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Telford Rural Polytechnic chief executive Jonathan Walmisley has resigned.
"As a team we grew Telford and made it very successful, but now it's time for new challenges," Mr Walmisley said.
His eight-year term as chief executive will end in June, Mr Walmisley is seeking "challenges" in a part-time capacity, moving to Wanaka to join his family.
"I turn 60 at the end of this year, and I want to adjust my family-work balance," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to a new chapter of my life."
A former high-ranking officer in the British military, he came to New Zealand 13 years ago and took up the top job at Telford in September 2002.
Before Telford, he was campus manager at Southland Institute of Technology's Christchurch campus.
Telford council chairman David Yardley, who had worked with Mr Walmisley since 2003, was "sad to see him go".
"But it's part of change, and his contribution has been significant," Mr Yardley said.
Telford had grown from 280 equivalent full time students in 2003 to 1200 in 2010. About 120 of those students study at the Telford campus.
"It's an indication of the huge measure of the success Jonathan has had during his time at Telford," he said.
From this year Telford became a division of Lincoln University. Mr Walmisley described the merger as another stage in the institute's development, moving from a training provider, to a polytechnic and now a division of a university.
"I think Telford needs to find its new direction with a new director," he said.
The merger agreement guaranteed the retention of the Telford campus, and set a floor of about 750 equivalent full-time students.