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Wairarapa MP John Hayes has established a taskforce to investigate the viability of establishing a cuisine school in Martinborough, independent of involvement with UCOL.
The taskforce comprises a mix of private sector and local body representatives who will work with educational providers to establish a teaching facility in Martinborough, or in the wider Wairarapa.
Mr Hayes says no stone will be left unturned in an effort to match or better the expectations created by UCOL's involvement in the region.
"It's clear that public-sector academics and bureaucrats based in Palmerston North did not have the Wairarapa's interests at the top of their priority list.
"Accordingly, my idea is that a taskforce will reclaim local ownership for developing an educational facility.
"I want the community to leave recriminations behind and to join the new focus which the taskforce will give.
"There is a huge amount of support for a cuisine school and it's vital for the morale of the Wairarapa that we translate the project from a dream to a reality.
"We need to find a way of establishing a cuisine school in Martinborough, or elsewhere in Wairarapa, which will not only promote the fine food and wine produced here, but also create a commercially viable business and provide jobs as well as qualifications.
"Martinborough has a strong national and international reputation for fine food and wine, and there is no reason why UCOL's withdrawal should halt the idea of a school in that environment.
"We not only want to keep this reputation but improve it, and a cuisine school continues to be a great way to do this."
Mr Hayes has drawn up the taskforce's terms of reference, and has asked for an initial feasibility report by the end of next month.
Those who have agreed to join the taskforce are:
o David Kershaw, Martinborough businessman, taskforce chair.
o Roger Gaskell, company director, taskforce deputy chair.
o Mike Laven, Martinborough businessman.
o Garry Daniell, Masterton Mayor and company director.
o Gary McPhee, Carterton Mayor.
o Adrienne Staples, South Wairarapa Mayor.
o Charles Finney, CEO Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
o Sue McLeary, Company director of food tourism and enterprise.
o Nigel Kirkpatrick, CEO Grow Wellington.
Mr Hayes says he has been fortunate to secure the services of Eion Edgar (DCNZM), Chairman of the Queenstown Resort College as an adviser. He says Mr Edgar has established precisely the sort of facility envisaged for Martinborough. It has been working for two years.
The taskforce has been offered a facility for meetings, and will receive administrative help from both Mr Hayes' support staff and the South Wairarapa District Council. It was also important for the region to work closely with Wellington-based agencies like Grow Wellington and the Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"This taskforce comprises people with a high level of credibility. Wairarapa people are owed that after being let down by UCOL.
"The calibre of people is indicative of the support the idea of a cuisine school in Martinborough had.
"I'm certain the group will be well supported by the same community that backed the UCOL plan.
"We have a lot of innovative people in this area, and I am sure Martinborough will support this idea in the same way they supported the creation of a purpose-built medical facility."