Education Minister Chris Hipkins is struggling to keep up with his ever-changing story about so-called funding ‘holes’ in the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Last week, Mr Hipkins told The Press newspaper that he only found out in October last year that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was funded through tranches and that there was further funding required in the programme.
“This week, he is denying he ever said it despite the story reporting his assertions that there was a $215 million ‘hole’ in the programme.
“What’s clear is that Labour’s story is rapidly changing and that it failed to account for some business-as-usual spending and existing programmes like the Christchurch schools rebuild.
“Mr Hipkins has realised it is not credible to claim he didn’t know that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was being appropriated in tranches over successive years – there were Cabinet papers, business papers, press releases, and news stories explaining this approach.
“He now appears to be backing down, admitting that he knew about the tranche funding for the rebuild – even stating today in Parliament that he believes Labour accounted for this in its pre-election costings.
“But the fact is, there was no line item for the rest of the Christchurch schools rebuild programme in Labour’s Fiscal Plan.
“Labour has previously manufactured ‘holes’ by labelling spending for business-as-usual or existing programmes as such, so now we have this farcical situation where Labour’s own policies, that it claims to have costed, are ‘holes’.
“Mr Hipkins has a bit of digging to do to get himself out of this one.”
The cracks in the Coalition Government are deepening by the day, with the Prime Minister at odds with not only the Greens, but members of her own caucus who have since been threatened by the Deputy Prime Minister if they don’t back down on compulsory Te Reo.
“Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has made it clear she wants to see the Green Party’s policy to make Te Reo compulsory taken up,” National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“That puts her at odds with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but she’s not the only one.
“Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has said he doesn’t see any difference between compulsory and universally available, and he considers the Government’s policy to mean Te Reo is compulsory.
“And now we have Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters threatening that Nanaia and Willie should be out of government if they don’t back down.
“National’s policy is for Te Reo to be universally available. We announced at the last election that we would invest $160 million over four years to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn a second language at primary school, if they choose to. That policy is currently being progressed as a Members’ Bill.
“My Members’ Bill currently in the ballot ensures that all children in years 1-8 have universal access to learn a second language, including Te Reo. It makes it clear that Te Reo is to be a national priority language and that resources must be available to any school that wants teach it and any child that wants to learn it.
“The number of students learning Te Reo increased around 30,000 between 2010 and 2016. However, there is more to do and one of the key issues we need to address is access to Te Reo teachers and resourcing.
“I am happy to work with the Government to support my Members’ Bill to Select Committee so that the public can have their say on the importance of increasing the number of young people learning Te Reo and other languages.”
The withdrawal of the Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill is a big win for hardworking swimming teachers, music teachers, ballet teachers and other teachers affected by the bill, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“It’s clear that National’s campaign against this flawed bill has succeeded. The lack of work on the bill to determine the number of people affected, the costings, and the general impact that the bill would have had meant that it was destined to fail.
“The bill’s misguided attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession by stopping those who have not gained recognised teaching qualifications from calling themselves ‘teachers’ was not even supported by the teaching profession.
“It’s extraordinary that it got to Select Committee with the support of Labour and the Greens despite opposition from the Government’s own Attorney-General David Parker.
“It’s good that Jenny Marcroft has recognised the overwhelming opposition to the bill she inherited from Tracey Martin and made the right call to drop it. Her heart was in the right place but the bill was not well thought-through.
“People who teach swimming, music, dance or art make a significant contribution in our communities and should have every right to call themselves teachers. Fining them for using that title would have done nothing to raise the status of qualified school teachers.
“There are far better ways to raise the status of teachers. We need to make sure we have high quality graduates choosing teaching as a career and investing in professional learning and development opportunities.
“This bill was severely flawed from the start and I hope this the last we’ll see of it.”
Labour is struggling to deliver on their wild campaign promises because they ignored the basic capital pressures of business-as-usual government, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The chickens have come home to roost. Despite billions of additional funding from new revenue and borrowed money, Labour is admitting they failed to budget for business-as-usual spending and are now crying poverty,” Ms Kaye says.
“Chris Hipkins says he has identified a ‘surprise’ $1.1 billion of school property projects that need funding. This is embarrassing for the Minister, because the projects are just part of business-as-usual that the Government needs to fund each and every Budget.
“Over the last three Budgets, for example, National set aside an extra $1.7 billion for school property – taking the total funding available for school infrastructure over the next four years to $4.8 billion.
“It is clear the Government is trying to cover up its negligence with a two-step spin programme. Step one: pretend existing programmes like the Canterbury schools rebuild and population growth funding are holes in the Budget that they never knew about. Step two: relabel initiatives National funded as their own.
“The reality is that investing in school property to get ahead of growth was a priority for National, and is part of the business-as-usual spend of any government.
“We were on track to deliver the 17,000 extra student places needed in Auckland by 2019, and were finalising the Auckland Education Growth Plan to strategically manage the increasing pressure on Auckland’s schooling network.
