National unveils education policy

It’s Thursday, March 23 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can get in touch on

The agenda

  • National’s new education policy would introduce standardised testing for students in years three to eight.
  • New child poverty stats show one-year plateau.
  • Broadcaster turned conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn appears in court.
  • Rent prices soar to new record high.

National unveils education policy

It’s Thursday, March 23 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can get in touch on

The agenda

  • National’s new education policy would introduce standardised testing for students in years three to eight.
  • New child poverty stats show one-year plateau.
  • Broadcaster turned conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn appears in court.
  • Rent prices soar to new record high.
Mar 23 2023

Rainbow groups launch legal action over decision on Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull

A person holds a sign advocating for trans rights (Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

A group of rainbow and human rights organisations has filed for judicial review in the High Court, following the lack of intervention by the immigration minister, Michael Wood, over the decision to allow Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, an anti-trans-rights activist, to enter the country. Gender Minorities Aotearoa, InsideOUT Kōaro, and Auckland Pride are also asking the court for an interim order that would prevent the controversial figure, also known as Posie Parker, from entering the country until the judicial review can take place.

“As community organisations deeply committed to the welfare of the communities we serve, [we] believe that Keen-Minshull’s presence in New Zealand poses a significant threat to public order and a risk to public interest. This is outlined under Section 16 of the Immigration Act,” said Ahi Wi-Hongi, executive director of Gender Minorities Aotearoa and spokesperson for the groups. “The facts in this case are clear, and the minister’s failure to act is putting our communities in danger. We are not opposing freedom of speech, we are opposing the measurable threat to public order and the safety of transgender people.”

Max Tweedie, executive director of Auckland Pride, said, “We are determined to challenge this decision in order to protect the wellbeing and safety of our trans, non-binary and takatāpui communities in Aotearoa.”

Wood yesterday said that though he condemned Keen-Minshull’s rhetoric, it had not met the criteria for intervention. “Like many New Zealanders I would prefer it if Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull never set foot in New Zealand. I find many of her views repugnant, and am concerned by the way in which she courts some of the most vile people and groups around including white supremacists,” he said. “The decision on whether to suspend her NZeTA sits with Immigration New Zealand and they have assessed that she meets the criteria set out in the Immigration Act and regulations … I have been advised that this case does not meet the threshold for ministerial intervention.”

Auckland Council to leave LGNZ, Wayne Brown casts deciding vote

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown in a 30-minute presentation to Auckland Transport’s board (Photo: Todd Niall/Stuff)

Auckland Council will leave Local Government NZ, the group that represents councils acorss the country.

It’s part of mayor Wayne Brown’s attempts to curb spending in the face of a multimillion dollar budget hole. About $400,000 could be saved from the decision to leave the group.

According to tweets, the mayor’s vote was the deciding one with councillors split down the middle on whether or not leaving LGNZ was the right move.

“Auckland Council is turning its back and withdrawing from so many things that are of value to people,” wrote local councillor Angela Dalton on Twitter.

According to Stuff, some councillors spoke of the importance of having Auckland be part of a broader network of councils.

“Let’s not buy into the JAFA complex,” said Maungakiekie-Tāmaki ward councillor Josephine Bartley. “We’ve got as much to learn from them as they have from us.”

Meanwhile, the mayor’s official Twitter account has shared a photo of some home baking. The Spinoff couldn’t work out what was in the tupperware.

‘Zombie of the past’: Labour takes aim at National’s curriculum rewrite

Jan Tinetti speaks to reporters (Getty Images)

The National Party’s plan for rewriting the school curriculum looks a lot like the “failed experiment” of national standards, according to the education minister.

It was revealed today that, as prime minister, Christopher Luxon would introduce regular testing for primary and intermediate-age children and enforce more consistent teaching of reading, writing, maths and science.

But Jan Tinetti said that won’t make attending school any more attractive for younger students. “The curriculum shouldn’t be a political football and changed every three years,” the education minister said.

“It looks like the National Party are bringing back their failed experiment of national standards. These kids’ learning has already suffered but today they announced they want to revive this zombie of the past.”

It’s a similar position to that taken by the education institute. “…children as young as seven years old will face two high stakes tests a year, which is an even more intensive form of national standards,” said the NZEI’s president Mark Potter. “Children need more support in the classroom, not more tests.”

He added: “National’s policy doesn’t offer any solutions or resourcing to the key problem primary schools have. That problem is the lack of proper support to help learners with higher needs. Schools are understaffed and teachers and principals are overstretched. And as every teacher and parent knows, the ‘basics’ for one child might be different for another.”

