Vote to stay likely to be challenged: DK

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
A Dunedin kindergarten committee president says opponents will fight the unconstitutional vote to stay with the national body.

Parents and teachers are disputing the process of Thursday night’s vote, which follows weeks of bitter wrangling.

New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK) said Dunedin’s kindergarten committees voted to remain affiliated with the national body at an extraordinary meeting.

The vote was held on Zoom after half of the city’s 24 kindergartens requested the emergency general meeting to address the ongoing dispute.

However, the kindergarten committee president said yesterday more legal challenges were planned.

She hoped another extraordinary meeting would be held in person, in which the vote would be held again, along with votes on other issues.

Half of Dunedin’s kindergarten committees banded together in an attempt to prevent the online meeting.

They engaged Galloway Cook Allen lawyers to send a letter to the manager of the Dunedin Kindergarten Association (DK) requesting it not to go ahead on Zoom, as DK’s constitution did not allow for this.

Two-thirds (66%) of Dunedin committees would need to vote to split from NZK for that to happen.

NZK did not provide the split of votes, nor answer other ODT questions yesterday.

Thursday’s meeting was "quite inefficient" and did not allow for open or transparent discussion, the committee president said.

"They limited any talking to a two-minute window and then muted the person at two minutes, regardless of if they had finished their train of thought or were finished speaking."

It was a private ballot, but afterwards an open discussion among the committee presidents determined that 12 out of 20 committees who attended, voted to disaffiliate, she said.

They would have needed 14 to meet the 66% threshold, but it still showed DK was not acting in accordance with the desires of the "majority" of members, she said.

She claimed the meeting and the way it was run was part of an ongoing pattern of constitutional breaches by DK.

Teachers and parents have been in uproar since they were told it had been decided DK would be governed by NZK in a one-year pilot.

Tempers boiled over at an in-person meeting in April, with concerns parents and teachers would be prevented from having any say in running their kindergartens.

NZK and DK said the move was needed to ensure Dunedin’s kindergartens were meeting legal obligations.

In correspondence to parents from NZK and DK on Monday, the organisations warned that voting to break away from the national body could result in the winding up of all of DK’s 24 kindergartens.

Following the meeting on Thursday, another committee president said they were disappointed with the result, but not surprised, as 66% was a high bar.

"We remain committed to supporting our teachers and ensuring that kindergartens in Dunedin are locally led, free and continue their amazing education of our tamariki."

A parent who attended the online meeting said the meeting was "unconstitutionally restricted to the one thing [NZK] thought they could win".

A Dunedin parent who supported remaining with NZK said their main thought after the meeting was "relief at the outcome".

"We are happy for the families and teachers that we don’t have to face losing the board and heading into a massive period of uncertainty, but obviously conscious that the board has some serious work to do ... and it needs to get a lot better at communication with everyone."

A Dunedin mother opposed to staying with NZK said teachers had lost faith in the board and NZK.

"They will continue to put a smile on their faces and look after our tamariki and families to the very best of their ability; all whilst not knowing what the future holds for them or Dunedin Kindergartens as we know it now."

NZK chief executive Jill Bond told TVNZ yesterday a new constitution was needed following changes to the Charities Act regulations.

Changes were also needed to make the organisation financially and environmentally sustainable.

Parents’ fears they would lose their voice in how kindergartens operated were too early, and conversations were needed about how parents could be part of running kindergartens in ways that meet all of the obligations, she said.