Te Pūkenga, red tape in sights

Otago Polytechnic. Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Disestablishing a mega polytechnic and cutting red tape for farmers are on the agenda for the two southern MPs made ministers outside Cabinet.

National MP for Invercargill Penny Simmonds and Otago-based New Zealand First list MP Mark Patterson were yesterday both named as ministers outside Cabinet.

At yesterday’s announcement of the new National-led coalition government, Ms Simmonds was appointed to the role of tertiary education minister.

Ms Simmonds was chief executive of the Southern Institute of Technology from 1997 to 2020.

As an MP since 2020, she has been highly critical of the mega-polytechnic merger that led to Te Pūkenga, and has called for devolution of some roles back to the regional polytechnics, or even scrapping the model entirely.

Penny Simmonds
Penny Simmonds
She confirmed to the ODT the government would "disestablish" Te Pūkenga.

"I will meet the sector over the next few weeks ... What will replace Te Pūkenga is for further conversations down the line."

Much of the tertiary education sector was facing financial struggles, Ms Simmonds said.

"Getting international students back is a really big part of addressing some of the financial concerns, but the issues each university faces are far from generic, so I will be looking forward to talking to the universities individually."

She also has the roles of environment minister and minister for disability issues.

"Environment is an interesting portfolio. There’s a lot of regulatory work, but there’s also matters that are important to all New Zealanders, such as recycling.

"Things like our recycling and waste minimisation ... those things exercise a range of people regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum."

A lot of great work was being done on water quality "from the ground up", Ms Simmonds said.

"I’m really encouraged by the work catchment groups across the country have done to address water quality issues.

"I’m a great believer the people who are closest to the issue can come up with the really useful and sensible solutions.

Mark Patterson
Mark Patterson
"I see the catchment groups being key to the conversation, and look forward to strengthening their role."

She was also looking forward to getting to grips with the disability issues portfolio.

"There are some exciting things in terms of support and employment in the disability sector. There is much work we can do."

Mr Patterson said he was humbled to receive the rural communities and associate minister of agriculture portfolios.

"There’s much to do, but I’ve got to get my feet under the table first."

Mr Patterson, a former Federated Farmers Otago branch president, said it was time for the farming sector to focus "on farming again, rather than the politics of farming".

"There’s a desperate need to get a bit of confidence back in the farming sector.

"There’s some heavy regulatory regimes brought in the past three or four years. Many of the rules were pretty impractical and didn’t pass the sniff test."

While everyone was continuing on a journey of sustainability, the rules needed to be clearer, Mr Patterson said.

"The Otago Regional Council’s land and water plan process is consulting on some pretty strict rules for farming. There needs to be some clarity around those rules."