Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Venture Southland, a Provincial Power House

Venture Southland should be regarded as a successful model that could be replicated around the country. It has become a powerhouse of innovation, community support and business success that has allowed a province with around 2% of New Zealand's population punch well above its weight.

Venture Southland's vision for Southland's future is admirable:
  • A region with vibrant urban and rural communities that is widely recognized as a desirable place to live, learn, do business and visit.
  • A harmonious social and natural environment that is based on sustainable development and diversity.
  • A population sufficient to support services, recreational facilities and opportunities that enhance the quality of life for residents.
The organisation has actively pursued its vision with some determination and energy and with under forty staff it has achieved some remarkable successes:
Venture Southland has just released its draft business plan and is asking for submissions. It lists many new and exciting projects that include: the oat industry project; establishing education partnerships with China; pathways into employment in agriculture for young people; and promoting the Around the Mountains cycle trail. 

Southland has achieved a lot under a National led Government that has done little to support regional autonomy and development. I just wonder how much more could have been achieved if there was greater national support for regions and communities to find their own solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges. Venture Southland has proven that we can have a vibrant, sustainable economy that doesn't have to rely on intensive dairying and fossil fuel. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bill English Helps the Vulnerable?

Finance Minister Bill English responded to a Southland Times letter writer who questioned the validity of the Government's surplus in light of the $60 million debt it has accrued. English responded by saying:

"Despite the revenue dropping sharply because of the recession (no mention of the tax cuts), the Government also borrowed to maintain its support of the most vulnerable New Zealanders..."

I was so angry at his gall in blaming struggling New Zealanders for his mismanagement and his spending on corporate welfare and unnecessary motorways, that I wrote the following:

In responding to Neville Kerr (May 21) Finance Minister Bill English gave the impression that the debt of $60 billion that his Government has accrued was largely to, “...maintain support of the most vulnerable New Zealanders...”

His claim does not match reality when we have seen a dramatic shift of wealth from our poorest to the already rich. Inequality in New Zealand has grown at a faster rate over the past few years than any other OECD country and we now have 27% of our children living in poverty. Our richest 1% have captured 16% of our country’s wealth and the bottom 50% now share a paltry 5%. We also have a housing crisis that is beginning to reach levels not seen since the Great Depression.

If it was our most vulnerable that Mr English was most concerned about then why did his Government:
  • Cut taxes to the rich, resulting in $1.2 billion of lost revenue each year?
  • Cut the early childhood education budget by $400 million in their first year?
  • Cut entitlements for thousands of deserving ACC claimants?
  • Bail out the asset rich private school Wanganui Collegiate ($3.9 million for 400 students) while illegally closing Salisbury School for high needs girls and Phillipstown School (decile 1)?
  • Cut funding to rape crisis centres when sexual violence offenses were increasing?
  • Remove the need to have healthy food in schools?
  • Cut numbers of state housing and force low-income families into sub-standard private rentals?
  • Not support a living wage so that many working families now rely on food parcels and we have a growing demographic called the working poor?
  • Allow almost 20% of our workforce to become unemployed or underemployed?
The shift of wealth to our already rich has been the real goal of this Government and the vulnerable have been largely ignored.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chris Trotter, Key Apologist Again

At the beginning of last year Chris Trotter defended John Key's claim that he had a mandate to sell state assets. I strongly disagreed with that view and was disappointed that a political commentator who proclaims his commitment to the left side of politics would willingly provide support for such a damaging policy based on such flimsy arguments.

With a recent article Trotter has done it again. Just when Key was being exposed with some excellent journalism, he leaps to the Prime Minister's defense. According to Trotter, Campbell produced nothing conclusive and the Prime Minister and the GCSB director do not need to provide answers to the questions posed:

"The evidence they have assembled is indisputably very suggestive, but it is not even remotely conclusive."

"Yes, there are many questions that cry out for answers, but those in a position to do so cannot be compelled to testify."

At the very point when we needed to have some collective media strength to force Key into providing the New Zealand public with some convincing answers Trotter lifts the journalistic foot off Key's throat (please excuse the violent metaphor, I feel strongly about this) and allows him to breath easy again.

