Parata rejects Canterbury schools funding claims

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 15/10/2012
Hekia Parata
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
Education Minister Hekia Parata

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Half the $1 billion the Government has promised to invest in Canterbury schools in the next 10 years would have been spent anyway, Labour's associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins says.

“The National Government boldly promised it was going to spend a billion dollars rebuilding schools in Christchurch, but they neglected to mention that half of that was money the schools were going to get anyway to maintain existing buildings, upgrade them, or repair damage,” Hipkins said.

The Christchurch community has every right to feel badly misled by the Government, he said.

But Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday denied she had misled people. "We are spending twice as much as had previously been planned so we can rebuild and provide new schools quickly where necessary," she said.

Parata said she was focusing on ensuring children in greater Christchurch had modern schools to attend that delivered a first-rate education.

The information was revealed to Hipkins in answers to parliamentary questions, which showed about half of the $1b would come from existing baseline funding or insurance recoveries.

“The National Government have been so busy trying to put a positive spin on their Christchurch education plans that they've badly misled people in the process."

When Parata announced the overhaul of Canterbury's education last month, the press release first talked about a "$1b investment for education renewal in Canterbury". She waited until the 11th paragraph to say 13 schools were proposed to close and another 18 could be merged.

Hipkins said the Government was also being "deliberately evasive" about where the money was coming from.

Parata also denied this, saying the Government was "absolutely committed" to rebuilding Christchurch following the earthquakes.

“They should be less concerned about spin and more focused on giving local communities accurate information so that they can have a meaningful say in the rebuild process," Hipkins said.

He called on the Government to make accurate information public so the community could make informed decisions.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president John Bangma said he was disappointed to hear the $1b was not all new money, but he wondered how much of that $1b included savings through school closures.

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