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Posts Tagged ‘Hekia Parata’

The right to know: Hekia Parata

Posted by on October 12th, 2013

The next Minister to be profiled in the Right to know series is Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education and Pacific Island Affairs.

As did many other respondents, Hekia Parata provided us with a redacted version of the spreadsheet log kept by her office. She also emphasised in her accompanying letter that this “may not be a complete, or accurate, reflection as this would require cross referencing each entry with each individual file…”

Along with uncertainty whether the log is 100% accurate, it is also evident that she regularly responds to requests late with only just over half the total number of responses sent within the 20 day statutory period. Her full response can be found here, and is well worth a look.

You’ll find a few, but there is one particularly flagrant example of the Minister’s disregard for the Official Information Act at the bottom of page one where a request from the Research and Advice Team (of an undisclosed organisation) was due on 10 May and actually responded to on 18 June!

I will place a caveat on the 10 requests we have classified as not having been responded to. There were multiple instances of an x appearing in the “Response Date” column which we have assumed to mean that for some reason that entry was not applicable. In some instances the request had been transferred or withdrawn but in other the rationale for the x was not so obvious.

The ten classified as “Not Responded to” however had no entry whatsoever in the ‘Response Date” column but the other columns are complete and as such we think it reasonable to conclude that these requests have not yet been responded to.

On the upside, Hekia Parata did provide some info about requestors:


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Responsibility for payout rests with Parata

Posted by on March 5th, 2013

Today the State Services Commission finally announced the details of Lesley Longstone’s departure package. Recall that Longstone resigned as CE of the Ministry of Education the week before Christmas, just after her Minister, Hekia Parata, had conveniently brought her holiday forward so she was away from any fallout.

In announcing her resignation, State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie cited a breakdown in Longstone’s relationship with Hekia Parata as one of the reasons for her leaving. To this day, Parata is still refusing to comment on the issue.

Responsibility for Longstone’s $425,000 payout rests squarely on Hekia Parata’s shoulders. Taxpayers are paying a hefty price, just so that National has someone else to blame for the Government’s stuff-ups in education. Let’s look at the big debacles:

  • Bigger class sizes was a policy signed-off by Cabinet as part of the Budget
  • The Christchurch school fiasco was all done under ministerial direction
  • Novopay was signed-off by Ministers (albeit on shonky advice)
  • Salisbury School’s closure, overturned by the courts, was Parata’s decision

Basically, Longstone is taking the fall for the government, and the taxpayers are forking out $425,000 as a result. The real accountability should be with the Minister. John Key promised Kiwis he would hold his ministers to a higher standard. Repeatedly he has failed to live up to that commitment.

Today’s pay-out is also a complete slap in the face to the thousands of school staff who are still waiting to be paid what they are owed by Novopay. It is galling to see so much money wasted on a severance payment when schools are still waiting for proper Government support to compensate them for the costs of the Novopay debacle.

School staff stress = non-compliance

Posted by on March 3rd, 2013

Hundreds if not thousands of schools up and down the country will have fallen foul of a Ministry of Education requirement for them to submit school charters by last Friday. The reason? Novopay!

In most schools, the same staff who deal with the payroll will also be dealing with compliance issues like charters. Given the choice between making sure people get paid or meeting Ministry compliance requirements, many schools have rightly focused on getting people paid.

Principals and schools tell me they’ve written to Ministers pleading for lenience on charters, but they’ve completely ignored them. Hekia Parata’s absolute arrogance and unwillingness to show lenience on already over-stressed school staff once again shows how out of touch and out of her depth she is as Minister of Education.

The Novo-shambles rolls on yet still the government refuses to do anything to relieve the massive pressure school administrators are under. Vague promises of a solution somewhere in the future just don’t cut it. Schools desperately need help and support now. Parata and Joyce should get off their backsides and start providing it.

