Tertiary ed. not needed

September 29, 2017

More than 100 companies have signed an open letter declaring tertiary qualifications are not required for a range of roles within their workplaces.

Dear New Zealand

As employment is increasingly redefined by technology and new skills, the job market needs to respond in new ways to find talent. Skills will replace fixed knowledge and new jobs will replace the old. These new jobs need to be adaptable and offer applicants the ability to learn on the job. The pace of change is rapid.

As businesses, we acknowledge that the skills we are looking for in prospective employees can now be developed through a range of pathways. While traditional tertiary education has its place, it is one of many pathways to employment. Internships, apprenticeships, new micro-credentials, on the job training, online courses and badging are all effective ways to learn. For many, the time and cost of gaining a tertiary qualification without certainty of employment means we all need to think outside the box to connect people to jobs and opportunities.

As such, we confirm that for a range of specific, skilled-based roles in our companies, we do not require tertiary qualifications. These may be roles in technology, sales, marketing, customer service, management, manufacturing and operations to name a few.

In adopting this recruitment policy, we hope to attract a more diverse workforce with wide-ranging experience. We appreciate there are many highly skilled people with practical experience, self-taught skills, passion and the motivation to learn on the job if given the opportunity.

Some people are very skilled but don’t have bits of paper to prove it.

Experience can be at least as valuable than qualifications in some roles.

Attitude can be more important in some jobs than qualifications.

We will now consider applicants for a wide range of roles regardless of whether or not they hold a tertiary qualification. As businesses, our focus will be on assessment of necessary skills, attitudes, motivation and adaptability to join our organisations. Prior work experience (full or part-time), community work, portfolios, online learning and entrepreneurial endeavours will be some of the things we will consider during the employment process.

One place that you will be able to find these jobs is on the Trade Me Jobs site, with a clear indicator that no tertiary qualification is required to apply.

We are excited by the opportunity to engage with a wider cross section of the New Zealand public through our recruitment processes and welcome the chance to diversify the experience within our businesses.

We welcome other New Zealand businesses to follow suit and broaden the diversity of their talent pools by considering a wider range of applicants for roles. If you are a business that would like to join this movement as a signatory to this letter, please contact frances.savage@asb.co.nz and attach your company logo.

We recognise that new jobs require new skills. We welcome a new generation of employees with diverse skills and talent.

We look forward to changing the conversation.

Tertiary education can have many benefits but not everyone is suited to it and not every job requires it.

New Zealand has a high level of unfilled vacancies.

A willingness by business to look beyond a lack of tertiary training when recruiting could be part of the solution to that.

It could also save people from wasting their time and accruing debt by studying towards something that will be of little value to them.

It would be good if something similar could count with employers who are trying to employ immigrants too.

For some employers, qualifications, especially those from overseas, aren’t always nearly as useful as character and attitude.

This is certainly the case for dairying.

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Labour’s fee-free danger to Invercargill

September 4, 2017

Invercargill has had fee-free tertiary eduction for years. Labour’s fee-free policy would sabotage the advantage that’s given the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and seriously damage the city.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt wrote an open letter to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explaining that:

. . . I hope and pray that if you succeed in your attempt to become Prime Minister of New Zealand in the forthcoming elections you will not use your power to crush Invercargill.

My job is to protect the interests of our city.

In 1993 when I was first elected as Invercargill’s Mayor, we were the fastest declining city in New Zealand or Australia.

Then thanks to Penny Simmonds, her senior staff and board members, the Southern Institute of Technology introduced a brilliant Zero Fee Scheme.

This meant for example if you graduated as a nurse, you saved $15,000.

As a result we attracted students from all over New Zealand and our student roll increased from 1400 students to almost 3600 students.

By the 2013 census our population had increased by 2.7 per cent.

The Zero Fee Scheme cost $7.25 million to establish and promote and was courageously supported by the Invercargill City Council, our two community trusts, local businesses and SIT itself.

Now the Labour Party policy is to introduce a Zero Fee type scheme throughout New Zealand that will be completely funded by the state.

Labour’s plans will totally undermine Invercargill’s marketing edge and our innovative point of difference. . .

SIT’s fee-free policy has made a measurable difference to the city, boosting its population, lowering the average age and creating jobs.

Labour’s policy would undermine SIT and the resulting loss in student numbers would have a seriously detrimental  social and financial impact on the city.

Invercargill is working on a scheme to provide rent free accommodation for tertiary students.  It’s asking Labour to help fund that since it already has fee-free tertiary education.

It would be far better to leave students to pay the small proportion of fees they do at the moment, unless they are at SIT, let Invercargill use its own resources to pursue its free accommodation policy and spend taxpayers money  where the need is greater.

That’s not people who will on average earn around more than $1.6 million than those without tertiary qualifications.

As David Petersen says:

Free courses for tertiary students sounds great, but nothing is free. It would be a massive transfer of tax money from working people to produce lawyers, accountants, vets etc, who will charge those same working people hundreds of dollars an hour for their professional services.

And of course these students who will be tempted to vote Labour for this bribe, will be paying for the education of the next students, for the rest of their working lives if it is introduced.

The best use of taxpayers’ funds isn’t  more help for people who will on average earn around more than $1.6 million than those without tertiary qualifications.

The real need  in education is help for those who struggle with basic numeracy and literacy.


Free water not valued, free education is?

August 31, 2017

A very good question:

Free water is considered inefficiently used, not valued so let’s TAX IT, but free tertiary education for all and that’s different?

Except that water isn’t free to use.

No-one pays for water but we all pay to use it through charges for infrastructure, delivery and, if it’s potable, treatment.

