A membership association which aims to promote Hawke's Bay as an international education destination has been approved by the Department of Internal Affairs to be registered as both a charity and incorporated society – a first of its kind in the country.

Last week members of Learning Hawke's Bay voted to proceed to become incorporated. Chairwoman Geraldine Edwards was also voted to stay on as the interim chair to see through the remaining procedures.

"Learning Hawke's Bay and its members work extremely hard to promote Hawke's Bay as an education destination. International students coming to study in the region contribute significantly to local economy and create jobs," Edwards said.

International students contribute about $20 million to Hawke's Bay's economy and support more than 200 jobs, according Education New Zealand's economic benefit analysis of international education.

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The organisation has 18 members, including Eastern Institute of Technology, New Horizon College and 16 primary, intermediate and secondary schools from Hastings, Napier and Dannevirke.

Learning Hawke's Bay regional manager Wenhua Yang said its new status meant it could become a legal entity and operate more effectively.

It has been operating under the wing of the Hastings District Council, funded by membership fees, Education NZ, Hastings District Council, and Napier City Council.

Learning Hawke's Bay supports members' marketing efforts by producing collateral promotion materials such as videos, brochures, and online resources; developing innovative products such as GameOn, which combine education experience with sports, tourist and other relevant activities to support local businesses and education providers; and organising events such as mayors' welcome functions for new international students to the region.

It is also developing initiatives with the Chamber of Commerce to support local businesses to benefit from skills of international graduates, and with the Citizens Advice Bureau and Multicultural Association to provide targeted advice for international students to help ensure they have a positive experience in Hawke's Bay.

"We will continue to work with the councils and Education New Zealand to manage the work programmes that are jointly funded by them to continue to promote Hawke's Bay as an international education destination," Yang said.

"We welcome the new objective of enabling regions to share benefits of international education, according to the recently released draft government international education strategy. We look forward to seeing government policy and funding follow this strategic direction. Provincial regions are very different from Auckland and other main centres, and we need government support to keep raising the profile of our region in an increasingly competitive international market."

Last month the society led a successful marketing mission to China involving Tamatea High School principal Robin Fabish and other delegates from Lindisfarne College, Napier Girls High School, Taradale High School and William Colenso College.

Fabish said it was an eye-opener. He gathered first-hand experience and knowledge about China, the biggest market for international education, and developed many useful contacts for potential co-operation with overseas partners, which will support his vision of educating his school students to become global citizens.

The Hawke's Bay delegation running an education fair in Guangzhou. Photo / Supplied
The Hawke's Bay delegation running an education fair in Guangzhou. Photo / Supplied

The Learning Hawke's Bay delegation visited education agencies, China Scholarship Council, Guangzhou Study Abroad Association, and several schools in Shanghai, Beijing, Jinan and Guangzhou. They ran seminars and presentations to hundreds of education consultants, and thousands of parents and students, in both face-to-face and online settings. This mission was part of the central regions' collective marketing trip to China involving Manawatu, Taranaki and Whanganui.

Four regions signed memorandums of understanding with EIC Education, one of the largest international education consultancy firms in China, and with Zhonghuang Whampoa International Education Group which has nine international schools in China.