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Local Body Leaders Call on Govt to Stop Reviews

Local Body Leaders Call on Government to Stop the Reviews

The moratorium on school reviews must be applied equally to all communities, southern local body leaders declared today.

Representatives from all councils south of the Waitaki gathered in Invercargill for the Zone 6 meeting of Local Government New Zealand, and added their weight to calls to halt the remaining school network reviews.

Several speakers criticised the inconsistencies in the reviews, which they said were based on questionable data with no research to support the decisions.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Southland Mayor Frana Cardno won unanimous support for their motion insisting on an extension of the current moratorium to all schools under review.

Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner said that in the Taieri Review, which resulted in 15 schools being reduced to seven, Education Minister Trevor Mallard had overridden the recommendation of his facilitators and closed more schools than they had proposed. That made a nonsense of the consultation with the community.

“This whole issue has disrupted everyone,” she said. “It is not rooted in any sort of research or any sort of long-term strategy.”

Mrs Turner also called on councils to scrutinise the funding of reviewed schools, to ensure that they received the economic benefits that were being promised. “We need to keep our thumb on this whole thing and make sure that … schools are actually getting that money,” she said.

Waitaki District Councillor Struan Munro said that the school review in North Otago and Waitaki Valley had had “horrendous” impacts on rural communities. He described how Mr Mallard had ridden rough-shod over the facilitators’ recommendations for reorganising schools in the area, which had reflected the communities’ wishes. “He would have been better to come from the start and say what was to happen and not pretend to consult people,” Cr Munro said.

Invercargill City Councillor Geoff Piercey said that there was no underlying rationale to any of the decisions, and the process was dividing the community, pitting school against school.

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