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Formula for Knowledge Society

News Release
November 17, 2003

Community Regeneration Suggested As Pathway To A Knowledge Society

A recent tour of schools and colleges in Cornwall, England, to investigate links between education and community regeneration is expected to have valuable spin-off for educational institutions in New Zealand.

Dr Reynold Macpherson, CEO of Rotorua's Waiariki Institute of Technology and one of seven educators from Waiariki's region involved in the tour, says the tour convinced him that it's safe to assume New Zealand will develop a knowledge economy and society through collaborative regional planning and support for community regeneration projects.

"New Zealand will increasingly encounter what research has consistently shown - that the greatest jobs growth will be in knowledge-based sectors of the economy," he says. "Equally, skills shortage vacancies will be at the associate professional or higher technician level as we transform our economy and society."

Macpherson says the term 'community regeneration' is commonly used in the UK to describe the process of revitalising low-income communities, such as Cornwall.

"Regeneration typically involves systematic consultation to refine regional purposes and then to set priorities for social and economic development. It also promotes an holistic approach to establish priorities and programmes for social and economic development. Local government planning in New Zealand is tending to stop at district boundaries.

"Cornwall's economy has long been primarily extractive with centuries of mining having a detrimental impact on the landscape. Today, there are many signs of a knowledge economy and society emerging, particularly through cultural and environmental tourism."

Case studies of colleges and universities in Cornwall show the population is participating more than ever in further education and higher education, and developing foundation degrees at associate professional and advanced technical level. Regional government plays a key role with various authorities mentoring business-education partnerships and brokering private funding initiatives.

"While Waiariki does not have access to European funds for regeneration projects, it can form partnerships with government and other sectors to mobilise funding.

"The recent Partnerships for Excellence scheme announced by the Tertiary Education Commission is a positive development, providing it allows partnerships with charitable and community trusts and banks in regions that have modest or struggling private sector economies.

"Our recent internal school reorganisations, project improvements and labour market research have all made substantial improvements to the relevance and quality of offerings, but they can't trigger regional development alone without capital investment. We are cash-strapped and asset-poor by comparison with metropolitan tertiary institutions."

Macpherson says Waiariki will assist with regional leadership in sustainable regeneration using a variety of means. One is partnerships with like-minded secondary schools in the region to innovate joint, transition and bridging curricula that will advance the region's transition to a knowledge economy.

Another is innovative partnerships with DHBs, iwi health governance groups, trusts and charities to integrate primary health, wellness and nursing education to help providers boost health status, a major determinant of participation in the Waiariki economy.

Similarly, secondary schools in the Waiariki region and in Cornwall are being encouraged to build bilateral partnerships to boost professional and curriculum development. Cornwall's Penair High School and Rotorua Boys High School have already organised staff exchanges, and it has been recommended that Waiariki's academic director and Heads of Schools host and then visit their equivalents in Cornish institutions next year.

In a formal presentation to Bay of Plenty mayors, Macpherson invited them to consider Cornwall's regeneration strategies with a view to integrating health, welfare and tertiary education strategies, boosting business-education partnerships, brokering funding initiatives and mobilising support for joint regeneration projects.

Macpherson describes the mayors' initial response as encouraging. "They may yet take up the offer to visit and learn from Cornwall how to collaborate in regional planning and how to integrate tertiary education in community regeneration projects as a means of boosting social and economic development."


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