Waiariki BOP Polytechnic interim chief executive Dr Neil Barns says the new council is now setting out its strategic focus for the merged institution, which would be on partnerships, regional needs, innovation and sustainability.

"The immediate focus for 2016 going into 2017 is about completing the process of making these two organisations into one," said Dr Barns, who spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times about his briefing on the merger's progress at this week's Tauranga Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting.

"It is about capturing the power of both. At the moment they operate like two organisations, which are held together by the fact they've been merged with a single council and CEO. But next year what we will see quite early is the bringing together of all the systems. It won't be until that happens you will really see the benefits begin to flow from this big organisation."

The polytech last week announced that Dr Leon de Wet Fourie - currently deputy chief executive at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland - had been appointed as the new chief executive. Dr Barns said that Dr de Wet Fourie would be starting on December 12, and that he would serve until then and would also have an opportunity to ensure a smooth handover.


Dr Barns noted the importance of having a strong council for the merged organisation. Members included chairwoman Catherine Cooney, former chief executive of Lakes District Health Board, deputy chairman Tauranga-based HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman, Page Macrae's Ian Macrae, and AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson, as well as other experienced Maori, community and business representatives.

"It's a very grounded, strong board for an organisation like this," he said.

Dr Barns said he had stressed to the Tauranga chamber members the size and scale of the new organisation, which is the third-biggest poly in the country, and how that might make an impact in the Bay of Plenty in the coming years.

"Particularly in places like Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty you're having different discussions because of the pace of population and economic growth, than you have in an area like Murupara, or Tokoroa, or even Taupo and Rotorua," he said.

"There's been a lot of talk about the importance of meeting the needs of Maori out around the region and that's true. But there's an equally important need to keep up with the pace of what is happening in the Western Bay of Plenty."

Tauranga chamber chief executive Stan Gregec said the merged polytech made good sense.

"We welcome the intention of the poly to work closely with business and industry to ensure a strong linkage between the courses on offer and the employment needs of our community and region," he said.

Temporary name will remain - for now


The Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic will keep its temporary name for the time being, but the aim was still to change it, said interim chief executive Dr Neil Barns.

"There are still processes to work through with Government," he said. "Hopefully we will have something we can say on that in a few weeks."

Dr Barns said the merged poly would be supportive of the Tertiary Education Partnership and also expected to complement the planned University of Waikato campus in Tauranga.

This week he took part in the first meeting since the merger of the Tertiary Education Partnership executive group. Taking part were professor Graeme Smith, standing in for Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi acting CEO Wiremu Doherty, and University of Waikato deputy vice chancellor Alister Jones, standing in for vice chancellor Neil Quigley.

"We were talking about strengthening the way we work together for the whole of the Bay of Plenty," he said.

"[The merged poly] will open up a lot more of the region for the partnership to operate in. The institutions are all committed to the partnership and we will update the agreement post-merger and focus on what more we can do together in the region. This will progress more once the new CEO is in place."

Priority One interim chief executive Greg Simmonds, who played a key role in leading the setup of the Tertiary Education Partnership, said the merged polytech would strengthen the partnership.

"We're really starting to become a tertiary destination," he said.

"We've got Waikato University heavily investing here and Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi providing excellent programmes as well. The partnership with the merged poly is going to have a really important role in developing tertiary provision across the region."

Waiariki BOP Polytechnic Council
• Catherine Cooney (chair)
• Michael Chapman (deputy chair)
• Ian Macrae
• Rahera Ohia
• Ngaroma Tahana
• Colin Rangi
• Dr Tom Richardson
• Ryan Morrison