The government also took aim at National for failing to cost the policy before launching it (earlier today, National criticised the government for failing to cost its plan to roll out more electric vehicle charging stations).

National wants standardised testing for primary, intermediate students

Christopher Luxon speaks in the house (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Primary and intermediate school children would be tested twice a year under a new education plan unveiled by the National Party.

As part of the party’s plan to rewrite the school curriculum, students in years three to eight would undergo “standardised, robust assessment” in reading, writing and maths every six months.

All primary and intermediate schools would be taught at least an hour of reading, writing and maths each day, and the curriculum would clearly state what must be taught for every year group in primary and intermediate. 

Speaking in the Hutt Valley today, National leader Christopher Luxon said his party would also set a target of 80% of year eight students being “at or above the expected curriculum level for their age” in reading, writing, maths and science by 2030.  

“A National government that I lead will aim for every child to get a brilliant education in the state school system, so when they leave, they have the opportunity to lead the life they want,” he said. “But our starting point is three decades of declining student achievement, across all parts of society.”

The education system would be “world class” once again, said Luxon, who spoke of his early experiences at school and how that set him on his current path.

“It’s not a stretch to say that the life I’ve had, and that my family has had, can be traced back to support and encouragement from my parents and my granddad, and from being taught the basics well by some outstanding teachers in the New Zealand state school system,” he said.

Luxon was joined in the Hutt by his party deputy, Nicola Willis, local list MP Chris Bishop, and education spokesperson Erica Stanford.

Christopher Luxon speaks in the house (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Ghosts come back to haunt both Donald Trump, Boris Johnson

Trump, talking, 2016 (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Two former world leaders are both embroiled in ongoing scandals surrounding their time in office.

Former US president Donald Trump is expecting to be arrested this week – though the details remain unclear – over hush money payments during his campaign back in 2016.

Trump, as 1News reported, stated on his own social media that he was going to be arrested on Tuesday – but that day came and went.

It dates back to the revelations that Trump paid thousands to former adult film actress Stormy Daniels to stop her from going public about an alleged sexual encounter. The ex-president, who has already launched his campaign for next year’s election, has denied the claims.

Meanwhile, in the UK, former prime minister Boris Johnson has maintained innocence as questions are asked about the so-called “partygate” scandal. Johnson was forced out of office after repeatedly breaking rules set by his own government during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If anybody thinks I was partying during lockdown, they are completely wrong,” Johnson said during a standards committee session this week. Of course, the photos of the apparent partying told their own story, but Johnson has continued to deny any wrongdoing.

New child poverty stats show one-year plateau

Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller

New figures suggest the government’s efforts to reduce child poverty may be failing.

Stats NZ has reported that child poverty rates for the year ending June 2022 were unchanged when compared with the previous year.

However: “Compared to the baseline year, the year ended June 2018, eight of the nine child poverty measures have had statistically significant decreases,” said Stats NZ’s Sean Broughton.

Over the most recent recorded period, about 19% of Māori children lived in material hardship, meaning about one in five were going without essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables or heating in winter.

Overall, about one in 10 children in New Zealand fit into the material hardship category.

“These households are particularly vulnerable to unforeseen expenses, which they’re unlikely to be able to pay without borrowing, be it from friends and whānau or from the bank,” said Broughton.

The minister response for child poverty reduction, Jan Tinetti, defended the figures by saying it showed they had not risen. “It’s a challenging environment but child poverty figures staying steady this year is encouraging,” she said. “It shows the government’s policies targeting kids and families are helping, despite the pandemic and tough economic times.”

Broadcaster turned conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn appears in court

Former newsreader and journalist Liz Gunn confronting a 1News crew as they were departing a North Shore vaccination site.

The former broadcaster Liz Gunn, who has become a vocal figure within the anti-vaccination movement in New Zealand, has appeared in court today after an alleged airport altercation earlier this year.

Gunn pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, trespass and resisting arrest over the incident at Auckland International Airport.

Speaking to the Herald, Gunn said her appearance at the airport was only to greet friends – “all we had was a slightly bigger camera”.

During the hearing, Gunn told judge Richard McIlraith that she would never be violent to another person.

Supporters, including Destiny Church’s Hannah Tamaki, appeared outside the Manukau District Court this morning. Some were allowed into the courtroom alongside Gunn.

The next hearing will be in June where Gunn and her camera operator Jonathan Clark will appear again. In the meantime, Gunn has been ordered not to go near the person who has accused her of assault. She was also ordered not to threaten or use violence against any person or property.