Taxpayers already cover more than 70% of tertiary fees.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask students to pay a small proportion of their fees.

That would recognise the personal benefit they get from their education and make it more likely they value it.


Rob today’s poor to pay tomorrow’s rich

August 30, 2017

A leaves school and gets a job. A doesn’t have much in the way of qualifications or experience and the pay reflects that.

B leaves school and goes to university. B isn’t sure why s/he’s there, what to study or what s/he wants to do, mucks around and drops out.

C leaves school and goes to university. C loves to party and does, work suffers, s/he fails and drops out.

D leaves school and goes to university. D studies well enough, graduates and goes overseas.

E leaves school and goes to university. E loves to party but manages to do enough work to get by, graduates and gets a job, parties less, works more and gets well paid.

F leaves school and goes to university. F gets a qualification which doesn’t provide a meal ticket but manages to find a job with average pay.

G leaves school and goes to university. G works hard, gets well qualified, gets a good job and earns well above the average income.

H leaves school and gets a job, works hard, saves hard, decides s/he needs a qualification, goes to university, works hard, graduates and sets up a business which booms.

I could continue through the alphabet with the many and varied scenarios about people who choose to get a tertiary education.

Not one of them would provide a good reason why A should pay more tax to help people who don’t know why they are at university, don’t work and drop out; or do graduate and leave the country, or graduate and earn $1.6 million more on average over their lifetime than those who do not:

 That is a huge personal benefit which is why we say that they should contribute something towards the cost of that degree. Not a huge amount – usually $20,000 or so. A great investment for a $1.6 million return.

That is an average of $40,000 more a year for a 40-year working life than someone who doesn’t have a tertiary qualification.

Why should a waitress, truck driver, tradesperson, receptionist or anyone else pay more tax to give even more help to people who will go on to earn so much more?

Fee-free tertiary education is Robin-Hood reversed:

The implementation of a zero fees policy for tertiary education would reach into the pockets of the disadvantaged, to line the wallets of the future’s wealthy, according to a briefing paper just published by the Taxpayers’ Union.

‘Robin Hood Reversed: How Free Tertiary Education Robs Today’s Poor for Tomorrow’s Rich’ assesses the impacts of free tertiary education policies, like that announced today by the Labour Party.

Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union said, “We found that similar policies overseas have led to job shortages in crucial areas, and poorer quality courses.”

“Contrary to claims that zero tertiary education fees help the poor, in Scottland, which introduced zero fees in the early 2000’s, students from low socio-economic groups were the first to be shut out. This contradicts the political ideology of those who advocate for it, because the policy hampers social mobility, and actually increases barriers to reducing inequality.”

“The costs of such a policy are borne by low and middle-income earners, to help tomorrow’s rich get a free ride.”

The briefing paper, Robin Hood Reversed: How Free Tertiary Education Robs Today’s Poor for Tomorrow’s Rich, is available for download at: www.taxpayers.org.nz/robin_hood_reversed.

Key findings: 
• Taxpayers already cover 84 percent of the cost of obtaining a tertiary degree.
• The average household currently pays $2,456 in tax per year to fund tertiary education.
• Fully implemented, Labour’s proposal would increase that cost by $852.57 per year.
• Low and middle-income earners will pay more to subsidise tomorrow’s rich.
• Likely effects of the policy, based on the experience in Scottland with its zero fees policy, include:
o more job shortages in crucial skills-based areas;
o lower quality tertiary education;
o less access to education for students from disadvantaged or low socioeconomic backgrounds; and
o less social mobility and entrenched income inequality. 

A better educated population benefits a country, but there is also a considerable personal benefit from an education.

There’s a choice – students can continue to pay a small proportion of the cost of their education while they’re studying or everyone pays more tax forever.

Anyone with the intelligence to get a degree should be able to work out that they, and the country would be better off paying a little more for the few years while they’re studying than a lot more for the many years ahead when they’re working.


Bring dreams alive, see small hopes grow bigger

August 27, 2017

National Party leader and Prime Minister Bill English’s speech to the party’s campaign launch today:

It’s great to see such a marvelous crowd. And a sea of blue.

Welcome to National’s campaign for Election 2017!

Thank you Nikki and Paula for those wonderful introductions.

And a special thanks to my daughter Maria for the way she sang our national anthem.

Maria, everyone here was glad it was you instead of me. I did offer!

Can I also acknowledge my son Xavier who is here today. Also my sons Luke, Tom, Rory and Bart. You all make be very proud.

I also want to thank my wonderful wife, Mary – thank you for everything. 

Mary’s worked out that the best way to spend time with me these days is to join me on stage at our campaign launch.

Hers is the story of many new New Zealanders.

Her families came to this country from Italy and Samoa on the promise of a better life. And they found it through community and family.

They instilled in their 13 children the value of hard work and personal responsibility.

Mary is now a doctor, a business owner, a volunteer and a fantastic mother of six kids.

Like most parents, Mary’s mum and dad worked hard to ensure their children had better prospects than they did.

Their success makes me proud of my country.

And that’s what this election campaign is all about.

It’s a campaign for every New Zealander who wants to bring their dreams to life.
Who wants to see their small hopes grow bigger.

Who wants the New Zealand of the 2020s to be confident, successful and prosperous.

It’s a campaign for Kiwis who are prepared to work hard and back themselves.
To all of you, I say this:

National…stands…with you.

We’re a party delivering for New Zealanders.

We share your ambition for the future.

We have always known this election would be close. That’s how it is under MMP.
On our side, we have a strong record of proven success and a confident vision to take New Zealand forward.

