Te Pukenga will get Otago’s help: CEO

Otago Polytechnic. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Otago Polytechnic. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Otago Polytechnic has vowed to maximise its revenue, find ways to reduce its spending and focus on filling its education programmes for the year ahead as a way of helping the beleaguered Te Pukenga council out of a financial crisis.

Te Pukenga is responsible for completing the transition to a unified national technical institute and industry training organisation entity by the end of this year.

Yesterday, the Otago Daily Times received an email which was sent by Te Pukenga acting chief executive Peter Winder last week to the chairmen and chief executives of various tertiary education institutions and organisations, apologising for Te Pukenga’s lack of progress, intense scrutiny over its performance and its major financial crisis.

"The council of Te Pukenga acknowledges that we face difficult circumstances and that there has been considerable adverse publicity that has caused concern," he said in the email.

"The council acknowledges that Te Pukenga has not listened in the way that we should have and that we have not used the tremendous expertise across the network to best advantage over the last two years.

"The council recognises that we are currently not where we need to be in the transition process.

"The council apologises for not making the progress that was needed and for the worry and concerns that has caused," Mr Winder said.

A Tertiary Education Commission report has warned a drop in enrolments meant Te Pukenga’s latest annual deficit could surge to $110million, $53.5million more than budgeted.

Despite the issues, Mr Winder ruled out asking the Government for an extension to the end-of-year deadline for completing the transition.

He has outlined a plan of action to identify significant savings which would address the organisation’s difficult financial position.

National Party tertiary education spokeswoman and former Southern Institute of Technology chief executive Penny Simmonds and several other sector sources have said they fear significant redundancies as part of the savings process.

"They are certainly looking at ways to cut costs, and given that staffing is 70% of the cost of most polytechnics, I’m sure that will be one of the places that they will be looking."

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Dr Megan Gibbons said Otago Polytechnic was focused on its strategic direction, as well as ensuring it continued to contribute to the formation and success of Te Pukenga.

"We have been a subsidiary of Te Pukenga since April 2020.

"As a subsidiary, we are involved in a highly collaborative process, working together to make improvements for the betterment of all learners.

“There is a huge amount of experience and expertise among Otago Polytechnic’s staff, all of whom are contributing to the transition to a networked system," she said.

"We will continue to maximise our revenue, find ways to reduce our spending and focus on filling our programmes for semester two and 2023."

--  john.lewis@odt.co.nz