Australia authorities have told New Zealand not to follow the Australian TAFE system.

Australian Education Union rep Pat Forward addressed an audience at Otago Polytechnic in NZ this week.

Ms Forward – who oversees the union’s TAFE department - discussed the “decimation”' of the publicly-funded TAFE sector.

She said Australia’s Federal Governments in the last few years had transformed the education sector from a public to a private system.

“Once you shift a social good like education to a market model, the answer is the perfect storm,'” Ms Forward said.

She pointed to measures in 2012 that forced states and territories to open up funding for vocational education to private providers.

The TAFE student loan system was changed too, allowing providers to set fees for their courses.

The union rep warned that New Zealand’s polytechnic system was in an "alarmingly'' similar position.

“The New Zealand Government appears to be flirting with the private sector,” she said.

“The reality is the market has not worked, the policy has not worked, quality has collapsed and trust has collapsed.”

Privatisation would see a decline in enrolments, fewer apprenticeships, the removal of tertiary education options, and leave rural students even further behind, she said.

Tertiary Education Union national president Sandra Grey fears New Zealand is on the “same trajectory'”.

“People can't sit back and think they will always have a public provider,” she said.

Ms Forward is expected to bring up similar topics throughout her speaking tour, visiting the Ara Institute of Canterbury and the Wellington Industry Training Federation.