Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Key concerns addressed at Waiariki meeting (+video)

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Current Waiariki staff will keep their jobs, students will continue to study in Rotorua and the proposed name Toi Ohomai will be shortened to Toi, not TOM.

These were the key points stressed at a Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic stakeholder meeting in Rotorua today - one of four being held around the Bay of Plenty in the lead up to the official establishment of the new institute, merging Waiariki Institute of Technology and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, on May 1.

Stakeholders were not shy about voicing their concerns, which included the merger masking an impending take over by Tauranga, Toi Ohomai's lack of connection with Rotorua and what the name would be shortened to.

Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic interim chief executive Dr Neil Barns said he wanted a new vision and strategy for Toi Ohomai.

"It is both challenging and daunting to enter this phase but at the same time it's exciting because ultimately it's about getting better outcomes for our communities."

Toi Ohomai, the identified name for the new institute, needs to be submitted to Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce by April 21.

The name was gifted from local iwi and encapsulates the aspirational journey of life, encouraging innovation, achievement, inspiration and transformation.

"There is a beautiful story behind the name but we recognise that it will not resonate with everyone. We are not trying to hide from any issues raised in our communities and want to have open and frank discussions about what will happen throughout the merger process.

"There has been talk about the name being shortened to TOM but that will not be the case. The official shortening of Toi Ohomai will be Toi."

Former Waiariki chairman Grahame Hall spoke at the meeting, saying he was disappointed by the intended name and wanted to see 'Waiariki' retained in some way.

"I would propose the use of a dual name so we can have Toi Ohomai but also keep Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. I want to see the retention of the culture and traditions of Waiariki Institute of Technology. It took 40 years to build the institute and I don't want to see it thrown away."

Western Heights High School teacher Guy Ngatai said there were concerns still being expressed by his students.

"Students fear they are going to have to start commuting to Tauranga to study their courses. If that does happen it's going to create a barrier to their learning as many will not be able to afford to commute.

"My other concern is with the name, I did come here with reservations about it which have eased but I still do not see any synergy or connection to our land. Waiariki has a huge amount of mana and it is something our kids are proud of - their brothers and sisters went to Waiariki but they won't be able to."

Dr Barns reassured him Rotorua was not going to lose any of its current qualifications.

"That absolutely will not happen. It wouldn't make any sense to move courses from Rotorua to Tauranga and then require students to commute - it would be disastrous. The whole point of this institute is to bring education to the community for the community."

Dr Barns also made a point of stressing there would be no redundancies at Waiariki, with the exception of the two chief executives from Rotorua and Tauranga who would have to apply for a new single position.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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