This afternoon, the Stand Up For SIT campaign lodged more than 700 submissions on the Reform of Vocational Education.
The Reform of Vocational Education is a series of proposals to overhaul the vocational education sector and how that education is delivered. It proposes to merge New Zealand’s 16 Institutes of Technology (ITPs) into one entity. This includes the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT).
Since the announcement of the proposed reform, Southland has pushed back strongly because of the serious consequences that would come from interfering with the way SIT integrates with Southland community. The proposal threatens the region’s economy, diversity, communities, prosperity and culture.
Campaign organiser Carla Forbes said the response to the campaign had been more than what she could have hoped for.
The public meeting with Education Minister Chris Hipkins on March saw the meeting hall awash with orange Stand Up For SIT T-shirts and signs, the response online had been enormous and the all-important submission process was well met, she said.
After the public meeting, the campaign moved its focus to showing the Government Southland was not giving away its asset by way of motivating Southlanders to write submissions on the proposal.
Given the sheer amount that were received, it was clear SIT is something Southland will fight for to the end, Forbes said.
“It’s unbelievable how many people have thrown their support behind the campaign. I think everyone realises just how serious the situation is and they’ve also come together the make sure the Minister hears our voice loud and clear.”
Dozens of businesses and organisations had been in contact with Forbes and her company Market South, who ran the campaign, to ask how they could be involved.
“I’ve got so much gratitude for everyone who has pulled together and donated time and resources to ensure Southland is being heard on this matter – thank you so much to everyone.”
Having the submission process clear and easy to fill out through the Stand Up For SIT website had been a big win, and one that was apparently noticed by those seated in Wellington.
The information on the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education website initially contained a submission questionnaire that was more than 20 pages long, something which Forbes believed was intentionally crafted to limit the amount of people who would write a submission.
It wasn’t until the campaign team went digging through the consultation discussion document that they found a statement which confirmed all feedback and submissions in any form would be accepted.
“That’s a sneaky way of trying to limit the number of submissions sent it. There’s no way the 700 people who filled out our submission form would have done the same for the Government’s ridiculous questionnaire because it would have taken far too much time,” Forbes said.
“It was great to see that after we publicly challenged the Government on how prohibitive their submission process was, they changed their tune on their website and added not only a disclaimer that the questionnaire had a lot of questions, but they also added a shorter version of their submission questionnaire.”
“We’ve sent in more than 700 so that should give the Minister plenty of reading over his weekend.”
The Reform’s website says the public can expect to hear about what decisions the Government makes in mid-2019.