We have the best team.

We have MPs who listen to their communities.

We have Ministers with great ideas for making this country even better.

And we have new candidates passionate about our future.

But most importantly we have you – our volunteers and supporters.

You make us strong.

You make us united.

And you’re making New Zealand a better place.

Together, we’re creating a strong and growing country.

We are now a nation of opportunities for all.

Opportunities to build success for our families.

Opportunities to deliver on the potential of each and every New Zealander – providing we stay on track.

We will not squander these opportunities New Zealanders have worked so hard to create.

Remember just how far we’ve come together.

Since 2008 we’ve faced a recession, the global financial crisis and devastating earthquakes.

The economy shrank, unemployment rose sharply, and we faced large deficits and spiralling debt.

Fast forward to 2017. We now have one of the best performing economies in the world and the books are in surplus.

Under National, families up and down New Zealand are reaping the deserved rewards of that turnaround.

Over 180,000 new jobs have been created in the past two years and unemployment is the lowest since the GFC.

The average annual wage is up $13,000 since we took office, that’s twice the rate of inflation.

New Zealanders recognise progress when they see it.

In 2008, a stadium full of New Zealanders was leaving for Australia every single year.

Our children and grandchildren were heading for the departure lounge in search of better opportunities.

Not anymore. 

For the first time in a generation, more people are moving to New Zealand from Australia than going the other way.

That’s what success looks like and I’m proud of it.

New Zealanders’ hard work is helping the economy to grow.

But on its own, a growing economy is not enough.

Because National understands the pressures of running a household, paying the bills and saving a bit for a rainy day.

We’re making sure families are rewarded for their hard work and can see the benefits of growth flowing into their households.

And National is focused on making that happen.

Take a young couple, each on the average wage and looking to buy their first home.

Since 2008, their joint income has gone up by $26,000 a year.

And next April, they’ll get another $2000 boost from our Family Incomes Package – something Labour opposes.

And if we get re-elected, we want to do that sort of package again.

We’re also helping them get into that first house.

If they’ve been in KiwiSaver for five years, a combination of government grants and their own KiwiSaver would mean they have $50,000 to put towards a house.

Add in our Welcome Home Loan programme, and they would need to save another $10,000 to have enough for a deposit for a $600,000 home.

Or take a retired couple on New Zealand Super.

Since National came into office, their Super payments have gone up by 25 per cent – or $6000 a year.

From next April, they’ll receive another $680 a year on top of the normal increase as a result of our Family Incomes Package – cash Labour would take away from them.

Superannuation is based on after-tax income. When taxes go down, superannuation goes up.

And if they don’t have much other income on top of Super, they’ll now be eligible for an $18 GP visit from next July – saving them money every time they go.
That’s how National really is helping families.

Under National’s strong economic plan, we’re also building the houses, roads, schools, hospitals and broadband needed by our growing communities.

We’re investing to get our school leavers ready for work and to ensure our health services are world class.

We’re providing more police on the beat to keep our communities safer.

We’re lifting thousands of children out of poverty every year. And by one measure, our Family Incomes Package will reduce child poverty by 30 per cent.

We’re investing to improve our environment and protect our beautiful landscapes and fresh water and meet our climate change targets.

And we’re backing Kiwis to succeed on the world stage.

That’s why we’re leading the charge to finalise the TPP – because our exporters are world beaters when they’re given the chance.

The great thing is, if we stay on course we can do even better.

New Zealanders are ambitious for themselves and National is ambitious for them.
So in 27 days, voters will have an important choice.

A choice between two very different visions for New Zealand.

National’s plan to keep New Zealand moving forward – a confident plan for a confident country.

A strong National team energised by new ideas. A team that’s open to trade, open to investment, and knows how an economy works.

Or an unstable, untested group on the left that would risk it all with unpredictable and unclear policies.

Take the Labour Party, their policies have two things in common – working groups and more taxes.

Do you want a water tax?

Do you want a new petrol tax?

Do you want a new capital gains tax?

Do you want higher income taxes?

And nor do I.

Hard working New Zealanders aren’t an ATM for the Labour Party.

Labour wants to turn its back on Kiwi businesses and families, and add more taxes that would slow our economy and make it harder to compete in the world – just when we’re getting good at it.

Here’s the thing: we don’t need more taxes, if we manage the government finances well.

National focus on how well spending works, not on how much is spent, aiming for the quality of the spend not the quantity.

When forecasts show on-going taxes there is no need for new or higher taxes.

Unlike them, I back New Zealanders.

I believe in the Kiwi character, that when people make their own decisions and take responsibility they can and will succeed.

Here’s what I mean.

Recently, I met a determined young woman who lives with a condition that means her joints can dislocate with the slightest movement.

Her story had a big impact on me.

Diagnosed at 23, she was contemplating a painful and difficult life ahead.

Then she came across a new programme called Enabling Good Lives – National’s partnership between government and people with disabilities.

It’s about helping people one by one – giving those who want it more choice and control over their support, so they can choose what’s best for them.

It gives them the dignity of being responsible for themselves.

This young woman told me life is 10 times better because she’s living the way she wants.

Today, she is working as an advisor in the disability sector and speaks about the difference this approach has made in her life, and how she wants others have the same opportunity.

There are thousands more New Zealanders like her.

National respects their capacities and will enable them to have better lives.

Through our social investment programme, we’re changing lives person by person, family by family and community by community.

For example, we’ve set a target to reduce the number of children admitted to hospital with preventable conditions like rheumatic fever.

So now when a child turns up at the hospital with bronchial problems, we expect someone will be sent to their house to sort out problems with curtains, insulation and heating.

