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.


Schools can’t teach everything

April 20, 2017

Outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata is right – schools can’t teach everything:

Outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata says a push for schools to cover all civic and social responsibilities needs to be resisted – saying families and society must step up.

Parata highlighted the issue during an exit interview with the Herald before she steps down from the role on May 1, with Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye expected to take over.

“We should demand a lot from our education system because we have a quality one. But we shouldn’t demand everything,” Parata said.

“Financial literacy, sex education, bullying – any number of issues – whenever they emerge in the public domain the first response is, ‘This should be taught by schools’. I think there needs to be a much fairer shared responsibility here between parents, family, whanau.

“Schools are there to deliver an education. They are not there to take over all the roles and responsibilities of families or society. The more there is balance in those expectations the more the schools can have the space to be the best that it can be.” . . 

A lot of what is called educational failure is parental and societal failure.

Teachers can’t be held responsible for children who don’t have the foundation skills for learning when they start school.

Children who don’t have the language and behaviour skills and other basic requirements for learning by age five are at a significant disadvantage which the best of teachers will struggle to overcome.

Giving children the love, attention and helping them master the skills they need before they start school is the responsibility of parents.

Not all parents have the ability and/or will to nurture their children, to teach them all they need to ensure they’re school-ready, and to support and supplement their education once they’re at school.

That is a failure of both parenting and society, not schools.


Cabinet changes

December 18, 2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.


The right time to go

October 20, 2016

Education Minister Hekia Parata will not contest the next election:

She advised the Prime Minister of her decision earlier this year.

“It is a privilege to be part of the John Key-led Government. However this is the right decision for me and my family, and it is the right time to make my intentions known,” says Ms Parata.

“I have no plans beyond serving as Education Minister as long as the Prime Minister wishes me to. There are still a number of deliverables in the education work plan in the meantime and my focus and energy will be unwavering.

“It is an honour to work each day in this portfolio – it’s true that it involves a number of difficult decisions but I have been committed to making the right decision for our children and young people.

“I am also keen to see a fresh candidate nominated in the marvellous seat of Mana and to provide voters with a strong contest at the next election.”

Ms Parata was elected to Parliament in 2008 and has served as the Minister of Education since 2011. She has previously held the portfolios of Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Minister of Energy and Resources, Minister for Women, Minister of Ethnic Affairs, Minister for Community & Voluntary Sector, and Associate Minister of ACC. . . 

Education is one of the toughest portfolios.

Teacher unions whose leaders put politics before education make the role even harder for a National Minister.

Hekia was always a strong advocate for pupils and teachers in spite of the unions. Her policies have led to significant improvements to the education system and pupil performance.

The right time to go is very much a matter of debate but Hekia is leaving voluntarily which is always the best way to go.

Whether she remains as a Minister until the end of the parliamentary term is up to the Prime Minister. Some Ministers who have announced retirements have been replaced before they leave parliament, others have served out the full term.


Rural round-up

February 5, 2016

Demand pushes ewes up to $200 – Annette Scott:

A shortage of sheep and recent pasture growth has seen ewe prices skyrocket against all odds at the South Island ewe fairs this past week.

With the dismal state of lamb prices and the dry start to summer, ewe fairs were not expected to fire this season.  

“I don’t know where the confidence is coming from. The processing companies are certainly not giving much confidence,” PGG Wrightson south Canterbury livestock manager Joe Higgins said. . . 

Pressure on NZ’s farmland discussed – John Gibb:

The challenge of achieving sustainability and growing pressure on New Zealand’s rural landscape were highlighted during a national geography conference at the University of Otago yesterday.

New Zealand Geographical Society president Emeritus Prof Harvey Perkins, of Auckland University, and Prof Eric Pawson, of Canterbury University, gave a joint keynote presentation on New Zealand ‘‘going global”.

They also focused on ‘‘the tensions of rapidly shifting external relationships and the remaking of domestic rural landscapes”. . . 

Fonterra Introduces Market-Linked Price for Organic Milk:

The success of Fonterra’s organic business has prompted the Co-operative to introduce an independent organic milk price linked to market returns for organic products.

From June 2016, organic milk payments will reflect the performance of the organics business. Organic farmers currently receive a fixed premium together with the conventional Farmgate Milk Price for their organic milk supply. Organic farmers can choose to move to the new payment approach or stay under the existing payment system. . . 

