A Labour Government would put more emphasis on regional polytechnics, and NorthTec could become a national centre of nursing excellence, the party's tertiary-education spokesman, Grant Robertson, says.
But the Government says Mr Robertson should say where the money will come from.
Mr Robertson visited NorthTec last week on a "Save Our Polytechs" tour and said the Government was damaging provincial New Zealand by strangling regional polytechs.
He said in 2011 NorthTec had its budget slashed by $4 million, a 13 per cent funding drop that meant it took 140 fewer full-time students, with $50 million cut from all regional polytechs, which was money the last Labour Government put in.
Mr Robertson said he would put more focus on regional polytechs and that NorthTec's nursing course was one of the best: "We want to see centres of excellence and for NorthTec that could mean a nursing centre of excellence. We want to look 10 to 20 years ahead ... and you have a successful nursing course here and [becoming a centre of excellence] would be a very positive step."
But Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the extra money Labour gave polytechs had been set to expire in 2011, and the global financial crisis had kicked in, meaning governments around the world were spending less.
"When Labour left office, polytechs were in pretty poor shape, propped up by additional funding that was for a finite time and has now expired," Mr Joyce said. "Grant Robertson is going around the country making these promises, while in Wellington [Labour's Finance Spokesman] David Parker is saying they will balance the books."
He said NorthTec was living within budget and doing a good job.
Mr Robertson said Labour's tertiary-education policy would be released closer to next year's general election, but that National was failing the sector.
"NorthTec plays a vital role in the regional economy. In 2011 it had a course completion rate of 79 per cent. Unemployment in Northland is currently 9.5 per cent and last year alone 2274 people left the region permanently for Australia.
"The people of Northland are crying out for opportunities, and it makes no sense to reduce those opportunities by cutting courses."