We understand the Minister is considering what will happen next after one of the country’s largest providers of agricultural training, Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, was placed into liquidation. Any decision he makes must take into account the lives of the hard-working, experienced, and dedicated staff who have been affected. We've been profiling some these people in recent weeks and today we share Donna's story.
Telford campus of Taratahi in Balclutha may look unassuming, but what may not be known to many is that the staff have a huge impact on people’s lives across New Zealand.A small and dedicated team work to ensure farm training reaches kids in 200 schools, full-time workers wanting to up-skill, and prisoners.Sadly a perfect storm of bad policy and funding decisions by the past National Government, mismanagement, and a lack of enrolments, despite a shortage of trained farm workers, has left provision in limbo.Liquidators are currently working out how to deal with the institution’s debt following a December announcement that it was broke.Last month 250 staff had their pay suspended and thousands of students were told their courses were in limbo.The manager of distance education’s first thoughts: “How will I tell my students? They’ll be gutted.” But Donna Osborne is not only dealing with the practicalities of suspending courses for students, she is also having to deal with the practicalities of paying the bills while not being paid.“I have no family in NZ, just my children. So if there’s no money, there’s no money. I don’t know how I’m supposed to pay the mortgage.”Donna is also concerned about the impact the closure of the institution will have on her community.“We can’t spend money in Balclutha if we’ve got no jobs. There’ll be no students’ spending money … There will be people of we have no Telford who would have to move away somewhere else to get a job.”And the community knows the institutions is important and are rallying behind it.“Every time you go anywhere – doesn’t matter if you go to the pool, to the Warehouse, whether you go to New World people want to talk about it and tell you how bad it is. They go ‘we’re behind you’ and that’s great. But at the end of the day they can’t pay our wages – they can’t make it all happen – it’s only up the Minister of Education who can make it happen.”“We don’t want to go and get other jobs. … we are passionate about what we do. And we love it here at Telford. It’s so beautiful. But at the end of the day you’ve got to look after yourself.”The staff hope the Minister of Education will move swiftly to secure provision. For Donna the reason to do so is simple. “All we want to do is educate people and that’s the cornerstone to everything really.”