'Leave us alone' says Invercargill's SIT in face of polytechnic merger proposal

A proposal by the Government to merge all 16 New Zealand polytechnics has been slammed by those involved in one of the country’s leading institutions.

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Invercargill Mayor, Sir Tim Shadbolt, says the government needs to back off. Source: 1 NEWS

Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt saying he was shattered when he heard news of the proposal.

“We were angry, we built this up over ten years now and it really has worked for us, why take it away?” he says.

Shadbolt, along with others involved with Southern Institute of Technology, will meet with education minister Chris Hipkins this week, to discuss possible changes.

"Some of the concerns that've been raised in fact don't reflect the reality.  There's no intention to close SIT, there's no intention to take away it's distinctiveness or responsiveness to the Southland community," Hipkins says.

SIT’s zero fees scheme has transformed the southern polytechnic, with enrollments growing from 1000 to 5000 students since it was introduced.

Shadbolt is making it clear he’ll be asking the government to leave SIT alone.

“You look at New South Wales where they tried to centralise the education system over there, a very similar proposal, in fact based on what they're proposing to do to us here, and it's failed, it completely failed,” Shadbolt says.

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker was also shocked by the announcement, but sees some merit in the Government’s plans.

“We need reforms, we need a system that works better… but we can have our cake and eat it, we can have both worlds,” Mr Ker says.

Consultations on the proposals, close on March 27.