John Campbell's programme did more than suggest, it is conclusive that the appointment of  Ian Fletcher as Director to the GCSB was at the Prime Minister's recommendation and that the PM lied about his relationship with Fletcher and the manner of the appointment. It is conclusive that leadership of the spy agency is no longer a military one but is now being led by a diplomat with a background in intellectual property and international trade negotiations. It is also conclusive that the Prime Minister refuses to question the US over the use of the spy data that we collect on its behalf and that illegal spying on ordinary New Zealand citizens has occurred during the Prime Minister's term of office. Surely this is enough 'conclusiveness' to demand answers and compel those responsible to 'testify'!

The Government and the Prime Minister should be working and making decisions for the collective good of all New Zealanders and while the details of the day to day operations of the GCSB and the SIS obviously need to be kept under wraps the broad nature of their work should be common knowledge and the terms of engagement with our Five Eyes partners should be publicly known. 

Is the the GCSB involved in commercial and trade espionage?

Should New Zealand be complicit, through our spying activity and the data we share, in the execution of people outside war zones and, in the process, violating basic human rights?

What are the perceived international threats to the security of our nation, potential terrorists in Yemen or the protection of major corporates within the Five Eyes alliance? 

New Zealanders should have strong assurances that our Government is advocating strongly on our behalf to maintain our national sovereignty and to actively defend the human rights of New Zealand citizens outside our shores. 

Time and time again John Key and his Government have been allowed off the hook for some pretty appalling decisions and shocking mismanagement. At a domestic level Key has clearly shown that the plight of ordinary struggling New Zealanders are of no concern to him. His arrogant and evasive answers to Metira Turei's questions regarding excluding beneficiaries from accessing the parental tax credit were unacceptable. Key should be able to justify any decisions that negatively impact on large groups of New Zealanders and he should be able to justify and explain how this Government engages at a global level on our behalf. 

Trotter's lack of real support for Campbell Live's success at shining light on the murky underbelly of international espionage and John Key's involvement is disappointing. We need more journalists and commentators stepping up to demand answers and not providing side exits and easy escapes for a Prime Minister who is skilled at spotting and using them. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

To Tweet or not to Tweet

Twitter is adding an element to the 2014 election that did not exist in past elections. The expansion of social media and the influence of blogs has continued from 2011 and although Twitter did exist then it has moved to a much more prominent position.

No Right Turn argues that it is a legitimate and useful form of communication that shouldn't be banned from the Debating Chamber as it allows the MPs to let off steam without disrupting the order of the House and provides the public with useful insights into personalities of our MPs.

Bryce Edwards regularly reproduces tweets to provide an overview of responses to a particular issue or event and Twitter followers can get instant feedback as events unfold.

There are traps for the unwary, however, as the instantaneous nature of tweeting can lead to impulsive, ill-considered messages that have a longer life than intended and can reflect badly on the tweeter. Jan Logie quickly found that her unfortunate attempt at word play had far reaching consequences that she never intended and resulted in a public apology. To her credit she ignored the temptation to point the finger at opposition MPs who had also used tweets to attack others, and just took responsibility for her own misjudgment.

John Key's attempt to label the Greens as the "Nasty Party" will probably not stick as the Greens rarely engage in the abuse and interjections that generally occur during Question Time and the personal attack on Metiria early in the year made a lasting impression on many.

What I do enjoy about tweeting is the need for brevity, the 140 character limit forces our politicians to convey their thoughts concisely and strips away all the usual rhetoric. It also encourages the use of humour and celebrates the one-liner.

While tweeting does add a valuable element to political discourse, those participating need to always take a little time to consider the possible ramifications of a rush of blood to the head and pressing send too quickly.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bill's Budget and the Buts...

National has finally achieved what they have been promising for some time, a budget with a surplus, but...

There is the small issue of the $50 billion of Government debt that has been accrued since 2008

There is the average of $1.2 billion lost annually from Government revenue due to the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Christchurch repairs have a tightening budget, with repair contractors finishing up as EQC goes for cheaper cash settlements. After over three years 4000 are still waiting for replacement homes and 2600 are still waiting for a decision from the EQC. Which is more important, the Christchurch repairs or the appearance of a surplus?

The paid parental leave increase to 18 weeks is still well behind the OECD average.

Beneficiaries with children can still not access Working for Families and the increase in the Parental Tax Credit still does not apply to them despite 27% of children now living in poverty.

There is extra funding for early childhood education participation but still no effort to increase quality or ensuring greater numbers of qualified staff.

