The grandmother of a boy assaulted by school rugby coach Ngarimu Simpkins says she is furious he is back working at a Rotorua high school.

The grandmother, who can not be named for legal reasons, said she first found out Simpkins had been reinstated as rugby director at Rotorua Boys' High School when she read it in the Rotorua Daily Post.

The grandmother said in her opinion, "It's opened up a can of worms and poured salt into old wounds".

In October 2015, Simpkins and his father were convicted of assaulting two young boys after an incident where a third boy had attempted to steal a pair of shoes from their home in January 2015.


Simpkins was placed on leave from the school in October 2016 after being convicted and appealed the conviction a month later. The appeal was dismissed in September 2017 and he resigned.

But earlier this year Simpkins was reinstated in his role at the school, a role he now shares with another person.

Simpkins was able to return to the school after gaining an exemption under the Vulnerable Children's Act 2014.

Robert Ngarimu Simpkins was convicted of assault. PHOTO/FILE
Robert Ngarimu Simpkins was convicted of assault. PHOTO/FILE

The Ministry of Social Development wasn't able to comment on the case specifics but said 38 exemptions had been made since the act came into effect.

The act's workforce restriction means it's unlawful to employ a core children's worker with serious criminal offences unless they hold an exemption.

Core children's workers include doctors, teachers, nurses, paediatricians, youth counsellors and social workers.

The ministry's director of social services accreditation, Bryan McKee, said exemptions were not role-specific and were subject to conditions, and did not create a right to a job.

The exemption Simpkins was granted does not have any conditions attached.


To be granted an exemption, an application is considered by a panel representing ministries of social development, health, education, justice and Oranga Tamariki and police.

The panel considers a range of factors, from the offence, sentence and time since the conviction, to steps taken to address behaviour, character references, work history and activities evidencing good character.

"When making a recommendation the panel will only recommend an exemption to the appropriate organisation if satisfied that it won't pose an undue risk to the safety of children," McKee said.

The final decision is made by the employing agency. In this case, the Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said she had not taken the decision lightly and understood why some would question it.

"Before making my decision I carefully considered a range of information including the recommendation of a panel," she said.

"I was also influenced by the fact that the school is well aware of the conviction and has chosen to have him in the role and provide any appropriate support."

The grandmother said she wasn't happy the family hadn't been consulted during the exemption process.

"I wish the process could have allowed the family to participate. We should have had the information, that's what hurts the most."

But the Ministry of Social Development said members of the panel were the only ones involved in the process.

"The onus is on the applicant to show the panel, and ultimately the final decision maker that they don't pose an undue risk to the safety of children if employed as a core worker​."

The grandmother said the incident had changed her grandson.

"He was going places. He just doesn't have that same outlook any more."

"It's altered his life. His development has changed."

She said in her opinion, if exemptions were to be granted there should be a set stand-down period.

In response to requests for comment from Rotorua Boys' High School principal Chris Grinter and Simpkins, the school said it had "already responded on this matter" and did not want to add anything further.

In a previous written statement the school said it was pleased to have Simpkins back in the role.

"The school will continue to provide support to Mr Simpkins and indeed all staff as appropriate," Grinter said. "The safety and well-being of our students and staff is at the forefront to everything we do as a school."