71pc want Parata gone - survey

ANDREA VANCE, CHARLEY MANN AND CAROLINE KING
Last updated 08:31 20/02/2013
Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll
Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll taken before this week's announcement on the Christchurch schools revamp

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Hundreds of protesters have delivered a motion of no confidence in Hekia Parata's performance as a new poll reveals the controversial education minister is rapidly turning into political public enemy No 1.

In today's Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll, surveyed before this week's announcement on the Christchurch schools revamp, almost 60 per cent of respondents believe Prime Minister John Key should have sacked his seventh-ranked minister in last month's Cabinet reshuffle.

That rose to 71 per cent among voters from Canterbury, where on Monday Parata announced a proposal to close or merge 19 schools.

Yesterday more than 1500 school supporters delivered a motion of no confidence in Parata's record to date to the Education Ministry's offices in Christchurch. It followed an NZEI rally in the city.

NZEI national president Judith Nowotarski said government representatives had graciously accepted the motion of no confidence at the Ministry of Education's Christchurch headquarters. The rally began at the CBS Arena before protesters marched to the ministry office in Princess St.

"We got to go inside to present to them our motion. It was very respectful. They listened, they sat, there was nodding."

Southbridge School principal and prominent NZEI member Peter Verstappen led the rally.

He told supporters the minister's job in Christchurch was not finished and she still had a fight on her hands to close seven schools and merge 12 into six.

At one point he led the crowd in a chant of "Heck no, she [Parata] must go".

The dismal public rating of the minister comes after a series of political calamities. A plan to increase class sizes was met with derision last year, and resulted in a backdown.

A failure to deal with the ongoing problems with the Novopay payroll system saw criticism heaped on her, and Education Secretary Lesley Longstone quit. Parata was further humiliated when Key gave responsibility for the Novopay debacle to senior minister Steven Joyce.

Government proposals to close a residential school for disabled girls in Nelson were overturned by a High Court ruling in December.

And this year got off to a bad start when she remarked it was "karma" that Education Ministry staff had also experienced problems with their wage packets.

The official announcement on Christchurch schools on Monday also infuriated some teachers and parents.

The poll shows 59.8 per cent nationwide believe Key should have removed her from the education portfolio. Women were more likely than men to want her sacked. Just over 18 per cent didn't know or couldn't say.

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It follows a Colmar Brunton/TVNZ poll earlier this week, in which 59 per cent of voters polled believed Key made the wrong decision by keeping her in the role.

Parata faced more negative headlines yesterday when she avoided apologising for the Novopay fiasco.

She said: "I've made it clear from the outset that I wanted teachers to be paid . . . I'm confident that the ministerial review will find, as Steven Joyce has said, that there is enough blame to go around in the eight years that this project has been in development."

She was undaunted by the poll results. "In education there are always challenges," she said.

"There were a lot of challenges in 2012, and there will be more in 2013. I am focused on renewing the education sector in greater Christchurch and improving educational outcomes . . . "

The poll surveyed 1000 randomly selected people by telephone from February 10 to 14 and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

Labour leader David Shearer said he was not surprised by Parata's polling as he had never seen such disillusionment in schools.

"That's a direct result of the leadership in the education field and the succession of bungles and bad policy."

Parents were also becoming disillusioned with National's education plan, he said.

- The Press

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