Education Minister Chris Hipkins says NorthTec has "a lot" to gain from the polytechnic reform proposals.

The minister was at NorthTec's Whangārei campus on Wednesday meeting with the NorthTec council and senior management team, and chatting to students studying cookery and hospitality.

The visit comes after he recently released plans proposing major changes to vocational education in New Zealand.

Hipkins told the Advocate he was not going to close down any polytechnic, instead the goal was to expand them.


"NorthTec, I think, has a lot to gain from these proposals and that's why I think the council and management have been so warm towards them. There's real opportunities for NorthTec to grow and expand in the future."

Included in the vocational education proposals is the establishment of the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology.

This would take over programme design and administration for all campuses of what are now 16 separate polytechnics, including NorthTec, and take over enrolling and managing apprentices and industry trainees from what are now 11 industry training organisations (ITOs).

It also proposed to form regional leadership groups to ensure there is strong regional influence.

NorthTec acting chief executive Wayne Jackson and Ngati Hine leader Pita Tipene have both raised concerns around whether those regional leadership groups would be strong enough.

But Hipkins said they would be refining the "whole proposal as we go along".

"The whole issue around how do we ensure there is a good degree of regionalism in the system, and that regional communities are better connected to their local vocational education provider - that's one of the most important questions in this whole process."

Hipkins said he visited the majority of polytechnics during the first round of consultation last year, but NorthTec missed out so he was keen to get there this year.


He said during his visit he received lots of questions and feedback about what the government needed to do to make the reform successful.

"There was some questions around how do we engage with Māori through this process?

"How do we ensure there is a strong degree of Māori empowerment and iwi empowerment as we design the new system?

"We talked about regionalism and how the new system could align with the Regional Development Plan and the Te Tai Tokerau Investment Plan, so I think that it was all very constructive."

Public consultation on the reform is open until March 27. Visit to find out how you can have your say.