NZ Election 2020: National MPs accuse Greens of 'hypocrisy' over $11 million grant for private Green School

The National Party is accusing the Greens of "rank hypocrisy" over an $11 million Government grant for a private school, despite the Greens' policy of phasing out public funding for private schools.

Green School New Zealand, a privately-owned school which sits between New Plymouth and Oakura, has been given $11.7 million as part of the Government's $3 billion set aside for infrastructure in the COVID-19 recovery fund. 

Opened in February, the school has a focus on sustainability, but it doesn't come cheap, with enrolment and tuition fees costing up to $40,000 for some full-fee paying overseas students. 

Green School CEO Chris Edwards has thanked Green Party co-leader and Associate Finance Minister James Shaw for his support. 

"This funding - for which we are profoundly grateful - not only allows us to add to the livelihoods of many in our community through job creation, but in attracting new families to the school, it will continue to allow Taranaki to flourish as a thriving economy." 

But National MP Nicola Willis thinks it is hypocritical of the Greens to support giving public money to a private school, when they have a policy that "funding for private schools should be phased out and transferred to public schools".  

"Rank hypocrisy from the Greens," Willis said on Twitter. "An $11.7m grant for a private school despite the Party's endless opposition to choice in education. Why this school and not the dozens of others who would like property funding to expand their offering to the community?"

National MP Simeon Brown also labelled the Greens "hypocrites". 

National MP Chris Bishop re-tweeted a Green Party tweet from 2012 that said: "Double Standards: Private schools receive Government funding while state schools are left scrounging." 

He commented "Oh."

ACT leader David Seymour also described it as "hypocritical". 

"After voting to end the opportunities provided by Partnership Schools, the Greens' financial support for a green private school is deeply hypocritical," he said. 

"If the Greens have seen the light on educational choice, that should be welcomed, but it shouldn't be a political issue."

Shaw said the school has attracted students from throughout New Zealand and all over the world, and said it brought huge benefits for the local economy and broader export earnings. 

"International education was until recently New Zealand's fourth largest export sector. It is obviously going through a very tough time right now as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic," Shaw said. 

"This project not only secures 200 jobs in the near term, it also creates additional capacity for the time when people are able to travel more freely, enabling Taranaki to develop a thriving international education opportunity."

Edwards said it was "humbling" to see New Zealand's commitment to a model that he believed was at the "vanguard" of global education.

"Green School New Zealand will be a local, national and international beacon for a bold and vital education that promotes universal wellbeing within the means of nature," he said. "We are very proud to be helping to stimulate economic growth after such a difficult year for many."

The Government announced in December it would pump $400 million into improving state-school property, and $10 million from the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme went towards projects to decarbonise state-run hospitals and schools.