Education minister Chris Hipkins has dramatically increased the recruitment targets of overseas teachers (Radio NZ/Rebekah Parsons-King)

The Bulletin: Desperate drive to address teacher shortage

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Massive increase in overseas teacher recruitment drive, NZ activists reject Israeli court ruling, and the horrible state of Lake Horowhenua is in focus. 

The government is ramping up efforts to recruit new teachers from overseas, and to lure NZ-trained teachers back home. The numbers being sought are reported by the NZ Herald – the target has increased from recruiting 400 to 900 as the teacher shortage comes into greater focus. 600 more primary and 200 more secondary teachers are expected to be needed by the start of next year.

The incentives take the form of a range of grants, which will cost $10.5 million, over and above $29.5 million earmarked at the end of last year. Education minister Chris Hipkins was given a grilling on the topic on TVNZ”s Q+A last night, where he defended the plan as necessary to address the workforce shortage crisis.

Among the more controversial of the moves will be “changes to the criteria to enable more schools to appoint unregistered teachers as teachers with “limited authority to teach” in a specified subject or area.” Unregistered teachers were something Labour railed against when they came attached to charter schools under the previous government.

A sticking point might be whether teaching in NZ is actually an attractive option for those overseas. Data from the OECD shows – in general terms and converted to a relative currency – teachers make on average more money in other comparable countries. In particularly, the countries being targeted include Ireland, Canada and Australia, the latter of which has much better pay rates. There are also rules that hold up overseas teachers getting work here, as a US-born teacher told the NZ Herald this morning. And as for NZers overseas, Radio NZ reports comments from one who says a lot would need to change about the education system before he’d countenance returning home from Malaysia.

The minister is looking to use to recruitment drive to create a buffer, and if successful, it could have an effect on the ongoing industrial action in education. On the one hand, the teaching profession is unquestioningly going through a staffing crisis, and resolving that has been part of what the unions have been pushing for. However, mass recruitment from overseas could reduce the leverage they have in their dispute with the ministry, and it’s more of a temporary fix. The fundamental problem for many would-be teachers is that going into (or back to) the profession has become financially unattractive.

The NZEI union for primary teachers have spoken out about the proposals, saying they’re unlikely to have an effect on an upcoming vote to strike, reports Stuff. President Lynda Stuart noted that the teacher shortage was global, and that under the current pay and conditions faced by teachers, those coming from overseas would burn out just as quickly in our system as homegrown teachers.

As for the politics of it all, remember when the new government (1 year old this week) were talking up the infrastructure crisis in health ahead of the Budget? The messaging being put out by the government is similar this time around – they say they were left a crisis by National, that will take a long time to solve. National themselves have made some criticisms of this announcement, most substantively arguing that it lacks strategic focus. But they’ve also argued that it won’t go far enough to address the shortage, which seems like a strange line to run given they’ve governed for nine of the last ten years.


Two NZ activists have rejected an Israeli court ruling over an open letter they wrote to Lorde, urging her to cancel her Tel Aviv concert. Writing on The Spinoff, they say there’s no way they’ll be paying hefty damages to three Israeli teenagers who sued them for emotional distress, arguing the ruling is both morally wrong and completely unenforceable. The activists are now crowdfunding, not to pay the damages, but to donate money towards Palestinian mental health charities.

There’s a significant amount of backing for their position on both points. Legal expert Andrew Geddis writes that for it to be enforceable, the activists would have to submit themselves to the Israeli court’s jurisdiction. As for the law itself that they’re being sued under, there’s an extremely troubling political and legal context within which it was passed in Israel, unpacked by NZ human rights lawyer Sam Bookman.


Lake Horowhenua is in a terrible state in terms of pollution, and clean up processes are being stymied. The problems are outlined in this NZH Local Focus feature, which notes that the water can get so dangerously filthy, you can’t even go boating there. Historically pretty much everything that causes freshwater pollution has been inflicted on the lake, and activists are frustrated at the Regional Council, who they say are holding up plans to do something about it.


Babies born clinging to life are less likely to receive crucial treatment if they aren’t Pākehā, reports the NZ Herald. In the ‘grey zone’ of births between 23 and 25 weeks, resuscitation is less likely to be attempted on Māori, Pacific and Indian babies. A committee which watches over deaths in childbirth say the different rates are statistically significant, and institutional or implicit biases are likely to play a part in the reasons why the divide exists.


