To celebrate the centenary of Hawke’s Bay’s creation as a province in November 1958, the government offered a pound for pound subsidy towards local body fundraising projects that would commemorate this event. Hastings Mayor Edwin Bate proposed a trust that would provide for a scholarship to assist young people into tertiary education. A trust set up, with its own 1960 act of parliament called the University of Hawke’s Bay Trust Act.
One of the main reasons for wanting a university was to stop its brightest from leaving Hawke’s Bay to further their education, and not returning. The members of the Hawke’s Bay University Trust hoped for a branch university to be established by the mid-1980s.
In September 1960, Margaret Hetley donated a 20 hectare property called Otatara on the outskirts of Taradale to the Trust for the site of a university. This was further added to with purchases of surrounding land made by the Trust.
Despite a belief that squabbling between Hastings and Napier over the site of university meant it was lost to Palmerston North was not totally correct. The Government were never seriously positioning to establish a university in Hawke’s Bay.
A push however was being made to establish a technical institute to replace the night school system of trades and accountancy study.
The 20 hectares of Hetley land gifted to the Hawke’s Bay University Trust Board for a university was able to be used for the new institute, after Arthur Miller (Taradale Borough Councillor from 1953–1959 and Mayor of Taradale Borough Council from 1959–1968), managed to convince Margaret Hetley that the possibility of a university was remote. Choosing a site in parochial Hawke’s Bay was a problem, so being able to use the Hetley land between Hastings and Napier offered a simple solution.
The Labour Party stated in its election manifesto that if it won the election in 1972 the planned institute could become a Community College, and that’s what happened. The Hawke’s Bay Community College opened in 1975, with vocational courses offered in accountancy and business management, mechanical and automotive engineering, building, electrical, secretarial and hairdressing. In addition, the Community Education Department consisted of arts and crafts, music, creative writing and language studies. A total of thirty-seven staff were employed under director Dr John Harré.
The Hawke’s Bay Community College evolved to become the Hawke’s Bay Polytechnic in 1986. A further name change occurred in 1996 when it became the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT).
With EIT developing into an institute that was close to what was originally planned by the Hawke’s Bay University Trust Board, the Trust’s purpose was now seen as redundant. Its funds were to be distributed, and while it seemed EIT would be a natural recipient of this, Massey University argued that they should receive the money – on the grounds that they were the closest university to Hawke’s Bay. It was seen by some as a cheeky move, and EIT was awarded the right to receive the funding.
The emphasis of the Community College in 1975 was to provide a range of vocational training, including trades and community education programmes.
Therefore, vocational and professional programmes increased in line with regional demand, including business and computing, nursing, wine science and viticulture. Following the Education Amendment Act 1990, polytechnics were entitled to offer degrees. by 2015, EIT offer twelve degrees and four masters degrees as well as a range of graduate diplomas. Over half the student body is enrolled in degree study. Over half the student body is Māori.
In 2011 EIT merged with Tairāiwhiti in Gisborne, thus providing a wider range of study options to the East Coast region. It also established a campus in Auckland in 2013.
- Article: By Michael Fowler
- Photo credit: EIT Hawke’s Bay