Minister of Education (who might be replaced later today) left it to his ministry to apologise for ill-managed Auckland edict

Buzz from the Beehive

There has been plenty to keep the relevant Ministers busy in flood-stricken Auckland over the past day or two. But New Zealand, last time we looked, extends north of Auckland into Northland and south of the Bombay Hills all the way to the bottom of the South Island, with several smaller islands such as the Chathams thrown in for good measure.

Citizens had been paying the salaries of 20 Ministers before Jacinda Ardern quit as Prime Minister last week. Until the new Cabinet is named (later today by all accounts), this has been trimmed to 19 Ministers, but then there are four Labour Party ministers outside Cabinet and two support ministers from the Green Party.

You may well ask:  and what have they been doing?

We can account for the toil (if that’s what it is) of Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty, who has posted these bulletins.

28 JANUARY 2023

Government makes first payment to Auckland Flooding fund

The Government is providing establishment funding of $100,000 to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help communities in Auckland following flooding.

27 JANUARY 2023

Government steps up to assist Auckland during flooding

As the Mayor of Auckland has announced a state of emergency, the Government, through NEMA, is able to step up support for those affected by flooding in Auckland.

But over that period his colleagues have done or decided nothing that justifies the posting of announcements, pronouncements, proclamations, speeches and what-have-you at, the official website of the New Zealand Government.

Many Ministers have posted nothing since before Christmas.

This does not mean big government decisions are not being made.  It just means that Ministers are not doing the announcing.

Take – for example – the news headed

Severe weather event and school closure

30 January 2023

The Secretary for Education has directed that schools, kura, early learning services and Tertiary Organisations in the Auckland region (Wellsford to Pukekohe) to close for physical onsite attendance and instruction until Friday, opening after Waitangi weekend.

This statement explains that …

Auckland is currently in a State of Emergency.

Earlier today, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) asked us to take action to help minimise traffic movement on Auckland roads while vital infrastructure is urgently repaired. 

With the possibility of further weather damage leading to more disruption, the Secretary for Education has directed that schools, kura, early learning services and Tertiary Organisations in the Auckland region (Wellsford to Pukekohe) to close for physical onsite attendance and instruction until Friday, opening after Waitangi weekend.  

The statement includes an apology

We apologise to our school leaders who heard this news through the media, you should always hear such news directly from us first. Unfortunately, an IT fault meant our emails out to principals were blocked. We have investigated this issue and the emails have been re-sent but appreciate this was an hour later than you should have been informed. We are sorry for the delay in this important communication.

David Farrar, on Kiwiblog, has criticised this decision in a post titled Closing all Auckland schools for a week is an over-reaction.

The last minute decision by the Government to close over 2,000 schools and ECE centres in Auckland for a week is an over-reaction to the flooding.

You could make a case for a day, but not a week. This will cause chaos for parents and families, plus be educationally disadvantageous to kids who have already had three years of disruptions.

Some schools can’t and should not open, Farrar acknowledges.

But Auckland is a huge place. The situation in the south is very different to the north.

Rather than have the Government close all 2,000 schools and ECEs, the decision on closing should rest with each school and ECE – they will know their local situation.


Why are we banning students from attending a school which is safe to be open, and that they can safely get to?

Again there could be a case for having them stay shut just on Tuesday, but to keep kids out of school until next Tuesday is hamfisted. It is bad for families and bad for kids.

When it comes to ministerial responsibility for this shambles, who is the Minister of Education?

It’s Chris Hipkins, a fellow who may no longer be the Minister of Education by the end of the day.  Let’s see when he announces his Cabinet.

While Hipkins and his colleagues have had precious little to tell us officially so far this year, ACT leader David Seymour has not been so coy.

The latest of several press statements he has released this year is headed

Hipkins Fails First Test

“Former Education Minister and now Prime Minister Chris Hipkins must front up and explain the poorly communicated overkill decision to close every Auckland school,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

Seymour notes that Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown “has been smashed” for late decision-making and poor communication during the Auckland floods.

He then makes this point:

The Prime Minister is responsible for the Minister and Ministry of Education. Where is he when his Government shuts down every school in Auckland one night before they were due to open? Where is the communication from him with schools finding they’re being shut down at the last minute from media reports?

Once again education has been relegated in government priorities, Seymour conends.

“It is not a good sign for New Zealand society that the first thing to go when things get difficult is education. The message being sent by the Government to the whole country is that education is a secondary concern. That cannot be good for New Zealand’s long-term future.

“That is not to mention parents, including those stressed by their own flood recovery, who have been scrambling overnight to find childcare. What the Government seems to forget is that closing schools doesn’t make children disappear. They still exist and must be somewhere.

Seymour quotes an unnamed Principal who told him last night,

“Go down to the mall tomorrow, you’ll see bored kids everywhere who should be learning. It is so offensive to the education sector.”

The ACT leader has called for Hipkins to explain who made the decision, when and why, and

… how come he did not front to own and explain the decision for Auckland Schools and parents.

We imagine Hipkins has been busy doing all sorts of things since becoming Prime Minister last week.

But as Minister of Education, he has been silent since before Christmas.  His most recent press statement in that role, dated 21 December, was headed Wage consistency for school bus drivers   

He then announced additional funding will be available to make the wage rates of rural school bus drivers consistent with those who drive for comparable public transport services.

But when it came to explaining the school shut-down in Auckland, he put his officials into the driving seat.

2 thoughts on “Minister of Education (who might be replaced later today) left it to his ministry to apologise for ill-managed Auckland edict

  1. The $100,000 for the flood fund will pay part of the salary of a comms staffer. What a token! What an insult. And Labour gets a poll boost? The sheep have spoken.

    Liked by 1 person

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