Meri Kirihimeti!  As the holiday season approaches we can all reflect on a very challenging year for us as members of the TEU.

We are continuing to fight underfunding and job cuts on a large scale, particularly in the polytechnic sector. These are the most persistent and corrosive job losses in the whole New Zealand economy.

We are striving, at a number of levels, to keep sufficient funding and capacity in our polytechnics to enable them to participate properly in the new unified system – a system that is now only a few months away from taking its first steps into the world.

That future Vocational Education system is something that we in the TEU have done the most, of all those involved in tertiary education, to bring about. It is something we have achieved through years of campaigning for our vision of a high quality, equitable, fully accessible public system, based on collaboration and integration in all its parts. But it must have the funding it needs over the next year if this vision is to be realised – and we have to keep pushing for that as a priority.

In terms of the new national institution itself, in its design and direction, at this stage we are cautiously optimistic. There is more to the new system than NZIST. But NZIST will, in time, become the most central and influential part of the system.

While it is early days yet, elements like the Charter that is being legislated for the new organisation and the work and intent of those on the establishment board and in the broader co-design process give us cause for optimism. Again, the ongoing campaigning and advocacy of all our members to keep tauira/learners at the centre of the new system and to keep the staff voice being heard is the biggest factor in this process.

With so many others involved, we have to work very hard to remain influential. But it must also be noted that the leadership of our former president Dr Sandra Grey in her role as an establishment board member is a great help. Overall, as 2020 unfolds I believe it will bring fresh perspectives for us and some real hope for the future – so long as we maintain our efforts in shaping that future.

We have also been taking action in both the wānanga and universities to ensure a strong future.

For the whole system the most significant shift is the bringing to bear of our vision for accessible and inclusive education in the new Tertiary Education Strategy.

At the branch levels, we have also made significant headway in some places on issues like casualisation and low pay, with more institutions using the Living Wage rate as the floor under which no directly employed staff should fall.

There is also no doubt that we are continuing to have to defend academic freedom across the tertiary education sector. And we will be doing more in the new year around this crucial issue.

2019 has also seen some amazing work by members to ensure everyone is paid well and paid fairly. The Wintec team took very successful strike action and won, and we are seeing other branches in collective negotiations stepping up now.  

Standing with you all this year has been a privilege. I’m looking forward to some down-time over the festive season and to all that 2020 brings us collectively.