Stakeholder News | April 2022

Kia ora koutou,
A big highlight this month was the opening of the Conservation Training and Employment Hub, a partnership between Tai Poutini Polytechnic and Buller District Council that leverages off our education partners and aims to bring positive benefits for the entire West Coast. This is an exciting development and showcases the opportunities presented to our region under the new Te Pūkenga network approach to vocational education in New Zealand. We’re still working through the details of the Hub, which will reflect the needs of local employers and the region to stimulate employment and growth. I look forward to working with many of you on this great initiative and will keep you posted as the work rolls-out. In other news, it was good to see the start of the annual YES programme, where we’re able to support local high school students to learn business skills from mentors and community members, and we’re looking forward to another packed schedule of local events for the annual Techweek event in May. There’s plenty going on once again and, as always, we value your input and always welcome your feedback and suggestions as we seek to provide quality, innovative and flexible training options that meet the needs of the West Coast.

Ngā mihi,
Alex Cabrera
Chief Executive

Conservation Hub opening builds on West Coast partnerships

april 1

From left to right: David Mason - Tai Poutini Polytechnic Te Kaiwhakahaere o Mātauranga Māori, Hudson Dodd - The Nature Conservancy, Rebecca Keoghan – Tai Poutini Polytechnic Board Chair, Jamie Cleine - Buller District Mayor, Ned Tauwhare - Buller District Councillor, Alex Cabrera – Tai Poutini Polytechnic Chief Executive, Sharon Mason - Buller District Council Chief Executive and Di Rossiter - Buller District Council Sustainability Project Manager.
The Westport-based Conservation Training and Employment Hub was officially opened at the end of March, bringing together West Coast employers, learners, mana whenua, local government and the vocational training sector to address local environmental needs and support the regional economy.
The opening at Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s Wesport campus, was attended by local community leaders, mana whenua, conservation employers and video messages were shared from Ministers Chris Hipkins, Damien O’Connor and Kiri Allan.
Buller District Council and Tai Poutini Polytechnic are partnering to establish the Hub, which is the first stage in what will become a multi‐layered approach to the support of a green economy in the Buller District and the wider West Coast.
Polytechnic Board Chair Rebecca Keoghan said: “The Hub brings together West Coast employers, learners, mana whenua, local government and the vocational training sector to address local environmental needs and support the regional economy.”
Buller District Mayor Jamie Cleine says: “The opening is a critical first step in realising our region’s mission to strengthen and diversify our economy, recognising niche opportunities around conservation and biodiversity. Our community is behind our efforts to address climate change and sustainability and the Hub support the intent of our council’s strategic direction.’
Polytechnic Chief Executive Alex Cabrera says this is the beginning of the process and work will be carried out with mana whenua, conservation employers and community to develop and shape thehub.
“The Hub has been made possible through the reform of vocational education and the resources and partnerships Tai Poutini Polytechnic can leverage to create benefits for the West Coast. There are two key objectives to the work – providing benefits to the West Coast communities and having tangible examples of how the Te Pūkenga network can support remote regions to pursue innovative approaches to learning that work for their communities.
Minister Damien O’Connor said: “The West Coast is surrounded by eight of New Zealand’s 13 national parks, what better place to bring people who wish to have a career looking after our precious and unique biodiversity.”
Read more at Conservation Hub opening builds on West Coast partnerships » Tai Poutini Polytechnic (

Free to enrol in Digger School May intake – Westport and Greymouth

 april 2

Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s popular Civil Plant programme – known as the Digger School – will kick-off for 2022 in May, now at two West Coast locations in Greymouth and Westport.
It’s free to enrol in Civil Plant right now under the Government’s Covid-19 recovery package, and graduates are in-demand by employers right across the region.
Students of the Civil Plant programme learn to operate heavy machinery – diggers, earthmovers, trucks and more – in a real-world environment at Polytechnic quarry sites. They go on to find employment in the construction, roading, mining and many more industries.
Find out more about the programme here and how you can enrol for free here

Community gets behind Techweek ‘22

 april 3

There’s still time to get involved in Techweek ’22 in the West Coast, with community groups and individuals sharing plenty ideas and plans for great tech-focused events this year.
Last month, Tai Poutini Polytechnic put out the call for interest in events for this year’s Techweek programme. The response has been fantastic, with lots of exciting conversations underway for events that will bring the tech world into focus on the West Coast.
Techweek is a nationwide series of events, showcasing and celebrating New Zealand tech - it provides a platform for everyone to meet, share ideas and create connections for a better tomorrow. Tai Poutini Polytechnic supports the national tech event by promoting and coordinating locally focused events here on the West Coast. It runs from the 16th – 22nd of May. 
Event themes for 2022 include: skills and knowledge, digital transformation, climate and sustainability, global impact, leaders and innovation, and Māori tech participation.
There’s still time to get involved in this year’s event or register your own event online. Tai Poutini Polytechnic staff will support you through the process and help make this a great event for the West Coast.
Let us know if you have an idea for an event, or the sorts of issues/events/activities you’d like to see on the programme. The West Coast event programme will be announced in April.
Key dates:

