4 Oct 2016

National pulling fundraising show in college

10:03 am on 4 October 2016

A National Party fundraiser has switched venues after a Northland college was accused of playing politics.

Bream Bay College principal Wayne Buckland had described the National Party Variety Concert as a "partnership" with Whangarei MP Shane Reti and National.

Minutes from the Ruakaka college's PTA meeting last month had asked: "And what child wouldn't want to perform for their prime minister?"

After protests from some parents, Mr Buckland said in a school newsletter late last month that he had meant a collaboration, where students performed, did the lights and sound, and could do some fundraising for the school.

The 15 October event has has now been moved to a church auditorium in Whangarei.

In a statement last night, Mr Buckland said the show had been shifted because some parents were concerned the school was aligning itself politically. Student participation in the show remained voluntary.

Board of Trustees chairperson Jane McQueen said she was surprised at the mention of "partnership", but that Mr Buckland told her he took that wording directly from the ticket sales blurb at Ticketek, and that it wasn't a partnership in the way people had taken it.

An editorial in the local Bream Bay News said that by hiring out its hall, and with students providing some of the entertainment, the school "is by implication saying that it considers the New Zealand National Party is a charity worthy of everybody's support".

Northland MP and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was gobsmacking that Dr Reti, the MPs who would perform and the ministers going along thought it was appropriate to have student participation in the function.

Ms McQueen said people opposed to the concert were a small group with very strong views, and the whole thing was unfortunate.

The next board of trustees meeting would discuss it and it could result in a policy of not hiring the hall out to any political groups, Ms McQueen said.

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