Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

ECE closures follow Auckland Council’s cost cutting budget

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

By Kim Meredith

Anxious parents from Papatoetoe and Ōtara Kauri Kids will learn the fate of their childcare centres when Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board members meet Tuesday night.

Auckland Council previously funded all 10 Kauri Kids childcare centres across Tāmaki Makaurau until the setting of its annual budget in June shifted costs onto community Local Boards.

Manukau ward Councillor Lotu Fuli fought in vain to provide funds and time to investigate the viability of the centres; reiterating local boards, staff and parents needed time to find the right approach.

That decision left Ōtara-Papatoetoe to find upwards of $300,000 to keep its two childhood centres running. Last week Manurewa Local Board voted to close the Clendon centre, giving staff and parents eight weeks’ notice. Board chair Glenn Murphy said it was an extremely difficult and heart-wrenching decision to make.

Kaipātiki Local Board will continue funding its Kauri Kids centres in Beach Haven, Birkdale and Glenfield, but only until June 2024 while seeking another provider.

Parent Emma Welsh, pregnant with her second child, says her 18-month old daughter has happily attended Papatoetoe Kauri Kids at the Allen Brewster Centre for the past year.

Along with her partner Ryan, they will address the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board meeting on behalf of other parents to plead for the centre’s future.

“People are anxious, they’re sitting back to wait and see… teachers aren’t allowed to be part of the process, they can’t speak out about what they bring to the service. For us, how can we show support for teachers and other families, we know that parents’ testimonies matter.”

Welsh was frustrated that the move to stop funding Kauri Kids was framed by Council stating it shouldn’t be in the business of running ECEs, and that there was already market saturation of childcare centres in Auckland.

“Auckland is a massive region, from Wellsford to Pukekohe, there was no detailed analysis, or detail on specific groups, [such as] low socio-economic areas.”

Kauri Kids Papatoetoe Head Teacher Anne Valeli

Welsh said it was a huge undertaking to source quality childcare, especially organisations that were transparent about services and fees. As a Papatoetoe local she loved how her local centre provided a high level of care and transparency around its practice; all the while celebrating the community’s diverse community.

“One of the priorities of this board is promoting diversity in the community. At Papatoetoe, we have so many communities represented, I’m Pakeha and a minority, we have people from all over the world, we celebrate all these cultures. We’re a good example of celebrating the diversity of Papatoetoe.”

She accepted Community Boards were not funded equally and that her board [Ōtara-Papatoetoe] were in an unfair position.

“We’re going to present two aspects, the financial and factual, and then there are the things you can’t quantify, what these centres deliver to the community, what the closures will mean for us, that’s heartbreaking for us.”

Kura early childhood teacher Virginia Felix agreed.

“It’s heartbreaking when schools or education centres are closed, they don’t realise that they are shutting down families.”

Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia was solemn when he spoke to Local Democracy Reporting last month about the future of the board’s two centres, one at the Ōtara Leisure Centre, and the other at Allan Brewster Leisure Centre in Papatoetoe.

“We will require further advice from staff on what the costs could look like, but rough estimates could be at least $100,000 per centre. For Ōtara-Papatoetoe, finding $200,000 for our two centres will be extremely difficult to find.”

Councillor Fuli said every local board with a Kauri Kids centre would be going through the same process of somehow finding hundreds of thousands of dollars while having had their existing budgets cut.

“We as a council have already cut their funding, and now that’s basically cutting it again by hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board meet Tuesday night at 5pm and will go into a closed session to discuss the future of the Ōtara and Papatoetoe Kauri Kid centres.

Local democracy reporting

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