Editorial: A show of support

Four weeks ago I wrote about the importance of retaining Aoraki Polytechnic as an autonomous institution for South Canterbury.

The reasons were the opportunities a local polytech provided our young people, that it kept them at home a bit longer, the nearly 200 jobs of polytech staff, the enhanced image the institute gives the district, and the money it generates.

On the money I wrote that, "as a business, it brings in millions of dollars".

This is a common journalistic phrase for "we don't really know how much money it brings in, but short of getting in an economist to find out, it must be millions".

But now we do know, thanks to an economist being brought in to find out.

Not by us mind you, but by Aoraki Development Business and Tourism and the Timaru District Council.

And the Business and Economic Research Ltd (Berl) economist Ganesh Nana has worked out that the polytech adds $47 million a year to the South Canterbury economy. Which is close to a million a week. Which would definitely be noticed if it wasn't being spent here.

What is as interesting, though, is that the ADBT and TDC commissioned the report, demonstrating their apprehension at the institute's future and willingness to do all they can to retain it in its present form.

And this is the time to be making noises.

Having suffered a $1.6 million loss last year and facing a projected $2.1 million this year, the polytech council has brought in an independent consultant to present some options. There's a fear around town that could mean possible amalgamation and loss of autonomy.

The polytech council hasn't signalled that, nor has the consultant Malcolm Inglis, and nor has the minister Stephen Joyce, who was in town last week.

But still. The financial figures and student numbers aren't good, the polytech is the smallest in the country, and it's human nature to think the worst. Even if there's $25 million in the bank.

Anything the community can do then to sway opinion is welcome, so good on the ADBT and TDC in coming up with some facts and figures.

Mr Inglis is to meet with community leaders tomorrow. This consultation is vital.

Mr Joyce will need to be persuaded the polytech has the backing of the community, and that there's a viable plan for the future.

The first is easy; the second will take a joint approach and a willingness to listen - from the starting point of a standalone polytechnic, based in Timaru.

The Timaru Herald