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NZ Post causing major issues in Board of Trustees elections

Author
Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 11 June 2019, 5:38PM
Ponsonby Primary School principal Anne Malcolm feared court challenges because school trustee ballot papers were not delivered until the day before voting closed. (Photo / File)

School principals are livid over delays in delivering Board of Trustees ballot papers with one saying she was prepared to the break the law to give parents time to vote.

Voting in the triennial elections for most school boards closed at noon on Friday, June 7.

But Ponsonby Primary School principal Dr Anne Malcolm said most of her parents did not receive their voting papers until about 2pm on Thursday, giving them less than 24 hours to read the candidates' statements and get their votes in.

She put the blame squarely on "NZ Post inefficiency".

"They sent the voting papers out on Monday May 27," she said.

"It took 11 days for NZ Post to get mail into our letterboxes in the centre of Auckland, from Wellington, which is absolutely abhorrent."

She "panicked" when most of her parents had not received voting papers by last Tuesday, June 4.

"I really panicked. I thought, we are going to end up with a situation where people will go to court over this, that it will be unjust, people will not have enough time to read the papers," she said.

"NZ Post says, and I know because I live in Ponsonby, that they only deliver in Ponsonby on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so the next hit will be Thursday."

She rang the ministry and CES, a Christchurch-based contractor that many schools use to run the elections, then decided to extend the voting period in Ponsonby unilaterally.

"I decided on Tuesday night I don't care if I break the law, I'm going to say to my parents we are closing our voting on June 12," she said.

"The next day I got a phone call from the ministry saying, 'Anne, you now have full approval to close your voting on June 12.'"

Rural schools, which get mail deliveries even less often, have also been badly hit. Helensville School board of trustee candidates Rachel and Regan Cunliffe said some rural Helensville parents had still not received their voting papers.

"It's a widespread systemic problem nationwide," they said.

The Ministry of Education posted a statement on its website on June 5 saying it would approve extending the voting deadline "to June 12 or later if schools think an extension is required to ensure parents' votes are included".

Ministry deputy secretary Katrina Casey said 54 schools asked for an extension by 4pm on Friday, most until June 12 or June 14.

"Others are yet to advise us of the date they are seeking an extension to," she said.

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr also blamed NZ Post.

"There was a worry about NZ Post, who have changed the way they do things and it's probably not conducive to the election process," she said.

She said 1151 schools have held elections for their trustees this year and 1118 did not need an election because they did not receive more nominations than the number of places available for parents, normally five.

CES offered schools a new online system for candidate registration this year, and Malcolm said the company was also willing to offer actual voting online but could not because of legislation requiring voting on paper.

Malcolm said the next school board elections in 2022 should be fully online. Kerr agreed.

"We will be seeking a review of the legislation. Currently it specifies that it has to be a paper vote," Kerr said. "One would think that electronic voting may well be the way to go."

A Gazette notice extending Ponsonby voting until June 12 was published on June 5.

Gazette notices were published on Friday extending voting to June 12 for Helensville Primary School, Hukanui School, Gilberthorpe School, Mt Eden Normal School, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi, The Gardens School, Whakatāne High School and Wilford School.

Notices extended voting until June 14 for Epsom Girls' Grammar School, Forest Lake School, Ilam School, Manuka School, Manunui School, Paihia School, Renwick School, Tomarata School, Whangārei Heads School and Wilson School.

NZ Post and CES have been asked for comment.

 

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