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Showing posts from February, 2012

Following Failure For Education Future

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We are currently enjoying the company of a Chinese Wwoofer who happens to be a teacher in Hong Kong. She has been granted a year's leave to travel and she came to New Zealand because she heard it has one of the best education systems in the world.

She was able to spend time in an Auckland primary school and she was very impressed with what she saw.  She explained that in Hong Kong and China the curriculum has narrowed because of a huge focus on literacy and numeracy. All their testing is focussed on these two areas and judgements are made about children, teachers and schools based on these assessments. Teachers in Hong Kong focus all their teaching on the assessments so that their children can meet the standards and the wider needs of children are forgotten.

What impressed our Wwoofer most was the independence and creativity of the New Zealand children she observed in our classrooms. Hong Kong children have few opportunities to create original artwork or be involved in creating m…

ACT's Influence Over ACC & Education Remarkable

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Roger Douglas and Derek Quigley formed the ACT Party in 1993 with a strong libertarian base and supported by their own lively (although in my mind, misguided) intellect and enthusiasm. New Zealand has aways struggled with political extremes of any sort and although it achieved fourth party status and over 7% of the vote in 1999 and 2002 ACT has never looked like achieving more and has been in decline ever since. Subsequent leaders, Richard Prebble and Rodney Hide maintained a certain amount of support through their spirited, attacking politics but the quality of many of their MPs let them down and they began to drift from their Libertarian roots. Attempts to revive the intellectual credibility of the ACT Party resulted in resurrecting an aging Roger Douglas and a messy coup by a past National Party leader and Reserve Bank boss, Don Brash.

On going scandals and infighting has also affected the ACT Party's credibility, including allegations of fraud against Donna Awatere Huata, Dav…

More Mixed Messages For Education

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Our previous education Minister, Anne Tolley, announced at last year's National Party conference that our primary education system needed systemic change, despite international assessments that placed us in the top five in the OECD. National has been enthusiastically delivering that change, and has plans for more, but it doesn't take close scrutiny to establish that what they are doing just doesn't stack up.

National Standards were forced on all schools and all children despite lacking any trial or sound research. When our most respected academics, the majority of our principals and over a quarter of our school boards voiced grave concerns at the obvious flaws in the new assessment system they were aggressively ignored. Boards refusing to set targets based on the standards were threatened with sacking and being replaced with commissioners. It shows the depth of the government's intransigence (or plain arrogance) when a recent OECD report expressing serious concerns at…

Lignite Presentation to Environment Southland Council

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Robina and I were granted time to present our concerns regarding lignite mining to the full council of Environment Southland. We were told that we would be restricted to 10 minutes but the information we provided must have been compelling because our time was extended to 25 minutes. We appreciated the leniency shown by the Council Chair, Ali Timms, to enable us to get the detailed messages across.

Here is the overview of my presentation which was powerfully supported by Robina's powerpoint. Robina had visited farming districts in Australia that were being supplanted by coal mining and her images showing the physical impacts to those communities were very compelling.

Apologies for my difficulties with formatting when transferring from a word document.

Introduction ·Solid Energy has a commercial interest in the lignite and the Government’s Energy Strategy strongly supports accessing our fossil fuel resources. Solid Energy has spent the last 6-7 years buying land and promoting their p…

Southland is Under Siege!

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Dear Sir

Southland is under siege and much of it is happening under the radar and without our input.

We haven’t had the Chinese try to buy multiple farms but already overseas interests have quietly bought up many.

We have had 5,000 hectares of prime farmland bought by Solid Energy to turn into opencast lignite mines and fracking is already occurring in the region.

Our rivers are suffering and our internationally recognized wetland is close to flipping.

Finally, a road tunnel for tourist buses has been approved in principle to go through the mountains from the Dart Valley to the Hollyford Valley so that wealthy tourists can save a few hours of bus travel.

