The Government today appointed a crown manager to Tai Poutini Polytechnic, citing a significant financial deficit and declining student numbers.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said polytechnic council chairman Graeme McNally wrote to him on November 8 outlining concerns about the organisation's financial position and weaknesses in its educational delivery and processes.

"In the letter Mr McNally and the council requested the appointment of a crown manager."

Tai Poutini Polytechnic is forecasting a significant financial deficit as a result of declining student numbers.

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The polytechnic currently only enrols 311 equivalent full-time students on its West Coast-based campuses, with 71 per cent of its students being trained outside the region.

Without changes, it would not have sufficient funds to meet its financial obligations, the statement from the minister said.

This had been confirmed by an independent review undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

An independent investigation into the actual level of education delivery at Tai Poutini against Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) funding agreements was commissioned by the TEC following discrepancies discovered through a routine audit in 2015.

This investigation was still being completed and may have a further impact on its finances.

Once completed, the investigation report and outcomes would be publicly released.

NZQA had confirmed the qualifications awarded by Tai Poutini across the programmes being investigated had been assessed and were valid.

Students who had been awarded these qualifications should not have any concerns about their validity. These include scaffolding, extractive industries and emergency services/search and rescue qualifications.

Crown manager

Murray Strong has been appointed the crown manager and will start this Thursday.

In December 2006 he was appointed as a Crown commissioner at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki.

"Both the TEC and NZQA have been working closely with Tai Poutini Polytechnic to manage the situation, which if not addressed would represent a serious risk to the operation and long term viability of the polytechnic," Joyce said.

"Mr Strong will work with the polytechnic's council and leadership team to chart a path forward to a financially and educationally strong institution."

The Government was committed to ensuring access to high quality tertiary level vocational education and training on the West Coast.

"While it is regrettable that I need to appoint a crown manager, I am confident that it is an important step to returning the Tai Poutini operation to full viability."

New council chairman

Joyce has also announced a new appointment to the polytechnic council.

West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb will take over as chairman when McNally's term concludes in April next year.

"He is a high-calibre appointee who brings valuable knowledge and experience to the council as well as strong connections to the West Coast community," Joyce said.

"I also wish to recognise and thank the outgoing council member John Mote for his service and contribution to tertiary education in the West Coast."

Strong is based in Christchurch. His father and grandparents were born and lived in Greymouth.

He has held senior roles with Air New Zealand, as director on the board of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and two chief executive roles of national sporting organisations.

Timeline:

May 2016

Chief executive Allan Sargison resigns after returning from four weeks of medical leave. TEC says it is looking into how the polytechnic has claimed funding for some of its courses over the past five years. Also accusations emerge that its ropes rescue course had been compressed from five months to just seven days, compromising safety, which the polytechnic denies.

August 2016

Chairman Graeme McNally says there is a slump in student numbers

December 2016

Crown manager appointed

- Greymouth Star