TPP will help remove regulatory barriers:

The main benefit for the deer industry from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will be the ability to challenge any potentially unfair regulations imposed by importing countries.

“Regulatory barriers can sometimes do more to impede trade than tariffs and quotas. Under the TPP, there will be an independent disputes mechanism that will allow our exporters to appeal regulations in importing countries they believe are unjustified or unfair,” says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Dan Coup. . . 

Red meat sector welcomes signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement:

The signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement today in Auckland is a significant step towards reducing the amount of tariff and non-tariff barriers on New Zealand red meat exports, according to the Chairmen of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Trade Minister Todd McClay signed the TPP Agreement today with the 11 member countries, including from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. . . 

He’s farming again after drought – Alan Williams:

David Hyde is a happy farmer who credits his positive attitude for coming through the north Canterbury drought still loving being on the land. He told Alan Williams how he coped by adapting his usual farming practices to meet the challenges.  

David Hyde says he can start farming again after January rain ended the severe and long-running drought on his Scargill Valley farm in north Canterbury.  

The lucerne that had browned off by late last year has raced away in the last few weeks and will soon be cut for balage – something not normally expected in early February in north Canterbury. . . 

Horticulture Welcomes TPP Signing:

New Zealand’s peak body for commercial fruit and vegetable growers, Horticulture New Zealand, has welcomed the official New Zealand signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement today.

Horticulture is New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner, sending fresh and processed products to more than 120 countries, valued at more than $2.5 billion every year.

The estimated saving for nine key product lines (kiwifruit, apples, avocado, buttercup squash, capsicum, cherries, onions, potatoes and vegetable juices) is just over $25 million a year for the growers now exporting these products to Japan, the USA and Vietnam. . . 

Kiwifruit winner in TPP Agreement:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will generate significant value for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and Zespri welcomes the signing of the Agreement today in Auckland.

Zespri Chief Executive Lain Jager explains the TPP will eliminate tariffs on kiwifruit exports into all 12 Asia-Pacific nations when it comes into force, with the biggest impact to be seen in Japan.

In 2014, the industry paid over $15 million in tariffs into Japan which is Zespri’s largest country market . . 

World’s largest fruit trade show shines spotlight on Kiwi ingenuity.

The world’s fresh produce industry is gathering in Berlin this February to showcase its wares as well as discussing global trends in fruit and vegetable production and consumption.

Among them will be New Zealand’s leading horticultural producers and the creators of some world-leading Kiwi technology.

Fruit Logistica 2016 is a trade fair with a global scope. It provides an excellent opportunity for growers and equipment manufacturers to get in front of the European market, which takes over half a billion dollars of our horticultural exports every year. This year’s exhibitors include Zespri, Plant & Food Research, Wyma, BBC Technologies and Compac. . . 

Exciting Mānuka honey scheme launched:

A new initiative to boost the mānuka honey industry in Northland and provide educational and employment opportunities has been launched today at Northland College by Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, Education Minister Hekia Parata and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The Mānuka Planting Initiative at Northland College is part of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan which was launched this morning.

Mr Flavell, who is also the Associate Economic Development Minister, says the initiative will help prepare and upskill unemployed adults living in Kaikohe. . . 

Aotearoa Fisheries appoints new directors to Sealord:

Aotearoa Fisheries Limited is making changes to its appointed directors to Sealord Group Limited in order to have a complete alignment of its appointees with its own board. Aotearoa Fisheries owns 50% of Sealord on behalf of all Māori, and as such appoints half of the Sealord board of directors.

As part of the recent Maori Fisheries Act review Iwi expressed a strong desire for the Aotearoa Fisheries Limited appointed Sealord directors to come directly from the Aotearoa Fisheries Limited Board. Aotearoa Fisheries Limited Chairman Whaimutu Dewes said these changes will give effect to this desire. . . 

Dairy Awards Entrants in the Spotlight:

Entrants in the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are being put through their paces, as judges deliberate who the first regional winners will be.

Judging is currently underway in the 11 regional competitions of the 2016 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of Year competitions.

More than 450 people entered the awards, with the first of the regional winners to be announced in Taranaki on March 4. . . 

Brancott Estate and BlueChilli seek the next big idea in wine tech:

Brancott Estate revolutionised the wine industry when they pioneered Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1975. Now they are looking for the next pioneer in the wine industry with the announcement of winexplorer, an innovation challenge designed to revolutionise the way wine is enjoyed.

