Guest Opinion -
Whangarei National MP Dr Shane Reti has misused his position to use secondary school students to perform at a National Party fundraising show.
Dr Reti and the principal of Bream Bay College, Wayne Buckland, stitched up a deal to use students as entertainers – with the students’ consent.
Also, Dr Reti would give the college a scholarship in recognition of their involvement in the show.
The fact that the venue would be the college’s auditorium is not what’s wrong here for a legal purpose is allowed, however using the students as entertainers, whether their parents agreed or not is simply not legitimate.
This was the plan hatched by Dr Reti and Mr Buckland until some parents, quite rightly, disapproved of their children being used as cheerleaders for National.
The media also started making inquiries and so Dr Reti and Mr Buckland, realising their error, and the weakness of their position, took the show out of the school auditorium and rescheduled it for Bethel Church auditorium in Whangarei.
The facts of this blundering fiasco cannot be obscured. They are:
Dr Reti and Mr Buckland are misusing the power of their positions and the college’s board of trustees should never have allowed it.
Dr Reti is virtually bribing the students with the promise of a scholarship and pressuring them into performing.
Students and parents were put in the invidious position of being asked if they want to volunteer – that should not have happened.
The students are being used to put money into the National Party coffers and are running the risk of being associated with the National Party.
A state school paid for by the New Zealand taxpayer must be politically neutral and the students should not be used to host and participate in events raising money for political parties – there was much more school involvement in this than just hiring a hall, which should have been no more than a ‘here’s the receipt, here’s the key’.
The only way for Mr Buckland and the Bream Bay board of trustees to extricate themselves from this mess is to pull the college out of the show entirely.
Finally, Dr Reti should employ other entertainers for his National Party money-spinner; apologise to the Bream Bay College students, and their parents, and make a donation to the college for the trouble caused.