Calls for Education Minister Hekia Parata to stand down
were renewed yesterday after the resignation of Education
Secretary Lesley Longstone.
Ms Longstone, who could be in for a golden handshake of up to
$500,000, has been called a scapegoat for wider issues within
the Ministry of Education.
Greens' co-leader Metiria Turei said the education secretary
was taking the fall for what had been a "destructive" year
for the ministry.
Ms Parata started holidays yesterday, and would not comment
on the resignation.
Neither would Prime Minister John Key, who issued a statement
to say he had complete confidence in his minister.
Ms Longstone spent little more than a year in New Zealand,
making $560,000 in the first 12 months plus a $50,000 payment
for moving from the United Kingdom.
State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said he had spoken to
Ms Longstone a month ago about her future and a decision was
reached two weeks ago.
Mr Rennie said the relationship between Ms Longstone and Ms
Parata had been strained and this extended to relationships
between the ministry and wider education sector groups.
"There have been a number of strained relationships.
"Certainly the minister was one, but it was by no means one."
Mr Rennie said the troubles in education this year had been a
tipping point in the relationship between the minister and Ms
In a message to her staff, Ms Longstone said it had been an
extremely difficult decision. "Not everything in 2012 has
gone smoothly and there has been real disquiet relating to a
range of issues including Budget 2012 proposals, Christchurch
"The accumulation of these and other things has led to
deterioration in relationships with a number of important
stakeholders - this isn't a sustainable position."
Calls for Ms Parata's resignation were started by the
Opposition last week when the minister came under fire after
a High Court decision found she unlawfully tried to close
Salisbury School by disregarding warnings girls at the school
with intellectual disabilities could be placed at greater
risk of sexual abuse if they were placed in a residential
Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said yesterday that
Ms Parata should 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."
Post Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff said
Ms Longstone was the "fall guy" for Ms Parata and Associate
Education Ministers Craig Foss and John Banks. "She has been
left high and dry."
Ms Longstone will go on a scheduled holiday to the UK, return
on January 22 to complete her work at the ministry and stand
down from February 8.
Her severance pay could be anywhere between $250,000 and