"Fired up" Hokianga residents are lobbying the new government over NorthTec's plans to close its Rawene campus while working on creative ways of retaining tertiary education in their town.
Late last month NorthTec told staff it planned to cut courses in visual arts, sport and recreation, tourism, business administration, computing and foundation studies, as well as shut down its campuses in Kerikeri and Rawene.
The restructuring, which the tertiary education provider said had been forced by a looming $4.5 million deficit, would lead to a net loss of 36 positions if it goes ahead as proposed.
The Tertiary Education Union, however, believes the number of staff out of a job will be higher, possibly more than 50.
NorthTec said the Rawene and Kerikeri campuses would not be sold but "rested" for possible re-opening if they became viable again.
While Kerikeri has more students - 67 to Rawene's 29 - the closure of the Rawene campus is likely to have a greater impact given Rawene's smaller size and fewer opportunities. Both have seven staff.
Former tutor Janine McVeagh said about 50 people came to a public meeting at Rawene Town Hall last Thursday. They included concerned business owners, tutors, parents, and students whose courses could be interrupted.
"This place is pretty fired up. Just two months ago we were told they [NorthTec] had no intention of closing the campus."
Those at the meeting worked on a submission, which is now being circulated in the community before it is sent to NorthTec, and brainstormed ideas for keeping the campus open via an institution or as a community-run facility.
Ideas included reinstating popular courses which started in Rawene but had since been closed, such as flaxroots film-making, visual arts and sustainable rural development; creating a "sustainable campus" based around existing subtropical gardens; or setting up a cultural hub.
Ms McVeagh said she was also writing to MPs with links to education and the Hokianga, including Tai Tokerau MP and Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin and Green MP Marama Davidson, who was schooled in Hokianga.
A separate petition, initiated by campus staff and calling on NorthTec management to visit Rawene to hear community concerns, had gathered hundreds of signatures.
The Hokianga Community Educational Trust, which had been waiting for NorthTec to sign a memorandum of understanding about using the campus when the closure proposal was announced, met on Sunday to discuss the issue.
Submissions on NorthTec's plans close on November 27.