Sunday, April 3, 2016
Mike Butler: Two Ministers and a kura
A stoush between a retired principal and the government over the provision of a new primary school for the Hastings suburb of Havelock North stepped up a notch at the weekend with the National Party MP for Tukituki blaming the Labour Party.
Frustrated by a continued lack of response from both Tukituki MP Craig Foss and Education Minister Hekia Parata, the retired principal, Malcolm Dixon, yesterday launched a website www.schoolforhavelocknorth.co.nz to fight for the new primary school that was promised in 2010.
Mr Foss, who is also Minister for small business, veterans’ affairs, and statistics, and Associate Minister of immigration and transport, responded by trying to label the drive for a new school as a “Labour Party campaign”, adding that he “continued to work hard to achieve results for young people”.
After requests by the Havelock North community, in 2010 the Government agreed there was a need for a new primary school and bought the 2.83ha Arataki Motor Camp site.
Yet, as a bolt out of the blue in May of last year, Ms Parata announced that the former Arataki Holiday Park will become the site of the full immersion Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu. (See Kura proceeds as schools struggle)
Mr Dixon, who is also a Hastings district councillor, released on Saturday Ms Parata’s replies to 50 written questions put to her by Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins on March 15.
Those replies included spreadsheets of roll numbers in Hastings and Havelock North from 2009 to 2015.
Her data showed that the roll of the kura, which is located in central Hastings, expanded from 33 pupils in 2009 to 67 in 2015, an increase of 34 pupils, according to data supplied by Ms Parata.
The data also showed the expansion of rolls in the three primary schools in Havelock North. The roll of Lucknow School expanded from 248 in 2009 to 297 in 2015, Havelock North Primary expanded from 465 to 502, and Te Mata, from 521 to 580, a combined increase of 145.
Predictions for December this year based on pre-enrolments from children turning five show Lucknow expects a roll of 325, Havelock North 570, and Te Mata 640, Mr Dixon said.
Mr Dixon wrote that by the end of last year, the combined rolls of these three primary schools had increased by more than the Ministry of Education predicted back in 2010 when it decided Havelock North needed a new school.
Education Ministry staff argue that although the three schools are operating at or above capacity, this may be addressed by excluding out-of-zone students. There is no other plan, despite the fact that 450 new sections will be built on in Havelock North in the foreseeable future.
Mr Dixon says the direction to exclude out-of-zone students is a red herring because the Ministry of Education has continually changed school zones.
In one of the 50 questions, Ms Parata was asked “what correspondence, if any, listed by date and subject line, has she received from National MPs regarding the relocation of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu, since 1 January 2015?
Her reply: “I have received one letter dated 2 March 2016 from Hon Craig Foss, MP, on behalf of his constituent, which focused on mainstream primary school rolls in Havelock North. The relocation of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu is referred to only by implication. There is no direct reference.”
In response to a further question she said she had received no further correspondence from other Ministerial colleagues.
Mr Dixon responded: “This issue started around the 15th April 2015 and since that time regular correspondence has taken place with Craig Foss and other members of the Government”.
“On the website you will see a letter that I wrote to (Prime Minister) John Key that was handed to him personally when he was here for the HB Show in October. The same letter was copied to the top 10 Cabinet Ministers and Craig Foss”, he wrote.
Ms Parata did not mention the letter Mr Dixon personally handed to Mr Key who in turn passed it on to her. She formally replied to Mr Dixon in a letter dated December 2, 2015.
In that reply, Ms Parata said no community consultation was required under the Education Act because the kura in Havelock North was a relocation and not a new school.
Ten percent of the kura roll live in Havelock North, there were 400 Maori students in Havelock North who would have the option of a full Maori-language education, and construction work is scheduled to begin next year, Ms Parata wrote.
Bear in mind, the “relocated” school is moving from existing leased premises (a former IHC centre) to purpose-built new buildings on a site that has not been used as a school in a suburb 5km away. No buildings are being relocated.
Mr Dixon said “this is a $12-million package that is going to cater for total immersion Maori education” which currently is “a four classroom school of no more than 70 pupils” although eventually may cater for approximately 250 students.
“To me it is a new school not a relocation and whenever a new school is built consultation must take place according to the Education Act”, he said.
Mr Dixon suggested in his letter to Mr Key that the feeling in Havelock North “is that strong it will probably cost National the Tukituki electorate seat at the next election”.
Even though Mr Foss had a majority of 6490 in 2014, it appears that the National Party has checked to see the extent of political damage, if any, because several weeks ago National Party pollsters Curia conducted a survey of women in the Tukituki electorate.
The population of Havelock North is rapidly increasing, with another 300 new sections in the pipeline for Havelock North East and another 150 in Havelock North West, Mr Dixon wrote.
The pressure on primary schools in Havelock North is not going to disappear and the Education Ministry has no plan on how to accommodate the increasing number of pupils.
at 2:44 PM