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Taratahi needed $30m

Taratahi Institute of Agriculture. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

ELISA VORSTER
[email protected]

The extent of Taratahi Institute of Agriculture’s financial woes came to light on Friday. It needed more than $30 million to stay afloat, according to Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty.

Taratahi announced its interim liquidation on Thursday after an on-campus meeting to inform staff.

The announcement came from Grant Thornton, the firm appointed as the institute’s liquidators which cited declining student numbers and costs of education exceeding the funding it receives.

The liquidator would offer no further information when contacted on Friday.

After the announcement, it was widely reported that Taratahi had reduced a $7.5m debt to the Tertiary Education Commission by $3.5m – an amount which Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said the Government should take from the Provincial Growth Fund to keep the institute afloat.

“It’s a bit ironic – the Government talks about supporting regions and gives millions here and there to regions but won’t throw $4m to Taratahi to get out of debt,” he said.

But Wairarapa-based McAnulty said independent advice given to the Government showed Taratahi needed more than $30 million to keep it afloat amid declining student numbers.

In 2018, Taratahi’s debt to TEC increased to $10m after it delivered 50 per cent fewer enrolments than it was funded for, with a forecast for further operating losses over the next two years based on enrolment levels.

TEC confirmed the overfunding was due to a difference between the number of students enrolled compared with the number it agreed to fund based on Taratahi’s estimated enrolments.

“As a result of its under-delivery in 2018, Taratahi is required to pay back a significant amount of funding to the TEC,” a TEC spokesperson said.

“This is in addition to the debt that arose out of the 2014-15 investigation.”

Scott said regardless of the actual figure, the Government should be stepping in and writing off some of the debt.

“My position hasn’t changed. The Government should still have gone and managed it better.”

But McAnulty said saving Taratahi in its current state was not a viable option.

“A lot of people have worked hard to try and save Taratahi and I want to acknowledge them, but it is beyond saving under the current structure.”

He said it was a “really sad time for the region” and it was important to now find a way forward.

“The Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Education are committed to ensuring a sustainable model is introduced for agricultural training.

“We can’t let this happen again and I, as a local MP, am committed to ensuring that training continues here in Wairarapa.”

There are around 500 students who have yet to complete their qualifications and are due to finish in 2019, as well as 250 students who had signed up to start their studies in 2019.

Students can find information on where to get assistance online at tec.govt.nz

4 COMMENTS

  1. The Taratahi farming course was great for me and I really enjoyed it. I did the Taratahi farming course in 2017, 2018 and I was hoping to do it this year as well. I hope Taratahi comes back and starts teaching again.

  2. Bums on Seats has encouraged training organizations to focus on quantity not quality which has been to the determinant of students, industry and now employees

  3. Taratahi needs to go,a complete clean out of the modern day leeching management and staff that work there. They are a blight on the pre-2000 staff .Dthat worked

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