Council shows its teeth

By Ross Pringle

Wanganui District Council is taking a proactive approach to the decision by UCOL to drop hairdressing courses and temporarily halt intakes into fine arts and glass studies.

We should welcome the stance taken - yesterday's meeting held 13 days after the announcement of the cutbacks, which included removing the Wanganui management structure.

It is a different response than was experienced over plans to change the provision of maternity care, and also the placement of Stewart Murray Wilson on parole on the outskirts of our city. In those cases, there were those who suggested the response was slow and initially too soft. Of course, we know the outcome of both those: maternity services were saved, at least in the interim, and Wilson remains a resident of sorts, albeit with severe restrictions on his freedom.

With UCOL the council has taken a positive approach and, rather than berating and criticising, has extended assistance seeking to engage with UCOL and the Minister of Tertiary Education Steven Joyce.

Far from holding the ineffectual meeting that was feared, the local body has shown it has teeth by suggesting it will try to seek out alternative providers.

How realistic that is though is debatable.

Maybe that is what is actually needed, someone with a fresh vision and approach. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that as far as UCOL is concerned it's not that it can't make it work, it's that it won't try hard enough.

Wanganui has an enviable reputation in arts and glass in particular. Any permanent erosion in the provision of such services should be resisted, and the councillors who led the charge for this action should most definitely be commended.

It remains to be seen whether the decision can be overturned, but to do nothing leaves only one certainty: that the courses are consigned to the scrapheap.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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