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Education minister Chris Hipkins (Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)
Education minister Chris Hipkins (Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

The BulletinNovember 13, 2019

The Bulletin: Big changes coming for how schools are run

Education minister Chris Hipkins (Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)
Education minister Chris Hipkins (Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Big changes coming for how schools are run, highly anticipated OCR decision coming today, and a clear-eyed look at the protests up Ōwairaka/Mt Albert.

The government has set up a fight with a dangerous political constituency – highly involved parents at affluent schools. That’s putting it facetiously of course, but there could be ructions there over the education sector reforms announced by the government, in their response to the report from a working group on the matter. Radio NZ has a top line story on why: Boards of Trustees will be significantly de-powered, stripped of most property management responsibilities, and the right to set school zones. Overall, the reform package brings a significant amount of control of schools back into ministry hands, and is aimed at encouraging efficiencies and bringing down competition between schools. A full release on it can be read here, and a translated cheat sheet here.

The zoning reform is a particularly interesting one, because it has been a way for elite schools to maintain a base among wealthier families. The school zone for Wellington College is a testament to that – it takes in wealthier areas like Thorndon and Wadestown, while just through the Mt Vic tunnel more traditionally working class areas like Hataitai and Kilbirnie are out of zone. Education minister Chris Hipkins mentioned the wider issue in an interview on Newstalk ZB, saying the current system was able to be manipulated by schools. For some parents, that could also mean they end up “locked in” at local schools – that’s according to this report on the NZ Herald. As an aside, it could also have knock on effects on house prices in suburbs which will later end up in or out of zone for prestigious schools.

The changes to property responsibilities has had a mixed reaction. This story on Stuff, focused on Christchurch schools that had huge property headaches after the quakes, is an example of why. In the view of some spoken to in the story, having more centralisation has held up repairs and getting everything fixed. But on the other hand, the Crown do already own the buildings, so it arguably makes more sense for the government to manage them.

As for the other changes, the backdown on scrapping Boards altogether in favour of regional hubs was signposted in advance. That has largely been welcomed, and in the NZ Herald Audrey Young (paywalled) writes that it is a backdown that does Hipkins credit for listening to opponents. In contrast, Laura Walters at Newsroom argues that the proposals are largely unchanged, but have been rebranded. As well as that, there will also be a new independent disputes panel put in place for both parents and students, various new layers of bureaucracy around a new education agency (the Education Service Agency) and there will be a “new leadership centre” to support principals.

The reaction has been varied across sector groups. The Community Schools Alliance, a group of a few dozen schools who bitterly opposed the plan to create regional hubs, has welcomed that not being part of the final package. But they also say they’ve still got plenty of questions and confusion about what these changes will mean, with little detail yet to work with. The NZEI and PPTA teacher unions have both largely welcomed the reforms. Changes will be phased in over several years – and keep an eye out today as well, because National will be releasing their education discussion document.

Finally, if you’re a teacher, I want some feedback on all of this. We’re going to put a piece up on The Spinoff collecting reactions from the education sector, so if you’ve got some reckons we’d love to hear them. To verify you are a teacher, please use your school email address to send a message to – don’t worry, if you’d prefer we’ll keep your name and school private in anything we publish.

If you follow the official cash rate closely, today is a big day. Politik reports another cut is expected (though isn’t as yet guaranteed) with the Reserve Bank continuing a journey down towards zero interest rates. According to this report that could cause Grant Robertson some real headaches, including the renewed inflation of house prices, and increased pressure to get spending with some opened up fiscal policy.

You may have heard about protests currently going on up Ōwairaka/Mt Albert in Auckland. They’re calling for a halt to exotic tree-felling plans, which would then be replaced with natives. This piece on The Spinoff from political commentator Ben Thomas is an entertaining reminder of perhaps the only fact that really matters about this protest – the maunga is owned by the iwi of Tāmaki Makaurau. And once again, it is an example of Auckland Pākehā trampling on the manaakitanga being extended to them.