So much for Hekia Parata’s word…

Posted by on February 20th, 2013

Today in Parliament I questioned the Minister of Education Hekia Parata on her decision to close Branston Intermediate School in Christchurch. I singled out Branston because Parata had given them a specific commitment that they wouldn’t close before the end of 2014 and she has now reneged on that commitment. Here is an excerpt from the Hansard (video):

Chris Hipkins: Did she, or her officials, give Branston Intermediate School an assurance that any students enrolled for 2013 would be able to finish their 2 years at Branston Intermediate School before any closure?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did not.

Chris Hipkins: Did she write to Branston Intermediate School on 28 September stating that she had made “a proposal about the closure of Branston Intermediate School to be implemented for the end of 2014.”, and did she tell a public meeting at Branston Intermediate School that the school would definitely be open in 2014, as parents have written in to say she said; if so, why is she now changing that proposal so that students who have only just started school this year will have to change school next year?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did provide Branston Intermediate School with a proposal, and in the meeting with the Branston community I repeatedly said it was a proposal and that they were free to make submissions on it, as indeed they can on the proposal they now have.

Chris Hipkins: At the public meeting with Branston Intermediate School did she give them an assurance that Branston Intermediate School would still be open in 2014?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I made it clear, repeatedly, that it was a proposal, that they had the opportunity to give a submission on that proposal, and I got their submission, and they now have a further opportunity.

At that point we then had a lengthy series of points of order about whether or not Parata’s answer actually addressed the question. Ultimately, the public will be the judge of that, but I can’t imagine she would’ve gotten away with that under Lockwood Smith.

Hekia Parata can try to hide behind the words “interim decisions” and “proposal” all she likes – but the fact is she has gone back on her word. Her word is worthless.

Is it any wonder that 71% of those polled in Canterbury want Hekia Parata sacked as Minister of Education? They don’t trust her, and don’t want her anywhere near the education of their children.

Another Parata communication triumph

Posted by on February 8th, 2013

Within the next two weeks Hekia Parata will be charged with announcing the fate of several dozen Canterbury schools. Consultation on merger and closure proposals ended just before Christmas and Parata  supposedly spent her extended summer break reading them.

While all of those schools wait on tenterhooks to hear their fate, Parata decided today to announce the government’s plans to open six brand new schools in Christchurch. Talk about a slap in the face to all of the schools still waiting to hear what the future holds for them.

Nobody doubts that significant change is required. The population has moved around in Christchurch, and as a result some schools have shrunk to the point where they are no longer viable while others are bursting at the seams.

But there is a way to do this. It starts with respect for the school communities affected. Shepherding all the principals and BOTs into a hall and giving them colour-coded name badges to indicate whether they were closing, merging, or remaining wasn’t a great start. Announcing the opening of new schools before telling the existing schools of their fate rubs further salt into the wounds.

Hekia Parata has a difficult job to do, but she seems determined to make it even harder for herself. Her handling of the Christchurch schooling situation has demonstrated arrogance and a total lack of respect. The people of Christchurch deserve better.

Bulk funding = cost cutting

Posted by on February 6th, 2013

Last year Hekia Parata announced that the National government was going to be putting more kids into each class. The backlash was huge, and within weeks the National government had backed down, leaving a big hole in their Budget. They still haven’t identified how they’re going to fill it.

Yesterday Radio NZ reported that the Treasury are arguing for a return to bulk-funding of schools. One of the biggest components of our existing spend on schooling is teacher salaries. By devolving responsibility for salaries to individual schools, the government would also devolve the problem of working out how to make up for reduced funding.

If the new ‘bulk’ fund provided to each school didn’t keep up with increasing costs, and didn’t take into account any negotiated increases in teacher pay (which would still be negotiated by central government), schools would be forced to reduce teacher numbers (bigger classes), swap experienced teachers for less experienced ones to reduce salary costs, or cut funding from other areas of the school budget (which is already under enormous pressure).

