Nov 24, 2011

How not to help your cause

I take issue with this sort of shit:

Education minister Anne Tolley may be used to facing protests from school teachers, but on Friday night it was a group of school children shouting and jeering at her (Kawerau Intermediate students and supporters).

The youngsters’ anger and frustration appeared close to boiling over into a direct confrontation at the meeting’s conclusion at 9.20pm, with their attempts to get the minister to explain her actions being stymied.

Mrs Tolley declined to answer a question posed by pupil Kunere Timoti about why she had decided to close the school “when you did not even visit it”. Her response that she was unable to comment on the issue because it had entered a 28-day legal process proved far from satisfactory for the assembled school crowd – and when the meeting’s chairman Mark Longley pulled the plug soon after, it appeared the pupils were on the verge of breaking into a spontaneous haka or finding some other way to vent their anger.

Although there are legitimate questions around Tolley’s refusal to visit Kawerau and front the Intermediate supporters, it is the height of arrogance for those supporters to gate crash a meeting for East Coast voters. Kawerau is part of the Rotorua electorate. The Intermediate supporters have no right to barge into a candidates meeting for East Coast voters, emphasis on East Coast voters, and demand Tolley’s attention and, in the process, distract her from issues that affect the East Coast electorate. This was not an appropriate venue for the Intermediate supporters to attend. Tolley’s first obligation in the above situation is to her electorate. Her obligation to the Intermediate supporters is secondary. The story continues:

Some of the now-shirtless youngsters gathered on the driveway outside the church in an apparent bid to confront Mrs Tolley as she was leaving. However the minister and her supporters remained inside the church.

The caregivers, evidently anxious to avoid an incident involving their charges and no doubt aware it had already been a late night for them, quickly herded them back onto an awaiting school bus for transport back to Kawerau.

Good one. Now you’ve made Kawerau look like a town of nutters. This was my biggest worry when I heard the school was putting on some buses and ferrying their supporters and students to the meeting. I was afraid some one would lose it or, as appears to have happened, a few of the kids have lost it and further damaged the already dim view many people hold of Kawerau.

Which brings me to another point. Why were the kids there anyway? What useful purpose do they serve? Other than to add an emotional element to what should be a dispassionate debate. I think it is tantamount to child abuse that the Intermediate supporters keep using these kids, especially their headboy, in an attempt to garner sympathy.

The Intermediate supporters seem to have cultivated a lot of anger in these kids and that’s unacceptable. Tolley’s going to close the school and what are these kids going to do with that anger when that happens. Smash something up? Rob a house? Tag? Misbehave with their parents?

Anyway, the story goes on:

Maori Party candidate Tina Porou backed out of Friday night’s meeting in Whakatane over fears for her safety.  
“Upon arriving at the church, our candidate was greeted by a group of approximately 200 Mana party and Labour party supporters, apparently targeting the meeting for a protest against the education minister in connection with the closure of Kawerau Intermediate,” party president Pem Bird said in a statement.

“We’d be the last ones to challenge the right to political expression – but there has to be some boundaries in place around public safety.

“My candidate felt there was such a level of tension and anger among the crowd … that it might escalate into a situation which was unsafe. I made the decision that given the volatility of the rally as she described it to me, it would not be wise for her to attend.

“According to her account, some of the young people were particularly riled up and she was not confident that the meeting could proceed without incident.”

Unacceptable. Just unacceptable. The Intermediate supporters really have ruined the candidates meeting. One of less than a handful. They’ve stuck it to East Coast voters sending the message that the Intermediates concerns are greater than those on the East Coast. Oh, the arrogance.

This saga really tops itself off with this:

Earlier this week Rotorua MP Todd McClay made thinly-veiled comments about Mr Aim, who lives in Papamoa.

He said the Kawerau community “would be interested to know” that someone making a lot of noise about the education reorganisation had also sent videos of Kawerau students fighting to television media.

So it was the Intermediate Principal, Daryl Aim, who sent those videos to Closeup and sparked what was the most negative media story I've ever seen on the town. He must be gutted, or possibly ashamed. His actions certainly didn't help his cause. In fact, the opposite happened and the videos galvanised the Minister and local figures to push a head with the reorganisation of education in Kawerau. The irony's killing me. I admire Mr Aim’s shrewdness, but if he is indulging in unfair play he has no right to go accuses the Minister of playing the game unfairly. Pretty disgraceful really. I guess this the killer credibility blow for the Intermediate supporters. I think it’s high time they accepted the inevitable.


  1. Dear Morgan,

    Again I must call you to task with your somewhat misinformed viewpoint. I am sure you are of the opinion that you don't believe everything you read in the papers.

    A contingent of parents, caregivers and community members did travel across to the meet the candidates meeting in Whakatane. This decision was made by the parents/caregivers at a community hui held at the intermediate. Those who travelled to this meeting were taking the only chance they have had in twelve months to raise their concerns personally with the Minister.

    The contingent that attended included students, parents, caregivers, kaumatua, and supporters for the retention of intermediate schooling. A bus was provided at no cost by Kawerau Coaches and was done so to assist those without the means to get to the meeting themselves.

    The MC for the event was the Mark Longley, Editor for the Whakatane Beacon. I agree that this was not ideal that Kawerau people were in your words 'gatecrashing' a Whakatane event, but the reality was that the parents believed this was their only chance to ask questions directly of the Minister.

