Kura idea first raised in 2013

By Sophie Price

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Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata. Photo / Dean Purcell
Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Havelock North site for a kura kaupapa was discussed in 2013, two years before local MP Craig Foss admitted to being "caught on the hop" about its location, parliamentary questions have revealed.

Labour Education spokesman Chris Hipkins posed almost 50 questions for written answers about the slated school to Education Minister Hekia Parata, most of which have been responded to.

In one of his questions Mr Hipkins asked for the date the Arataki Rd site was first identified as a suitable location for the school.

"I am advised that the Ministry identified the possibility of the Arataki Rd site being used for the relocation of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Wananga Whare Tapere o Takitimu in 2013," the Minister responded.

However, in an interview with Hawke's Bay Today in May last year, Mr Foss, the Tukituki MP and former Associate Education Minister, said: "Basically I was surprised that the Arataki camp was the location, so I've asked for a briefing from the minister."

Since late last year Mr Foss has been advising his constituents that he has been active on the issue.

"I have done and continue to do all that I can to bring the issues to the attention of the key decision-makers," he wrote last November.

In February he wrote in local community papers that he was "working behind the scenes".

"Continually raising concerns, asking questions, and getting information from those responsible," he wrote.

"I can assure you that I have made, and will continue to make, key decision-makers aware of those concerns."

Ms Parata, in an answer to a question, said she had received one letter dated March 2, 2016 from Mr Foss on behalf of his constituent which focused on mainstream primary school rolls in Havelock North.

"The relocation of Te Kura Kaupapa Mori o Te Wnanga Whare Tapere o Takitimu is referred to only by implication," she said.

"There is no direct reference."

When questioned about this, Mr Foss said he had met and had discussions with Ms Parata, Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye and other senior ministers.

"I have done this regularly since last April, when the kura relocation decision was announced," he said.

"For the last 12 months I have consistently sought clarification about the proposal.

"As the local MP, I do not get to decide the location of schools but I do get to strongly present the various concerns and frustrations about this issue to the decision makers."

He said there were many ways, in addition to writing letters, that he argues and stands up for the local community.

"I focus on outcomes and continue to make the point that we should have the right school, in the right place, at the right time," Mr Foss said.

Ms Parata confirmed this.

In follow up questions to the local MP asking for more specific details about how he had communicated with the Minister over the past 12 months, be it via letters, phone calls or in person, the MP answered "all of the above".

"I don't have the date and time for every communication on this issue. Not everything is done by official letter," he said. "In this case, official correspondence does not include emails, phone calls or face-to-face meetings, of which there have been many between myself, the Minister and our offices."

When asked if there was any record of the official correspondence, no answer was given to Hawke's Bay Today by Mr Foss' office.

Tukituki Labour spokewoman Anna Lorck said it was critical that any advocacy on behalf of his constituents be put on record. "We want proof not hearsay," she said. "One written letter is not advocating on behalf of the community."

Ms Lorck said she was one of more than 200 supporters who have already signed up to the School For Havelock North community campaign. "I have and I will continue to speak out against decisions being forced on local communities without consultation," she said. "What I am focused on is getting answers for the Havelock North community, that is where I can help and that is what I am delivering."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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