National is calling on the Government to give parents, students and education providers certainty about what the criteria is for school closures as we continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“We know that it’s a difficult time for a number of students, parents and educators. I have written to the Minister of Education asking for information about the criteria for education providers to close. I have also requested an urgent briefing on the situation around education institutions and I have had confirmation that I will get that this afternoon.
“It is important we urgently get clarity and have transparency about what factors are being taken into account. Parents want as much certainty as can be given around what arrangements they will need to make for their children and teachers deserve to know what will happen with their jobs.
“There are a range of factors that need to be taken into account including the effectiveness of stemming the spread of coronavirus and the impact of closure on the health workforce and older people who may be needed to care for younger children.
“There will be a need to be innovative if there are closures to ensure there are adequate childcare options for health workers. We also need to see the Government’s plan for large scale remote learning.
“If the Government decides to keep education providers open, we believe there are additional measures the Government should implement such as:
- Greater financial support for those schools, early learning services and tertiary providers impacted by Covid-19.
- Additional funds for schools, early learning centres and tertiary providers for hygiene, cleaning and disinfection.
- Greater flexibility around school and early learning funding due to potential staff and student absences.
- Funding to ensure schools do not lose support staff.
“National will continue to work constructively with the Government as we have over the past six weeks raising a range of issues about the preparedness of our education system for coronavirus.
“National will support the Government around our education system to take whatever measures are necessary to keep students, educators and the public safe and key decisions around our education system are crucial in the fight against coronavirus.”
The Government needs to step up and provide better support and communication to schools and tertiary providers who are dealing with unexpected extra costs and losses due to coronavirus, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Our thoughts are with the schools dealing with additional coronavirus risks. We are concerned to hear a report about a school that felt they were not able to inform their parents prior to media notification of additional risks.
“It is important to ensure information is accurate but parents have a right to be informed in a timely manner and before the wider public where possible.
“Due to the travel restrictions brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, many current and prospective students are unable to come to New Zealand to study. Ensuring these students are still able to continue their studies via distance learning has become a significant and unexpected cost.
“A number of schools and education providers across the country have spent thousands in costs and some tertiary providers are estimating tens of millions in losses. Providers have been dealing with costs covering alternative student accommodation, supervision, isolation, refunds and a reduction in students.
“International students play an incredibly important part in our economy, contributing about $5 billion a year. The Government needs to step up and show their support.
“The Government has been silent over what support it will offer to our schools and education providers. The Government needs to urgently work with schools and tertiary providers to ensure they have adequate financial support to be able to deal with the effects of coronavirus.”
Another of the Prime Minister’s promises to New Zealanders has rung hollow as her Government fails to deliver 623 learning support coordinators in schools by 2020, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Ministry of Education has confirmed just 68 per cent of the 623 learning support coordinator roles have been appointed and started in schools. Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin now says the number is 505 but this falls well short of the Government’s promise.
“The National Party has regularly raised concerns around the delay of delivering on this promise, finalising the job description, the Government’s inability to be clear to schools on who is going to get the allocated roles and unfairness around the allocation.
“The Government has dragged its heels and has not been clear to schools in time for them to recruit roles for this school year. It’s unfair that schools who have higher needs children and who should’ve received a role have missed out.
“New Zealanders should be sceptical of the Prime Minister’s commitment to provide a role in every school given the Government has been unable to fulfil its promise to deliver 623 roles.
“Ministers have been clear that this was only the first tranche, however officials at Select Committee last week have been unable to confirm a timeline of any second tranche, raising further questions about the Government’s promises.
“National has recently released its Education Discussion Document which proposes supporting children with complex needs both through additional investment and reform of the system to ensure those children get the support they need.
“Unlike Labour, National will deliver on its promises.”
The Education and Health Ministers need to act urgently to ensure precautionary measures, response and contingency plans are in place for education providers, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“New Zealand has a large number of international students who study in schools and tertiary institutions from affected countries.
“I have concerns about cases of students being unwell, some who are from Hubei province, who are being discharged to accommodation in close proximity with other students.
“These young people may not have coronavirus but this is about ensuring we can mitigate the risk. This could be through alternative options for accommodation or isolation beds. The Government should not just be leaving this up to schools or tertiary institutions. Greater financial and practical support should be in place.