“We knew that growth was continuing and would need further funding each year.
“The funding for the Canterbury schools rebuild was always through a tranche process – that has always been clear publicly. It is laughable that Chris Hipkins failed to understand this.
“If it is really a surprise to Mr Hipkins that there is a need for continued investment in these areas, he clearly wasn’t across his portfolio. It is more likely that he is trying to find any excuse at all to cover up his failure to deliver on his extravagant promise to modernise every one of New Zealand’s 30,000 schools.
“These areas need investment every Budget and to try and dress that up as something new and unforeseen is spin at its worst,” Ms Kaye says.
Auckland Council and the Government must prioritise Auckland’s sporting infrastructure to ensure that community sport is not put at risk, National’s Sport and Recreation Spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Local Government (Auckland) Spokesperson Denise Lee say.
“Auckland Council’s draft long-term plan for youth sport and recreation infrastructure is inadequate. The current plan contains a capital shortfall of at least $500 million over the next ten years and does not sufficiently satisfy local demand,” Ms Kaye says.
“There are between 90 and 150 sports fields and courts needed in Auckland right now. These sports facilities are vital to the survival of organisations that provide sport and recreational opportunities and employ more than 25,000 Aucklanders.
“This deficiency is exacerbated by the Government moving to scrap Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). PPPs are an innovative way to spend taxpayer money efficiently, and are crucial to ensuring sport and recreation remains accessible for all Aucklanders.
“Scrapping PPPs will hold Auckland and other parts of New Zealand back in terms of sporting infrastructure. Even if the Government doesn’t support PPPs then it could consider partnerships that harness central, local and community funding.
“With intensification there will be a growing need to utilise space better. With over $4.85 billion allocated to school infrastructure by the last Government, a large amount of which was destined for Auckland, there are huge opportunities for greater partnerships.”
Ms Lee says National will be holding a series of meetings over the next six months with the community and sporting organisations to help progress projects across Auckland to ensure more young people and their families have access to sport and recreation facilities.
“We know there are councillors and local board representatives who feel strongly about this so we plan to work closely with them.
“While we are focusing on Auckland, we will also be working with local MPs to identify other areas of New Zealand where projects can be progressed.
“The economic ramifications of poor sporting infrastructure are huge, with the sector contributing at least $1.9 billion to Auckland’s economy each year.
“Physical inactivity cost New Zealand’s health care system over $200 million in 2013 and some research indicates that around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight.
“The Education Minister needs to continue the Auckland Education Growth Plan which was being worked on by the previous Government and was due to be considered by Cabinet last November. It is important to look at the work done so far to factor in potential opportunities around sport and recreational infrastructure.
“We must prioritise sport and recreation in our communities and Auckland Council and the Government must front up with more funding to support Auckland’s sporting infrastructure.”
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has launched a Member’s Bill to ensure that the Youth Court has greater access to education officers to help reduce the risk of reoffending.
“We know that getting qualifications reduces the risk of a young person reoffending and that education officers therefore have a big part to play in steering young offenders away from crime,” Ms Kaye says.
“While there are education officers at some of the Youth Court locations, they are not universally available. The Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Education Officers) Amendment Bill will strengthen the role of education officers and provide access to these officers in all Youth Court locations.
“This bill is about giving the Youth Court access to a young person’s educational status, addressing the young person’s educational needs, better supporting the young person’s family where needed and assisting the young person to re-engage in education or training.
“It enables education officers to attend family group conferences and provide education reports to the conferences.
“It also requires the Secretary of Education to sufficiently resource the Youth Court with officers and empowers the Secretary to provide financial assistance to give effect to education aspects of decisions and recommendations of family group conferences.
“Data shows that in 2015, more than two-thirds of offenders in Youth Court had prior involvement with Child, Youth and Family. And of all young people who had experienced CYF care, 80 per cent had left school with only NCEA Level One or less.
“This indicates that many of those going through the Youth Court have almost no qualifications. Despite this, only a small number of education orders are made by judges which may be because they don’t have all the information on a young person’s education status or there isn’t the resource to support the young person to get reengaged in education.
“It’s well known that a large number of people in our prisons lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. While it’s important to invest in education programmes in prisons, this bill is about helping to ensure young offenders never make it to prison.
“I have spoken to lawyers and others working on the frontline with young offenders who support this bill. They know the importance of greater education resource and support for these young people.
“This bill puts education outcomes of young people at the heart of our youth justice system.”
The Government needs to explain why it has put the Auckland Education Growth Plan on hold, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Cabinet was due to consider the final Auckland Education Growth Plan last November. It’s now been six months and we’ve had no word from the Government on how it plans to manage the increasing pressure on Auckland’s schools.
“In May last year as Education Minister, I put through a Cabinet paper outlining progress in the development of the plan. We were awaiting updated population forecasts from Statistics NZ before considering the final plan.
