This week training began at Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre to encourage new entrants and people whose employment has been affected by COVID-19 to consider a career in the food and fibre sector.
A celebration on Thursday, hosted by Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust, welcomed the Minister of Agriculture, UCOL, EIT, Wairarapa Food and Fibre representatives and guests. Beginning with a pōwhiri, speakers were optimistic about the future.
Linda Sissons, UCOL Acting Chief Executive, said there is huge potential in working together collaboratively to achieve a sustainable model of education at Taratahi that supports New Zealand’s food and fibre industries.
“We need a step change for agri-education in New Zealand. Taratahi and Telford, along with our collective commitment to quality food and fibre learning, can be anchor stones together with mana whenua and the primary industries community. By working together, and with appropriate resourcing from the Tertiary Education Commission, we can do this.”
“This is not a second class career, agriculture is New Zealand’s largest export earner and the future workforce require a first-class learning environment. Taratahi has had almost no investment in it’s physical facilities. This will be essential if we are to realise the potential here.
Terry Copeland, CEO Federated Farmers of New Zealand was at the celebration. “With agriculture and food production being seen as the leading industry to pull New Zealand out of the economic hole brought on by Covid-19, it’s great timing that Taratahi re-opens and we can maximise the opportunity to have a dedicated agri-training facility in the lower North Island. By combining the resources of UCOL, EIT and PrimaryITO, it gives both potential trainees and farm employers security that there is a viable entry point into a great career across rural New Zealand.”
Terry also believes providing skills and training for agriculture and food production is very much needed right now as there are thousands of job vacancies across primary industries and limited opportunities for people to make the transition to being farm ready. “There has been a rich tradition of well-trained graduates from Taratahi, and it’s great that its back. Whilst it will benefit the Wairarapa in the short term, we know from experience that future graduates will find great jobs throughout the country.”
The Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor planted a Kahikatea tree as a signal of new beginnings at Taratahi, and joined in a fencing competition with course participants.
The first taster course began with seven people making an enthusiastic start. They will be joined by four more people to focus on dairying for two weeks. Courses have specific options in dairy, apiculture, ag. contracting, and later in the year wool harvesting, silviculture, horticulture and sheep and beef are planned. Taster courses start every three weeks, with a longer ag. contracting option running for 6 weeks starting in August.