8 Feb 2019

National leaks 'far-reaching' changes in vocational training

3:23 pm on 8 February 2019

The National Party was looking to gazump the prime minister's first big speech of the year by making public what it says are the government's plans for the vocational training sector.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after her first major speech of the year to a business audience at a central city hotel in Auckland.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after her first major speech of the year to a business audience at a central city hotel in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

As Jacinda Ardern was outlining the problems facing polytechs and institutes of technology and flagging what she called "far-reaching" changes, National leader Simon Bridges was briefing reporters with details he said had been leaked to his party.

Ms Ardern's speech was all about reassuring businesses the government was aware of and preparing for future economic challenges, including skills shortages.

The government had already spent $100 million bailing out four polytechnics, a "pattern" that started under the previous government, she said.

"How is it, for example, that at a time when we're facing critical skill shortages, our polytechnics and institutes of technology are in many cases going broke?"

A new plan would be announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins next week.

However, at National's caucus retreat in Hamilton, Mr Bridges was telling reporters that plan would mean 1000 jobs will be lost.

"Abolishing them all, moving to four hubs, effectively a nationalisation, a Venezuela model."

National leader Simon Bridges with Australia's former foreign minister Julie Bishop at the party's caucus retreat in Hamilton.

National leader Simon Bridges with Australia's former foreign minister Julie Bishop at the party's caucus retreat in Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

All of which was put to Ms Ardern.

"He is utterly incorrect - our goal is grow the sector."

Chris Hipkins has signalled significant changes to the structure of the sector, but he said it was wrong to be talking about four regional hubs.

"The polytechs are already entrenching, they're already cutting courses, they're already laying off staff and they have been for some time."

He would not discuss any specifics before next week's announcement, but said speculation about further job losses was irresponsible.

With the imminent release of the Tax Working Group's report, Ms Ardern also reiterated any tax changes would not affect the family home, or the land beneath it.

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