Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Crown could crumble against Kingmaker's kin

Michael Cullen will have a major headache in his new role as tertiary education minister as he tries to clean up the mess made by Trevor Mallard and his minions in their attempts to bully Te Wananga o Aotearoa into submission to Crown authority.

Sending lieutenant colonel Wira Gardiner in to subdue the descendants of Rewi Maniapoto was not a good idea, and Gardiner's usual tactic of upending everything is now coming under fire from the kumara pits.

Gardiner and Mallard's other factotum on the wananga board, Brian Roche, seem set on a course of putting the wananga into receivership. Part of this process seems to be selective leaks about alleged mismanagement by the previous executive ahead of an Audit Office report. (I am not accusing Gardiner of leaking - the practice does not seem to be part of his arsenal - but the divisions created in the organisation do seem to be making it porous.)

Tying the Government's hands is the Waitangi Tribunal hearing November 30 to December 2. The brief the tribunal set itself is very informative as to the minefield the Crown has got itself into.

"The inquiry will concentrate on issues concerning the revised charter, student profile, and future direction of TWOA. Key questions will include the role of the Crown and the claimants in determining the future direction of TWOA; the Treaty responsibilities that the Crown has to the claimants; and the question of what a wananga is."

The Crown tried to argue those matters are the province of the wananga board, which did not join the Aotearoa Institute in lodging the claim. The claimants argued that since Gardiner pressured most of the iwi representatives to step aside, the Crown has three members on the reduced five member board and so calls the shots.

Indeed, wananga supporters now claim Gardiner's board is ultra vires or has no legal standing, because the changes imposed on it were outside the scope of its constitution, which requires a board of between 12 and 20 members.

Those members who stepped aside did so because of Gardiner's message no further funding would come from Government unless they did so. As it was the Government still hasn't paid over the suspensory loan the wananga argued it was owed under the settlement to the earlier Wananaga Claim.

The claimants want the hearing held in Hamilton rather than Wellington. However, most venues in the city are booked, and the tribunal doesn't want to go near one which is available - the wananga-owned Glenview International Hotel and Conference Centre.

Glenview was subject of a Sunday Star Times story, which a report commissioned by Roche show renovation costs on the complex, bought in 2003 for $5.12m, blew out from $2.8m to $11.2m. It blamed management for failing to properly budget and manage the remodeling. The wananga's reasons for the investment were not canvassed.

Meanwhile, in a speech to the Institutes of Technology and Polytechs of NZ Conference November 3, Cullen said the market-ideology reforms of the 1990s led "to the pursuit of ‘cash cow’ opportunities and an atmosphere that encouraged high-growth strategies for their own sake."

He said such high growth strategies "will not cut much ice" in future. "Specifically, no certificate or diploma level qualification can grow by more than 200 EFTS in any twelve-month period unless this has been approved in advance."

Radio New Zealand interpreted that as " a clear swipe at the Maori tertiary provider Te Wananga o Aotearoa". Radio NZ should remember it was not the wananga but Christchurch Polytechnic which claimed funding for thousands of students based on a CD of computing resource material it handed out, and it was Hawkes Bay Polytechnic who counted as students people who sang along to a radio programme (not incidentally a bad idea, but perhaps too generously funded☺)

Cullen claimed the Government wanted innovation and leadership to flourish in the sector, and that tertiary education is absolutely crucial to the task of building workforce productivity.

That is where the attacks on the wananga don't make sense. The wananga's greatest growth happened WHILE the Crown had representatives on its board. Former ministers Mallard and Steve Maharey were happy to see the wananga sucking the oxygen away from the private training establishments, but less comfortable when it came to a turf war with unis and polytechnics.

Rather than assist the wananga with development of pedagogy and ensure it had sufficient capital to manage growth, the ministers stood back until they thought they could move in and execute a coup. Learn from history, guys.

Whatever the wananaga's deficiencies, it has succeeded in getting a large number of older Maori and working class Pakeha engaged with education again, which has had a profound effect on the country's ability to create more than 250,000 jobs. It has taken on the task of salvage education which was ignored as a systemic problem since a previous Labour administration "sacrificed" a generation of NZers to theories of monetarism and economic rationalism.


Blogger blogg3rz said...

Very perceptive blogspot. So what do you think the answers are?

2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home