Calls for Govt to lift its funding

4025 students and 1200 graduates in 2011

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013
tdn witt stand
ANDY JACKSON
WITT CEO Richard Handley

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A glowing report assessing the regional economic impact of the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki highlights a need for increased government funding for the polytech, business leaders say.

Late last year Venture Taranaki delivered a report outlining the polytech's economic footprint on the region's economy.

Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said the results exceeded expectations.

The report estimated the total impact of spending generated by Witt in 2011 was $130.06 million.

That figure included direct expenditure by Witt and its students plus flow-ons into supply sectors such as energy and retail.

"Witt isn't just important as the centre of vocational learning for this province, it's actually really important as a business in its own right, having a big impact on Taranaki's economy," Mr Trundle said.

Witt's 2011 contribution to Taranaki's gross domestic product was $55.84m.

A GDP figure was a preferred Government statistic as it disregarded any additional money spent by students and staff that flowed into the Taranaki economy.

This was the first time such a detailed economic report had been done for Witt, Mr Trundle said.

In September last year Witt missed out on more than $900,000 towards its foundation level courses from the Tertiary Education Commission.

Ten staff and 70 student places were expected to be axed to accommodate the loss in funding.

With Taranaki earmarked by the Government as a significant contributor to the future of New Zealand's economy it was imperative that Witt received the funding it needed, Mr Trundle said.

"It's really important that Taranaki retains having an excellent provider of education on our doorstep."

Witt has been part of the Taranaki economy since 1972.

In 2011 it had 4025 students and 1200 graduates.

Witt chief executive Richard Handley said it was estimated Witt had produced 26,500 graduates over 40 years.

"Witt is a business as well as a mechanism for upskilling Taranaki - the latter is the real impact of Witt although the economic benefits are impressive," he said.

Nearly 70 per cent of students who studied at Witt in 2011 were from Taranaki.

"They can stay at home and get a high quality tertiary education without the cost of living elsewhere."

Mr Handley said the report, which came at no cost to Witt, provided pleasantly surprising results.

"We were both surprised and inspired with the work of Venture Taranaki.

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"It's a bloody good report."

The results came as no surprise to Taranaki Chamber of Commerce chairman Grant McQuoid.

"Witt's a key contributor to the Taranaki economy," he said.

"Attracting and retaining students here is actually very valuable to the business community."

Witt provided a pathway into employment. Many graduates went on to work for Taranaki businesses, he said.

"We should recognise and celebrate the contribution of Witt and the turnaround the leadership team under Richard Handley have achieved."

The report sent a simple message to the Government regarding tertiary funding, Mr McQuoid said. "They need to put their funding into the region and actively back winners. Taranaki as a region is economically and strategically significant."

Witt was invaluable in providing graduates for Taranaki's oil and gas industry, he said.

"Therefore the Government needs to back the training organisations that support that industry."

Mr Handley said Witt was looking forward to an even more positive 2013.

- Taranaki Daily News

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