Another example is young mothers.

Too many don’t get the help offered by Plunket or GPs because they move house, they don’t answer the phone or they’re in hiding because of domestic violence.

I’m committed to changing the system from hoping those young mothers will turn up looking for help, to going out and finding solutions that work for them.
Moving from servicing misery to reducing it.

We’ll continue to expect personal responsibility and accountability.

In return, we’ll treat people with respect.

Our approach is about faster action, more trust and less bureaucracy.

And we can look taxpayers in the eye and tell them we’re investing their money well because it’s getting results.

Results like a 60 per cent reduction in teen parents on a benefit.

And 60,000 fewer children live in benefit dependent households because their parents can get jobs in our strong economy.

This is more than a plan.

It’s a mission.

And I’m committed to it because when we change lives, we change our country.
We reduce child poverty.

We help more families to live independently.

And we keep more children safe from violence.

National is turning ideals into practical results for people.

As proud of I am of getting our country’s books in order and back into surplus, that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning.

What drives me is helping all New Zealanders achieve their goals and improve their lives.

What drives me is ensuring every child who grows up in our country has every opportunity to succeed.

We don’t give up on any of them. There’s always a way forward.

National is especially focused on education.

Isn’t Nikki Kaye doing a fantastic job as Education Minister?

She’s passionate about every child getting the opportunity to reach their potential, no matter what their background.

And she will do whatever it takes to deliver a New Zealand that’s open, ambitious and confident about the future.

We owe it to our children that they leave school equipped to succeed.

Every single child matters – they matter to their family, to their community and to our country.

And they certainly matter to me.

So National has put students at the centre of everything we do in education.

It’s working. Around 85 per cent of 18-year olds now get NCEA Level 2 – up from less than 70 per cent in 2008.

The improvement among Māori students is even better. Three out of every four Māori students now achieve NCEA Level 2. A few years ago, it was around half.

National is working hard for students and parents to build on those achievements.

We’ve increased the number of students who start school ready to learn by increasing early childhood participation to 97 per cent.

We’re sharing teaching expertise through our Communities of Learning.

And last month, we confirmed we’ll replace decile ratings with better targeted funding for kids at the greatest risk of not achieving.

Students from a decile 1 school recently told me what they thought of those ratings.

They said they were tired of having to explain why they aren’t useless.

No young New Zealander’s aspirations should be limited by a decile rating, and we will remove them.

National has also introduced National Standards, allowing parents and teachers to share valuable insights about every child’s learning.

Labour wants to abolish National Standards and prevent parents from getting that information.

I know from personal experience – quite a lot of it actually – just how valuable it was to get feedback about how my kids did at school.

All of these changes are improving achievement by our students.

But we can do even better.

We can do even more to help our young people embrace new technology, find new ideas, create new ways of working and build stronger global connections.

Nothing can replace the thousands of motivated, professional teachers who care for and educate our children.

But we can improve the tools they use and the support we give them.
So today, I’m announcing that National will implement a targeted four-point education package – costing $379 million.

Digital learning for senior students, more resources for maths, and a guarantee that all primary school students will be able to learn a second language if they choose to.

And we’ll make it even easier for parents to track how their children are doing at school, through an expansion of National Standards.

Let me talk you through the package.

First, we want our young people to have the best opportunity to take advantage of new technology – to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Rod Drury or Frances Valintine.

So we’ll invest $48 million to introduce exciting new digital learning opportunities for Year 12 and 13 students.

Each year, new Digital Academies will offer 1000 students specialised, IT-focused learning. They’ll be similar to our Trades Academies, and they’ll be just as successful.

And new Digital Internships will provide mentoring and tailored learning from businesses for 500 year 12 and 13 students, a pathway between skills gained in the classroom and real IT careers.

The second part of our announcement today is a $126 million investment to raise maths achievement for primary school students.

National Standards show we need to lift our game in maths. So we’ll provide our students and teachers with the tools they need to do that.

We’ll help 1200 teachers a year complete extra university papers targeted at teaching maths to primary students.

We’ll also provide intensive classroom support for students, where schools have identified the need to improve their maths.

That’s all alongside extra funding for classroom resources like digital apps.

If we want our children to succeed on the world stage, from this small country at the bottom of the globe, they need to be good cross-cultural communicators.

So the third part of our package is a $160 million investment to give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language, if they choose.

Schools will choose from at least 10 priority languages, which we expect to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, along with Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language.

Finally, I can confirm that a new National-led Government will update National Standards, so families have more comprehensive and more timely information about their children’s achievements in the classroom.

It will be called National Standards Plus.

National Standards has successfully set clear expectations about what every student needs to achieve in reading, writing and maths.

It provides a valuable snap-shot of how your child has performed across the year.
National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you and your child to track their progress in more detail, online, as it happens.

We will show you your child’s progress on your mobile phone.

Some schools have already rolled out tools that support this approach.

I’ve met these children.
It was amazing meeting a little 10-year old who sat me down and showed me how much he’d achieved in the last month and what he would learn next.

I want to see that for every child in every school.

By moving the reporting online, the new system will help our hardworking teachers by streamlining their paperwork and allowing them to focus more of their time on teaching.

And teachers will have better information at their fingertips to help them develop the individual learning paths they already create for students.

National is always looking to the future.

Our teachers and schools work so hard to create opportunities for our children and these measures will further help more of our kids reach their potential.

Ladies and gentlemen.

National is a party of fresh ideas for a confident and outward-looking New Zealand.

A country that’s moving forward and heading in the right direction.

But to be in the National Party is to never be finished.

