Southern Institute of Technology cash grab fears ‘unfounded’

Southern Institute of Technology’s new board chairperson Alison Broad says the SIT’s $43.4m cash reserves are not going anywhere.

John Hawkins/Stuff

Southern Institute of Technology’s new board chairperson Alison Broad says the SIT’s $43.4m cash reserves are not going anywhere.

Southern Institute of Technology’s new board chairperson says fears SIT’s assets would be channelled into other parts of the country have turned out to be unfounded.

A Stand Up for SIT campaign was launched to protest the Governments’ vocational education reform with many Southlanders concerned what the changes could mean for the $140m in assets the SIT had built up.

There was a concern that some of SIT’s reserves could be used to prop up struggling polytechnics elsewhere.

Although five months into her role as SIT board chair Alison Broad said the reality was none of the $43.4m cash reserves had been pulled from SIT, or would that money be going anywhere else in the future.

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Southern Institute of Technology board chairperson Alison Broad.

Robyn Edie

Southern Institute of Technology board chairperson Alison Broad.

“There have been some misconceptions that have generated some unnecessary concern,’’ Broad said.

“The previous concerns, as we’ve happily found out, were unfounded. It’s not to say they weren’t genuine concerns.’’

Last year the Government undertook a vocational education reform that saw 16 polytechnics throughout the country merged on April 1 this year.

They are now run under one national umbrella, the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

The previous SIT board was scrapped and replaced by the new board.

In April the NZIST’s governing council passed a policy to ring-fence assets.

On the back of that policy formula, SIT management suggested just $8.3m would be ‘’ring-fenced’’ for the areas that the SIT campuses have served.

That ring-fence figure had jumped from $8.3m to $15.1m because of a change in an accounting formula used, Broad said.

But that $15.1m figure was simply unallocated cash from the overall $43.4m cash reserves, she said.

There was $15.7m committed to capital projects; $9.6m reserved for working capital for SIT, and $2.1m committed to Telford, as part of the $43.4m in reserves.

“Not only is there no attention in channelling that money anywhere else, there is actually no mechanism to do to it. It has been set up in a way that it can’t be transferred, so it really is as pure it as possible to be.

“It’s just not going anywhere, it’s staying here,’’ Broad said.

The clear message from Southland was they wanted to keep the reserves built up by SIT and Broad felt that had transpired.

Broad acknowledged the SIT board did have to get permission from the NZIST governing body around spending that ring-fenced $15.1m but she said the proposed uses would come from the SIT board.

“No one from the outside is going to say, ‘we think you should spend that money of this’. It comes from the local SIT board, and we have to get sign-off from NZIST.’’

Included in the $15.7m earmarked for capital projects was the re-development of the old St John’s Anglican Church on Tay St which will be transformed into a creative centre.

Broad confirmed a decision was still pending in regard to if SIT would proceed with the plan to build student apartments on the corner of Kelvin and Tay Sts.

SIT has bought a piece of land as part of Invercargill’s inner-city development with the plan to develop apartments but it was decided to put the decision on hold on whether to go ahead with it or not.

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