Our public education system has been under attack and yet Charter Schools get $12 million, although serving less than 400 students.

Health spending is still not at a sustainable level and funding cuts to preventative health is ongoing.

The Government's asset sales have provided a short term boost for this budget but will provide long term losses.

Nothing substantial to address the housing crisis.

There is a continual failure to address the growing needs of the Pasifika community where the median wage has fallen $64 dollars a week from $455 when National took office to $381. Pacific people have also got an unemployment rate of 13%.

The budget does nothing to address the growing inequity in New Zealand or to deal with the root causes of poverty.

It may not have been a 'slash and burn' budget like the one delivered to Australia (English's budget had a few trinkets and baubles),  BUT the real issues of poverty, our degrading environment, ethnic marginalization and the housing shortage were not really addressed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Government Shifts Social Housing to Private Sector

Common housing in Invercargill

The Southland Times has revealed that 209 state houses may be cut from Invercargill over the next ten years, over 50% of current stocks. Similar cuts are occurring across the country. Knowing what has happened in education and conservation I am fairly certain that no qualitative needs analysis has been done to support this decision.

New Zealand has one of the highest levels of under-employment in the OECD and around 20% of our workforce is either unemployed or under-employed. We have a large proportion of families being described as the ‘working poor’, who cannot live on their incomes without further support. 27% of our children are living in poverty and 17% do not have their basic needs met, and that includes healthy living conditions.

The Southland Times has reported on the growing number of families in Invercargill that are seeking help. Many are struggling to manage on minimal budgets and dealing with health issues related to living in substandard homes. The Salvation Army has also reported a need for housing to cater for growing numbers of homeless in the city.

In this environment the government decided to heavily cut their stocks of state housing and pass the responsibility of providing low cost homes to the private sector and slum landlords. Many families will now be forced to rent houses that do not need to comply to the same standards required of state housing or the warrant of fitness that is being introduced to them.

The quality of cheap rental housing in the private sector can be shocking and dampness and little insulation are common in cheaper Invercargill homes. The expense of trying to heat poorly insulated homes is beyond low-income families and, according to the Children’s Commissioner, there are growing numbers of children with respiratory infections, pneumonia and rheumatic fever that are directly related to poor living conditions.

Housing New Zealand Chief Executive, Glen Sowry stated, "In Southland there isn't high demand for state housing, and therefore we are looking to sell surplus properties..." I would be interested in what criteria is used to assess eligibility and therefore levels of demand. Given the number of families living in shocking conditions it doesn't appear that the unavailability of healthy accommodation is given the priority it should have. 

There is also some strange economic thinking when it is may soon cost the Government over $2 billion to provide the Accommodation Supplement to support families into private housing, much of which will be substandard. We should also consider the health and welfare costs involved with families being forced to live in substandard conditions. 

There is an urgent need for high quality, low cost housing and the Green Party's rent to buy scheme would be a great way of solving an initial shortfall and change the falling rate of home ownership.

Postscript: 94% of private rental houses could not pass a warrant of fitness in a recent survey of properties around the country. It is important to remember that the houses checked would have had permission from the landlords so these figures could be much worse. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Zealand's Rock Star Economy

There is no doubt at all, New Zealand definitely does have a 'Rock Star' economy. Our four biggest rockstars are called Dara Dairy, Rebuild Rex, Len Lumber and Property Boom. These are our four biggest acts and they are constantly at the top of the charts and on most peoples's play lists. We do have a couple of wannabe stars that have some following, notably Oil Slick and Park Miner, but some feel that their music is dated and they probably have no real future.

Dara and Len are into fairly primal, raw rock and have gained a fair bit of international attention, especially in China. The Chinese are keen to buy anything being released by both artists. Our two largest domestic artists Rebuild and Property are rocking out with a steady stream of popular music.

Many People feel that Boom is over pricing the tickets to his concerts and few ordinary New Zealanders are ever likely to be able to afford one. Some feel that ticket prices have been pushed up by overseas fans. Rebuild has been criticized for employing his all his roadies and backing band from overseas.

New Zealand's Rock Star economy is operating in the same way as it does in most places. The money is pouring in but only a few are benefiting. There are the usual mansions and luxury cars and managers and financial advisors have creamed off the profits. The roadies, supporting musicians and recording studio technicians have seen little of the money that they have helped generate. The nannies looking after the rock star's children have struggled to have their efforts recognized and are generally taken for granted, they are told that they should feel grateful for just having a job.

