Telford gains 12 month reprieve

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullalliedpress.com

There is cautious optimism to a year-long lifeline for Balclutha farm institute Telford.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced late on Monday he had agreed to a proposal from the Invercargill-based Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) to take over the Telford campus of the Taratahi Agricultural Centre for the next 12 months.

The deal falls short of an initial proposal from SIT to take Telford on permanently, put forward last month after the campus became enmeshed in the voluntary liquidation of Wairarapa-based Taratahi in December.

Mr Hipkins said during the next 12 months the Government would invest $1.8million in SIT to deliver primary industries training programmes both on campus at Telford, and through distance learning.

The funding would cover training for about 200 primary industry students.

Mr Hipkins gave no indication on Telford’s longer-term future, and said staffing would be reduced to 20 full-time equivalent, from a current roster of 33 full and part-time employees.

Staff and those involved with negotiations during recent weeks reacted to the news with mixed emotions.

Senior shearing tutor Ken Payne described the announcement as “bittersweet”.

“It’s fantastic to have SIT on board, but then you read on and see staff cuts and limitations on the deal and that feeling is tempered.

“The devil will be in the detail, but I guess we have to put our best foot forward now and demonstrate this is where tertiary agricultural training needs to be happening.”

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan was similarly cautious.

“I’m thankful and relieved we’ve finally got an outcome and that Telford lives to fight another day. But my thoughts are with staff in particular as the details continue to emerge over coming days. It’s imperative their situation is resolved as quickly as possible. The sooner we get the doors open, the better.”