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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Truancy push ignores wider social picture

A Taranaki youth worker says a new push against truancy needs to take other social problems into account.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has announced an extra $4 million a year to tackle the problem of truancy, and a further one-off $1.5 million on a one-off effort to get truancy officers visiting homes and searching known hangouts to get long term truants re-enrolled.

Lynette West from New Plymouth's Young People's Trust says as the bulk of hardcore truants are Maori, truancy officers need to work with agencies who are already helping these young people.

“It's not just a matter of ‘they’re being naughty, take them away from school.’ It’s what’s happening at home and what are they living with. Many of these young people may be protecting and caring for younger members of their family which is why a lot of them are not going to school. A lot of them have learning disabilities and quite a few of them are medicated also with mental health problems,” Ms West says.

Most truancy problems start at primary school, and the Government are tackling the problem far too late.


The Labour Party's Auckland spokesperson says the Maori advisory board to Auckland's super city council will be a toothless tiger.

Phil Twyford says what's been put before the select committee hearing submissions into the proposed governance regime shows the council will be powerless.

He says mana whenua, who have been among the most strongest critics of the forced merger of the region's councils, have made it clear they are only going along with the Maori board because they were given no other option.

“It's a tactical decision about whether you engage with these kinds of processes and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to engage but let’s be brutally frank; it’s an advisory board. The Auckland council doesn’t have to pay attention to it if they don’t want to. They can make any decision they want at the end of the day without any regard to what the advisory panel says,” Mr Twyford says.


The manager of the only marae-based issuer of drivers’ licences is supporting a move to raise the minimum driving age to 16.

South Auckland-based MUMA Road Safety has run driver licensing programmes for more than two decades.

Fran Hokianga says raising the age is a sensible move, as the majority of road injuries and fatalities are among rangitahi.

She says many modern cars are too fast for inexperienced drivers.


A spokesman for the Maori king says demands for greater financial accountability are being driven by a few disgruntled members of the tribal parliament.

Rahui Papa says reports emerging from Sunday's session of Te Kauhanganui that King Tuheita threatened to abdicate were false, and the king's speech was actually a call for unity in the face of divisions created by the sacking of tribal chief executive Hemi Rau.

He says the parliament has oversight of the $1.2 million budget needed to run the king's office.

“The king is no stranger to auditing, no stranger to budgeting and no stranger to accountability, and those things will be provided to Te Kauhanganui as and when required on a six monthly or annual basis, as does Te Kauhanganui and Te Ara Taura report to the tribal parliament on a six monthly and yearly basis,” Mr Papa says.

King Tuheitia wants Waikato Tainui to come back together under the Kingitanga principles of rangimarie, peace, mahitahi, collaboration, and whanaungatanga, working as a family.


The head of one of the largest secondary schools in Education Minister Anne Tolley's East Coast electorate says adoption of the professional development programme Te Kotahitanga should raise attendance levels in the region.

Mrs Tolley has doubled to $8 million the money set aside each year to tackle truancy, on the back of a ministry report that four percent of New Zealand students are absent every day.

But Jim Corder from Gisborne's Lytton High School says the small group of persistent truants need to be treated differently than students who skip the occasional class.

He says that's why one of the reasons a cluster of East Coast schools with high Maori rolls has signed up to te Kotahitanga.

“What we're expecting is that the students will be more engaged as a result of the strategies and the way we work and the way we relate to these students as a result of Te Kotahitangi. They will want to be engaged and want to be at school more. That will affect their attendances as well as their achievement,” Mr Corder says.

He says prosecuting parents who don't send their kids to school should be the responsibility of the Education Ministry or the police, not the business of schools as Minister Tolley is demanding.


Pakaitore protest leader Ken Mair says Whanganui residents now have a better understanding of the reasons for the 79 day occupation of Moutoa Gardens in 1995.

The 15 year aniversary was marked on the weekend with speeches and music on the banks of the Whanganui River.

Mr Mair says with river and land settlements in the pipeline, more Pakeha are taking time to learn about Maori issues, although there is still opposition from Mayor Michael Laws.

“What hasn't been helpful in our area of course has been some of the comments made by our local mayor in regard to some of the issues that affect us directly as iwi,” Mr Mair says.


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