The music industry can be quite fickle, it only takes a nasty rumor to lose a fan base and destroy a career. Some music suffers from over exposure and can experience a sudden collapse of support.

Relying on a handful of successful artists to continue the income stream is actually a huge risk. While many compare Dara with the Rolling Stones and think that she will have a long and successful career, this can never really be guaranteed. We probably need to have more artists on our books to take advantage of future markets. We haven't really invested in identifying new trends in music and supporting potential new stars. There has been hope that Oil Slick and Park Miner may develop into future stars but those who support them are nostalgic for past music genres that have little support from younger generations.

We definitely have a rock star economy, but fame is fickle and the industry is often corrupt. It produces great wealth for some but it is an economy often based on image rather than substance. I am also reminded of the great rock band, Spinal Tap, that claimed that they were louder than any other band because their amplifier had volume dials that went to 11 rather than just 10. The Government is using similar methods to amp up our economic our success.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cabinet Clubs and Singing Money

Anyone can join National's clubs of influence as long as you can afford to pay the entry fee.

Money sings a sweet song for this Government and the source appears to make no difference to them. Gambling, deep sea drilling, fracking, coal from conservation parks, dividends sucked from SOEs, wealthy Chinese donors with dodgy backgrounds...as long as it's money!

National Ministers claim that they will see and support anyone, income is no barrier. While I am sure that they do meet with a wide range of people there is an overwhelming perception that certain kinds of people are more likely to gain access and a listening ear.

The support and time given to Chinese businessman Donghua Lui, seem excessive, given that he gained citizenship against official advice. Lui later provided the National Party with a donation of $22,000. Although Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse claimed that he had no knowledge of the donation, it does seem unusual that a Minister of the Crown would personally visit Lui at his hotel to discuss personal immigration issues. There are many stories of refugees and less affluent migrants who struggle to have their cases even heard and yet a wealthy businessman gets exclusive support.

The fact that Maurice Williamson, in his capacity as a Minister, felt it perfectly proper to remind Police that Liu was, "a very large investor in the building and construction industry",  is a huge concern. There was an implication that when someone is being charged with domestic assault that different rules apply if they are wealthy.

There are so many examples of singing money during this National Government's term of office and, as a teacher, the most shocking still must be the bailing out of Wanganui Collegiate. The Private Secondary School for 400 elite Students was bailed out by the State against Ministry of Education advice by $3.9 million, despite owning land and assets worth a similar amount. At the same time two schools catering for low decile children and special needs had to take court action to fight forced closure despite having no management issues. Both cases were won and yet Salisbury School has had its funding cut and Phillipstown is being closed regardless.

Key claimed that Wanganui School deserved to be saved because of its high academic standards and yet I would have thought that any school would do well if all students came from wealthy homes and staffing ratios were twice as good as public schools. We are left wondering how many wealthy parents of students at the school are supporters of the National Party.

When I launched my Invercargill campaign I used the Greens' community hub plan as the focus for the evening. We had a broad mix of people attending; businessmen, education workers, parents and members of the Pasifika community. There was no cost to those attending but membership forms for the Party were available and people could make donations to our campaign if they wished. Attendees had free access with our Co-leader Metiria Turei and MP Catherine Delahunty.

When National Party Invercargill Candidate, Sarah Dowie, was interviewed recently she stated that it was important to generate more wealth before we can meet the needs of our elderly and those in poverty. I get the impression that generating wealth is not an issue for National, the issue is around access and distribution. The National Party's record provides a clear impression that if you want greater guarantee of support, palm-greasing (donations) will help. For a huge number of New Zealanders, surviving on incomes beneath the living wage, access to our Prime Minister (or any Minister) is limited.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Illegal Highs, Knee-Jerks and the Greens

It is the Government's job to govern and that should mean to take a measured and considered approach to decision making. Sadly with the legal high issue Peter Dunne and his National Party colleagues produced a knee-jerk response to a public outcry. Recreational drug use is a complex issue and running around with a hammer hitting down problems as they pop up is not a long term strategy. The Greens' decision to abstain from voting on the Legal High Bill was a difficult one but based on strong principles.

