• Jim Bolger
Prime Minister


Board of Trustees' Chairperson Julie Benjamin, Principal Lionell Mickell, my colleague Belinda Vernon, Kuia Ellen Wilson, children, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for the invitation to open your new school hall, it is obviously going to be a considerable asset to the school and the community.

I want to thank your new MP Belinda Vernon for the very good work she is doing representing the needs and concerns of her constituents.

She has made an impressive start in politics.

I am aware that several years of fundraising, hard work and long negotiations with the Ministry of Education have gone into this project.

There have been a wide range of Trustees involved, going right back to 1989.

In the true spirit of community relations the Onehunga Rotary Club has also played a critical role in raising funds and join with the ASB Trusts and the Lotteries Commission in taking deserved credit today as the Hall nears completion.

Looking around me this morning I can see that the pupils too have put a great deal of effort into this day.

The decorations, the art work, the tapa and fine mats you children have obviously worked on for some time speak colourfully of the wide range of cultures and backgrounds that make up the community of Onehunga.

I am sure this spirit of cooperation will filter from here back out to Aucklanders and organisations in the district, and ensure the final funding to complete the project will be forthcoming in the near future.

I have spent many enjoyable and stimulating hours over many years visiting schools and talking to a huge range of children, parents and teachers.

I have met and talked to schools with a handful of pupils in small country communities, as well as schools with rolls of over a thousand.

From that comprehensive survey, two essential ingredients for a successful school stand out.

The first is a committed and able Principal to provide leadership to the professional staff and secondly, which normally goes with the first, is enthusiastic and committed support from parents and the community.

With those two ingredients in place you will find very successful schools.

If you add in the extra of good facilities like this new hall, then you have a superb school.

There is always more to do in education because there is no such thing as a perfect school.

As you may know I am a strong supporter of those who believe we must put more emphasis and focus on our education system.

This school is perhaps as representative of the diversity of Auckland as any in the area.

That diversity is an essential ingredient in the future of our nation and must be taken into account in any long term planning.

I have said any number of times that diversity and choice is an essential component of a dynamic education system and it has always surprised me that it is the teacher unions that are opposed to that liberal approach.

My time as Prime Minister is coming to an end so I can be straight forward and I want to say that a change in attitude by unions is as essential in the education sector as it was in the construction sector.

The leadership of the PPTA should welcome a unified pay system instead of opposing it and both unions should welcome the diversity that is possible through direct resourcing of schools.

That is the means by which we can return real decision-making back to schools.

I believe the Principal, the staff, the school Board, representing the community, will make far more focussed decisions on what is important for their school and how goals should be achieved than any number of officials working out of a central bureaucracy.

We have to give some relatively urgent thought to where we are going in this debate.

At the moment there is a lot of shouting and political grandstanding and very little listening.

I very much hope that changes in the interests of our children.

The growth in resource demand for education is not going to slow down.

Primary and secondary school rolls are forecast to rise by 100,000 over the next decade.

The Government has to be very conscious of where this development is taking us and in practical terms has set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to build some of the 5,000 classrooms and 50 new schools that will be needed over the next ten years.

More classrooms, more teachers, that's all part of the planning.

Next year you celebrate your 125th anniversary.

By New Zealand standards you are an old school and your record makes you proud of what you have achieved.

I wish you well for the future but more importantly I wish these bright young New Zealanders a great education and a successful journey through to adulthood.

Thank you again for your invitation to be here on this important day.