“In one case reported in the media an accommodation provider refused to accommodate a student who is waiting for test results. It’s clear there will be students who are unwell and waiting for test results. There is an urgent for more support where providers are not able or do want to house them.
“I have written to both Chris Hipkins and David Clark to ask for urgent additional support.”
I am disappointed that residents from Waiheke and Devonport have been disrupted as a result of Fullers ferry cancellations, Auckland Central’s MP Nikki Kaye says.
“Ultimately public transport must take priority over cruise ships. It is my understanding that there are arrangements in place to try and avoid cruise ships disrupting public transport particularly in peak times.
“Scheduling is known months in advance with the Ports of Auckland who publish this information. Therefore unless cruise ships are delayed, which rarely happens, there should be no excuse for late notification of delays and cancellations.
“I have spoken to Auckland transport and I am still trying to get answers from Fullers. Fullers need to explain what has occurred and why they have made these cancellations so late given they have this information so far in advance.
“There are reports from the public that Fullers have said changes may be due to delays of cruise ships and time taken to dock. Ports of Auckland have said there have been no delays by cruise ships in the last few days.
“I will be asking Fullers, Auckland Transport, the Harbourmaster, Ports of Auckland, cruise ship operators and local representatives to meet and clarify what has occurred and the ongoing arrangements. More people are travelling on ferries and more people are coming on cruise ships so we need to get this right.
“I have called for the exemption to be lifted so that there can be greater service guarantees over Fullers. The Minister is not moving on this as he has said it is being considered as part of the public transport operating model review. The Government needs to move on this to ensure better services.’’
Significant issues with the City Rail Link (CRL) hardship fund is causing stress and anxiety for local businesses, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye says.
“While it was promising that after six months of advocacy an announcement was made last year, it appears the City Rail Link Limited (CRLL) has taken an unduly harsh approach to eligibility to the hardship fund.
“Businesses have approached Heart of the City and myself to hold a meeting to try and resolve these issues. There appears to have been no consultation with businesses prior to developing the criteria for the fund.
“It has focused on paying the difference between actual rent and average market rent for businesses. It is failed to adequately take into account the level of disruption for businesses. It has also taken a flawed approach around what it consider is the time delay to the project.
“I have held numerous meetings with businesses, councillors, other agencies and heart of the city regarding these issues. We have written numerous letters and held multiple protests to get the fund established so it’s upsetting at this point some businesses have been given false hope because CRLL has not provided fair eligibility.
“While I understand the challenges with getting a fair resolution to this, the CRLL has been unduly harsh and need to answer some hard questions about the criteria it has developed. The businesses are arranging a meeting with CRLL, myself, Heart of the City and ideally the mayor. It’s important Transport and Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford also fronts up at this meeting.”
It’s the time of year when schools are trying to work through budgets and contracts for some support staff, but they don’t know how much funding will be provided to address the increase to support staff pay as a result of last years’ settlement, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National supports the additional support staff settlement, which will see pay increases for some 30,000 school support staff, kaiārahi and therapists. But the Government needs to come out and tell schools how much funding will be provided.
“It appears from communications via the New Zealand Schools Trustee Association that some money will come from the Government. Some also needs to come from schools’ operational grants but there hasn’t been any detail around this.
“It is hard for schools to budget for the year when they do not know how much they may need to set aside for the pay increase. Principals are concerned that if the Government doesn’t come up with a reasonable amount of cash then they may have to cut teacher aide hours.
“Schools need time to ensure the appropriate administration processes are in place so staff can be paid correctly by March when the new rates kick in. The Government should have been on top of this already.
“Board of Trustee members, including principals, are calling on the Government to front up and talk to schools so they know what they need to budget for.
“Schools need to be given financial certainty now for the year ahead.”
Momentum is building to reform the law around Unit Titles with almost 500 people lending their support to a petition calling for change, National’s Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye and Housing spokesperson Judith Collins say.
“In October, a group of property stakeholders launched a petition calling on the Government to urgently reform the Unit Titles Act 2010,” Ms Kaye says.
