A community-wide effort to save Telford from liquidation gained momentum this week.
The 55-year-old facility came to grief before Christmas when it became embroiled in the voluntary liquidation of Masterton operator the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, due to issues caused by $23 million of debt.
On Friday, liquidators Grant Thornton NZ suspended pay for the majority of Telford staff, leaving them still officially employed, but in an unpaid limbo.
But on Monday, Telford staff joined forces with local politicians, union representatives, Invercargill tertiary provider the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan and the wider community to fight for the beleaguered agricultural institution’s survival.
Mr Cadogan, who, since the news broke on December 20, has been involved in negotiations to rescue the campus near Balclutha, said the issues affecting Telford were “no fault of its own”.
He praised the efforts of Lawrence-based NZ First list MP Mark Patterson in bringing Telford’s plight to the attention of ministers, and brokering negotiations with potential alternative tertiary operators.
Those negotiations had led to SIT agreeing to prepare a proposal to Government to take over the operation of Telford, announced on Monday.
At the time of writing, no further details were available regarding the possible conditions or timescales of the SIT proposal.
Mr Cadogan said he appreciated the “commitment and loyalty” of Telford staff, and had been moved, with Mr Patterson, to take steps to assist during a “difficult time”.
“There is a local determination for Telford to continue its long history of servicing agricultural students and the industry. We can do our bit to ensure that now happens by contributing to a Givealittle page Mark and I have set up, with the aim of providing some financial relief to staff while matters are resolved. We’d encourage people to give .. as every dollar can help.”