National claims it's been leaked Cabinet paper on tertiary reforms

The Education Minister has confirmed National appears to have been leaked parts of a "draft" Cabinet paper that describes further reforms of the tertiary sector where polytechnics would be subsidiaries of a larger body. 

But Chris Hipkins, the Education Minister, said National was wrong about its claim that the Cabinet paper would be taken to Cabinet on Monday. He also emphasised that the information appears to be from a "draft". 

"It appears National has got parts of a draft Cabinet paper, which was not due to go to Cabinet on Monday," Hipkins told Newshub. "We won't be making any comment until after Cabinet has made its decisions."

It's the second time in two months National's been leaked a Cabinet paper. The party was leaked details of plans for the cannabis referendum in May. 

Dr Shane Reti, National's Tertiary Education spokesperson, said the latest leaked Cabinet paper provides more detail about the Government's proposal to merge New Zealand's polytechnics. 

"National has obtained a Cabinet paper which outlines this information, the Government will take this paper to Cabinet on Monday," Dr Reti said on Friday.

"The polytechs will be controlled by a head office. They will have their cash and community legacy assets ring fenced at head office. All other assets including buildings and land will be taken away and consolidated."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has been contacted by Newshub to confirm or deny the details provided by National in Dr Reti's press release. 

The Government proposed in February merging all 16 of the country's polytechnics as the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology.

"It's time to reset the whole system and fundamentally rethink the way we view vocational education and training, and how it's delivered," Hipkins said at the time. 

But Dr Reti has claimed more than a thousand jobs will be lost over the tertiary reforms, and said "current boards will be sacked on day one". 

He said the Cabinet paper shows "enrolments will likely fall over the two year transition period and perhaps beyond that". 

The proposed merger was first floated by Hipkins last year when he told Newshub Nation in August that polytechnics across the country would likely have to merge or shut down due to low enrolment numbers.

Cabinet papers last year estimated 80 percent of polytechnics would be making a loss by 2022 on the current enrolment figures.

Hipkins said in February: "We cannot continue to tweak the system knowing that the model is fundamentally broken, and isn't delivering our workforce the skills that they need to thrive." 

Dr Reti said his party will not back the reforms. He said National "will fight for regional New Zealand and we will fight against idealistic educational reforms". 

"National has released this information because we believe these reforms will be disastrous for regional education and apprenticeships. We are bringing this information forward to try to stop the Government from going ahead with this."

He said the Cabinet paper details that "the industry body which looks after apprentices (ITOs) will be dissolved over a two year period". 

"At the moment, the industry organises placements for apprentices because they understand the needs of industry and who will be the best fit for them. 

"That will now be taken from them and given to polytechs who won't have the resources and skills to manage that."