Tough first year, but Taratahi pledges to make Telford pay

Arthur Graves.
Arthur Graves.
Taratahi Institute of Agriculture has recommitted itself to its Telford campus in South Otago, despite continued financial deficits.

The 54-year-old residential agricultural training facility has had a fraught recent history after previous owner Lincoln University began to talk about pulling out in November 2016, citing ''unhappiness'' with third-party course delivery arrangements.

Taratahi's acquisition of Telford in August last year was met with a wave of optimism from sector stakeholders, but its first year of operation was ''tough'', Taratahi chief executive Arthur Graves told the Otago Daily Times.

Despite continuing to run at a deficit, overall performance was ''about ... [as] expected'', Mr Graves said.

''Although [Telford is] behind on the financial forecasts, [this isn't] unexpected in the current market for agricultural education. While we would like the financial recovery to be quicker than it is, we recognise the market is very slow at present. We're about where we expected to be at this stage.''

Mr Graves said Telford was in year one of a planned two-to-three year return to sustainability, and any apparent lack of progress needed to be viewed within the context of Taratahi as a whole.

''We see Telford as one of the two pou [pillars] for Taratahi nationally. The two residential campuses of Taratahi [Telford and Masterton] are already highly regarded for the quality of [graduates] but we'll be working over the next two years to reshape our courses into an enhanced vocational fit for today's agribusiness environment. That's a change that's taking place throughout Taratahi and the sector as a whole.''

Although that signalled change for the organisation, it would be managed ''working closely'' with staff and communities - including South Otago - in which Taratahi operated, Mr Graves said.

''We want to make Telford a fully contributing component of our national organisation by 2020. The foundation is there already, and we're not afraid to invest to achieve our strategic aims both for Telford and for Taratahi.''

Telford was a ''recognised treasure'' in the educational sector, he said.

''New Zealand is experiencing significant change in the tertiary education sector and recruitment into agriculture remains a key issue.

''Our level of commitment to Telford is as high as it was when we acquired it last year.''

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

 

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