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Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Whangaroa

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Whangaroa

Media Release

The existing kura whanau whose children have remained enrolled in the Kura Kaupapa o Whangaroa during the debacle caused by disaffected parents, are concerned that both the Ministry of Education and the media are confusing the real issues in relation to what has occurred at the Kura. Louisa Mutu was dismissed in late 2013 and is currently facing disciplinary matter before the Teachers Council. Those whanau who removed their children from the Kura in January did so because they disagreed with a Board decision to dismiss the previous tumuaki, Louisa Mutu, not because of an election process. Their subsequent complaints about the election process are based on a motivation to dislodge the Board, however most of the complainants were active participants in the 2013 process held over 6 months prior.

The existing whanau who have remained steadfast and loyal to the kaupapa of the kura are frankly fed up with the one sided approach on the issue and the Ministry's continued mishandling and lack of process in resolving the matters both real and perceived within the community. So much so that a Judicial Review application was filed this week so that the High Court at Whangarei can resolve the issues. There is no faith that the Ministry can or will given our experience to date.

The Ministry appointed a Commissioner in June. After his appointment, the Commissioner was tasked with producing a report on the 2013 election process intended to provide the Ministry with information on whether they could validate the 2013 process. However, by the nature of the questions he was raising and by the restrictions on how wide he could inform himself it became obvious that report was not going to result in information being provided to the Ministry that would or even could result in a decision being made that the irregularities in the election process could not materially have affected the result of the election. Being the legal basis on which validation of the 2013 process could occur.

The whanau had made it clear to the Ministry as early as February that the elections regulations had not been strictly adhered to but that a fair process had been run nonetheless. The review has failed to ascertain what process actually did take place and whether people were informed and supported it and takes us no further than the information the previous Board already provided to the Ministry in February to May this year.

The whanau who remain at the kura believed that the ongoing uncertainty in the processes the Commissioner was undertaking, some of his statements and actions which were seen as actively undermining Kura policy and procedure and the role of our Tumuaki and the general mistrust created by his methods was not conducive to a balanced and fair report that could result in validation. This is evident by the very low numbers of existing kura whanau that participated in his review, and has been confirmed by the recent receipt of the report by the whanau.

The open ended process, which was meant to be his priority but which took him two months to begin, and which provided no certainty as to either timeframes or outcome meant that the most pragmatic and certain resolution to the election issue was to hold a voluntary election and bypass the validation process (a process we had requested be carried out in April). Moving to a voluntary election was the unanimous decision of the existing kura whanau at a whanau hui, however, the Commissioner declined to support this approach based on his personal view that he later stated to some of the whanau that a voluntary election according to the regulations was 'illegal and immoral'.

Contrary to what the Commissioner has stated in his report, the Commissioner was informed of the unanimous whanau decision made on the 6th of August, immediately thereafter and was asked to attend a hui with the whanau on the 9th to discuss this, he refused. Also contrary to his personalisation of the issue wherein he has singled out Terry Smith our previous Board Chair as the person responsible, the decision has been a collective one. The whanau are at a loss for why he would not support an election at this point.

Further concerns the whanau have in respect of his report include:

• It is one sided in favour of the views of whanau who no longer have children enrolled at the kura and is therefore unbalanced;

• Key comments by whanau with children at the kura have been omitted;

• It states that an Independent Investigator (Graham Withers JP) was contracted to assist in the completion of the review to verify objectivity. In fact we were informed by Larry Forbes himself that Graham Withers would be undertaking the review and drafting the report because Larry had declared a conflict of interest. We appear to have been misled on this important point;

• He did not ascertain from the returning officer what process did actually take place;

• He has not specifically sought documentation not already provided such as the electoral rolls;

• He has not interviewed the staff representative to establish how she was appointed.

The Commissioner was not warranted in the first place, is not required for resolution of the election issue now and is not assisting our Kura in any regard. In fact we believe our progress has been stalled as a result of his appointment. The whanau have real concerns that the damage that is being caused by his approach and lack of awareness of Te Aho Matua and inability to communicate in te reo is causing real issues that will be further (and otherwise unnecessary) work for our whanau and the incoming Board of Trustees to clean up.

We as a whanau are very keen and motivated to focus our energies and kura resources on positive developments for our children and this whole issue over the 2013 election has been a very costly and time consuming distraction from the real business we are all committed to, that is the quality education and high achievement of our children in te reo Maori according to the principles of Te Aho Matua, with active support and guidance for whanau and from whanau.

To this end, we as a whanau have decided the fastest way to return the kura to good governance and whanau whakahaere is to hold a voluntary election. We have resolved to do this and appointed an independent and experienced electoral officer. The election process will be run strictly according to the regulations. The Commissioner's and the Ministry's refusal to support this will be a matter for the High Court to resolve.


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