To never be satisfied.

To take nothing for granted.

And to never stop working.

That’s my pledge to you, and that’s my pledge to New Zealanders: to never stop working alongside you to make our country even better.

So over the next four weeks, I’ll be talking – and listening – to New Zealanders about our country’s future.

National has a strong team with a confident plan to keep New Zealand heading in the right direction.

We will fight hard for every single vote.

Will you join me?

We have a clear message: If you want a growing economy – party vote National!

If you want an economy that can afford world leading hospitals, schools, roads and public transport – party vote National!

If you want higher wages and better jobs – party vote National!

If you want to raise family incomes – party vote National!

And, if you want to secure your future and New Zealand’s future – on 23 September, party vote National!


Hekia Parata’s valedictory statement

August 19, 2017

Hekia Parata delivered her valedictory statement this week:

Hon HEKIA PARATA (National):

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Today is a day of thanks. My performance as a member of Parliament and as a Minister is a matter of public record and for others to judge. I am leaving with a great sense of gratitude for the immense privilege it has been to serve, in this way, in this time, my fellow New Zealanders and our country. I am leaving satisfied with what I have been able to contribute, proud of a number of achievements, stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined I would have to be. I am leaving with huge optimism for our future and the settled conviction that I was blessed to have been born to these Pacific isles a New Zealander—well, a Ngati Porou woman New Zealander, to be absolutely accurate. I guess I was just lucky.

We, all of us, are the sons and daughters, descendants, of adventurers, navigators, visionaries, risk-takers, brave and tenacious people, with imagination, grit, and hope, who crossed Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, whether by whale, waka, ship, or plane, to make this place, Aotearoa New Zealand, their home. Ours is a small, smart, sassy nation, and all of us have a responsibility to our forebears and to those who come after us to make it even better.

I have enjoyed the great gift of being a part of this House of Representatives, and our Government, as we have taken up that responsibility. We have served 9 years as a National-led coalition Government to build a better New Zealand than we found it, and we have done that in many practical, significant, and measurable ways. All of those will be examined and judged over the coming weeks, and I trust that New Zealanders will value the unique blend of stability and competence, fresh ideas and the detail and experience to execute them that our team offers. I leave knowing that my place and those of my colleagues, who are also leaving, are filled by capable, energetic, and thoughtful people. We must constantly refresh if we are to stay relevant to New Zealand families, and I am proud that our caucus and new candidates reflect that challenge.

As our coalition separates for the battle ahead, I want to acknowledge our partners: United Future, ACT, and Te Pāti Maori, and to thank them for the support they have given me in the policy and legislative initiatives I have pursued. Ngā mihi.

To my parliamentary colleagues: thank you for being a part of the active democracy that New Zealand is and must always be, and for your commitment to making this the best country that it can possibly be. Tēnā koutou.

I found it extremely difficult preparing for this valedictory statement. It is a challenge to distil to a handful all the memories, to ensure all those who should be mentioned are, and that Hansard records a fitting end to my time here. The expectations feel very high. It reminds me of a time I was standing in the wings of the year 7 to 13—that would be form 1 to form 7—leadership conference in Taranaki, and I asked my 11-year-old introducer what he thought I should say. He looked up at me hopefully and asked: “Can you be funny?” In a nanosecond I could see he had written that possibility off and trudged on to the stage with me following in his wake—just so you know.

I am proud to be a member of the National Party, to have served in a National-led Government, and to make policy based on values of equal citizenship and equal opportunity, of individual freedom and choice, of personal accountability and responsibility, of competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement, and of limited Government and the challenge to create the conditions in our economy and our society so New Zealanders of whatever background have the opportunity to realise their potential. That is the essence of rangatiratanga, the kind I am interested in—the personal, practical, everyday kind where New Zealanders are self-determining, are in charge of their own lives, are able to make choices, and are able to live independent of the Government. I have always said I will leave the “tino” variety to iwi.

In my maiden speech almost 9 years ago I said that I wanted to contribute to developing quality citizenship for all New Zealanders, and a defining aspect of that would be the reduction of dependence on the State. I have been part of a Government that has, in response, focused on a strong and growing economy, the creation of new jobs, raising the level of qualifications and skills, finding new trade opportunities, investing in infrastructure, science, and innovation. None of that on its own sounds sexy or exciting, but unless we have those, we do not have the ingredients for the recipe of a sustainably better life. The other side of that is the social well-being and welfare of people. That is what our social investment approach led by the Prime Minister is about. To achieve equality of citizenship, there must be unequal resource and support for those most vulnerable, those least able to help themselves. We know better than ever who we need to help, and how we marshal the resources of the Government to do that. In turn we have seen a reduction in benefit dependence.

The binary nature of politics is that if you have not done absolutely everything, you are accused of not having done anything. Not true. We have done much, and there is much more to do, but in doing so we have to keep in mind the hard work of New Zealanders represented in their taxes and savings. I know that when promises are made to spend more it is not the “Government’s money” as so many assert. It is the teachers, and nurses, and policemen, the builders, the plumbers, the electricians, the businesses, small and big. It is my whānau, planting seedlings on eroding hillsides in drenching rain, or collecting hives in blistering heat, or fixing potholes and slips and drains, as logging truck drivers loop tediously along State Highway 35. That is whose money it is; not the Government’s. That is who we have to account to, and I have never lost sight of that as we have sought to make the best decisions with their money.

In my maiden speech I also said that I wanted to “join the crusade for literacy and numeracy and for a good-quality education for every New Zealand student.” I said that “We must adopt an uncompromising attitude that failure is not an option. All our other aspirations for economic growth, raised standards of living, and national confidence and pride will flow from getting these basics right.” And, of course, I had the tremendous opportunity as Minister of Education to carry out my 6-year crusade.