  • Tuesday 12 April – Last call for event submissions
  • Tuesday 3 May – Full Techweek22 programme announced
  • 16-22 May – Techweek22 kicks off

If you have any questions, or to find out more about Techweek2022 please feel free to email or visit  

Another round in the Dragon’s Den

West Coast high school students are once again entering the Dragon’s Den – and learning the skills of business and entrepreneurship – through the annual Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) programme.
Tai Poutini Polytechnic supports the year-long challenge through coordinating and hosting a series of events and activities that help local high school students put their business ideas to the test in a real-world environment.
The first event for the year was held in February to kick-off the business ideas and support students with planning. This was followed with speed coaching sessions in March where local mentors advised students on how to plan and present business ideas, as well as information on what the rest of the year holds.
Both events were opportunities for students to meet their local Regional Coordinator, other YES students in their region, and business people from the community. Students will get valuable information to help them pursue their business ideas and hopefully take part in the year-long YES programme.
This year four West Coast schools are taking part (Karamea Area School, John Paul II School, Greymouth High School and Westland High School). They are supported by mentors from Development West Coast; 12 coaches from across the West Coast and through the national YES team got involved in the March “speed coaching” session to talk through business ideas and support next steps.
We will once again be hosting an awards ceremony and celebration event at the end of the programme, following a successful inaugural event at the end of last year.
The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme is a year-long opportunity for senior secondary students to unleash their inner entrepreneur and experience the start-up world first-hand.  During the school year, students set up and run a real business with real profit and loss.  Last year, more than 4000 students from 200 schools participated in the YES programme.

No such thing as a typical day in Antarctica for Polytechnic tutor

april 4

Hägglunds, Adélie Penguins, search and rescue and ski trips – it’s all in a day’s work on the ice for Tai Poutini Polytechnic Ski Patrol Tutor Paula Roberts.

Paula recently returned from her fourth summer season as a Field Training Officer for the Australian Antarctic Program’s Casey Station in East Antarctica. Paula says there is no such thing as a typical day on the ice and she harnesses all her skills – many of the same ones she teaches her ski patrol students – when working in Antarctica.
Her role includes training and field safety, search and rescue coordination, and leading and supporting research groups working in the field.
“One day we’re in on the station, preparing to go into the field. The next day I might have driven a Hägglund all day, provided survival training, or trained out in the field. A typical day was not a thing! Each day was varied.”
The mighty Hägglund is the chief method of transport in Antarctica, and Paula provides training for the program expeditioners to drive the all-terrain vehicles, which can be challenging in an unforgiving landscape of ice and snow.
“In whiteout conditions you have to trust the GPS. There are no points of reference, you’re following a line of waypoints and looking at a small screen to find your way. Looking out the window doesn’t help at all!”
Casey Station is in East Antarctica on the north side of the Bailey Peninsula, and hosts scientific research such as geological and glaciological processes, the Adélie penguin, or the influence of climate change on mosses endemic to the continent. Paula transported scientists around to do their research and ensured their safety in the field. Serious responsibilities, but her most-loved duty was leading activities on Sundays, the day for rest and recreation.

“I got to take the expeditioners to some of my favourite places – places they would otherwise not have seen. Making that happen was a highlight for me.
“I go to Antarctica, not just for the work, but to experience Antarctica. Casey Station is on the coast, so we’d go to the Browning Peninsula, and the Vanderford Glacier where it flows into the ocean. It’s a six-hour driving mission, an 11-12 hour round trip, but one of the most spectacular places in Antarctica for the views and the wildlife – Emperor penguins, elephant seals and weddell seals at the special time of year whey they were coming out to molt”.
Recreation time also allowed for skiing on the Casey Station cross-country ski loop, a popular pastime with expeditioners under Paula’s watchful eye.
Another highlight was living and working with a group of people in an isolated community, and Paula emphasises the importance of people skills to those interested in seeking work in Antarctica. She uses the same leadership and teamwork skills she teaches her ski patrol students to help things run smoothly on the ice.
“Teamwork is really important, as you live in a community of people, you help everywhere ¬– cleaning toilets, helping the chefs, you get to work with some fantastic people, and you have to be able to get on with people!
“You won’t like everybody, and that can be challenging. It’s all about your personality and how you deal with people, and react to the things they do.”
There are jobs available for skilled people with both the Australian and New Zealand Antarctic programmes, and, while the job market is competitive, Paula says that with the right experience a season on the ice is not out of reach.