Further black mark for Parata

Last updated 13:00 20/02/2013

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OPINION: If Hekia Parata's performance had not been so consistently abysmal through last year, greater attention would surely have been paid to her botched hatchet-job on Richmond's Salisbury School.

As it happened, the spotlight has been on her education portfolio across a raft of issues, from class sizes, through Novopay and the resignation of her chief executive, to the mishandled recalibration of the school system in post-earthquake Christchurch. Amidst all that, her humiliating judicial review slap-down over the process by which she attempted to close Salisbury School was somewhat lost in the traffic at a national level.

As shocked young faces and angry older ones in Christchurch have shown, there is still significant angst over the revised interim school plan for the garden city. While 12 of the schools initially proposed for closure now look like remaining open, another 12 will merge, with seven more to close and five new ones planned.

Perhaps Mrs Parata was simply playing bad cop-good cop with herself, as the interim proposal released on Monday seems more balanced than the initial plan released late last year. At least she and her Government can say she has listened to some of the concerns raised since then, and that the interim scheme is a result of genuine consultation.

However, a point of significant contention is the Government's decision to renege on promises apparently made last October, that the three intermediates tagged for closure would remain open until the end of 2014 so that the current year 7 intake could complete the two-year cycle. The schools are now to close at the end of this year.

For Mrs Parata, echoed by Prime Minister John Key, to attempt to justify the change of heart on the grounds that this brings "certainty" to parents and children of the school is bizarre, hollow and cynical politics. It is no wonder that principals are accusing them of telling "lies".

The only certainty for these three school communities - staff, pupils and parents - is that all will now face significant upheaval and, for many, significant extra costs at the end of this school year as a result of broken promises.

Is this simply in order to not have these schools closing around the same time as the next general election? Whatever the true reason, it is another black mark for Mrs Parata and the Government over its handling of education - and not an appropriate lesson at all for impressionable youngsters.

Lowlife sours trip Another bad look - though no fault, this time, of Mrs Parata - was the theft of valuable and essential items from the vehicle of two young French tourists. Missing are their passports, money, bank cards and cameras, after a thief smashed his way into their van at Rabbit Island.

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The story is being splashed around Europe now thanks to a website that was helping to sponsor their visit to this country. Up until now their time in New Zealand had gone smoothly - but now, thanks to a lowlife, the visit has gone sour.

Hopefully their items will be returned and their trip can get back on track.

- The Nelson Mail

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