Staff at Telford were ''betrayed and stunned'' when their pay was suspended yesterday.

The beleaguered agricultural training campus, near Balclutha, fell into the hands of receivers on December 19 as part of the liquidation of its parent organisation, the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, in Masterton.

On Tuesday, the Otago Daily Times reported staff had been informed of the proposed pay freeze - effective from tomorrow.

Yesterday, about 30 staff met at Telford to discuss the situation with representatives of interim liquidator Grant Thornton NZ.


The meeting became ''heated'' at times, Telford senior shearing tutor Ken Payne - who is also a Clutha district councillor - said.

''The tension in the room was obvious, and for good reason.

''People had plenty of questions to ask, and the liquidators seemed unable to provide any satisfactory answers.''

Although the pay freeze affected only academic and administrative staff at this stage, farm staff taking care of campus animals had guarantees only until March, he said.

''As a group, we're feeling betrayed and stunned, and we'll be seeking legal representation as we continue to find our way through this.''

Speaking after the meeting, other staff said there had been ''anger and tears'' after learning of the latest development.

A female staff member, who asked not to be named, said she and her colleagues had been ''shafted'' since Telford had passed into the hands of Lincoln University in 2011.

''Telford was a viable, going concern with substantial assets in the millions at that time, and successive operators have stripped those assets for nothing more than short-term gain.


''Even in the run-up to liquidation last month, Taratahi was trying to sell off campus vehicles to scrape together funds.

''We'd like to see the Government step in and allow Telford to stand on its own once again, as it did successfully for nearly 50 years.''

However, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) gave no indication that was likely to happen.

''The TEC's immediate focus is on [Taratahi and Telford] students,'' commission deputy chief executive Gillian Dudgeon said.

''WE understand this is a stressful time for them and our priority right now is on assisting those students with their future study options.''

She said options to secure Taratahi's Wairarapa home farm were under consideration.

''The TEC has been working to support Taratahi for a number of years in recognition that it has been a significant provider of training for the primary industries.

''Agencies are working urgently on new models of provision for the agriculture sector, including working with representatives from industry on longer-term strategy.''

That was little comfort to Telford staff, Mr Payne said.

''It feels like we're being punished for a situation not of our making.

''We won't be going out without a fight.''