I came from a modest background. We did not own the home we grew up in. We never owned a car all the time we were growing up. With the change in our family circumstances, we were so grateful for a State house and my mother for the DPB, as it was then known. We worked before- and after-school jobs to support our family, and through it all we knew that getting a good education was the answer to a better life. Every opportunity I have had has arisen out of having that education, and hard work. That is why I have been so focused on rewiring our education system to make sure that every one of our young people gets the opportunity of the best education possible.

But before that, I held portfolios or associate responsibilities for Women’s Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, Energy and Resources, the Community and Voluntary Sector, and ACC. I learnt something from all of these, but Energy and Resources was the portfolio I learnt the most in, in understanding what a rich set of resources we have around and in our country. It was also the portfolio that got me pretty much excommunicated from my tuakana iwi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, for proceeding with the approval for exploration for oil and gas in the Raukūmara basin—somewhat awkward, given that we have a home there and we would have to drive past garages and fences saying bilingually just what an egg I was.

It was also during my stewardship that the Māui Gas pipeline went down, taking with it all the hot water in hotels and motels from Taupō North, turning off milking sheds, factories, and businesses across the same vast area. I learnt there was a protocol for the priority of who got reconnected first as the line became restored, and I was lobbied and lobbied. But in that process, I learnt that Sanitarium, Chelsea, and Fonterra were the necessary trifecta for half the country getting a good start to the day. And, of course, Orion energy made sure that it could restore power safely and methodically across Christchurch. One of the privileges one has as a Minister is to meet outstanding New Zealanders, and to see the skills and knowledge, ingenuity and good humour they bring to their everyday work, and most particularly in a crisis.

And then, I got Education. This was my dream job and the reason I ran for Parliament. When the then Prime Minister rang to tell me, I practically perforated his ear drum I was so excited. Apparently that has not often been the response to being offered the education portfolio. In addition, I was given the Pacific Island Affairs portfolio, and what an honour that was. Back when I was training to be a diplomat in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs—I know, when people think of me the first word that springs to mind is “diplomatic”—back then in the 1980s I was arguing for a more Pacific-centred policy, for New Zealand to see itself as part of the Pacific, not just on the other side of it.

I loved my time in the portfolio, meeting Pacific people, who were working so hard, who were committed to their children doing well, singing in church the way we did growing up, and producing some of the best sports men and women and increasingly excelling across the health sector in particular. I also learnt from this, together with the Ethnic Affairs portfolio, how real and alive the diverse cultures are that make up our communities and the richness this adds to all our lives. I think they also have more hui and longer hui than the Māori people do—just saying.

I want to thank our former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Sir John Key for his leadership. He brought a clinical set of decision-making tools to the job, together with a whole-hearted embrace of this country, a confidence about our place in the world, and an unshakeable optimism about what was possible. As a boss, he appointed you to a role, gave you general guidance, and trusted you to get on with it. That was at times both scary and exhilarating—probably for him as well as me. I want to record my thanks for his unflagging support.

It was the Prime Minister in 2013 who encouraged me to look at something big for education. Of course, it was the then Minister of Finance, the right honourable Prime Minister today, who had to be persuaded to fund it. And that, folks, is how we got what I think will truly be transformational for our education system: communities of learning or kāhui ako that keep everything that is special and different about individual schools and early learning centres but systematically joins them in a collaboration centred on the child and their 18-year learning pathway. It cost a shipload of money—$359 million, the biggest single social investment initiative we have made as a Government. It puts the emphasis on the student and their learning and achievement, and it creates 6,000 new roles for teachers and leaders. I want to put on record here my appreciation of the leadership role that the Post Primary Teachers’ Association took in this initiative. To be clear, peace did not then break out; we did continue to argue and disagree about other things.

I also want to thank the many teachers and education leaders who not only have embraced this opportunity but every day bring care and commitment, capability and competence, fun and innovation to the children and young people in their centres and classrooms. We have some of the best educators and education practices in the world, and we see the value in that in the rising achievement of our young people. We have about 2,500 schools and over 5,000 early learning centres and just under a million young New Zealanders engaged in learning. My relentless expectation as Minister of Education was that every child in every classroom every day was learning and achieving. I appropriated from a speech I heard from the then Chief Review Officer, Dr Graham Stoop, a line that said: “The core business of a school is to cause learning to happen and to know that it did”—as simple and as complicated as that.

We have an education system with an architecture that is one of the best in the world. But, like my generation and smart phones, we use only a small amount of its potential. I saw my job as rewiring the system and leveraging that architecture to make sure that it serves every Kiwi kid, to push those who are doing well to do even better, and to pick up those that the system had been leaving behind. I am glad to say that we now have the data to know that all population groups have lifted, and, in particular, at senior secondary, Māori and Pasifika students are achieving at almost twice the rate from when we came into Government in 2008. That is real kids with real results able to make real choices about what is next for them. That is great for them and that is great for our country.