Synthetic cannabis is dangerous stuff and is destroying many young lives. The original inventor, Professor John W Huffman, claims that it was never designed for human consumption and the synthetic version is much more addictive than the herbal variety and has 'serious psychological side-effects'. Many took up smoking synthetic cannabis because it didn't show up in work drug testing, it was readily available and they could avoid a criminal conviction.

A number of Campbell Live programmes have highlighted the devastating effects of legal highs on young people and their families and a great deal of frustration and helplessness was being voiced from many communities. Obviously those who were experiencing the the wider consequences of legal highs just wanted the stuff out of their lives with no idea how this could be done effectively. Banning it and making it illegal seemed like an immediate solution.

Rather than tackle the broad issues of recreational drug management the Government has taken a populist approach, rather than a sensible one, and their attempts to control the use of recreational drugs are inconsistent and full of mixed messages.

The Government has already bowed to the lobbying of the alcohol industry when it backed down on the Law Commission's excellent recommendations in the final legislation. While legal highs have created real health and social problems the vast majority of drug related costs (social and economic) are caused by alcohol. It has been estimated that the consequences of alcohol consumption costs the country around $5 billion a year.

While it is clear that using ordinary cannabis has negative effects, especially in our young, the major costs are probably in policing and the long term effects that criminal convictions cause to many users.  Many natural cannabis users shifted to synthetic legal highs, they may have avoided a criminal conviction and kept their jobs but the psychological and social costs were probably much greater. Many have probably lost their jobs anyway because of the behavioural changes caused by their legal high consumption.

The only real positive aspect of the fast-tracked legislation was the banning of animal testing to prove the safety of the products. By immediately banning legal highs the following consequences are likely:
  • The legal highs products will shift from shelves and into the black-market. 
  • There are no age checks or quality controls over products sold within the black market.
  • Many black-market dealers also deal in other illegal drugs that may be worse that synthetic cannabis and will be offered to young people.
  • Having the supplies cut immediately will force a lot of users into withdrawal and this will put them and their families under a lot of stress unless there are appropriate support services available.
  • Many may end up with criminal convictions through their addiction to substances that were once legal.
  • Drug addiction support agencies and our medical system are already stretched to meet the current numbers of addicts and unless they receive appropriate resourcing and support they will not be able to meet the demand. To his credit, Tony Ryall has increased funding to addiction services, but we probably still do not have the trained personnel and capacity to manage a large increase in addicts and families seeking help.
  • We will probably have an increase in family violence and other crimes as users suffer the consequences of withdrawal. 
The only way to truly manage recreational drug use and minimize harm is through increasing education, especially in our young. We also need to decriminalize drug use and treat it like a health issue rather than criminal one. When drugs are legal we can control the supply and the supplier, but monitoring and controlling sales needs to be properly funded and resourced too. In Invercargill there has been no trained personnel with the authority to monitor and check legal high suppliers. Spending money on controlling recreational drug access at the point of sale is actually an investment because the costs of abuse are very much higher.

A proactive approach has been proven successful by the Problem Gambling Foundation who discovered that working at community level to manage access and availability to gambling machines was the best way of reducing the numbers of problem gamblers. Sadly we all know how the Government responded to their success. 

What should be paramount in any decision involving recreational drugs is that any solution needs to minimize harm and not end up creating new problems. 

A summary of the Greens' Drug Law Reform Policy.

Post Script: A good contribution from Duncan Garner

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Judith Collins, it's not easy being blue!

Judith Collins poses a difficult problem for National, they struggle to get anything like gender balance in their caucus and Judith was seen as having potential as a future Prime Minister. Pansy Wong has already resigned through a very similar situation involving China, a husband and conflicts of interest, and this seems to be a repeating theme. Collins and Parata have been viewed as potential leaders and yet both are now continuing with their portfolios under heavy media attack and low public confidence.

I think it must be difficult for any woman in a National caucus (to an outsider it always appears to operate like an exclusive men's club) and this may explain why only five in the top twenty of National's 2011 list were female. Of those five Kate Wilkinson resigned as Minister of Labour and was removed from the cabinet, Paula Bennett has had her moments, Anne Tolley struggled with the education portfolio and was shifted to the police,  Hekia Parata has little public support for her education leadership and has had two court decisions go against her and now Judith is in trouble.