All of these things have an environmental and economic impact on Southland and Southlanders and yet I don't recall being given a real opportunity to have any input. If we don't have a shared plan for the development of our region then we will continue to be taken advantage of by those who seek to profit from our res…

Milford/Dart Tunnel Submission

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Upper Hollyford Valley 
I was a bit pushed for time, but I hope it is accepted. My submission:

I strongly oppose this application for the following reasons:
1.The application has been approved in principle despite the fact there is insufficient information to support it. Why should this application get preferential treatment?
2.The application has huge implications for the immediate environment and although the tunnel will be built within a National Park it will not benefit the majority of New Zealanders who would visit the area.
3.There doesn’t appear to be enough funding to maintain the boardwalk on Stewart Island’s Rakiura track (promoted as one of the great walks of New Zealand) and if this tunnel project receives approval it will indicate a bias for the wealthy elite over average New Zealanders and tourists. Our National Parks should be managed in an inclusive way.
4.The environmental consequences of the tunnel construction could be enormous and without proper analysis we will not know…

Media Fuels Anti-Teacher Hysteria

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"Sex, drugs, violence - and that's just the teachers" was a common headline in a number of newspapers around the country last week and was yet another example of shock journalism with little substance. The impression one gets from these articles is that there are a lot off dodgy teachers around and the descriptions of the very worst cases would generate understandable concern amongst parents.

Further reading of the article reveals that some exaggeration was involved and the true levels of misconduct are actually quite low. If the 664 complaints since November 2009 are broken into years it makes an average of 330 complaints a year and it was also stated that 260 complaints, "some vexatious", were dismissed. We are now talking about 200 complaints with any basis for each year and of those around 25 teachers had their license to teach removed. The misconduct related to this final group of 25 could very well be serious physical misconduct involving students but cou…

Causes of Child Poverty Still Ignored

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Research, documentaries, NGOs , international comparisons and basic statistics are consistently showing we have a huge crisis in New Zealand, our levels of child well-being rank us closer to third world nations than developed ones. Our current record for looking after and protecting our children is abysmal for a supposedly asset rich nation with a small population.

25% of our children do not have their basic material needs met because the homes they live in do not have a sufficient income to do so. This means we have large numbers of children who lack proper nutrition and live in substandard housing. With the median income in this country being only $27,000, and many earning far less, many families are dependent on the state and community groups for support.

The National Government is always reluctant to invest in anything relating to environmental and social issues but is prepared to spend millions on World Cup Rugby, and billions bailing out investment companies and building motorwa…

Crafar Farm Sale Exposes Shoddy Governance

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It is common knowledge that the John Key style of governance is very different from Helen Clark's. While Helen made sure that any decision was based on wide ranging advice, Key is very much a solo act and the fact that he wings it on so many crucial decisions is a real concern and this is also true of many of his Ministers. There is also obvious cherry picking of advice and research to support a predetermined position and this is especially noticeable when education academic, John Hattie, is used to support larger school classes but is ignored when he criticizes the National Standards. In the case of the Cafar Farms the Government did accept the advice of the Overseas Investment Office but considering the high interest in the decision one would have thought due diligence would require wider views. That Justice Forrest Miller feels that the Crafar farm decision needs a rethink is a sad indictment on the quality of governance under this National Government.

There are many arguments …

Bill Defends Dodgy Mandate for Asset Sales.

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When it was learned that Bill English was attending a "consultation" hui on the Murihiku Marae (regarding the future of Section 9 in the State Owned Enterprise Act), some of us decided it was an opportunity not to be missed. We organised a protest at the road entrance to the marae and stood with the media and our placards for the arrival of Bill in his BMW. The protest had limited value as the car flashed passed in a few seconds and I doubt if Bill could have read even one of our many messages. The local runaka (runanga), however, were particularly welcoming (as many supported our views) and we were invited in to participate in the proceedings.

Bill explained, and admitted, that because of Section 9 the government, in good faith, had to consult with Iwi about ongoing treaty obligations during the sale process. Once the assets were removed from the SOE Act and into the control of the Public Finance Act, unless the government introduced a particular clause to recognize the Tr…

If John Clarke was Still in New Zealand

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I wish we had the sort of political commentary that John Clarke does in Australia with his satirical send ups of Australian politicians while being interviewed by his mate, and straight man, Bryan Dawe. I am no John Clarke but in the absence of his genius, here is how I think he may portray John Key.