A few weeks ago anti-1080 activists threw some dead native birds on Parliament’s forecourt as part of their protest. It has now been confirmed that the dead birds had no 1080 in their systems, reports Newshub. It is unclear how the birds died, though blunt force trauma has been one of the preliminary findings.


New Zealand’s current action on climate change is insufficient, but that’s not how it looks from Australia, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Journalists there have been left stunned by New Zealand’s multi-party consensus on developing frameworks and solutions that endure beyond day to day politics and changes in the government. Both National and Green MPs are quoted in the story, and they’re all pretty much singing from the same song-sheet about the need to act. As for Australia, their politics around climate change are utterly toxic.


Calls are being made to legalise drug testing ahead of the summer music festival season, reports Stuff. The basic premise is that people are going to pop pills anyway, so it’s better to give them the chance to make sure there’s nothing horrible and dangerous like fentanyl in them. There are currently moves underway that could take drug testing out of the legal grey area it’s currently in, but a lot of work would be needed to have that in place in time.


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Image: Tina Tiller

Right now on The Spinoff: PM Jacinda Ardern sat down for a wide ranging interview with Toby Manhire to mark a year in government. Calum Henderson laments the possible imminent death of classic Kiwi sandwich bread. And this could be a handy one for contractors and the self-employed – Jihee Junn profiles the people behind Hnry (no that’s not a typo) which is a platform for all of that financial admin kind of stuff that is easy to have fall by the wayside.


So this is a piece about South African rugby that should probably be read by all those New Zealanders who weigh in on transformation targets – otherwise known as quotas. Published on The South African, it directly calls out New Zealand journalists who attack the quotas, saying they’ve missed the point and aren’t coming across like they’re arguing in good faith. It’s thought-provoking stuff, and brought to mind the outrage some of us feel when Stephen Jones writes about NZ rugby, because it just doesn’t seem like he gets it. Here’s an excerpt:

“The targeted snipes at quotas come off as mind games from an All Black camp concerned that a Springbok resurgence could see their hold on the Webb Ellis trophy slipping.

Conjuring the image of Nelson Mandela extending an olive branch to white South Africans by donning a Springbok jersey in 1995 is a cheap emotional trick on a country that has moved past the point where grand symbolic gestures are meaningful and where real change is being demanded.

Transformation quotas are not a punishment for white South Africans and rugby is not being taken away from one demographic and given to another. They are a prerequisite for SA Rugby to do business within South Africa though and that is unlikely to change in the near future. SA Rugby is a business and they don’t just sell rugby tickets and merchandise, they sell a brand identity. That identity is national unity and to that end, transformation targets serve to protect the brand.”


The Kiwis won. New Zealand’s men’s rugby league team beat Australia. How the hell did that happen? Well, Shaun Johnson played the sort of game that Warriors fans might have despaired of ever seeing again, manoeuvring the team around the park beautifully. Have a look at the highlights – it was a close run thing in the end. Unfortunately in the other major fixture of the night, the Kiwi Ferns had a narrow loss against the Jillaroos, despite a stern fightback after giving up an early lead.

And in the other huge result of the weekend, the Silver Ferns pulled off an astonishing upset win over the Diamonds to keep netball’s Constellation Cup alive. One News reports that it breaks a 9-game winning streak Australia held over New Zealand. The 55-44 win was so emphatic, the Ferns won all four quarters. It’s the first trans-Tasman win of Noeline Taurua’s tenure as coach – a tenure which is looking better and better with every game.

Finally, the Mitre 10 Cup regular season wrapped this weekend, and it sort of feels like it has gone under the radar. Maybe it doesn’t register on the sporting landscape any more? Perhaps that will change with the playoffs from a public perception. One thing to note though – the competition remains crucial to rugby’s talent production line, and is in and of itself crucial to the place of rugby in NZ. That’s a point made in this column on Rugby Pass, where it’s argued that it’s still the most hearty and nourishing form of the game.


From our partners, Vector’s sustainability manager Karl Check explains why the company is pushing for more urban forests, despite recent storms in Auckland bringing trees down on powerlines, and cutting electricity to parts of the city.


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