    I personally was saddened with the coverage of this event. The reality and what was reported were very different.

    Mark Longley set the ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, which were two questions per topic. All political candidates in attendance were allowed to put forward their response to each of the questions. Very early in the meeting a Whakatane resident asked two questions regarding the closure of Kawerau Intermediate against the wishes of a large portion of the community. His questions were answered and the meeting continued. With approximately one third of those in attendance being from Kawerau there was obviously a desire to ask the Minister some questions. The Kawerau attendees sat respectfully from 7:00pm through to 9:00pm. At the very end of the meeting Annette Sykes asked the head boy of the intermediate to come forward and address the candidates with his question. He moved forward and asked the Minister a very simple question, 'why are you closing the intermediate when you have never even visited it?' This was a sincere question formed from the unique viewpoint only innocence can bring. Although not in attendance I have listened to the feedback from many who were, including professional educators. It would be fair to say that the Kawerau whanau were not happy about the way the head boy was spoken too and this raised the ire of those present. The Board Chairperson attempted to support Kunere but Mr Longley chose to shut the meeting down. It was not anarchy but rather an air of frustration from a large group at the meeting. Is it not peoples prerogative in a democratic society that may voice their views?

  2. Part 2:

    Mr Longley contacted me the following Monday to clarify what happened at the meeting for me. He did so of his own fruition and I was an interested listener. What he said was that it had been his intention in the final minutes of the meeting to commend the students of Kawerau for their behaviour throughout the meeting. He relayed to me that he was impressed with their attentiveness and respectfulness of others at the meeting. Mr Longley also said that he was surprised that Tina Porou had felt intimidated as in his view the Kawerau contingent were well behaved and organized. Had she taken the time to actually go into the venue she would have been afforded the same opportunity as all the other candidates. There was no intention from any of the Kawerau attendees to make anyone feel threatened nor detract from the East Coast constituents getting a fair go in meeting their candidates.

    The irony regarding Ms Porou's non-attendance is that Dr. Pita Sharples has during the past twelve months been asked to meet Kawerau Intermediate school community and Board of Trustees but has, other than a standard reply from a P.A, not responded. Given that he is was the Associate Minister of Education this was not well received.

    Finally had you taken the time to investigate you would have discovered that the Close Up show was born out of the disturbing deaths of 14 young people in Kawerau over a two year period. The story lacked balance and was overtly negative but there are times that hard questions need to be asked. My involvement on the show stemmed from knowledge of the large numbers of students who for a range of reasons are becoming disengaged with the education system. We are talking about 12, 13, 14 and 15 year olds who are removed from a formal education system and left to fend for themselves. It is not good enough that (approximately) 46 young people under the age of 16 no longer attend school. If I am to be vilified for speaking up for these kids then so be it. You are right, I don't live in Kawerau. I have however worked five days a week in the town for the past five years. I have spent much of time supporting not only students but their families with issues such as rental eviction to doctors appointments. To build a stronger community the culture of accepting violence, substance abuse and disfunction must be addressed. The videos I share I do so as I am not about turn away and pretend I did not see nor will I accept that young people in Kawerau should believe this is the norm.

    They deserve better and I will do all I can to support them while I work in Kawerau.

    Daryl Aim
    Kawerau Intermediate

  3. ”I personally was saddened with the coverage of this event. The reality and what was reported were very different.”

    That’s the classic line to trot out when the portrayal of an event doesn’t suit your narrative. The media don’t, contrary to what conspiracy nuts say, pull things out of thin air. The behaviour of the Intermediate supporters must have resembled, or closely resembled, what was written. You point out that the Editor of the Beacon was chairing the debate. In terms of the story in question, the one which you and the parents dispute, the Editor (read Longley) would have approved the story. Editors must approve the content of each edition. This tells us one thing – Longley clearly thought the story was accurate. Would he really risk printing such an explosive story if it was incorrect? The ramifications of printing a dishonest story would be huge. Longley would lose his job, blacklist himself in the media and expose the Beacon to legal action.

    “Is it not peoples prerogative in a democratic society that may voice their views?”

    Democracy is also about respecting the rights of others. The right of the East Coast electorate to hold a candidates forum for East Coast issues – not Kawerau issues. There is no democratic imperative in that situation for your issues to be heard and addressed. There are other democratic means. You would know because you have utilised these means well (protest, lobbying etc). With the question your head boy posed what were you expecting in reply? You can ask that question of the Minister herself because, as I’m sure you know given you’re applying for judicial review, she must give reasons for her decision or the Court can order, for example, a review of the decision. The continued, and very public I should say, use of the head boy seems like nothing more than an attempt to guilt trip the Minister and garner soft support.

    Your point of Pita Sharples is interesting. It’s interesting that he chose to stay out of the issue, especially given the communities Maori makeup.

    You are stretching logic to breaking point in your final paragraph. Yes, I’m certain you have best interests of young people in the community at heart, but how did sharing those videos help any children in the town? Those videos helped paint a disturbing picture of the town. They helped fuel the condemnation that Kawerau is a benefit town, a bunch of loser. In terms of the kids in the town all those videos did was glorify and legitimise that sort of behaviour. They didn’t have a 360 degree perspective change, rather their warped notions of acceptable behaviour were reinforced seeing that behaviour, which hit close to home, given oxygen in front of the country. Lastly, I’m not calling you on not living in the town. That’s Todd McClay.



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