The Mallard Legacy

NZ Herald

The Herald takes a trip downmemory lane to the schools that Trevor Mallard closed in 2004 when he was Education minister. His legacy is dereliction and dis-repair and shattered communities:

It was 2004 and Labour’s education minister Trevor Mallard was culling fading schools so money paying for empty classrooms and unused playgrounds could instead go into teachers and teaching aides.

He’d already completed 10 regional network reviews, including one in his hometown of Wainuiomata, and identified almost 100 schools for closure.

Eighteen Northland schools were being scrutinised, with seven set to disappear. If all went to plan about $3.6 million was expected to be freed up.

At Towai:

Returning eight years later, we find Towai School is a vandalised ruin. Windows are smashed, rooms ransacked, walls graffitied and the floors treated as a toilet.

On a return trip a few weeks later, the buildings have been boarded up and the fields mowed, but it remains a depressing sight.

“I just can’t come here anymore,” says Davies when we meet him at the site. “Everything about this is just heartbreaking… it’s just been left for ruins. I mean people might say working here was only a job, but this place was my life, and after all that effort we didn’t even get a letter from the ministry saying thank you.”

Trevor can’t even say sorry, so why would he thank you?

For his part Mallard says he’s “pissed off quite frankly” by what has and hasn’t happened.

He dismisses the sentimentality of keeping flagging schools open simply because they’re old, but accepts it’s fair for locals to label the follow-on from their intervention a failure.

Especially as he personified the process. Towai School even flew a plastic mallard duck from their flag pole and hung another at their goodbye party. In future, Mallard says, any reviews must start with a community buy-in and be run by someone independent from any political party.

Always the underlying anger there eh? Trevor? Pised off…yet you were the Minister for a whole year further…and your government was in power for a further 4 years….and your answer now when questioned…it was all someone else’s fault…the bureaucrats…and you are pissed off.

How about saying sorry…the hardest word for a Labour politician to say.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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