By: Peter de Graaf
A group of “fired-up” Hokianga residents are lobbying the new government over NorthTec’s plans to close its Rawene campus while working on creative ways of retaining tertiary education in their town.
Late last month NorthTec told staff it planned to cut courses in visual arts, sport and recreation, tourism, business administration, computing and foundation studies, and shut down its campuses in Kerikeri and Rawene.
The restructuring, which it said had been forced by a looming $4.5 million deficit, would lead to a net loss of 36 positions if it goes ahead. The Tertiary Education Union believes job losses will possibly be more than 50.
NorthTec said the Rawene and Kerikeri campuses would not be sold but “rested” for possible re-opening if they became viable again.
While Kerikeri has 67 students to Rawene’s 29 – closure of the Rawene campus is likely to have a greater impact, given Rawene’s smaller size and fewer opportunities. Both have seven staff.
Former tutor Janine McVeagh said about 50 people came to a public meeting at Rawene Town Hall last Thursday. They included concerned business owners, tutors, parents and students whose courses could be interrupted.
“This place is pretty fired up. Just two months ago we were told they [NorthTec] had no intention of closing the campus.” The meeting worked on a submission, which is now being circulated and brainstormed ideas for keeping the campus open via an institution or as a community-run facility.
Ideas included reinstating popular courses such as flaxroots film-making, visual arts and sustainable rural development, creating a sustainable campus based around existing subtropical gardens or setting up a cultural hub.
Ms McVeagh said she was also writing to MPs with links to education and the Hokianga, including Tai Tokerau MP and Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin and Green MP Marama Davidson.
A separate petition, initiated by campus staff and calling on NorthTec management to visit Rawene to hear community concerns, had gathered hundreds of signatures.
Submissions on NorthTec’s plans close on November 27.
Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai met with NorthTec leaders yesterday. Ms Mai said she would advocate for the courses, but was hoping to gain an understanding of how NorthTec came to be in its current position and what the council could do to influence it.
Source: NZ Herald