Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis says a new bill before Parliament will increase the flexibility and autonomy of wānanga if it passes the House.
The Education and Training Amendment Bill (No.3) had its first reading in the House on Wednesday. It proposes a new framework for the three current wānanga: Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and any future wānanga.
“Wānanga were founded with a ‘for Māori by Māori’ approach to bring real-world positive educational outcomes for underserved ākonga, especially Māori. They are integral to the wider work across government to recognise and revitalise tikanga, te reo and mātauranga Māori,” Davis said.
“The current legislative requirements for wānanga do not reflect the unique role and contributions that wānanga play in the education system. The new framework provides wānanga with choices about how to operate in a way that best fulfils the aspirations of their ākonga, communities, kaimahi and iwi.”
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told the House during the first reading that, as an alumnus of Raukawa, he was excited about what the bill could do for 'their people'.
"The changes in this bill recognises the mana of kaupapa Māori education providers which should have been recognised years ago."
The bill introduces a set of characteristics for wānanga that clearly articulates the unique role and contributions of wānanga in the tertiary education sector. It also brings in a process enabling wānanga to become a bespoke Crown entity or convert to a non-Crown entity wānanga.
“I acknowledge the vital contributions of the wānanga in developing this enabling framework. It has been a great privilege to co-design this work. Their input gives me confidence that the framework will support them to meet their aspirations,” Davis said.
“This government has shown its deep commitment to Māori education, not just through the more than $1 billion it has invested but by working in a way that recognises the significant Te Tiriti o Waitangi relationship between the sector and the Crown.”
Distinct type of state school
The bill also separates the establishment provisions for kura kaupapa Māori from those of designated character schools in the act.
“This change restores the pre-2017 position of kura kaupapa Māori as a distinct type of state school and recognises their mana in education legislation, Davis said.
Despite his excitement for the proposed changes, Waititi said Te Pāti Māori held concerns over the genuine commitment by the Crown to a rangatiratanga-based education framework.
"Mātauranga Māori experts and our people across the board have long called for the unique and distinct status of kura kaupapa to be recognised and enshrined in law, which is not tinkering. It is not achieving very little or nothing, but it is the right thing to do.
"It is totally unacceptable for kura kupapa to be relegated to the status of designated character schools as they currently are in current legislation."
However, the bill has its detractors. ACT leader David Seymour questioned if it would make a difference to education outcomes in Aotearoa.
Race 'differentiating people'
"We can be fairly sure that it's not going to solve the fundamental problems that New Zealanders have - too many kids who are not engaged, not learning enough to be productive citizens and keep New Zealand's dream of being a first-world nation in an island paradise alive."
He says one issue is the bill would allow wānanga to choose to be either a Crown entity or a non-Crown entity, responsible to iwi and hapū.
"In any case the money still comes from the taxpayer. So what [the government] is really saying is that some wānanga will be accountable to the Crown, which collects the taxes from all of the people up and down New Zealand. And some wānanga, which get the same funding, will be accountable to some local hapū or iwi or 'other' Māori organisation."
"Why would people decide that race is what differentiates people?"
Additionally, the Regulatory Systems (Education) Amendment Bill, introduced into Parliament at the same time, will help ensure that the Māori Battalion legacy continues.
It proposes significant changes to the Ngarimu VC and 28th (Māori) Battalion Memorial Scholarship Fund Act 1945. The Ngarimu Board will be recognised as the successor to the 28th Māori Battalion (NZ) Association and there will be a new Māori representative position on the board.
The bill passed its first reading and has been referred to the education and workforce committee, Submissions on the bill close on May 1.