NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson and Greens MP John Kaye have joined the chorus of opposition to the threats to close the Blue Mountains TAFE guides course outlined in last week’s Blue Mountains Gazette.
But Blue Mountains Liberal MP Roza Sage has accused them of playing politics without checking their facts.
Dr Kaye said the outdoor education course provided “critical skills for the region’s economy”. Without the TAFE course, which trains up instructors for abseiling, canyoning and rock climbing, the industry’s future was “grim” he said.
“Taking the knife to the outdoor recreation courses will undermine the future of the region’s economy. This course, like many others set to go under the O’Farrell Government’s budget cuts, offers much more than just employment opportunities. It is a high quality education resource, valued by the local community,” he said.
Mr Robertson said “staff and students have been informed from next year the popular outdoor recreation course will cease to operate in its current format,” adding if cut the course may only be offered ‘commercially’ — an expensive option not available to most people.
Mr Robertson met with TAFE teachers and industry representatives including the director of the Blue Mountains Adventure Company, Dylan Jones, and other former students running adventure businesses in the area — people concerned about “the impact the loss of this vital course would have on the local tourism industry”.
Dr Kaye said the government’s grab for cash was short sighted and heartless.
“The Blue Mountains community is being ripped off by a government that cannot see beyond the next election . . . TAFE is about to lose five per cent of its workforce. That means five per cent less public sector vocational education and training and five percent less long-term economic benefits to NSW,” Dr Kaye said.
Students were being asked to “pay more in order to receive less”.
“Class sizes will rise, the ranges of courses will be reduced and time to help individual students will all but disappear,” he said.
Blue Mountains Liberal MP Roza Sage “must stand up for her community” and tell the Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to reverse the devastating cuts to TAFE, he said.
Hundreds of jobs relied on the adventure tourists attracted to the thrill of climbing in the Mountains, he added.
Dr Kaye said Labor had also made significant cuts to TAFE “slashing its funding by 48 per cent over 16 years in office” adding “Ms Sage cannot just stand by and do nothing while her government finishes the job and destroys TAFE to the detriment of her own constituents”.
Labor’s spokesperson for the Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle said “the proposed budget cuts to the Blue Mountains TAFE Outdoor Recreation diploma would see current students unable to complete their education, highly skilled teachers sacked and the local tourism industry suffer”.
Both Dr Kaye and Mr Robertson directed Mountains residents to petitions to sign on their websites to protest against education cuts.
State Member for Blue Mountains, Roza Sage, said she had made representations to the minister for education and had been “advised that the institute director and senior officers will be meeting with stakeholders in the outdoor recreation courses, at the Nepean campus of Western Sydney TAFE, this Friday”.
“The meeting will discuss delivery of the courses by the institute. I have been advised no decision has been made in regard to the future delivery of the outdoor recreation course at Wentworth Falls.
Mrs Sage added she thought the course was being used for “political point scoring by both the Labor Party and now the Greens who find it easy to whip up a press release without knowing any facts about the matter”.
In late-breaking news, TAFE NSW issued the following statement:
“All courses are reviewed annually by TAFE which is what makes TAFE so dynamic in further education.
"In response to recent NSW State Government funding reductions in education, Western Sydney Institute (WSI) is engaged in a consultation process with stakeholders to determine the best way forward.
Susan Hartigan, Institute Director, said: “Consultations are scheduled later this week to provide an opportunity for industry participants to give input into the qualifications most needed to support the Blue Mountains Outdoor Recreation Industry.
"WSI will provide feedback as discussions progress."