Witt could better tap region's gold

19:45, Feb 07 2013

Readers with a trained eye and educated nose will know that, as much as any media organisation strives to get to the truth of any issue, sometimes the elusive gold can be found sloshing between the lines.

Witt council chairwoman Mary Bourke clearly believes that much of what has been dug up and presented to the public around chief executive Richard Handley's employment future has been fool's gold, the proffered truth illusory, misleading, just out of reach.

It is the truth that her council is within its rights not to renew Mr Handley's contract, and that its decision can be interpreted as reasonable and appropriate. But she spins her own strands of gold a little too thinly when she proffers that Mr Handley is quite welcome to reapply for the same job he has held down successfully for the past five years.

Anyone with any experience of management will suggest that such procedures indicate that one party is either unhappy with the other or looking to follow a different path. And it could be folly and potentially humiliating for the incumbent to reapply.

Despite Ms Bourke's protestations that her council's intentions remain misunderstood, there was enough gold between the lines of yesterday's interview with Hannah Fleming for the reader to be confident that there is a rich vein in the published claims and evidence of enmity and breakdown between management and governance at Witt.

Differences of opinion over the organisation's future also appear to amount to more than just a hill of beans. As Ms Bourke points out: "The key difference is in the way we want to go about implementing the strategy."


Could it be that Mr Handley and the council parted company on the nature of that strategy and how it would be funded?

Witt has long struggled to establish a credible and marketable ideology - should it be a centre of learning for high-paying foreign students, a more academic-leaning institution to keep the best and brightest in the region, or a trade-based polytech geared up to serve industry?

Somehow, despite the success of Richard Handley, and indeed Mary Bourke and her council, in finding a way out of the financial mire, Witt's mission, its place, its future still remain vague.

If Ms Bourke and her council have the strategy they believe will help Witt reach new heights, then it is right and appropriate they have the right person in place. Even if that person is not Mr Handley.

And we hope that industry may play a bigger role in future.

Taranaki is about to embark on an unprecedented period of growth in its oil and gas industry.

But despite the region's treasured role as the "pulse" of the nation, oil and gas players do not have a significant presence at Taranaki's major learning institution.

Improving that might help Witt and the region reap more from its own rich vein of black gold.

Of course, that is for Ms Bourke and her council members to decide.

Should they fail then maybe they too will be asked to reapply for their roles.

Taranaki Daily News