Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone. Photo by Mark
Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone has resigned
after a relationship breakdown with the Minister of Education
Hekia Parata, and will receive a payout.
State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announced today he
had been in "talks" with Ms Longstone for a month, and a
joint decision had been reached between them three weeks ago.
Mr Rennie said Ms Longstone's relationships had been
strained, not only with Ms Parata, but also with sector
groups outside the ministry.
Mr Rennie said the troubles in education this year had been
the "tipping point" in the relationship between the Minister
and the Secretary for Education.
The year the ministry had come under fire over Christchurch
school closures and merger proposals, the Novopay payroll
system, charter schools, releasing National Standards data
and closures of residential schools.
Former Public Service chief executive Peter Hughes will be
acting chief executive and Secretary for Education from
February 9 next year.
The State Services Commission will advertise for a permanent
replacement in the New Year.
"Following very careful thought and discussion, Lesley and I
have decided that the best interests of the Ministry would be
served by her stepping down and the appointment of a new
Chief Executive," said Mr Rennie.
"The relationship with the Minister has certainly been an
important factor in Lesley and my decision."
He would not say if Ms Parata had played a role in the
He said the last six months had been especially challenging
for Ms Longstone in her role as chief executive and Secretary
of Education at the ministry.
"Despite the best efforts of Lesley to work through a number
of issues there now needs to be focus on rebuilding critical
relationships that have been strained - this decision has
followed very careful thought and discussion.
"Lesley and I have decided that the best interests of the
Ministry would be served by her stepping down and the
appointment of a new chief executive.
"I respect the very difficult decision that she has made."
Despite accepting her resignation, Mr Rennie said Ms
Longstone was highly capable and committed, and he would
consider employing her in the state services sector if a
suitable job was available.
Ms Parata acknowledged Ms Longstone's resignation and thanked
her for her efforts.
"It's been a difficult period and there have been a series of
tough issues to deal with."
Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins is calling for Ms
Parata to also go.
"Hekia has been a disaster as Education Minister. Everything
she has touched she has stuffed up - from class sizes and
school closures to Novopay and charter schools. Her tenure as
minister has been a series of blunders, botch-ups and
bungles," he said.
Greens' co-leader Metiria Turei said Ms Longstone must not be
a scapegoat for the Education Minister after what she calls a
"destructive" year in education.
"Lesley Longstone's departure must not come at the expense of
the Minister taking responsibility for overseeing this mess."
Ms Longstone moved to New Zealand from the United Kingdom 13
months ago to take on the role.
She will return to the UK for Christmas as planned, but will
return to New Zealand to wrap up her work at the ministry,
before finishing by February 8.
Mr Rennie said a severance package had been agreed with Ms
Longstone, but details would not be released until next year.