Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland on the Taratahi effect and a major meeting taking place tonight in the Wairarapa.

Tonight, a major meeting is happening in the Wairarapa.

It's about their region's future and how they, as a community, are going to build a meaningful one.

I will be in attendance along with Federated Farmers Board Member, Arable and Biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams.


Tonight's meeting is to be chaired by Dame Margaret Bazley. Dame Margaret is the chair of the steering group for the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

The Wairarapa is an area that as things currently stand is adversely affected by the closure of agriculture education provider Taratahi.

Just before Christmas it was announced that Taratahi and the South Island's Telford, New Zealand's only real tertiary level institutes for agriculture education, were going into voluntary liquidation due to not being able to deliver the education programmes at the rate funded from Government.

Yes, there are historical financial penalties still being paid back, and the number of students forecasted for 2018 dropped from an expected 900 EFTS (equivalent full-time students) to approximately 550.

Everyone in agriculture leadership is aware of this situation and the need for a collaborative solution.

This will include: industry groups, education providers and the Government.

The Wairarapa is a major primary sector producer. The primary sector is what keeps New Zealand ticking along while other industries such as film, tourism and information technology build up.


Tonight's meeting is to touch on core issues, such as what will the primary sector in the Wairarapa look like in years to come, what are the levels of education needed by potential primary sector employees and bosses, where the people needed to fuel the primary sector will come from, and who is going to fund such a push for growth.

Last week I met with Minister for Education Chris Hipkins.

We talked about the future and what steps will be put in place to secure a path for tertiary training for agriculture.

We are all aware of where the failures are, that the only way to build back up is if everyone works as a team, and that a sustainable way of funding needs to be found and secured.

Agriculture provides one in six jobs in New Zealand, so a much better funding model is needed than what has been in place up until now.

If we want to attract urban students, more Maori/Pasifika, then there is a need for residential courses providing a transition between school and the work place.

If our economy changes and unemployment rises, competing for talent will demand a strong tertiary agri presence.

A significant number of polytechnics have made losses over the past few years and the Government has bailed them out to the tune of tens of millions of dollars showing there is a systemic funding issue within the tertiary sector.

After all, the primary industry is the backstop the country has when we are hit by economic disasters like the Global Financial Crisis.

Further Government investment is needed now so that in future New Zealand can survive any other financial hit it may be struck by.