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A Sacking Offence - Education In 2002

Speech by Donna Awatere Huata - Response to the Prime Minister's Statement, February 12 2002.

I quote from a speech I gave to this House two years ago:

"Zoning will result in racial segregation in schools. The 33 percent of Maori and even higher proportion of Pasifika students who move out of their school zones will be affected by new zoning laws. Forget about any racial or ethnic balance once these new laws come in. The odd poor brown child will get in on the ballot, but the good schools will get whiter and richer, and the poor-performing schools will get browner and poorer."

That is exactly what has happened. At Auckland Grammar there has been a 36 percent drop in the number of Maori students at year nine, and a 35 percent drop for Pasifika students. I predicted it. Principal John Morris predicted it. How hard would it have been for the Minister to predict it?

A year ago, John Morris said: "Under the Government's present zoning policy, the student roll will become predominately European over the next decade." Mr Morris pointed out that this is completely contrary to Grammar's founding charter deed of 1850, that says, "Persons of all classes or races who may inhabit this colony are to be in all respects equally admitted".

At the same time, I said: "The wealthy will move in increasing numbers to wealthy areas to get into the best schools and drive up property rates in those areas, while the poor, who can't afford to move, will be left to languish in poor areas in the poorest performing schools." That is exactly what has happened. The only thing I did not get right was how much the properties would go up in value. Last year the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand said properties would go up by $10,000 per house. It now turns out that it is much closer to $100,000 per house. How on earth does that help the poor?

I would like the Minister of Education to try to justify what he has done.

There is massive overcrowding in top schools. Rental properties are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. House prices are sky high. There are no balloted places in the top schools.

It is not just happening in Auckland. It is happening in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, and Palmerston North. It is the same story all around the country.

Under this Government's zoning laws, the top Maori scholar for 1999, a student who bussed out of South Auckland every day, would not be able to get into Auckland Grammar. That student was just one of the 33 percent of Maori who bussed, walked, or were driven out of their home zone and into a better school. The only way now that a few Maori are getting into the top state schools is if they already have siblings there.

What were Labour Maori MPs thinking when they voted for this law? It turns out that the Minister of Maori Affairs, who also happens to be the Associate Minister of Education, was never briefed on the potential implications zoning would have for Maori and Pacific Island children. It also turns out that the Maori caucus was not briefed either. They had no idea of the implications that zoning laws would have for Maori.

Hon Richard Prebble: What are they going to do about it?

Never mind talking about closing the gap in the community, I say to Mr Prebble. Let us just try to close the gap between this Minister of Education and his Maori caucus. That would be a very good start.

In June last year I put out a statement headed, "Rich European and Chinese students only". My statement reads, "One of Auckland's best schools is set to become the domain of rich European and Chinese students. The only State boys' school on the Auckland isthmus is forced to effectively lock out poor children as a result of perverse zoning policies. The institution's rich, multicultural environment will be decimated. Wealthy, inner-city, European and Chinese students will replace the dark-skinned kids from South Auckland."

That was a statement I put out on June 20 last year. How about that for a prediction? Maori enrolments are down by 36 percent, and Chinese enrolments are up by 77 percent.

I doubt many of the parents of those Chinese students actually voted for Labour at the last election. But I bet a lot of those Maori and Pacific Island parents did. And what did they get for their vote? Labour has put up prison bars around their local schools. Hardly any Pakeha go to those schools. About one Pakeha out of every 100 goes to the poorest schools, compared to 20 Maori and 40 Pacific Island children out of every 1000. Yet 80 percent of suspensions come from those schools, and they have five times more teacher vacancies. Their students make up most of the problem readers in this country, and they make up most of the kids who leave school without any qualifications whatsoever.

Those are the very schools that this Labour Government has put prison bars around and from where it will not let students out. I wonder what the Labour Maori MPs will say to parents whose children are forced into those prison schools. I bet none of the children of Maori Labour MPs go to those schools. Otherwise those members would be the ones knocking down those bars. They would be tearing them down, and banging on the door of the Minister of Education saying, "No way, Minister!" You take down these prison bars!"

I want to give another example of the pathetic performance of Trevor Mallard as Minister. Last year I pointed out that some classes had been without a teacher for up to six months.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Six months?!?

Six months! What did the Minister say? He said, "Nah, nah, nah!" He said, "That member, Donna Awatere Huata, got it wrong" - or, as he is wont to mispronounce my name, "DUH - ON - NAH got it wrong." Then at the beginning of this year, I pointed out that every second school in New Zealand was missing a teacher, and that up to 4,500 children were affected. "Nah, nah, nah!" he said. "That member, Donna Awatere Huata - DUH - ON - NAH has got it all wrong."

Well I say to the Minister that I did get it wrong. It was not 4,500 children who were affected, it was 5,000. I was 500 short!

Only yesterday did the Minister finally admit that he was the one who had it wrong all along. In fact, he now admits that he was 5,000 students out. He had underestimated school rolls by 500 percent. To be out by ten percent is an error. To be out by 50 percent - well, mistakes do happen. To be out by 100 percent means that the Minister of Education has serious problems. But to be out by 500 percent... I ask, what is the word for that? I will not ask Mr Prebble because he might tell me, and it would be unparliamentary for me to repeat it! But what do we say?

Hon Richard Prebble: It's a sacking offence!

My leader says that it is a sacking offence. And he is right.

But what is happening to those children? They are packed in like sardines with teachers whom Mr Mallard called "lucky" last year to get a 3.5 percent pay rise. I wonder how lucky they are feeling at the moment, hearing that the nurses got six percent. Is it any wonder that our teachers are leaving this country like lemmings?

How much worse can it get?

Well, it actually gets a lot worse. Listen to the pathetic excuses for that 500 percent miscalculation on this year's school roll - it was immigration, it was emigration, it was increased residential building in Auckland.

I have to ask - how hard could it be to find out the statistics of teachers leaving? They are on the record. And we've known since September 11 that New Zealanders with children were coming home. How hard is it for the Ministry to get information from other Government agencies? How hard would it have been to monitor resource consents for residential buildings, to check employment statistics or immigration records?

So, did anyone do any of these activities? No one did. What is the State Services Commissioner doing about the situation? Nothing! He is like a goanna - he only moves when he is stepped on. Mr Fancy will probably be given a record bonus this year, despite the 5000 kids affected by overcrowding, the missing teachers and the lack of classrooms. Like Mr Prebble, I call this situation a sacking offence - not only for Mr Wintringham and Mr Fancy, but also for that Minister of Education, Mr Trevor Mallard.


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