“Those forecasts have since been released, but we’re yet to hear anything from the Government about the final plan.
“It’s clear that adding capacity to Auckland’s schooling network is not a priority for the new Government like it was for National.
“In 2014, we announced a plan to build nine new schools and additional classrooms in order to deliver the extra 17,000 student places needed in Auckland by 2019. By June 2017, we had delivered 9,000 extra places and were on-track to deliver all 17,000 by 2019.
“We knew that at the rate Auckland was growing, we needed to do more. That’s why we set aside $4.85 billion for school property over four years in Budget 2017.
“That included $240 million just for Auckland in the first year. This money would deliver four new schools, one major school expansion, the relocation of two special education schools, new and replacement classrooms, and additional special education satellite units.
“Auckland urgently needs greater capacity in its school network. Students, parents and teachers deserve better than having to wait six months for the Government to get going.
“The Minister must release the Auckland Education Growth Plan and assure Aucklanders that the money National set aside for adding capacity will be used to do so, and won’t just be eaten up by the $2.8 billion fees free policy for tertiary students.”
National Party spokesperson for Sport and Recreation Nikki Kaye is heading to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games tomorrow to show her support for our Kiwi athletes.
“All of our athletes have worked extremely hard to represent our country in their chosen sport at this year’s Commonwealth Games and we are very proud of them,” Ms Kaye says.
“New Zealand has over 250 athletes competing in the Games including 13 para athletes competing in 3 para sports and I am excited for the opportunity to see the games and support our athletes.
“We may be a small nation but the New Zealand team has had huge success, gaining 10 gold medals, 12 silver and 9 bronze, with a couple of days still to go. These are results to be proud of and I am sure there is more to come.
“Australia must also be congratulated for their hugely successful event and they can be proud of the organisation and facilities they have delivered.
“As National’s new spokesperson for Sport and Recreation, it is great to support our athletes as they compete on the world stage and also to learn from other countries about policies that may be beneficial to New Zealand athletes.
“As part of my trip, I look forward to attending several sporting events and am pleased to be attending a breakfast organised by Mike Stanley, the President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee. This breakfast will give me the opportunity to congratulate many of the New Zealand athletes participating in the Games.
“I will also have a range of meetings whilst at the Games, including with the Australian Minister of Sport, Senator Hon Bridget McKenzie.”
National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says a bill supported by the Labour Government will undermine educators throughout the country by restricting the use of the term ‘teacher’.
“The Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill removes the ability of those who do not have certain recognised teaching qualifications from calling themselves ‘teachers’. Anyone who breaches this is liable to pay a $2000 fine,” Ms Kaye says.
“This bill jeopardises many of our current teachers and early childhood teachers whose current qualifications and experiences fall outside of the criteria.
“It has the potential to undermine and devalue our many educators who contribute to the wellbeing of our country. There are already provisions in the law to penalise people who may be misleading people about their qualifications.
“The impact of the bill is not even isolated to the education sector. Are we going to fine every music teacher, dance teacher, and swimming teacher?
“National believes there are far greater priorities for education. This bill has far reaching consequences for many people.
“As per questions raised by National MPs in public hearings, we don’t even have basic information on the number of educators or education businesses affected by this change. But we know it will at least be thousands of people.
“Even the Attorney-General has come out against the bill as it breaches the Bill of Rights, yet the Government continues to support it.
“This bill is a solution looking for one problem and creating another.”
Submissions for the Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill close today at midnight and can be made here.
The Government needs to stop complaining and start getting on with its job, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Labour inherited a strong economy from the previous National Government, but it over promised during the election campaign and now it’s learning that its budget is too tight.
“In order to manage expectations about the meagre Budget the Government is about to deliver, it appears Education Minister Chris Hipkins is trying to rewrite history.
“But the fact is, under National the education budget increased every year we were in office and the overall education budget went from $8 billion to over $11 billion.
“When we came into government, we inherited a property portfolio with an average age of 40 years. There was no complete picture of the state of school property.
“We invested more than $5 billion in school property alone – the largest ever. This included more than 30 big projects including the $1.1 billion Christchurch schools rebuild, the $79 million Western Springs College rebuild and the $22 million upgrade for The Gardens School.
“The Auditor-General last year stated that during the time National was in Government, the management of the school property portfolio strengthened significantly.
“But we knew there was still more work to be done. That’s why a further $4.85 billion had been set aside over four years for education infrastructure, like school property.
“We were also investing in high-growth areas. Once Budget 2017 is taken into account, we were on track to deliver around 21,000 extra student places needed in Auckland by 2027.
“Mr Hipkins should release evidence to back up his claim of $200 million worth of unusable buildings. If he is suggesting school buildings are unsafe, there are potential legal consequences under health and safety laws.
“This is a government in spin mode. It allocated almost all its money to the fees free bribe, and none to the business-as-usual expenditure that always comes up in education. It just needs to get on with the job.”