Education Minister Chris Hipkins was met by a sea of protestors and a rousing haka upon his arrival in Invercargill on Friday morning.
The wero (challenge) was performed by students from the Te Wharekura o Arowhenua school. As they advanced towards Mr Hipkins, he began to look a little rattled.
However, he described his arrival as "a very lively and passionate welcome."
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The protesters were dressed in orange, standing against the Government's proposal to merge 16 polytechnics into one with concerns about the effect it would have on the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), and Southland as a whole.
Their shirts and signs were emblazoned with the phrase "Stand Up For SIT".
Mayor of Invercargill Tim Shadbolt says the influx of students has "saved our city."
"At the turn of the century we were the fastest declining city in New Zealand or Australia," he told Newshub on Friday "and now we are thriving and that is essentially based on the influx of students the influx of capital and the quality of training."
Mr Hipkins plans on meeting with staff from SIT, to reassure them no plans have been set in stone.