asked that the new name, the logo and the way it will be presented be fully developed before it is gazetted, and that the finished article is something all stakeholders can identify with."

I think for many people when they initially hear the name they don't like it, but most turn their opinions around when they understand the name's meaning.
Dr Neil Barns, interim chief executive

Mr Joyce said he was being consistent with what had happened when other polytechnics merged, such as the recently established Ara Institute of Canterbury.

Interim chief executive Dr Neil Barns confirmed there had been some unrest around the name.

"I don't think it is just a Tauranga issue. I think for many people when they initially hear the name they don't like it, but most turn their opinions around when they understand the name's meaning."

Meetings around the name were still being held and there was "a long way to go before we reach a higher level of comfort", he said.

"I still believe it will become the new name but it will be a matter of whether it has a regional identifier. People are very attached to the names they have associated with for a long time so, as with any change, we need to give it time."

Council chairwoman Cathy Cooney said there were still steps to be worked through before the council sought Mr Joyce's agreement to change the name.

She said the council was undertaking a brand development project which involved working with an external agency to create a new identity for the institution. It included all elements of the name and possible geographical references.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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