The Better Funding Better Learning campaign is on the road. Van driver Murray Smeaton and field officer Una McNair were buzzing after Reefton-Buller visits. Local organisation was excellent and local knowledge invaluable – that’s the strength of smaller communities, and of NZEI Buller branch chair Barry Townrow.
Monday February 13. It was hot and dry with strong winds blowing across the Canterbury Plains and outside Amuri Area School. NZEI rep Paul Munnerley has lived in the area since 1981 and knows everyone and everything, so it was a good stop. But by the time the van reached Springs Junction, torrential rain had arrived. Now that the junction is a key stop on the main highway post-earthquake, the place was completely chaotic, with everyone just running for cover out of the wet. So it was talk in the van with local principal Peter King and then move on to Reefton. The weather had cleared for local teacher Jude McKenzie to met the local reporter. People were keen to talk about the need for a funding jolt in education, especially for children with special needs.
Tuesday February 14. Moving on to Westport the van had a great reception. “With a couple of key NZEI members taking the lead and half a dozen other members in support, we talked to dozens of locals and tourists,” says Murray. Again a local reporter (Westport News) came to the first stop, Westport North School, then there was a big crowd at the visitor information centre – including teachers from Germany, parents from Australia who knew about schools and lots of locals too.
More than 250 people signed the petition and 50 postcards. Una McNair, the NZEI field officer, had a long radio conversation on the local radio, Coast FM along with branch chair Barry Townrow, who has his own sports show on the station.
Tuesday night Murray was driving the van down to Greymouth for dinner and to meet field officer Lyn Lockhart, “It was superb – there was no “anti” feeling towards us and we’ve ended the day feeling hot and sunburned but very happy!”
Barry Townrow and local grandparent.