Is this how Hekia Parata is going to fill in the hole she has created in the education budget? Bulk funding is National’s way of abrogating responsibility for funding schools properly. The losers, at the end of the day, will be the kids.

Parata battening down the hatches

Posted by on November 11th, 2012

Hekia Parata now seems to be working on the premise that the less information she gives out, the less accountable she will have to be. After making such a hash of her proposals for school closures and mergers and Christchurch, Parata and her Ministry are now refusing to release the information and advice she received when making those decisions.

I understand officials presented the Minister with several alternative options, but requests for that advice to be released are being refused. That is wrong. In refusing to release that advice officials have argued it would compromise the consultation going on at the moment. How could releasing more, and extremely important, information undermine a supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation?

Similar requests directed to Ms Parata have not been actioned on the basis that she is too busy visiting schools in Christchurch to respond to them. That’s a bit rich coming from a Minister who has refused pleas from those very same schools to give them extra time to undertake consultation.

The Government should be approaching this process in an open, transparent and democratic way. Instead the Minister and her officials are promoting a culture of secrecy. In turn that cloak and dagger secrecy around the release of information is simply creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

That’s not a responsible way for the government to behave. I urge Hekia Parata to openly release all of the information and advice she has received regarding school reorganization in Christchurch. Any refusal to do so will leave people rightly asking what she is trying to hide.

Residential Special School closure wrong

Posted by on November 4th, 2012

Last week Hekia Parata announced the closure of two of the country’s four residential special schools. Despite her supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation process, the decision confirmed something Parata had clearly intended to do all along. It’s the wrong decision. These schools often represent the last hope for some of the most vulnerable kids in the education system. They need a level of intensive support that regular schools just struggle to provide. We’re far better off investing in getting these kids back on track while they’re young rather than forking out to lock them up later on.

The Ministry of Education’s discussion document made it very clear this is about saving money. According to that document it costs about $84,200 per year to educate a student at a residential school, whereas the new ‘wrap-around’ model the Minister speaks of costs $29,000 a year. These kids are getting short-changed.

I passionately believe in an inclusive education system that meets the needs of every child. For the vast majority of kids, inclusion means attendance at their local school, supported where necessary with extra resources to ensure they can fully participate in all aspects of school life. But while Iwould love to see every child fully participating in mainstream classrooms, the reality is that some students need extra assistance. There is an on-going place for Residential Special Schools within the education system. One size does not fit all.

Genuine consultation – yeah right!

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

Yesterday John Key tried to ease the concerns of Cantabrians by saying that final decisions hasn’t been made about school mergers and closures in Christchurch. Today Hekia Parata formally wrote to school boards of trustees to formally begin the closure/merger process. Cantabrians can be forgiven for thinking that the fate of their local schools has already been sealed.

Schools have been given until 7 December to provide feedback on proposals for closures and mergers, the first two weeks of that time will be school holidays and for senior students, exams will dominate the rest of the school year. In that time boards are expected to run a formal consultation process with parents, students, and others with an interest. It’s a sham.

We know from the Dotcom case that John Key and Bill English have a breakdown in communication. It’s clear now that the Prime Minister and his Minister of Education are also completely out of step. John Key is out there trying to tell Cantabrians that the consultation process is a genuine one, yet his Minister of forging ahead with the legal process to implement decisions that appear to have already been made.

This consultation charade would be funny if it wasn’t about something so incredibly important to the families of Canterbury. The Government needs to get this right but it’s a turning it into a bigger shambles than their plan to increase class sizes.

Another Hekia Parata train wreck

Posted by on September 26th, 2012

Today in the House I questioned Hekia Parata about the consultation process around school closures and mergers in Christchurch. It would be fair to say it took quite a few attempts before I got any answers, and even then I’m not sure I’m any clearer after her comments such as “I consulted the submissions that had been submitted”.

The government’s current consultation process around the future of schooling in greater Christchurch is a total sham. Hekia Parata began an ‘open consultation’ on 13 September but confirmed in the House today that she will be writing to school boards within days to formally begin the legal process to implement her plan to close and merge schools.

