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Government to dissolve tertiary institute Council

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has made a preliminary decision to appoint a Commissioner to troubled tertiary institutions Whitireia and WelTec in a move to address the financial woes of the two polytechnics.

Te Auaha, the Institute of Creativity opened this year by Whitireia and WelTec.

Minister Hipkins said today that following consultation and consideration of submissions, he has notified the combined Council of Whitireia and WelTec of his plans to dissolve it and appoint a Commissioner.

The Council includes members closely connected with Wellington’s public transport problems.

The Government appointed a financial advisor to Whitireia last month, after annual report figures showed Whitireia lost $8.4 million last year after full-time student enrolments fell by 540, with 200 fewer international students.

The combined Council includes a former chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council, its current CEO, and the programme director of its Public Transport Transformation Programme.

“Whitireia is in extreme financial difficulty,” said Hipkins.

“If the Government hadn’t provided financial support of $15 million, it would have to close its doors this month.

“While WelTec’s financial position is stronger than Whitireia’s, it is also operating in deficit, experiencing lower than expected enrolments and needs to borrow to meet its financial commitments to keep running this year.

“The Government is committed to ensuring that top quality vocational training continues to be available at Whitireia and WelTec and that students have confidence they can complete their courses and enrol for future courses.

“The Council has up to 21 days to respond before the decision is finalised,” he said.

Whitireia and WelTec have been governed by a combined Council since 2012. The Council’s chief executive Chris Gosling said management would not be commenting on the announcement.

Three members of the council are closely connected with Wellington’s ongoing public transport problems,

The chair of the eight-member Council is Greg Campbell, Chief Executive of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. He recently pledged to devote his attention to resolving the region’s public transport problems. He would not comment on today’s announcement.

Dr Deborah Hume also works for the GWRC, as programme director for the Public Transport Transformation Programme since May 2015, She is also programme director for Wellington Regional Resilience Coordination.

Dame Fran Wilde is also on the combined Council. She has been widely criticised for the decisions made during her time as GWRC chair to close down Wellington’s trolley bus network and push through the new public transport system.