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FOWP Call For Breathing Space, Not Disestablishmen

Media release
2 December 2001

Friends of the Wanganui Polytechnic hope and expect that Mr Maherey’s announcement on Tuesday at the Community Meeting (8.15am) will not be the decision to disestablish but a breathing space for what has proved to be a perplexing problem for the Government. It is a very unusual time for a ‘by invitation only’ to a ‘community meeting’.

FOWP have been calling for a whole government solution to Wanganui Polytechnic’s financial problems involving recognition that the Arts, Design, Fashion and Culinary sectors are intrinsically linked to our regional development aspirations.

Mr Anderton, during his whistle stop regional tour gave a ten minute speech to assembled regional politicians and stakeholders in which he said ‘governments listen to communities so that they can be empowered (capitalised) to fulfil their own dreams’. In Saturday’s Chronicle he is quoted as saying (that)…’for any project to succeed they would need to be driven from the bottom up – starting with buy in from individuals and communities’. And ‘in the end what happens depends on the people in the community & in the region. And unless they are committed to what’s going on it won’t happen’. Our point precisely.

We have no particular issue with UCOL per se. They are our neighbours and have proven capabilities in vocational educational delivery. Contracting delivery of specialist education makes good sense. Similarly, Rangahau plays an important part in the delivery of tertiary education in Wanganui and a contractual arrangement could be possible with them as an independent entity. Their student numbers provide a viability factor to the UCOL plan which was not permitted in our local ‘stand alone’ equations (Ministerial Working Party).

From a purely pragmatic, political point of view, the Labour Alliance must be concerned that an ad hoc decision on Wanganui Polytechnic could cost Jill Pettis her ‘safe’ Wanganui seat. A delay (with interim funding) would place the final decision just before next year’s general election. What government in its right mind would gamble with the viability of our cherished local institution just before an election?


FOWP have also lobbied consistently that any solution should be made in context with recommendations made by the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC). Fundamental, structural changes to the way tertiary education will be delivered in the future are defined. One notable change will see a top/bottom funding redistribution. The ‘bottom’ is defined as those who have not previously achieved in education or have no or low qualifications and ‘top’ are high quality, world class research & NZ top learners’ (Shaping the Strategy p 21).


We should positively embrace this change as it directly applies to our local demographics. The fact that this future template rolls out next year is exactly why Wanganui can be and should be an independent institution. Our independent financial viability would look completely different in this new funding context. We can then form alliances of choice – once disestablished, our voice is via UCOL.

FOWP are deeply concerned that the TEAC reports are not understood and should have been debated at the council table. Good decisions arise when stakeholders are well informed. Regretfully this has not been the case and the reason could involve lack of leadership on this issue.

Mr Maharey’s ‘Hobson’s Choice’ announcement (7 September) and the associated assertions of insolvency have resulted a ‘TINA’ (there is no alternative) solution that has been swallowed hook, line & sinker by our community.


Ross Mitchell-Anyon
Cathy Taylor

Friends of the Wanganui Polytechnic
C/- 1a Godwin Cres
Ph 345 6461


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