“This petition reflects good support for the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill that Judith Collins and I launched more than a year ago,” Ms Kaye says.
The bill aims to:
- Improve the information disclosure regime to prospective buyers of units
- Strengthen the governance arrangements in relation to the body corporate, the entity responsible for the management and operation of a unit title complex (owner)
- Increase the professionalism and standards of body corporate managers
- Ensure planning and funding of long-term maintenance projects is adequate and proportionate to the size of the complex concerned
“This is particularly important for areas like Auckland Central where the numbers of multi-unit housing developments, and therefore unit titles, has increased dramatically over the past few years. It is my intention to hold a meeting of Body Corporate chairs and body corporate managers in Auckland central to discuss further steps to push for change,” Ms Kaye says.
“We have worked closely with a working group of leaders within the property sector on this bill. It’s widely accepted within the sector that the Act needs reform, and our bill addresses gaps that will make a huge difference.
“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t picked up the Bill. Public support is crucial to put pressure to ensure there are changes,” Ms Kaye says.
“The apartment sector is worth more than $50 billion and is continuing to grow,” Ms Collins says.
“It’s important we have robust laws in place for those who own, or want to buy, apartments.
“It’s encouraging that more than 500 people have already added their signatures, and I ask that anyone with an interest in better rules for apartments and body corporates does so before January 30,” Ms Collins says.
The petition can be found here.
It is fantastic further steps have been announced that will ensure Waiheke Islanders have access to benefits through integrated ticketing as confirmed by Auckland Transport and Fullers today, MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye says.
“I have advocated for changes for some time alongside Waiheke Local Board Chair Cath Handley. I have written to both Mayor Phil Goff, Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Auckland Transport supporting Waiheke to be included in integrated ticketing.
“The changes mean AT hop users who use Waiheke ferries will now get extended benefits to use buses and trains, in single zone travel, at the start and end of their ferry trips. This will see some families and commuters spend less on public transport.
“While this is a positive additional step towards greater integration it does not resolve some of the underlying issues that exist around full integration and the high cost of Waiheke ferry fares to and from the Island.
“I will continue to advocate for further improvements to Waiheke Island ferry services which needs to include the lifting of the exempt status, further improvements to the downtown ferry terminal and ensuring locals are adequately prioritised at the wharf.
“The Minister of Transport has said that the exempt status is being looked at as part of the public transport operating model review but I believe the status should be lifted as soon as possible so that Waiheke gets further guarantees around services.
“I want to thank Auckland Transport and Fullers for their work in progressing further changes to integrating ticketing for Waiheke. I will continue to ensure improvements to services for the island.”
The Government’s recent school infrastructure announcement excludes State Integrated Schools which they believe breaches their agreement with the Crown, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has said State Integrated Schools can use attendance dues to modernise or upgrade their buildings. Mr Hipkins clearly doesn’t understand his own Government’s responsibilities. Attendance dues are used for the payment down of debt to get the buildings to a state standard. The Crown has accepted the obligation to maintain Integrated School premises in a state of repair comparable to a state school.
“The Integrated Schools have a clear case that if the Crown sees the need to increase maintenance funding for State Schools then the Government has an obligation to provide funding for State Integrated Schools, otherwise the Government is discriminating.
“The Minister needs to fix this mistake quickly, otherwise his Government is heading to Court and the Minister will have to defend what appears to be a clear breach of the agreement with the Crown.
“Associate Education Minister Jenny Salesa is reported to be having a crisis meeting with the Integrated Schools representatives tonight. Mr Hipkins needs to front up to this meeting and explain why he has potentially broken the agreement.
“But it’s no wonder Mr Hipkins is confused about the agreement given he’s delegated all responsibility for the relationship with the 330 schools to his Associate and hasn’t formally met with the Association of Integrated Schools.
“Mr Hipkins has a habit of rolling out flawed and unfair education policies. The donation scheme excluded a third of schools, the rollout of the learning support coordinator roles was deeply unfair, and this school infrastructure announcement may have broken a fundamental agreement with 330 schools representing 90,000 students.
“It’s time for the Minister to own up to his mistake in leaving Integrated Schools out of the policy change, otherwise his Government is heading to Court.”