To make matters worse, documents from the Ministry of Education tabled in the House today suggest they only envisage a formal consultation process of five to six weeks, which just so happens to coincide with school holidays and senior student exams.

There is no way the Government can get meaningful information from teachers, parents and children during the exam and holiday period. This whole process looks like a sham and sounds like a sham, because it is a sham. Hekia Parata has clearly already made her mind up.

This is another classic Hekia Parata botch up. The people of Christchurch have been through enough trauma in the past two years. Rather than engaging in a meaningful way with those affected, Hekia Parata seems determined to add to the stress.

10 questions for Hekia Parata

Posted by on August 17th, 2012

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Hekia Parata’s practice of dobbing in teachers who write to her to complain about government policy to their board of trustees. Fortuitously have an ability to ask them of her! Today I’ve lodged the following Written Parliamentary Questions. I’ll post the answers when I get them here on Red Alert.

  1. How many letters did she receive expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes?
  2. How many letters did she receive from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes?
  3. How many of her responses to letters she has received from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes were sent to the Board of Trustees that employs the teacher concerned?
  4. Is it her policy to send replies to any correspondence she receives from teachers to the Board of Trustees that employs the teacher, if so, why?
  5. How many letters did she receive from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes where the teacher did not identify the school that they work at, and how many of those teachers received a direct response?
  6. How many letters did she receive from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes where the teacher did not identify the school that they work at, and how many of her responses to those letters were sent to that teacher’s employer?
  7. If she sent a reply to a letter from a teacher who did not identify the school they work at to the Board of Trustees that employs the teacher, how did she identify which school board to send the letter to?
  8. Who prepared her replies to letters she received from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes?
  9. Did any of the people involved in preparing her replies to letters she received from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes access any government database or record system to identify the school the teacher worked at?
  10. Why did she send replies to letters she has received from teachers expressing concern about her government’s plan to increase class sizes to the Board of Trustees that employs the teacher concerned?

Bullying tactics an abuse of power

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

Today in Parliament I asked some questions about Hekia Parata’s conduct in responding to letters from teachers expressing their concerns about bigger class sizes. In response to those letters Hekia Parata has written to the Boards of Trustees and Principals employing those teachers, rather than responding directly to their correspondence.

That in itself is a real breach of the teachers privacy, but it gets worse when we learn that some of the teachers didn’t identify which school they teach at in their letters. So how did Hekia Parta know which Board of Trustees to send the responses to? If Hekia Parata accessed teachers personal records to identify which schools they worked at, that’s a very serious abuse of her position.

Every citizen has the right to send a letter to a government minister without fear that their concerns will be taken to their employer. But bullying looks to be a deliberate tactic for Hekia Parata. Earlier this year she threatened schools that were using newsletters to inform parents about the effect National’s plan to increase class sizes. Parents have a right to know that information. Hekia Parata’s attempt to bully schools into silence is disgraceful.

How can members of the public have confidence that their views are respected by this government, when teachers have had their privacy breached by the Minister of Education, when beneficiaries have had their personal information splashed all over the media by the Minister for Social Development, and when claimants to ACC can have no confidence that their sensitive information won’t be emailed all over the country?

PPPs save money – yeah right!

Posted by on July 18th, 2012

A few weeks ago I revealed in Parliament that the National government have spent $3.5 million developing the business case for a new school in Hobsonville to be built under a Public-Private Partnership. That school is forecast to save $2 million over the 25 year lifespan of the contract, in other words, a lot less than the Business Case cost to develop in the first place.

At the time Craig Foss, the Associate Minister of Education, argued that the blowout in the cost of the Business Case was justified as it could be used as a template for other PPPs for schools. Interesting to note, therefore, that Hekia Parata confirmed at the Education and Science Select Committee this morning that her Ministry will be employing a $100k a year Relationship Manager to oversee the new project in Hobsonville. Over the life of the PPP, that would equate to another $2.5 million.