Kate Wilkinson is not known for bullying or personal attacks and yet she was the first to be shifted from a senior role. It seems for those remaining attack is the main way of dealing with criticism and contrary views. This is a real pity as many people would hope that women in a National Caucus would provide a more conciliatory and moderating element to the aggressive approach generally used by their male colleagues.

I have little sympathy for Collins as she has caused much of her current situation. Even if her Oravida dinner and meetings were purely social (which few believe), they occurred during a ministerial trip and should have been declared if there was any possible perception of a conflict of interest. The Greens suggestion of adopting a disclosure regime based on the British rules makes sense as it will actually protect Ministers from potential attacks as well as providing greater public assurance regarding the way taxpayer dollars are spent.

I am also surprised that it has taken this long for Collins to be under attack as there have been many times in the past where I believe she has behaved inappropriately.
  • To throw out the Electoral Commissions recommendations to amend MMP because they didn't support National's interests was appalling. Her claim that there was no consensus from other parties was ridiculous when no such consensus was attempted.
  • Expressing no confidence and bullying Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews for poor performance was unwise when it was later revealed that he had warned the Government about under resourcing and was making improvements despite this.
  • To publicly castigate Justice Binnie for producing a report she did not agree with was the height of bad taste considering the Canadian Judge's international reputation and the goodwill he provided. This was one of the most arrogant responses I have seen from any of our politicians and resulted in some international embarrassment
  • Collins' support of Tolley's personal attack on Metiria Turei was totally uncalled for and she even took it further by suggesting that female MPs can wear expensive clothes when advocating for the poor, but only if they are dressed nicely. 
The implication that journalist Katie Bradford had behaved improperly was highly out of order and the tweeted apology was another example of Collins having difficulty accepting responsibility for her actions or feeling remorse. This was the most recent example of attack as a means of defending the indefensible and while John Key has suggested her behaviour is out of character and the result of stress, anyone who has ended up on the wrong side of Judith would say it is par for the course.

I am looking forward to the election of a Green/Labour government where women will not have to resort to vicious behaviour and personal attacks to succeed and gender balance is encouraged and celebrated.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Managing Potential Conflicts of Interest

Today I announced my resignation as a National Executive Member of the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa. I have come to realize that my candidacy for the Green Party in Invercargill was compromising my governance role in the organisation and, in the current political culture, it could have a negative impact on NZEI during the election campaign.

I have been involved with NZEI Te Riu Roa for most of my teaching career and it is almost in my blood. As a third generation teacher my father was a member and my Grandfather was once the President of the Southland Branch. NZEI began as a purely professional organisation in 1883 and only took on industrial advocacy and contract negotiations because no other body existed to do this. NZEI has only gone on strike about two or three times in its 141 year history. Evidence and research supports our claims, and industrial action is generally considered an option only when all else fails.

I have enjoyed being part of our executive team. After an organisational review our numbers were reduced from 24 members to 14 and those of us who remain have a broad range of experiences and backgrounds. We have members who teach in Early Childhood, work as support staff and we have principals and classroom teachers. We also have those representing kaupapa Maori, special education and relievers. We are a broad church but respect each other and have a whole of union, cross sector approach to our work. Quality public education is a core part of what we stand for and the needs of children is paramount in all we do.

I have enjoyed my part in helping write an element of our National Curriculum and reviewing the Ministry's IEP document. We have had a frustrating time, however, over the last five years, in trying to establish a working relationship with a Government that refuses to collaborate properly and openly lays the blame of under achievement on the profession and not on poverty and inequality. The attacks on our public education system have been substantial, as I have listed in this widely viewed post.

I stood as a candidate in 2011 and although I stepped down from my teaching position, as all state employees are expected to do, I was able to continue in my NZEI executive role. This has not been the case this time round, I have been subjected to accusations of serial child abuse on right wing blogs because of my union involvement and the Green Party has been under constant attack by the National led Government. We are even referred to as the Green Taliban by some.

It is clear that this election will be nastier than most and I know many will attempt to muddy NZEI's motives if I remain on the executive. NZEI makes it very clear that it is an apolitical organisation that wants to work with any government on progressing what is best for our kids and our members, we give no donations to political parties for that reason also.

I will miss my colleagues and friends and the work we shared but am looking forward to the challenges of my election campaign ahead.