I had the privilege as Minister of Education to visit centres and schools up and down the country and to see the magic that so many of them create. Little Ōturu School in the Far North is developing natural cures for cellulitis and then selling them. Sylvia Park School is involving its whole community in art and sculpture and the living environment. A primary school in Māngere East is lifting numeracy through “Bobbie maths”, a culturally based team approach. Te Kura Māori a Rohe o Ngā Tapuwai is turning out ki-o-rahi exponents and top scholars. Tarawera High School in Kawerau, Tamatea High in Flaxmere, and Pātea High in Taranaki are achieving phenomenal results due to quality leadership. Tolaga Bay Area School is leading a whole of community inquiry based on the transit of Venus and an ongoing ecological project partnering with iwi and the wider community. Kaiti School is leading the way in teaching excellence. A little Nelson Lakes school is introducing ethics-based studies to 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds. There are 23 Marlborough schools forming a community of learning. Haeata Community Campus, formed from 4 schools in Christchurch East, is leading a revolution in learning and lifting the community as it does so.

I have this brilliant idea—are there any other kinds—that I offer to the universe today: develop a weekly broadcast programme modelled on Country Calendar showing a different school, kura, or kāhui ako and see the stories unfold and the difference they are making—magic!

This is the fourth year that the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards has been held. It is a way of showcasing and celebrating the best practice in our education system and, I hope, part of the way of changing the public conversation about education to a far more positive one. This is the second year of the Education Council, which is dedicated to growing and lifting the teaching profession. But a word of caution: no matter how much we invest to grow and develop the profession, they simply cannot and should not be expected to take up every latest demand. As I said earlier, the core business of schools is to cause learning to happen. It is not the job of schools to become the default for everything young people should learn. As Minister I was lobbied to have schools become social welfare hubs, health hubs, to provide financial literacy, sex education, and so on. Different schools can and do make decisions about how and what they operate. But schools are not our mothers and fathers; they are not our families or whānau. They cannot be everything to everybody and nor should they. Theirs is already a huge responsibility: to educate our kids.

I want to table for the House today, my calling card for this past term of Government—it is just sitting right there. It sets out the system changes that are under way. Helpfully, on the back are references to the relevant key papers. It provides a short summary and saves the House a fuller recitation. But small and colourful as this postcard is, it represents a lot of work by a lot of people.

I said that today was a day for thanks. I think we have a magnificent public service. I think it is the best in the world. It is probably one of the smallest, but certainly one that delivers above and beyond. Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu. Although small, it is of the quality of greenstone. Thanks to all those public servants who supported the work of my portfolios. The education portfolio is not the most popular, which I can testify to, but it is incredibly rewarding, and the work we did together has been some of the most satisfying of my professional life. I want to thank Peter Hughes, both for his leadership of the Ministry of Education and the education sector in Government, and for his full support of me and my work programme. He tells me with sincerity and good humour that he loved it—although not always in the moment. Thank you, Peter.

I want to thank Iona Holsted, first in her role as Chief Review Officer at the Education Review Office where she asked me what I was looking for and then with intelligence and conviction she over delivered—such a woman thing! Then as Secretary for Education she has gotten stuck in, bringing all her social policy background and grit to bear.

I want to thank Karen Poutasi, heading the New Zealand Qualifications Authority—and do not worry, I am not going to go through every principal in the country as well—and her board in particular for the strategic vision they have been working toward. Take notice: assessment on line, anyone, any time. In a truly student centred education system, the choice of what and when a student gets assessed will have profound changes, not least of which the manacle of timetabling that serves adults more than the students.

I just want to segue quickly to illustrate the powerful difference that the multiple vocational pathway choices young people have in our system today under our Government and how much more engaging this is for so many of them. I was visiting the Build a Bach project in New Plymouth and was talking to the students working on it. I asked one young guy what the key education thing he had learnt building the bach. He said: “I know why I have to be able to read now” and pointing to a stack of cans, he said: “cos that shit’s flammable, Miss. That means it burns.” But we need flexibility in timetabling to make more of this happen more easily for our students.

Peter, Iona, and Karen have been served by a leadership team of deputy secretaries, some of whom have gone on to serve elsewhere, who I am proud to have worked with. Every one of them unstintingly worked to meet really high expectations, and I want to thank them all, and their teams. I trust I will be forgiven for naming just two people for special reasons, but who exemplify the commitment that all have shown. I want to acknowledge Katrina Casey and Coralanne Child and their leadership in the Greater Christchurch, Selwyn, and Waimakariri education network over the past 5 years. Both had family or homes also affected by the earthquakes, and both led staff similarly affected. Day in and day out, at night, and on too many weekends they worked to restore, repair, redevelop, support, and sustain the people and the education system there, as many other public servants did also. They accompanied me when I met with every community—at least once—many multiple times, to explain, to listen, to apologise, and to deliver.

I completely accept that we got some things wrong. But there was not a manual for those circumstances. We did not have 5 years to think about it. We did the best we could. Thank you both and all those who worked with you. I know that we are about halfway through the billion dollar programme to repair and rebuild and build 115 new schools, and already the network is fulfilling its promise in the continued growth in learning and achievement.

I want to thank the ministry folk who staffed my office over the years and the advisors in my office who have organised me, prepped me, planned for me and around me, who repaid the high trust I placed in them many times over. Thank you for looking out for me and after me: Kararaina Cribb, Otene Wharerau, Hiria Parata, Julie Ash, Florence Faumauina, Charlotte Haycock, Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i, Ana Barbono, Nick Venter, Jasmine Higginson, and Brigitte Morten, with a special thanks for keeping me up on pop culture, trending Netflix series, fashion, latest diets, and Wellington on a Plate. Thanks too, to Geoff Short and Matt Sanders for their fountain of knowledge, incredible networks, and good advice.

I quickly turn to the National Party. I want to acknowledge former president Michelle Boag, who first recruited me in 2001 and has been a steadfast supporter of mine ever since. I want to acknowledge Patricia Morrison, who inducted me into the ways of the party and could not have been a better mentor, and to Peter Goodfellow and the board, our regional chairs, and those who are sitting behind me, which seems appropriate now because I have always felt the National Party behind me, and electorate committees, members, and volunteers who are the backbone of our Party—thank you all.

