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Minister Hipkins Reaffirms Māori Stance At Unitec

The Minister of Education has validated serious concerns raised by Unitec’s Rūnanga and Māori staff collective Te Roōpū Mataara.

In a response letter to former Rūnanga Chair Tui Ah Loo, Minister Chris Hipkins stated that his expectations in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 had not been met. He also acknowledged that the needs of Māori learners, staff, whānau and hapū were not properly considered.

Former Rūnanga Chair Tui Ah Loo says “On receiving the Minister’s letter I felt a deep sense of validation and affirmation that our concerns have finally been upheld. I am particularly happy for all our whānau whānui at Unitec and our wider community to know they have been heard and their voices and actions have not been in vein”.

In his letter Minister Hipkins said he sympathized with and appreciated the concerns raised. He also acknowledged the progress made by previous leaders of Unitec in recent years through authentic adherence to a culture of transparency, communication, partnership and a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as well as putting learners and the community at its centre.

The Minister agreed that what had been described in the open letter sent to his office in January this year clearly showed this was no longer the case.

“Based on your letter, it is evident that both my expectations and your expectations have not been delivered on. I have made it clear to the Chair of Te Pūkenga, who is copied into this letter, that I expect Te Pūkenga and its subsidiaries to fully give effect to its Charter and my Letter of Expectations.”

The Board appointment of a single CEO across Unitec and MIT without consultation with the Unitec Rūnanga, and the following restructure led to the departure of key Māori leadership which has left Māori staff and students extremely vulnerable and unsafe.

Hundreds of Māori and non Māori staff marched in solidarity alongside Tui Ah Loo and her whānau when the portrait of her late father Tā Te Ahikaiata John Tūrei was removed from the Unitec Boardroom in protest of their refusal to respect and honour the partnership of Te Noho Kotahitanga.

Māori staff and students are extremely disappointed that there has been no response from Unitec or the Unitec/MIT Board, despite the resignations of four Rūnanga members, the departure of three Executive Leaders including TeTumu Māori Executive Director, and a vote of no confidence by Māori staff in the Chair of the subsidiary board of Unitec/MIT.

Tui Ah Loo says, “To date no one has been held accountable for their actions that have caused this crisis for Māori at Unitec. I support the vote of no confidence in the Chair of the Board of Unitec/MIT. Minister Hipkins has clearly laid out in this Letter of Expectation that Māori are critical partners in educational success. We know that Māori MPs are aware of this issue and as their constituents we expect them to stand with us and demand accountability for contemporary breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

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