‘Tough news for tenants’: Rent prices soar to new record high

No matter where refugees are being sponsored, finding appropriate and affordable housing is a major stressor for community groups (Photo: Getty Images; additional design: Tina Tiller)

Rental costs have hit a record high, according to new statistics released this morning.

Trade Me has reported that the national median rent was up to $600 in February – a jump of 4%, or $25, when compared with the same month in 2022.

It’s not unusual to see rent growth over the summer months, but Trade Me Property sales director Gavin Lloyd said this was the result of heightened seasonal demand.

“With the rising cost of living on everyone’s minds, this will be tough news for tenants who will be having to dig deeper into their wallets to pay rent.”

It took about four years for the average rent to climb up from $500. “In 2021, the national median weekly rent saw the largest increase of the past four years, climbing $20 between January and December. Last year, the national median weekly rent began the year at $570 and finished the year at $580,” said Lloyd.

Wellington City was the most expensive district for renters, where the median rent was almost $700.

(Photo: Getty Images; additional design: Tina Tiller)

National’s education ‘rewrite’ to target years one to eight

Image: Getty

National’s new education policy will focus on the first eight years of education – primary and intermediate – in an effort to prepare students for high school.

The opposition will formally unveil their policy later today – coincidentally (or likely not) in the prime minister’s electorate of Upper Hutt.

Erica Stanford, the party’s education spokesperson, told Newstalk ZB that the current state of our education system was “very very bad”.

“We’ve got to be ambitious. To close any equality gap, we have to focus on the key parts of the education system that are going wrong,” she said.

It shouldn’t be left up to chance, said Stanford, and all schools should be required to teach the same content. And she thinks that would help curb our truancy figures as well.

“I would argue that, given the statistics, that half of our kids are not at curriculum by the end of year eight, that one of the largest things that no one talks about that’s driving kids not going to school is that they don’t feel confident in their abilities,” said Stanford.

The policy will be revealed around lunchtime and we’ll bring you the details then.

Government eyes EV charging ‘hubs’ across the country

Z Energy has partnered with electric vehicle charging company to install six units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Image: Getty Images).

The government’s planning to roll out dozens of new electric vehicle charging stations across the country in new “hubs” that would operate similar to existing petrol stations.

The “charging our future” strategy has set a target of bringing in new hubs ever 150 to 200 kilometres along the state highways, along with a public charger for every 20-40 EVs in urban areas, and public charging at community facilities for all settlements with 2,000 or more people.

“Emissions from our light vehicle fleet are the single largest source of transport emissions in New Zealand, partially due to having some of the most fuel inefficient and emissions intensive vehicles in the OECD,” said transport minister Michael Wood.

“This costs Kiwis at the pump and is damaging to our health and the environment. Switching to EVs would be like buying petrol for 40c/litre, which would make a big difference for household budgets.”

According to Newshub, who ran the story as an exclusive last night, the government’s also considering compulsory EV chargers in every single new build home.

“It is something that’s become a requirement in a number of overseas jurisdictions so we want to see what people think about that,” Wood told the outlet.

If all of this sounds fairly costly, that’s likely to be correct – though the government doesn’t know exactly how much it’ll cost just yet. But Wood said it’s all part of the goal of getting 30% of our transport fleet electrified by 2030.

(Image: Getty Images).

National’s Simeon Brown, the party’s transport spokesperson, called the announcement rushed and uncosted.

“There is a significant need for more EV charging infrastructure, but more talk and aspiration won’t deliver anything,” he said this morning. “Remarkably, Labour hasn’t even bothered to cost their policy. Having spent weeks telling New Zealanders what they won’t do, Labour can’t even tell Kiwis how much their new policies will cost or how they’ll be paid for.”

The Bulletin: The fight to have a former All Black’s CTE recognised by ACC

This morning we bring you an exclusive on The Spinoff from Dylan Cleaver. Wellington rugby stalwart, one-game All Black and former New Zealand First MP Tutekawa Wyllie has had his probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) condition recognised and compensated for by the ACC after a five-year campaign.

CTE is a brain condition linked to repeated head injuries and blows to the head. It can only be definitively diagnosed post-mortem and has been discovered in the brains of hundreds of former NFL, football, rugby and league players. ACC says there have been “less than four” such cases in New Zealand.

The Wyllies are the first to go public with their story Wyllie’s wife Margaret is doing so “because she fears that many more in her husband’s position have neither the wherewithal, the support or the patience to keep climbing over the kind of brick walls that were put in front of them.” It’s an extraordinary story that Cleaver tells with compassion and expertise, documenting a victory against the system and to use Cleaver’s own words, an account of “the vivid diminution of a high-achieving person.”

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