Supporters have reacted with a blend of relief and delight after South Otago farm institute Telford received a $4.7million boost from the Government this week.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the new funding for the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) to allow it to operate the Telford farm campus in 2020 and 2021.

He also signalled a possible longer-term reprieve for both Telford and SIT - in the light of recent sector uncertainty - saying the funding was ''expected to set a platform for SIT to operate Telford beyond 2021''.

In February, Telford was rescued from closure following the liquidation of former operator Taratahi, following eight weeks of intensive lobbying by local supporters including MP Mark Patterson and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan.


SIT assumed operations of the 55-year-old farm institute near Balclutha, and received $1.8million of Government funding for 2019.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds. Photo / File
SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds. Photo / File

SIT's future has also been thrown into doubt recently, following vocational education reforms announced by Hipkins on August 1.

Despite her pleasure at seeing Telford secure until 2021, SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds did not believe the announcement was a green flag for SIT as a whole.

''This is very pleasing for our Telford campus, giving us certainty and the ability to plan ahead in regards to international students and other developments there.

''But there's a lot of work to be done before we determine where planned vocational reforms place SIT in the longer term. We're taking it one step at a time.''

Telford Farm Board chairman Jono Bavin was more upbeat in his assessment of funding support.

''We're very happy. This investment shows the Government is serious about the future of Telford, and agricultural training in New Zealand more generally.''

He said the latest announcement was the end of an ''eight-year journey''.


''Our two most recent operators before SIT [Lincoln University and Taratahi] came in with promises but never delivered. In large part this was because the wider funding model was broken. This vocational review shows the Government is trying to fix it,'' Bavin said.

He praised the tenacity of Telford staff and students during a ''challenging'' period.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan described the news as ''immense''.

''Although we cannot underestimate the importance of this announcement for Telford, its staff and its students, there's still a lot of work going on to maximise opportunities for the South within the newly announced vocational reforms. It's a time of immense positive potential that we need to grasp.''

Lawrence-based NZ First list MP Mark Patterson spoke of the South Otago community's ''relief'' at the news.

''It's magnificent news, and a clear signal we're backing Telford. Sadly it's been enfeebled during the past decade, so it's great to have it back on a sound footing once again.''

Hipkins described the investment as a ''first step in a complete revamp of agricultural education''.

''As well as core farming skills in agriculture, apiculture and wool technology, this will create opportunities within the forestry, engineering and construction industries which are vital to our ongoing economic success and productivity.''

He said students would have the opportunity to learn on campus, or through distance learning.

SIT would also market courses to international students.

''SIT has a good track record of growing its business through these approaches, and Telford is well-placed to continue to deliver skills for an industry that has been under-served in the last few years.''