The Waikato now commands a genuine economic and demographic presence in the future of New Zealand. We are seeing this in major industrial developments planned in our region.
Therefore it is vital we retain the essence of our tertiary skill providers, like Wintec, to grasp these opportunities and empower local people to upskill our community.
The Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, has announced the Government's decision to amalgamate all of New Zealand's 16 polytechnics and Industry Training Organisations into one mega-polytechnic called 'The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology' (NZIST).
While a tertiary education campus will remain in Hamilton, decision making under the amalgamation will pass to NZIST in April next year, to provide on-the-job and off-the-job apprenticeship learning.
All regional polytechnics will be renamed as subsidiaries for two years with a subsidiary board of the National Institute. After this period they will be known as regional campuses.
Wintec has been part of the fabric of our region since 1924. Wintec has a proud history of training generations of Waikato business leaders. The planned centralisation of polytechnics will not cater to our region the way that locals can. I trust Waikato people to run Waikato services for Waikato people.
The Minister has decided to progress with this overhaul of vocational education despite nearly 80 per cent of submissions on the review which opposed a mega polytechnic.
The centralisation of services in a national body reduces our opportunities to develop and expand Wintec and our region.
A major problem in any centralised approach is that regions inevitably suffer from a lack of innovation and flexibility for regional goals and opportunities. Control vested in Wellington will mean central Government priorities will take precedence.
The aggregation of senior management positions in a centralised body will mean loss of those jobs in our city. There will be a lack of senior managerial positions in the Hamilton employment market.
Wintec is one of the few profitable polytechnics and has been on the rise. In establishing a strategic health hub for New Zealand out of Waikato, Wintec now has the newest physiotherapy school in New Zealand, as well as exceptional nursing and health courses. Wintec has rebuilt its infrastructure and has plans for further development. A centralised body will not have the same incentive to be active in central city renewal.
Wintec has international connections with operations for over a decade in Chengdu in China, and more recently in Thailand and Saudi Arabia. The fear is that these will be consumed into the centralised body with the loss of connectivity for our region.
Wintec has cash assets of over $3m and substantial land holdings at its Rotokauri campus. It had plans to use this land for community facilities.
It is worrying that as part of the centralised body the land could easily be sold with a loss of potential community development.
Wintec had a governance structure that enabled up and coming Waikato based directors to get board experience which can be used in other Waikato businesses. There is an Institute of Directors aspiring director on the board.
Wintec has a role to play in the development of our region and enables collaboration with other regions as well as overseas.
Wintec is essential in upskilling our young people to get them into the workforce. It should be part of the Central North Island growth dynamic as it has a crucial role to play in Hamilton City's community development.
Overall, I have little faith that a centralised body will represent our unique Waikato interests and neither does the Tertiary Education Commission who stated it is likely the reforms will not meet the desired outcomes.
I believe in the Waikato's future and the future generations of business leaders that will learn their trade or profession at Wintec. We should back ourselves to decide our own regions future. We will fight for the Waikato's voice and autonomy.