29 Aug 2020

James Shaw apologises for signing-off on funding for 'green' private school

10:57 am on 29 August 2020

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has apologised to members for signing-off on funding for a private school.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw

James Shaw said he is working to find a solution. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The climate change Minister approved nearly $12 million for the 'green' school in Taranaki, despite his party's stance not to fund private schools.

The money came from the government's $3 billion 'shovel ready' projects fund.

Green School New Zealand, which opened in February, charges up to $24,000 a year for local students and up to $43,000 a year for international students.

The school has about 50 students, half of whom come from overseas. The funding is designed to expand the school's capacity from 120 to 250 students.

Shaw apologised to members in a Zoom meeting last night, saying he would not make the same decision if given another opportunity.

He told the group of 460 people he had thought of the project as a building and construction project rather than an education one.

He said he has listened to the concerns raised and is working to find a solution.

Co-leader Marama Davidson was present in the meeting and acknowledged Shaw for owning his mistake.

The country's largest education union wants the nearly $12m of funding allocated to Green School New Zealand to go back into public schools.

Education Institute Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford said Shaw did the right thing by apologising, but it should not stop there.

Rutherford said schools throughout Taranaki have plenty of construction opportunities that could benefit public education.

The Greens' former education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty yesterday told Checkpoint she thought Shaw had become isolated from the party to some degree.

She said his instinct failed to tell him that "this was never going to fly with the Green Party, and that our policies are never to fund private schools".

Shaw had also come under fire from former Green Party MPs, Green candidates, the National Party and Taranaki schools principals for the funding decision.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs