Lines drawn in sand before crucial vote

Parents with children attending Dunedin Kindergartens are divided and angry after governance...
Factions have formed and people are prepping their sides as parents across the city get ready to determine the future of Dunedin Kindergartens.

Tonight, parental committees from the city’s 24 kindergartens will meet Dunedin Kindergartens (DK) and New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK) in an extraordinary meeting to decide the future of the association.

Members will vote whether to split from the national association after a majority of the city’s kindergarten committees requested the chance to vote on it.

It comes after parents were outraged at an announcement that DK board elections were suspended and NZK was stepping in immediately to assist in the day-to-day governance of kindergartens as part of a one-year pilot.

On Monday, the DK board members said they would all step down immediately should committees vote to disassociate from NZK.

NZK then said if committees could not subsequently form their own board, they would be asked to vote to immediately rejoin NZK and, if that too failed, NZK could be forced to start the process of closing all 24 Dunedin kindergartens.

Ahead of tonight’s meeting, lines were being firmly drawn in the sand.

A committee member who supported staying with NZK said they found it "concerning that the vocal ‘leave’ group wants to be ‘out’, but doesn’t seem to have put any solid information forward or to have undertaken any discussion on how this would work".

"There is just a push to go straight to the ‘nuclear’ option — if there is a split, it will make things far more complicated and difficult for the operation of local kindergartens in the immediate future, without any recognisable benefit to the day-to-day operations.

"I would like someone to advise how the split from the national organisation, the possibility of losing the board and incurring significant costs to complete the split and set up support services to operate services, will go any way towards improving the work of the local kindergartens."

A parent who supported separating from NZK said it was not actually the national body for kindergartens.

"There’s a bit of a misconception ... that kindergartens report to [NZK], when really they just have NZ in their name."

She said they expected there to be no costs to split, and they imagined "if NZK are stepping away on Friday morning then we would receive reimbursement of association levies pro rata".

"The community have rallied together and we have members who have been nominated to run for board to reform a legally constituted board made up of at least three elected members — we see this as a critical step to get the organisation back on track."

Splitting from NZK would allow DK to determine its own way to improve the work of the local kindergartens and retain local input from parents and communities, she said.

The experience of people applying for the board meant she was confident in the future of DK and the ability of the new board to bring the association back on track.

The 7pm meeting is on Zoom.