Minister appoints Crown Manager to Tai Poutini Polytechnic

  • Steven Joyce
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce has today appointed a Crown Manager to Tai Poutini Polytechnic on the South Island’s West Coast. 

“Council Chair Graeme McNally wrote to me on the 8th of November outlining concerns about the organisation’s financial position and weaknesses in the polytechnic’s educational delivery and processes,” says Mr Joyce. “In the letter Mr McNally and the council requested the appointment of a Crown Manager.”

Tai Poutini Polytechnic is forecasting a significant financial deficit as a result of declining student numbers. The Polytechnic currently only enrols 311 equivalent full-time students on its West-Coast based campuses, with 71 per cent of its students being trained outside the region.  Without changes Tai Poutini Polytechnic will not have sufficient funds to meet its financial obligations. This has been confirmed by an independent review undertaken by PwC.

An independent investigation into the actual level of education delivery at Tai Poutini against TEC funding agreements was commissioned by the TEC following discrepancies discovered through a routine audit in 2015. This investigation is still being completed and may have a further impact on Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s finances. Once completed, the investigation report and outcomes will be publicly released.

NZQA have confirmed the qualifications awarded by Tai Poutini Polytechnic across the programmes being investigated have been assessed and are valid. Students who have been awarded these qualifications should not have any concerns about their validity. These include scaffolding, extractive industries and emergency services/search and rescue qualifications.

Murray Strong has been appointed the Crown Manager of Tai Poutini Polytechnic. This is in accordance with section 222C of the Education Act 1989. Mr Strong will take up the appointment from 15 December 2016. In December 2006 he was appointed as a Crown Commissioner at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki.  

“Both the TEC and NZQA have been working closely with Tai Poutini Polytechnic to manage the situation, which if not addressed would represent a serious risk to the operation and long term viability of the polytechnic,” says Mr Joyce. “Mr Strong will work with the Polytechnic’s Council and Leadership team to chart a path forward to a financially and educationally strong institution.”

“The Government is committed to ensuring access to high quality tertiary level vocational education and training on the West Coast that fully meets the needs of students and employers in the region. While it is regrettable that I need to appoint a Crown Manager, I am confident that it is an important step to returning the Tai Poutini operation to full viability.” 

Mr Joyce has also announced a new appointment to the Tai Poutini Polytechnic council. Andrew Robb will become a member of the Tai Poutini Polytechnic council and will take over as chair when Graeme McNally’s term concludes in April next year.

“I am pleased to welcome Mr Andrew Robb to his new role at Tai Poutini Polytechnic. He is a high-calibre appointee who brings valuable knowledge and experience to the council as well as strong connections to the West Coast community,” Mr Joyce says.

“I also wish to recognise and thank the outgoing council member John Mote for his service and contribution to tertiary education in the West Coast.”

Profile: Murray Strong (Crown Manager)

Murray Strong is an independent chairman and a professional director.  Based in Christchurch, Mr Strong has a family connection to the West Coast with his father and grandparents having been born and lived in Greymouth.

He has governance experience in the education, professional services, local government and Crown entity sectors, private sector organisations and large public sector infrastructure and construction projects.  

His experience includes:

  • Independent Chairman of three public infrastructure projects post-earthquake in Christchurch.
  • Senior roles with Air New Zealand
  • Independent Chairman of the Lincoln Hub build project
  • Director on the Board of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority
  • Independent Director National Infrastructure Board, Ministry of Education
  • Two Crown Commissioner roles, including one in the tertiary sector at WITT, replacing the full Board and assuming the all legal, compliance, legislative and actual powers of the former Boards
  • Assessor in the Local Government Excellence Programme
  • A range of private consulting roles in the finance and tourism sectors.
  • Two CEO roles of national sporting organisations
  • Working with Ministry of Social Development service provider Boards to improve their practice and oversight of public funds
  • Working with Boards to improve their performance in the areas of strategic development, governance effectiveness, board dynamics and utilising board performance evaluation techniques to benchmark and improve current practice
  • Regular speaking engagements on governance, strategy, and digital and technological change for the Institute of Directors and is speaker coach and MC for TEDx, Queenstown.
  • Independent Chairman of the Canterbury International Education Leadership Accord working with central and local government and education providers.

Mr Strong is a member of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand. He holds both undergraduate and post-graduate Masters qualifications.

Profile: Andrew Robb (Council appointee)

Mr Robb is Chair of the West Coast Regional Council. His leadership focuses is on improving the economic well-being of the region, safeguarding the environment, and collaboration with the three district councils. Mr Robb is a dairy farmer at Coal Creek and is heavily involved in the community. He has coached rugby at various levels and is past president of the Greymouth swimming club. His governance experience includes six years chairing a board of trustees and he chairs the Governance Group of the recent Tai Poutini West Coast Growth Study.