There is simply no way this PPP is going to save the taxpayer money. In fact, quite the opposite. This school is proving to be considerably more costly than if we’d just built it using traditional public sector practices. Will every PPP school have one of these managers paid for by the taxpayer?

I’m pretty sure there will be a number of boards and principals around the country who will be shaking their heads at this. The government have argued that PPPs could ‘free up’ boards and principals by reducing the amount of time they spend managing property. I’m sure every public school in the country would argue they could ‘free up’ quite a bit of time if they were given an extra $100,000 a year to manage their facilities…

Who Reads Hekia’s Advice?

Posted by on June 7th, 2012

OK, I feel like I’m being slightly unfair on Hekia given what a rough day she has had and because the Minister who has been giving me nothing but b.s. in answers to written questions is Jonathon Coleman but this one just takes the cake:

Portfolio: Education
Minister: Hon Hekia Parata
Date Lodged:29/05/2012

Question: What written reports or correspondence, if any, has she received from the Ministry of Education regarding the moratorium on initial teacher education programmes since 26 November 2011?

Answer Text: This is an operational matter for the attention of the Chief Executive.

No, no, no it’s not. It is not the Chief Executive’s responsibility to read reports prepared for and sent to the Minister. That’s her job and it is perfectly reasonable for me to ask what advice she is getting.

Perhaps she got the Chief Executive to read the advice she was given on bigger class sizes rather than reading it herself. Could have saved a whole lot of bother…

Clear as mud

Posted by on May 31st, 2012

Hekia Parata was asked a number of questions in the House today about her decision to increase class sizes, particularly for intermediate schools. I’ll blog a bit more about the insights we got from these questions over the weekend, but for now you can take a look and judge for yourself.

Ministers just didn’t do the work

Posted by on May 30th, 2012

It took nearly 10 minutes of back and forth in the House today for the Education Minister, Hekia Parata, to admit that she hadn’t even asked for a list of the schools that would lose or gain more than one teacher as a result of her changes to teacher:pupil ratios before she took her proposal to Cabinet.

Quite frankly, this is just not good enough. Hekia Parata took a policy to Cabinet, and it was approved and announced in the Budget, without any Minister taking the time to look at what the actual impact would be on individual schools. If that’s the level of scrutiny the National government are applying to their cost-cutting proposals, it’s no wonder it’s all turning into such a mess.

It simply defies belief that Hekia Parata would come up with a policy that could spell and end to intermediate school education as we know it without doing the most basic analysis. And this from someone who has spent a lifetime as a senior public servant. She should know better. Too much more of this and she’ll end up making Anne Tolley look positively competent by comparison.

Dear Minister Parata, can you help the Ethnic community?

Posted by on December 8th, 2010

I wonder whether the newly appointed Minister of Ethnic Affairs Hekia Parata will be more motivated to address the concerns of the ethnic community than her predecessor Pansy Wong?

Under Ms Wong’s tenure as Minister of Ethnic Affairs, the Ethnic unemployment rate soared to 13.8 per cent, while the Asian unemployment rate doubled from 4.7 per cent when Labour was in office to 10.5 per cent.

When I questioned Ms Wong about the soaring unemployment rate amongst the ethnic community, I was given excuses, half-baked ideas and talk-fests as solutions for the problem.

As it’s the festive season, a season to be jolly and giving, here is my present to Hon Hekia Parata:

My Private Members Bill – Immigration (Migrant Levy) Amendment Bill.

The Bill will extend the amount of funding drawn from the Migrant Levy towards English as a second language and employment orientated training.

This will ensure that migrants are ready to enter the workforce and curtail the rising unemployment level amongst our ethnic communities.

The migrant levy is paid by all migrants upon entering New Zealand. My Bill will not put any strain on tax-payers but use the Levy funds in a more efficient way, to help prepare migrants to enter the workforce.

