Come clean on Christchurch, Hekia

The Education Minister is treating the people of Christchurch with contempt by not fronting up with all the advice, information and options considered as part of the process of deciding the future for the city’s schools, says Chris Hipkins.

“Hekia Parata’s response to widespread criticism of the data she relied on when making decisions about school closures and mergers has been to batten down the hatches and prevent the release of any more information.

“I understand officials presented her with several alternatives, but requests for that advice to be released are being refused. That is plain wrong.

“In refusing to release that advice officials argued it would compromise the consultation going on at the moment.  How on earth could releasing more, and extremely important, information undermine a supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation?

“Hekia Parata must now release all of the advice she received regarding school closures and mergers.  Her mishandling of the situation, and the cloak and dagger secrecy she has resorted to, are just creating confusion, suspicion and fear.

“The whole process is a debacle.  The rules of the game keep changing.  Information gets drip-fed, options get thrown onto the table then pulled off again.  It’s been terribly managed and Hekia Parata needs to accept responsibility for that.  She is the Minister, the buck stops with her, and her leadership has been totally chaotic.

“John Key needs to step in and get this process back on track.  He must insist that Hekia Parata and her Ministry release all of the information and advice they have.  He then needs to give the schools more time to respond to that and engage in meaningful discussion with their local communities.

“The Government should be approaching this process in an open, transparent and democratic way.  Instead the Minister and her officials are promoting a culture of secrecy.

“Unless the Government trusts the people of Christchurch and releases all the information people will rightly continue to wonder what is it trying to hide,” says Chris Hipkins.