Government invests around $5 million in Telford

  • Hon Chris Hipkins
  • Hon Damien O’Connor
Agriculture Education

The Government is investing $4.7 million in Otago and Southland to ensure a bright future for trainees in the important agricultural sector.

The investment will enable the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) to operate the Telford farm campus in 2020 and 2021.

“This Government values the agricultural sector extremely highly,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“Primary industries are the backbone of the economy and our investment will ensure more trainees will enter the sector and help it grow.

“This is an investment not just in the local economies, but in the future of the country. It is the first step in a complete revamp of agricultural education.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the number of people in agricultural training fell dramatically over the last decade.

“Obviously, something has not been right for quite some time and the previous National Government had its head in the sand. This Government is fixing almost a decade of neglect to ensure we have a sustainable primary sector education model for the future.

“In the dairy industry alone it’s estimated that by 2025 they’ll need an additional 25,000 trained workers. Roles that have traditionally not required formal qualifications, for example, farm workers, increasingly need greater qualifications.

“We have our work cut out for us and we’re working with primary sector leaders to strengthen the skills pipeline so our students have clear pathways and can meet the needs of their industries into the future,” Damien O’Connor said.

Chris Hipkins said the decision would give certainty to students, staff and the community, as the funding is expected to set a platform for SIT to operate Telford beyond 2021.

Under their proposal submitted to the Government, SIT plans to teach more than 220 students in 2020 and 250 in 2021 at the Telford campus and further afield. The Government will invest several million additional dollars to support these studies and training. 

“As well as core farming skills in agriculture, apiculture and wool technology, this will create opportunities within the forestry, engineering and construction industries which are vital to our ongoing economic success and productivity,” Chris Hipkins said.

Chris Hipkins said students will have the opportunity to learn on campus or through distance learning, and SIT will market courses to international students.

“SIT has a good track record of growing its business through these approaches and Telford is well-placed to continue to deliver skills for an industry that has been under-served in the last few years.

“SIT sees opportunities to grow the programmes and engage with industry, and I strongly encourage that,” Chris Hipkins said.

In February, the Government invested $1.8 million in SIT to operate Telford through 2019.

In agreeing to invest further, SIT will follow key deliverables and reporting requirements to ensure accountability for funding.

The bulk of the investment will be in earthquake strengthening of buildings and addressing maintenance issues.