By: Simon Collins

An industry training body is threatening to go to the High Court and the Waitangi Tribunal to delay a radical shakeup of the country’s training system.

Skills Active, which runs training for recreation and performing arts, has told Education Minister Chris Hipkins it will seek a judicial review of his actions in the High Court unless he extends the consultation deadline for the shakeup until June 30.

One of its directors, Des Ratima, is also preparing two claims to the Waitangi Tribunal alleging that the shakeup and the short period allowed for consultation breach the Treaty of Waitangi.

Skills Active has a bicultural structure, with half of its shares held by industry groups such as the YMCA and Education Outdoors NZ and the other half held by Māori bodies such as the NZ Māori Rugby Board and the Hauraki Māori Trust Board.

The industry shakeup, unveiled by Hipkins on February 13, would abolish Skills Active and 10 other industry training organisations (ITOs).

Instead, new industry skills bodies would be created to set the standards for vocational qualifications, and actual management of industry training would be transferred to a proposed NZ Institute of Skills and Technology which would also take over all existing polytechnics.

A rationalisation of polytechnics was widely expected because many of the 16 existing institutes are losing money, but the proposal for the new national institute to take over industry training was not flagged in a consultation process last year and came out of the blue.

Hipkins initially allowed only a six-week consultation period, until March 27, but extended that on Wednesday by one week, to April 5, because of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Skills Active chief executive Dr Grant Davidson wrote to Hipkins yesterday saying that, unless the consultation deadline was extended to June 30, Skills Active “will reluctantly have no option but to consider filing judicial review proceedings”.

The letter included a draft 18-page application for a judicial review, prepared by lawyers Kensington Swan, claiming that the short consultation period was a breach of Skills Active’s “legitimate expectation” to be consulted properly, a breach of “natural justice”, and failed to “have regard to relevant considerations”.

Ratima, who chairs the Takitimu District Māori Council in Hawke’s Bay, said he was also instructing a lawyer to file Waitangi Tribunal claims by both the Takitimu council and the Māori shareholding bodies in Skills Active.

Māori are over-represented in industry training, making up 21 per cent of all vocational education learners according to the Kensington Swan document.

Ratima said the six-week consultation period was “an insult” to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi framework.

He said the Māori shareholders in Skills Active would also claim that the proposed shakeup would breach the treaty by taking intellectual property developed by the Māori entities.

“All the intellectual knowledge we have used to develop the skills and qualifications that the Government will take as it folds all the ITOs up – we are putting them on notice that you can’t take the intellectual property,” he said.

Hipkins’s office confirmed that it had received a letter from Skills Active but said: “We have nothing further to add at this point.”

Source: NZ Herald


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