Tucked behind a hedge on a rural road in the Far North of New Zealand is a building that looks suspiciously like a school hall.  That’s because it is, in a sense, but with a difference.

In here, local kids who have left school for a variety of reasons are learning the difficult craft of cooking and presenting to restaurant standard. What was once the Kerikeri Culinary Institute has started a new life as the culinary campus of the Tai Tokerau Resort College based 25ks away in the tourist seaside town of Paihia in the Bay of Islands.

In corporate parlance, it could be called interdepartmental cross-pollination. In practice the culinary school offers a Level 3 certificate from an 18-week course and a Level 4 certificate from a 36-week course.  Level 5 will be introduced next year.  The Paihia site offers a diploma in hotel management and is the larger of the two schools with a current student body of 29.

Both tertiary institutes in Northland are a result of collaboration between New Zealand Maori Tourism, Queenstown Resort College based in the South Island and in partnership with Shanghai Cred which owns the Peppers Carrington Resort on Karikari Peninsula, near New Zealand’s most northern town of Kaitaia.

The expansion of the college is seen as an innovative and welcome addition to a region of New Zealand that, like Queenstown, is heavily reliant on tourism.

It’s an opportunity, too, for local kids to learn locally instead of having to go to Auckland or elsewhere and away from family and familiarity, or dropping out of school altogether. Some of the students who have enrolled at both campuses have been on the dole and, indeed, are children of dole-dependant parents and, sometimes, grandparents.

The first intake of 10 students in Kerikeri commenced course work in February this year and they weren’t all local.  Several students have come to the region from the districts surrounding Hamilton city, around 400ks further south.  Because most are Maori they are identified by their tribal (iwi) affiliations. In that sense, the colleges represent another collaboration, between Ngapuhi (Northland) and Tainui (Waikato region).  One student is from China.

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Tai Tokerau College insists on school uniforms and a standard of appearance that’s consistent with what the hospitality industry expects. From both the Paihia campus and the Kerikeri culinary school campus, students are sent to hotels and restaurants for work experience.

One restaurant owner, who didn’t want to be named, said while many of the students are keen to learn and move forward, some need to acquire a greater work ethic.

“It’s apparent that some of the kids who have grown up with parents on the dole don’t seem to understand what hard work means.

“I had one girl in my restaurant and she told me she wanted to go home early because her favourite television show was on and she didn’t want to miss it so I said she could go, but she couldn’t come back here.”

Given that Northland has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, however, any student graduating from the private tertiary institutes in Paihia or Kerikeri and moving into the hospitality and tourism sectors is viewed as an achievement. The fact both campuses exist in the Far North is considered a bonus to the region.

The foundation students from Kerikeri’s Tai Tokerau Culinary School, Level 3 certificate course will graduate in July.


For more information:


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The force behind Queenstown Resort College and Tai Tokerau Cullinary Institute in Kerikeri.  From left:  Sir Eion Edgar, Chairman QRC:  Pania Tyson-Nathan, CEO NZ Maori Tourism:  Charlie Phillips, CEO, QRC: Kelly Kahukiwa, Operations Manager QRC:  Dale Stephens, Chairman NZ Maori Tourism


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