Green MP says local autonomy a merger must

Chloe Swarbrick
Chloe Swarbrick
Local autonomy must be maintained within the proposed merger of New Zealand's polytechnics, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says.

Parliament's youngest MP was visiting the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) in Invercargill yesterday welcoming new students to the city.

The Green Party spokeswoman for tertiary education told Otago Daily Times the party had made it clear it would not support any change which took away autonomy from institutions such as SIT or Otago Polytechnic.

There was scope to do things much better through a national merger but not everything needed to be centralised, she said.

While there were areas where efficiencies needed to be made, local decision-making about budgets, assets and spending should not be centralised.

''We need to sort out what is working well and what is working poorly and figure out a model which operates to those strengths and mitigates the weakness.''

She described the situation as an opportunity to add value to polytechnics but believed there was miscommunication about what was happening.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds said was it was lovely to have Ms Swarbrick at the campus and to discuss the proposal with her.

''I felt she had a really good understanding of the issues facing regional polytechnics.''

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker agreed and said the MP's comments were encouraging.

''When a institution is performing well, it has the autonomy to take their own decisions. If it is starts to not perform well, it can expect an intervention from the system agency. However, if is performing really badly, it is expected to lose their autonomy for a period while it passes through an improvement cycle.''

The Government has proposed a major shake-up of the polytechnic sector, which would include a centralised head office controlling regional campuses, to address the financial stresses faced by several North Island institutions.

Otago Polytechnic and the SIT in Invercargill, both profitable and successful, have strenuously opposed the draft plan being considered by Cabinet.

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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