I have also launched a consultation process on this bill in the ethnic community. In a follow up blog, I will report on how this consultation is progressing.

Reflections on Mana

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010

There has been a lot of comment on Clare’s post on the by-election. My thoughts for what it is worth go something like this

Congratulations to Kris. He performed very well in his first campaign. By-elections put huge pressure on individual candidates. He has shown that he can handle the pace of a campaign, he is brilliant with people and has a good grasp on the issues affecting the electorate. He will have learned from the campaign, and has a great base to grow from. For what it is worth I think he will go really well as an electorate MP and by the time of the 2011 election he will be in a really strong position locally.

I also think Hekia deserves some credit. She is an articulate person who campaigned hard. Most importantly in terms of the result she has been campaigning/working in the electorate non-stop for about four years, compared to Kris’ few months. That makes a differenece. She had a profile and that worked to her advantage. She did not win, but no doubt she feels she put in a good result, and is pretty much hoping Key will reward her with a Ministerial post.

No one should get too excited about the margin. Of course it would have been good to have been bigger. (It will get bigger too. I think Kris will capture the vast bulk of the special votes, many of which were cast by late enrollees in the southern part of the electorate.)

The true majority in this electorate will only be tested in a general election with a normal (80% plus) turnout. At 54% we know that many Labour voters were not at the polling booth, despite the very best efforts of our team. I have to say that in the campaigning I did in the seat, it was hard to get people to engage. Initially the local body elections were a distraction, then later on it just seemed there was complacency about the result and a lack of understanding of what it was all about.

By-elections are idiosyncratic events. They do not have the pervasive context of a general election. They have lives of their own, issues and people that make them hard to predict and understand. This one was no different.

There are no doubt some things from a Labour point of view that we would want to do better and different. That’s the nature of a campaign. But overall from a Labour perspective there is much to be pleased about. Another young(ish) MP, with new perspectives enters the team. We have road-tested some campaigning tools and people and learned a few good lessons. The spin from the other side is predictable. But in the end its Kris Faafoi who arrives at Parliament ready to represent the people of Mana. Well done that man.

This is how to win a seat

Posted by on November 10th, 2010

Kris Faafoi has been working his butt off for several months campaigning to win the seat of Mana for Labour. He started before 7am today waving signs at Porirua intersections raising awareness of his campaign. I know becasue I got up early to help him, along with quite a few of my colleagues.

Every day he’s out knocking on doors and introducing himself to constituents, visiting businesses, social service organisations, schools and standing outside shopping malls so that people can get to see what he looks like and have a chat.

Every evening for weeks Kris has been driving around the Mana electorate stopping off at street corners with his microphone and doing a 5-10 minute speech about himself and what he believes, giving people the opportunity to come out of their homes and take a look at the next hopeful MP for Mana. This is real campaigning. Hard graft.

Not sitting in the House during question time strategically placing yourself behind the camera so that you get your photo on TV. That’s called opportunism.


Kris Faafoi

Kris 6

Kris speaking

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of Hekia Parata campaigning from the House (yesterday). She sat in her own seat in the House today for the whole of question time. Most unusual.


What some people will do for a photo op

Posted by on November 10th, 2010

It appears some people will do just about anything to get their face on TV. Yesterday at question time Hekia Parata (National candidate for Mana) was seen seat hopping her way around the House to position herself strategically next to, or behind, the National MP asking or answering the questions.

But it was when she moved into the Maori Party seats that Trevor Mallard felt moved to take a point of order on the issue.

Watch Question 10 to see her moving around (especially the last frame where she’s put herself next to Te Ururoa Flavell) and then Question 11 where Trevor takes a point of order.

Very funny and a bit sad really. Perhaps she could do or say something interesting to get her own publicity next time.

Meanwhile, Kris Faafoi, Labour’s candidate for Mana was out campaigning hard in the Mana electorate.