Bryan Dawe: Thank you for coming in this evening, Prime Minister.

John Clarke as John Key: My pleasure, Bryan.

BD: Prime Minister I understand you are going to do a major review of our public service.

JC/JK: Thats correct, Bryan.

BD: Surely you must have reviewed the sector before, I mean you've already cut over 3,000 jobs.

JC/JK: Well, sort of a review, Bryan. Bill and I looked at how much they were funded, and well, we spend millions on them and I haven't used any of their services. I was talking to the guys at the club and they hadn't either...

BD: With respect, Prime Minister, how did you establish how much funding should be cut from each department and ministry?

JC/JK: We…

Replicating US Models Dangerous

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I have been reading Arianna Huffington's very compelling description of the United States' economic and social decline, "Third World America". She describes, with much factual support, how the wealthy elite have resorted to sucking the wealth out of their middle classes to fund their increasingly extravagant lifestyles.


Income inequity has exploded to absurd levels in the US, with CEOs now earning almost 500 times what their average worker would receive (although rapidly increasing, New Zealand's CEOs earn around 20 times their average worker). Yet despite the majority of the United States' wealth being held by an elite minority they pay little tax and even Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, revealed he was only required to pay 13% tax on an income of over $40 million. This has shifted the burden of supporting state services and maintaining the country's core infrastructure to the increasingly impoverished middle classes.

The US can no longe…

Banking Profits Vindicate Occupy NZ Stand

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I didn't see many low wage earners dancing in the streets when they received an extra fifty cents an hour but I'm sure there were a few ANZ bankers dancing in the privacy of their plush offices when their 25% increase in profits gave them a tidy $1.1 billion for the past year.

Green Party Co-leader, Russel Norman has earlier voiced concern about the drain to the New Zealand economy of around $9 billion dollars in dividend payments going to the parent banks in Australia.  He describes the exporting of our money as "strip mining our national economy of capital". The big four Aussie banks are driven by ensuring their own profitability at the expense of we New Zealanders and they have already been caught bending the rules and made to pay $2.2 billion in owed taxes. It was probably at considerable cost to the country for the five years it took to achieve the High Court ruling.

With most New Zealanders struggling to survive, many are questioning the excessive and unnecess…

Whoops!

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I have just removed a post for the first time after receiving a range of responses. What was intended as a bit of provocative fun probably went too far.

Waitangi Day, the Constitution and the Waituna

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Today I was treated to the hospitality of the Awarua Runanga at their wonderful Cliff Whiting decorated Te Rua Aroha Marae and wharenui. The Powhiri included an acknowledgement of the Green Party by Sir Tipene O'Regan and some "foot in mouth" moments from the Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English, when he put down northern iwi in an attempt to curry favor with Ngai Tahu.

Sir Tipene explained the background of the constitutional review that he and Professor John Burrows are chairing. He described a constitution as being the overarching rules that dictate how we manage ourselves through legislation and law. Rather than just letting ivory towered academics dictate the form it may take he  would like the people of New Zealand to have an input on how they want New Zealand to be.

Bill English and Pita Sharples are the parliamentary representatives who will present the final report to Cabinet. Bill explained that the review will be carried out independently of politicians but ex…

More Tui Announcements for Education

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Dear Sir

Every time the government announces a new education initiative I can't help seeing them in the form of a Tui advertisement.

$25 million dollars cut from the Ministry of Education to improve front line services."Aspirational" National Standards forced onto all children to help those who are failing.Schools closed and class sizes increased to enable "better-quality teaching".Charter Schools, after mixed results in countries ranked well beneath us, being introduced to improve educational delivery in vulnerable communities.I do struggle to see how cutting funding to the Ministry, forcing flawed or untested systems onto our children and increasing class sizes will improve our top five international ranking for educational achievement. I guess I should accept that I'm just a "politically motivated" teacher who has no idea about what is good for education and should leave …