The number of self harm attempts in police custody has quadrupled in the space of four years, reports Radio NZ. Part of that is being put down to improved reporting – as in, it is simply a case of the data being more accurate. However mental health advocates say the rise is still alarming, and police weren’t always the best people to be called out to attend mental health incidents.

It’s always a good day when new wind turbines are being built. So it is for Turitea near Palmerston North, which Stuff reports will now be expanded further to become the biggest wind farm in the country – by megawatts, not turbines, that is. One of the interesting points picked up by this story is that Mercury will be going ahead, regardless of what happens with the aluminium smelter at Tiwai Pt, which is the country’s largest user of electricity. Closure of the smelter would probably push down wholesale electricity prices, but long term it still makes more sense for the company to invest in renewables.

A few perspectives on the Zero Carbon bill from people who will be around long enough to see how it ends up going: Newshub Nation conducted a debate of sorts, featuring Dewy Sacayan from Generation Zero and Luke Wijohn from School Strike for Climate. It’s clear from both of their perspectives that their groups intend to keep the pressure on for action, following the passage of the legislation.

Be aware – another big cloud of smoke is heading over from Australia, reports the NZ Herald. At the moment forecasts indicate it will be at its dustiest (and therefore most dangerous to health) at around midnight, but do be careful if you notice it in the air. Those who have difficulties breathing, for example asthma sufferers, should take extra care.

Ok boomers, there are some genuine advantages to being part of that group. That’s one of the conclusions from this report on Stuff, which speaks to various researchers and economists about the concentration of societal wealth within the baby boomer generation. The conclusion that gets drawn is that there are a lot of policies followed by successive governments which have entrenched that wealth, such as the partial sale of state owned assets at a time when boomers had money to invest.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Anna Connell writes about media presentation of the trial of the man accused of killing Grace Millane, and how it is effectively being serialised through push notifications. Jade Kake gives an insider’s guide to the contentious and long running Ngāpuhi settlement. Toby Manhire writes about the strange fascination Jacinda Ardern is held in by Democrat candidates for president in the USA. Jihee Junn writes about a new media consumption survey, and picks out the major details of what we’re watching and listening to. Tara Ward reviews a juicy and dramatic new documentary about life as a lion. And Duncan Greive picks out what he absolutely loves about the Coromandel.

For a feature today, a piece reflecting on New Zealand’s history of protest. Writing on E-Tangata, Matariki Williams discusses the history behind a new book (which she is one of the editors of) that takes in how protest and activism has shaped this country. I personally think it’s really useful for such histories to be explored by people who also have direct experiences of some of the events, as this piece does. Here’s an excerpt:

Being from Tūhoe, we have an inherent understanding of mana motuhake going back centuries. In 1872, Te Whitu Tekau was established where 70 rangatira of Tūhoe hapū joined together to protect Tūhoe whenua and keep out government authority. Their catchcry was: Kaua te rori, kaua te rūri, kaua te rīhi, kaua te hoko. No roads, no survey, no leasing, no selling.

In 1970, our great-grandfather Kupai McGarvey referred to our tūrangawaewae of Rūātoki as being the land that was claimed and held — te whenua i pūritia, te whenua i tāwhia. He then bemoaned how Tūhoe were forced from our land and it was taken from us. Five years later, he was gifted a tokotoko from Moka Puru, of Ngāpuhi, the man who carved the pou whenua that was carried at the front of the 1975 march, and other marches since — the pou whenua that will not touch the ground until all Māori land is returned.

I knew Rugby League was a bit of a rebel game, but this is ridiculous. Did you know the sport is literally illegal in Greece? I didn’t, until reading this piece from Stuff’s Jackson Thomas, on the Greek side somehow still managing to qualify for the 2021 League World Cup. They’ve got there in part thanks to former Junior Warrior Jordan Meads, an NZ-born halfback who also kicks their goals.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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