“When we decided to plant Sauvignon Blanc vines in Marlborough in 1975, we created one of the world’s most popular wine styles and turned New Zealand into one of the world’s premier wine growing regions. Now we are looking to change the wine world again by identifying ideas that will fundamentally change the way people enjoy wine.” says Patrick Materman, Brancott Estate Chief Winemaker and a winexplorer judge.

“Whether it’s an idea about how people choose what wine to drink, or how they share that wine with their friends, if it’s big, bold and revolutionary, then we want to hear it.” . . 

Wine Flight to take off:

More than 60 of the world’s most influential wine media, trade and sommeliers will enjoy a unique “Wine Flight” today thanks to Air New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Two Air New Zealand Q300 aircraft are scheduled to take off from Blenheim this afternoon and cruise at 11,000ft, taking in spectacular views of some of New Zealand’s best known wine regions, including Marlborough, Nelson, Martinborough/Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.

On board the VIP passengers will enjoy wines from some of the regions they’re flying over, including a Nelson Albariño, a Martinborough Pinot Noir and a Hawke’s Bay Syrah. . . 


Quote of the day

August 20, 2015

As Education Minister I have a clear goal. I want every kid to receive a great education. For that to happen every school has to be a great school.Hekia Parata


Govt report card on BPS

July 7, 2015

The government has released a report card on its Better Public Service targets:

More young people are achieving higher qualifications, welfare dependency continues to fall and Kiwis are doing more of their government transactions digitally, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Paula Bennett say.

The Government today published the latest update of progress against the ten challenging targets set three years ago by the Prime Minister.

“There are now 42,000 fewer children living in a benefit dependent household than there were three years ago. That’s more than the combined populations of Masterton and Levin,” Mr English says.

“Today’s results confirm the Government is making continued improvements to some of the really difficult issues that affect our communities and families, however progress in other areas is slower.

“We are getting a better understanding of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, and we’re willing to pay a bit more upfront to change their lives, because what works for the community also works for the Government’s books.”

Mrs Bennett says the BPS results targets were designed to drive a positive change in the public service and signal a willingness to try new things and work across agencies to have more of an impact in people’s lives.

“Significant progress has been made since the Prime Minister first set the targets in 2012,” Mrs Bennett says.

Since the targets were introduced:

  • participation in Early Childhood Education has increased from 94.7 per cent to 96.1 per cent
  • the proportion of immunised 8-month olds has increased from 84 per cent to 92.9 per cent
  • there has been a 14 per cent decrease in people being hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever
  • the trend in the number of children and young people experiencing substantiated physical abuse has flattened, after previously being on an upward trajectory
  • the proportion of 18-year olds who achieve a NCEA Level 2 qualification has increased from 74.3 per cent to about 81.1 per cent
  • the proportion of 25 to 34 year olds with a qualification at Level 4 or above has increased from 51.4 per cent to 54.2 per cent
  • total crime, violent crime and youth crime have dropped 17.6 per cent, 9.1 per cent and 37.3 per cent respectively
  • the rate of reoffending has dropped 9.6 per cent
  • there has been a net reduction of 16 percent in business effort when dealing with government agencies
  • 45.8 per cent of government service transactions are now completed digitally, up from 30.4 per cent in 2012.

“We set these targets to stretch the public services to get better results from the more than $70 billion we spend each year,” Mrs Bennett says. “We have always said that some of them will be challenging.

“For example, reducing rheumatic fever remains difficult, but progress has been made. The previously increasing trend for assaults on children has been successfully flattened, but more needs to be done to achieve the target.

“We are making progress in many cases by working with individuals and families to develop services better suited to their needs,” she says.

The government deserves credit for setting targets against which progress can be measured, for working for the most vulnerable and being prepared to spend more upfront to solve long-standing problems.

But these targets aren’t just about the government, they’re about people served by public servants and those public servants who are working to meet the targets.

Education minister Hekia Parata gives credit where it’s due:

Today’s Better Public Service (BPS) update showing the Government is on track to achieve its goal of lifting the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA  Level 2 is a tribute to the hard work and professionalism of teachers and principals, says Education Minister Hekia Parata. . .

These targets aren’t necessarily destinations, many are staging posts in a journey towards better public services and better outcomes for the people who use them.

The  report is here.
John Key's photo.


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