Address to NZEI Rally in Porirua 19 February 2013

Thank you to the NZEI for organising this rally in support of Christchurch school communities, who are rallying in Christchurch today.

Thank you to my colleague Kris Faafoi for his support as well.  He is from Christchurch so it is very personal for him but he has been tireless in his efforts to offer his Christchurch Labour colleagues all the support we could hope for.

Thank you for turning up today and bringing the Christchurch protest to the door of the Minister of Education.

Thank you for standing up for Christchurch.

But in so doing you are also standing up for every school child in New Zealand, because this is Hekia Parata’s exemplar for the rest of New Zealand.  Look very carefully at what is being done in Christchurch – it may be coming to a school near you soon.

The process has been appalling from start to finish.  From the way it was first announced to the shock of the decision to implement the mergers and closures from the end of this year.

Today in Parliament I tried to table an extract from a letter, which makes it crystal clear that if mergers were to go ahead, school communities would have until 2016 to implement the decision.

If the schools did ultimately merge, the Board of the continuing school would have representation from both schools concerned, and it would be expected that the newly merged school would reflect the best aspects of both schools’ cultures, programmes and practices.  This could include the programmes such as the Big Brothers and Sisters programme in place at Central New Brighton School.

As this proposed merger is not planned to take place until 2016, if it were to go ahead, there is time for these discussions to be had, for planning to take place and for the merged school to gain the support of the wider New Brighton Community.

The government refused leave.

Why would they do that?  Why does the government want to hide the truth?

The only credible reason is to cover up what was described in the papers this morning as a political decision to avoid this impacting in election year. Get it done and dusted and out of the way


The Minister is now pretending that she gave no assurances to the schools about 2016.

She said it was only a proposal.

This letter makes it crystal clear that it was not part of the proposal.  The proposal was to merge schools.  And if that proposal were to be implemented, then there was plenty of time to discuss everything that needed to be discussed.

Hekia Parata owes the people of Christchurch an apology.

This has been a botched process from start to finish.

From the coloured nametags on the day of the original announcement to the use of Freeville School’s new learning centre on the cover of the modern learning environment brochure (Freeville closes and merges with another school under the proposals). To the sudden bringing forward of the date of the merger that can only be explained by the looming election year.

The Minister could not name one school that had asked for the closure/merger to be brought forward to the end of the year – in fact the only example she quoted talked about the impact the process was having on their numbers of students.  That was a plea for a final decision not a plea for an impossible deadline.

And now the re-writing of history as she denies she essentially let schools in good faith tell parents they could enrol children believing they had two or three full years guaranteed.

This is a travesty of a process and ignores the pressure that Christchurch residents have been under for 2 years.

After her announcement the Minister played a video on modern learning environments which began with the call to embrace change.

Christchurch people have had no choice but to embrace change.

But we do expect to be treated with dignity and respect.  And that is what we have been denied by this Minister.

It isn’t much to ask.

Thank you once more for your support.