Government strangling heartland polytechs

The National Government is damaging provincial New Zealand by slowly but surely strangling regional polytechs, says Grant Robertson, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson.

“Polytechs are vital to regional economies and communities.  They give school leavers and people looking to retrain the chance to get the skills needed to get ahead.  And they’re the key to ensuring there is the skilled workforce that’s needed to drive economic growth. 

In 2011 more than $50 million dollars has been stripped from funding for regional polytechs. In 2012 another $30 million was taken out when foundation courses were handed over to the private sector. This has seen courses cut, staff sacked and courses and fewer places for students.

“The Government’s cuts are crazy.  There’s a desperate need for education and training opportunities.  33,000 people gave up on being in the workforce in the last three months of last year alone.  And there are 90,000 young people not in education, training or employment. 

Grant Robertson is today kicking off a tour of campuses around the country as part of Labour’s “Save Our Polytechs” campaign, starting in Whangarei.  He will visit 9 regional polytechs, and at the same time meet with local businesses, Mayors and councils, unions and community groups to highlight the importance of backing skills and training in the regions and the risks from National’s cuts,.

“Whangarei’s experience is typical.  North Tec plays a vital role in the regional economy.  In 2011 it had a course completion rate of 79%.  But that same year it had its budget slashed by $4-million – a 13% drop in funding.  And as a result, it took in 140 fewer full-time students.

“Unemployment in Northland is currently 9.5% and last year alone 2,274 people left the region permanently for Australia.  The people of Northland are crying out for opportunities, and it makes no sense to reduce those opportunities by cutting courses.

“Polytech cuts are short sighted and counterproductive.  Our economy needs a highly skilled workforce.  We won’t get one by starving the institutions that play a key role in providing that.  My message to the regions is that Labour is committed to ensuring there are thriving Polytechs to support a sustainable economic future right across New Zealand,” says Grant Robertson.