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Letters to the Editor

Historic Whenua

I am a 93-year-old concerned kaumatua of Ngāti Hei.

I’d like to draw attention to the rich, historic significance of the Taputapuatea area in Whitianga.

The name Taputapuatea is derived from an ancient marae in Raiatea, Tahiti (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and upon arrival, Kupe named it such, leaving the kaitiaki-ship/caretaker-ship to us all. This area is a reserve; does that not mean it is to be protected and preserved? Under the Treaty of Waitangi reserves such as this were set aside for very good reason.

The original siting of the Mercury Bay Boating Club should have never occurred, and I am one of many who believe it should not be relocated within this important reserve at all.

I would hate to experience continuing disregard for local tapu Māori areas, as has happened at Matapaua Bay for instance.


Patricia Macdonald

Note: Written at Patricia’s request by her daughter, Ana MacDonald.

Getting Facts Straight

The Informer’s Guest Editorial writer is strong on anti-government rhetoric but his “reckons” are unsupported by the facts.

Take for example his criticism of the government’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic. He would have us believe that our saving upwards of 20,000 lives is a failure. Researchers have confirmed that on a per capita basis, our Covid response saved 19,900 kiwi lives compared to the US and 13,700 lives compared to the UK. (NZ Herald 21 March).

Our response to Covid 19 was world-leading. Over the wider pandemic period, New Zealand was one of only a handful of countries that achieved negative excess mortality – ie. our deaths during the pandemic were LESS than the ‘normal’ rate in the decade before the pandemic. US, UK, France, Sweden, Ireland, and Norway had excess deaths per million of between 1500 and 4000. Russia had 8500.

Similarly, when countries started to ‘live with’ the Covid 19 virus, New Zealand kept this rate of excess mortality to 10 per cent – something the study authors attribute to our approach of delaying the widespread transmission of this pandemic and allowing time for an “ultra-high” vaccination rate among older people. Australia and other countries studied had rates 2 to 4 times higher than we did after the transition.

When an opinion writer talks up a so-called climate of fear over saving 20,000 New Zealanders' lives, you know that his anti-government prejudice has terminally clouded his judgment.

Denis Tegg


Irresponsible direct attack

The Article printed in the Informer dated 21 March 2023 and entitled “Reasons for Limited Statutory Manager at MBAS:…” is an irresponsible direct attack on the mana of our local Kura and its past and present leaders. It is one-sided and contains damaging false information. It is difficult to understand the motivation that led to a blatant provocation towards division and anger within our community. It is noted that the name of the author of the article is not published.

The following details are provided in the interest of setting some facts straight and having a right of reply: Mercury Bay Area School (MBAS) does not have a Limited Statutory Manager (LSM) for Finance. All of the figures within the article are sourced from a preliminary scoping report prior to any audit or scrutiny. After scrutiny the Ministry of Education (MoE) deemed that an LSM for Finance was not necessary.

Did the school use International Student Funding to reduce class sizes and increase teacher staffing? YES. Does reducing class sizes and increasing teachers help students to learn and thrive? YES

Did Covid come unexpectedly, and did we lose that funding? YES.

Have International students returned after Covid? YES –currently 18 enrolled and more coming later in the year. Was the overstaffing of concern actually related to support staff as stated in The Informer? NO – the concern was with Teaching Staff engaged prior to the loss of International Student income. The school also bore the huge cost of relief teachers when cover was required for staff ill with Covid.

The article alludes to cost overruns with the removal of buildings. Those classrooms were removed at the absolute insistence of the MoE and resulted in asbestos contaminated ground beneath them which required an expensive reinstatement.

Additional chrome books purchased were to provide to students who could not provide their own, for remote learning during lockdowns etc.

Operational funding is linked to the school roll. The MoE constantly understates the actual student numbers in attendance at our kura with an ever-changing roll.

Did the school leadership understand the funding rules and challenge the Ministry to ensure we received every cent we were entitled to e.g. role growth and new classrooms? YES.

Did the MoE like that? NO.

Is MBAS currently in a stable financial position? YES

Did the school at all times have enough funds in the bank to pay its debts when due? YES

Did school leadership choose to invest in an absolutely stunning Māori Whare to foster pride and respect for our Māori whānau in a town that lacks Māori representation and respect? YES

Did the whare cost a ‘blowout’ sum from operational funding of $117,300 as stated by the Informer? NO it did not. The actual investment over and above grant funding was more like $67,000 over four years.

Why has The Informer chosen to hone in on the Whare as a negative aspect of school decision making? Unknown

Was there an Operating Budget of $5,627 for 2022 as stated by the Informer? NO, there was a budget surplus of $5,627.

Irrespective The MoE may have been asked if there was any assistance available to assist with the recruitment of a new Principal but there was never a concern that the school couldn’t afford the process.

Regarding complaints to the school and the BoT, the Board and the school addressed any specific complaints made directly to it. The MoE advised that they had received some complaints, but when the Board requested specific details, nothing was provided just the statement, that 'complaints had been received'.

Some additional facts the community might be interested to learn:

MBAS was amongst 57% of all schools in NZ to complete and submit audited financials by the deadline of 31st May 2022. The other 43% had not completed or submitted and were therefore not available for MoE scrutiny.

MBAS has a healthy balance sheet inclusive of a school house.

MBAS is a publicly funded school, not a rich private school. Like anything funded by the government there are shortfalls. Look at our roads! Like the school, decades of underfunding has led to infrastructure damage. But MBAS is not broken. We have dedicated passionate staff who are stressed and fed up. Student Wellbeing is the focus of the staff and the Board. This article was a kick in the face and a big middle finger to all of the people involved in MBAS – caring for this community’s young people. I challenge this community to help and support each other – not buy into divisive strategies of dubious motivation.

Don’t let your lasting impression of MBAS be of scorn and criticism. Look for the good that is done every day. Parents, thank those teachers who spend so much time with your kids. Buy them a coffee or a beer if you see them out trying to de-stress. We know damn well the MoE won’t thank them and abhors the idea of a thankful gesture.

Amanda Scobie and Kane Jones

Ex MBAS Trustees

Note: The Principal was approached in 2022 in October and then November for an interview about the Limited Statutory Management but the Informer was told No Comment. The Informer has been approached on three occasions by different parents who knew of the Limited Statutory Management but had never been informed and wanted to know why parents were not told.

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