5 Mar 2013

Former education boss paid $425,000

9:28 pm on 5 March 2013

Mismanagement by Education Minister Hekia Parata is to blame for a payout of almost $500,000 to the former Education Secretary, opposition parties say.

Lesley Longstone came to New Zealand from Britain where she had worked in the Department for Children, Schools and Families, but quit after 13 months in December last year following a series of high-profile problems in the education sector.

A tense relationship with the Education Minister was also cited as a reason for her resignation.

Ms Longstone was paid out a total of $425,475.33, before tax.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said on Tuesday she received $267,952 - equivalent to six months' remuneration - as a severance payment.

Ms Longstone received other entitlements, including outstanding holiday pay and a payment in lieu of notice amounting to $157,523.33.

Mr Rennie said while notice would usually have been worked out, the need to install a new chief executive led all parties to agree that a payment in lieu of notice was appropriate.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Ms Longstone's relationship with the minister was so dysfunctional that she had to be shown the door immediately, hence the large payout.

"All of this is about the mismanagement of relationships ... and that mismanagement falls right at the doorstep of Hekia Parata.

"She's the Minister of Education, she is responsible for making sure the education system works properly. She need to go, because she's clearly a failure."

Labour's education spokesperson Chris Hipkins called the payout outrageous and a slap in the face to the thousands of school staff who have had their pay botched by the beleaguered Novopay system.

Mr Hipkins said Ms Longstone's departure comes at a hefty price so that the Government has someone else to blame for "stuff-ups" in education.

The Public Service Association said on Tuesday the payout is 10 times greater in value than what any other public servant would get upon leaving their job.

The union represents workers in the Education Ministry. Secretary Brenda Pilott described the golden handshake as huge.

"Very, very considerably in advance of what any other public servant being made redundant gets - probably ten times greater than anybody else.

"I am somewhat sympathetic that she relocated to New Zealand and presumably was expecting a longer term contract - however, that's a huge payment."