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Wairarapa residents will be devastated to learn that UCOL has let them down and now plans to locate the Cordon Bleu catering school outside Wairarapa, says Wairarapa MP John Hayes.
Mr Hayes made representations to UCOL board chair Duncan Milne on Saturday seeking a postponement of the decision pending consideration of other options. He also wrote to Tertiary Education Minister Pete Hodgson setting out the Wairarapa's concerns.
On Sunday, he flew to Dunedin with Mayors Staples and Daniel to meet Mr Hodgson, after which Mr Hodgson undertook to postpone the UCOL decision.
"But the Minister's efforts to engage the board chair appear to have failed.
"In the meantime, my inquires have raised a number of points.
"Some $7 million of UCOL funds initially intended to fund the development have been consumed by cost overruns on the redevelopment of a campus in Wanganui, and it was doubtful UCOL had the capacity to fund the venture in Martinborough.
"Also, the Government had given the venture $2 million of regional development money.
"The Government should call in the Audit office to establish why UCOL has effectively lost $9 million of taxpayer funds which should have been used to fund this venture in Martinborough.
"UCOL have said delays related to an appeal in the Environment Court contributed to the decision.
"The fact is that last week, and with relatively minor outstanding issues between the parties, UCOL unilaterally withdrew from the mediation process.
"It's a matter of public record that the owner of the Cordon Bleu brand wanted the school to be in Martinborough.
"There are sound reasons why UCOL, a government agency, should support the Wairarapa economy, and Martinborough, as well as the established reputation of the Wairarapa valley as a source of fine food and wine.
"If UCOL can't deliver this outcome then the Government should end UCOL involvement, recover the $9 million allocated to the project, and put the venture in private sector hands.
"If that had happened at the outset, the project would be up and running by now."