BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

The country’s oldest rural education provider has firmly stamped its footprint on a national scale.

Wairarapa’s Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre is expanding its education facilities across the country while maintaining its 100-year-old legacy – which is important to the chief executive Arthur Graves.

The education centre was taking the opportunity to become a “fully-fledged national organisation”, he said.

With that in mind, the centre’s latest addition was the takeover of the Lincoln University Telford Division, near Balclutha, in July.

“We are developing an educational network across the country, and Telford has been a symbolic addition that will symbolise that to a lot of people,” Mr Graves said.

“What we are offering students includes all whistles and bells of a modern education.”

Last month, Taratahi announced a programme in partnership with Manukau Institute of Technology to give South Auckland students the chance to study a range of careers in the primary sector.

Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre Chief Executive, Arthur Graves. PHOTO/FILE

Mr Graves said the mission for the training centre was to become a major player in agricultural education, and to prepare itself for the future.

Taratahi was known for a good level of training those from Wairarapa and afar, but it needed to ensure it had the educational framework, he said.

“It’s a journey, we are in the middle of that.”

Taratahi was built on the generosity of Sir William Perry who gave his Wairarapa farm to the Crown to be used as a training farm for men returning from World War 1.

The original centre began with 60 men who trained in practical farm work.

From 1944 to 1950, 80 men passed through the farm under the Rehabilitation Department’s Scheme, prior to settling onto their own farms.

Since 1951, it was known as Wairarapa Cadet Training Farm and changed its name in the early 1980s to Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

Taratahi is governed under the terms of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre (Wairarapa) Act 1969.

Taratahi was unique with a foot in both the agriculture and educational fields and with both experiencing major shifts, he said.

The biggest influence of change was from the disruption of technology, Mr Graves said.

“What we are recognising that there is a lot of change happening in the educational world. There’s disruption in the way agriculture performs whether it be due to environmental changes, water quality or animal welfare and technology.”

To keep up with the ever-changing world, Mr Graves said the centre was having to review the way they did things in terms of teaching, and pinpointing the knowledge and skills needed in the modern world.

“We are recognising that there are people who just want short courses, such as a person on a lifestyle block wanting some knowledge on safe management of chainsaws, or have some sheep and want to learn how to shear them.”

Taratahi has emerged from a dark couple of years after the TEC’s investigation in 2014 revealed that it had to repay $8 million in course funding.

Mr Graves said that the centre had repaid more than half in the past 18 months.

The centre has recognised that it was offering farming education to a completely different group of people compared to over a decade ago.

“Our student base is around about 40 per cent from urban areas, just over 40 per cent are female and just over 40 per cent a Maori,” he said.

Mr Graves said the biggest achievement was that Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre was now “very visible on a national network”.

The training centre will celebrate its centenary in 2019.