Council gives $1m to help set up new WITT-run infrastructure skills park

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Story Written by Deena Coster | Taranaki Daily News

New Plymouth District Council has fully supported giving Taranaki’s largest tertiary provider up to $1 million to set up a training venture focused on teaching civil construction skills.

Tuesday’s full meeting unanimously agreed to provide the pūtea for the project, which had been in the pipeline for months.

The cause was championed by New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) group manager of planning and infrastructure David Langford, based on a business case developed by Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki (WITT).

But the polytech lacked the start-up cash needed to establish the classroom, facilities and equipment to get the training programme off the ground.

The vision is to create an infrastructure park, which aims to address the skills and capability gap within the civil construction sector.

“Unlike the residential house building sector, where there are well-established training and apprenticeship opportunities for sub-trades such as joinery, plumbing and electrical, there are virtually no infrastructure/heavy civil construction equivalents,” Langford said.

The money would come from the existing $1.95m budget aligned to urgent renewals of the Thermal Dryer Project.

This would leave the $37m from central Government's “shovel-ready” scheme to replace the Thermal Dryer, along with a $6m council contingency fund – a total pool of $43m – untouched.

The body overseeing shovel-ready projects, Crown Infrastructure Partners, had confirmed including the planned facility as part of its scope, but was clear no extra money would be forthcoming.

“WITT is able to cover the ongoing operating costs of a training facility; however, they cannot fund the initial establishment cost,” Langford said.

In his address, Langford outlined some wins for the council should it dip into its pocket to help, including a long-term financial benefit from reduced construction costs and improved work quality.

The move would also position Taranaki to become a “training centre of excellence in the central North Island for civil construction workers”.

WITT's director of engineering, energy and infrastructure Kyle Hall also spoke in support.

He estimated about 120 students could study at the facility next year, growing to more than 200 by 2026.

The initiative was applauded by mayor Neil Holdom and councillors including Harry Duynhoven, who said it represented an opportunity to “make a real difference” for people.


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