I have cause to be particularly grateful to those who have voted National, because they have put me in Parliament these past three terms of Government as a list member. Despite early mornings on Police Hill beside State Highway 1, hammering up hoardings, leafleting letter boxes, and generally throwing myself at the Mana electorate, I have not been able to uncouple it, first from Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, and now Kris Faafoi, both thoroughly lovely people with a peculiar political penchant. We have, however, won the party vote twice and are working very hard to keep that arrangement this September. It is here that I pay particular thanks to the Mana electorate team. A number of you are in the galleries today and you have my thanks for your support.

My special thanks go to my dear friend and her whānau, who since we set out on this waka have been with me and mine all the way. Pania Tyson-Nathan, you are amazing. Whatever I have needed, whenever I have needed it, you have been there; Evan Nathan for your long, suffering support and assistance; Enoka Mareikura who, press ganged into my campaigns, became the handiest thing on a nail gun and the smoothest mover in human hoardings, to now being the father of a gorgeous wee girl; and Kaylim, who has practically grown up in the National Party, featuring in our pamphlets and singing for many of our suppers.

We have had fun and challenging times, but we have been dedicated and focused. I remember once when teams of us were out leafleting I got a call from Enoka saying: “Mum’s been bitten by a dog and we’re going to A & E.” I raced over to Kenepuru to see how she was. It was pretty bad. She had been stitched and had multiple shots and was on pain medication. Once I had established, however, that she had been sorted I was able to ask: “Um, did you manage to finish that street?” Sorry Parn!

To the three Dames and two Sirs who in different ways and at different times have offered me wisdom, encouragement, poetry, prayer, and love. Thank you Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Dame Jenny Shipley, Dame Karen Sewell, and Sir Brother Patrick Lynch—the other Sir, I will come back to. An excerpt from the poem “From Landfall in Unknown Seas” by Allen Curnow became a touchstone for me: Simply by sailing in a new direction you could enlarge the world. Thank you, Karen.

We have a brilliant caucus, with an extremely able Cabinet, led by a good man. To the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Bill English, it has been a real honour to work with you and for you, to debate policy with you—some might say argue vociferously—to be prepped and on my mettle ready to make a Budget case when you were finance Minister. Thank you. I wish you every success in this election because apart from every other qualification you have for the job, you are the only Prime Minister who can shear a sheep, and where I come from, that counts.

To our Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett, tēnā koe. You are a fierce and feisty warrior woman, whose hard work, strength, and sense of fun have been a model to us all. I salute you, and your mana wahine. Together, I think your leadership is awesome.

To the 2008ers, all 16 of us, it is been a blast. I could not have wished for a more diverse, smart, talented bunch of people to come into Parliament with.

Mr Speaker, to you and your colleagues, and all the people who make this place tick—my thanks. It is a veritable ecosystem that keeps the machinery going to ensure we have the active democracy we do.

A special shout out to the VIP drivers, who we often spend more time with than our families. Thank you.

To the press gallery, my apologies. I just could not shake the conviction that if I just explained why, you would all say: “Oh, now we get it. OK, we won’t report it the way we were going to.” And, sorry, to all my press secretaries, I just couldn’t get the knack of the sound bite either—self-evidently.

To my family: what a roller coaster ride we have had. Thanks to all my brothers and sisters and partners for always, always being there. To my two sisters, fabulous educators themselves, who have stood silently behind me and proudly for me, Apryll and Nori, thank you. To my nieces and nephews, apart from being great campaign “volunteers”, thank you for your wraparound love of your two cousins.

To Wira, my pragmatic, phlegmatic, soldier protector. Thanks for looking after our girls, thanks for tweeting right back at them, thanks for this decade doing this stuff. And to our daughters Rakaitemania and Mihimaraea who have grown up in this funny kind of life that is politics. You make me so proud. In this time you have gone from early primary school to completing university—or within one semester of—from young girls to gorgeous young women. It has not been easy, as everyone in this House knows more than anyone, to have a parent in politics. But you have understood the call to public service, and you have been unflinching in your love and support of me. I came here wanting to make a difference for our country and for a better future. I know you have understood that and been proud of me and my work, but I also know how glad you are that I am making this valedictory statement today. I love you always and forever.

And finally, I would like to thank the mums and dads, nannies and papas, the families, whānau, and aiga who care passionately about the well-being and education of their children and young people, and who wrote to me, meet with me, attended education events, who give up their time to coach, to support their schools, to be on the board, to encourage art and drama productions. Thank you all. Our children’s education is better for it.

I am speaking almost from where I started in this House—a full circle. I have loved my time here. I am humbled to have had the opportunity and honoured to be a participant in making our country better.

And to those who gave me advice, told me where to go, and how quickly I could get there—I am on my way.


Davis will resign if partnership schools close

July 24, 2017

Kelvin Davis, Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau MP says he will resign if the two partnership schools in the north are closed down:

 . . The MP Kelvin Davis said Māori wanted a measure of autonomy over the education of their children.

“So if they were to close they would no longer exist, that would be a bottom line for me, so the fact is they can exist as special character schools, that’s the bottom line to me.” . . .

The party’s policy on partnership schools is confusing – saying it wants to close them but would continue to support kura kaupapa and special character schools.

Whether the two in Northland would be safe under this policy is debatable but Davis’s threat is not.

It’s also yet another sign that Labour can’t sing from the same song sheet in opposition and so are still a long way from being a government-in-waiting.


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