1 Sep 2020

Taranaki school dependent on pokie funds - Judith Collins

11:43 am on 1 September 2020

Watch Judith Collins addressing the media here:

The National Party's caucus has been meeting the day after its leader announced a $4.8 billion spend-up on education infrastructure.

The funding policy was announced in New Plymouth and at her post-caucus briefing today Collins was keen to pursue the controversy surrounding the government's decision to give $11.7 million to the region's Green School to help it expand.

Yesterday Collins met with the principals of Marfell School and New Plymouth Boys' High School.

"What was really clear is the absolute anger amongst the school principals and the school communities about the $11.7 million that has been promised by the government to this thing called a Green School when the schools themselves in New Plymouth - many are suffering, particularly Marfell and Boys' High, from a deficit of infrastructure particularly around the school buildings."

Collins said Marfell School is a decile 1 school, where the principal spends four out of five days a week trying to fundraise. It was reliant on community trusts particularly pokie funds and its TV and IT equipment had been donated.

Parents were too hard up to provide any extra money, she said. New Plymouth Boys' was also desperate for more money.

"They're looking at this Green School, private school, and wondering what is going on with the government and they certainly did not expect that would happen."

National would take the issue up again with the government today, Collins said.

She wanted to see the business case, and especially any information supplied by Treasury.

At the weekend Newshub reported that students at the Green School worked with crystals. During her visit growing crystals and planting them did not seem to be of much interest to people in New Plymouth, Collins said.

If there was no contract, the government should cancel the project now, if papers had been signed, the government owed people an explanation.

She accused the previous Labour government, under Helen Clark, of underspending on school infrastructure during its time in power and leaving National "a complete mess".

If elected, National would spend $2 billion to pay for repairing and rebuilding schools.

"It's really clear they do need more money."

In a time of unemployment, 400 people a day were losing their jobs, as of last week, so local businesses where schools were based would be involved as much as possible.

"Not only will we fund them, we will get them done faster," said Nicola Willis, the party's spokesperson on education.

Handling of pandemic criticised

Despite the prevalence of genome testing, the government had not identified the source of the latest Covid-19 outbreak weeks after it first appeared.

"What we're seeing is the quarantining that has gone on has not necessarily been optimal."

Taiwan was the standout country in the world for its Covid-19 response and New Zealand needed to have a single border agency, as proposed by National, Collins said.

Collins said people in Invercargill were "grumpy" about being in alert level 2 when she visited the city at the end of last week.

"We don't have the same information the government has so it would be unwise for us to jump to conclusions when we don't have it."

Mosque gunman's possible deportation

Collins repeated that she is not in favour of the mosque gunman, who was sentenced to life in jail without parole last week, serving out his time in his home country of Australia.

New Zealand has never had a policy of allowing serving prisoners to complete their sentence in another country, she said. The deputy prime minister had taken a populist view with his opinion of sending the terrorist to Australia.

She refused to take questions about her husband sharing a number of anti-Jacinda Ardern posts on Facebook.

David Wong-Tung, a businessman and former police officer, shared an array of posts attacking Ardern - his wife's political opponent.

In the posts, the Labour leader is mocked and called names - among them - the incredible sulk and Cindy. One message calls for her to be tested - not for Covid-19, but for competency.

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