Christopher Luxon slams 'shambolic communication' over school closure announcement, says some should have been open on Tuesday

The Government has come under fire for its messy Auckland school closure announcement with National Party leader Christopher Luxon saying some should've been open on Tuesday. 

It was announced on Monday afternoon the Ministry of Education had directed all schools, kura, early learning services and tertiary institutions in Auckland, from Wellsford to Pukekohe, to close until February 7.

It came after the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) asked the ministry to help minimise traffic on Auckland roads while vital infrastructure was urgently repaired.

Luxon told AM on Wednesday that the decision should've been left up to schools. 

"Yesterday (Tuesday) would've been a good day where many kids could've been at school in Auckland, for example," Luxon told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"So my argument is just very simple, look, local schools are in the best position to make their decision each and every day as to whether they open or not and it should be a decision made locally by the local school." 

But Bridge pushed back questioning if schools are best placed to make the decision as flooding in Auckland on Wednesday didn't start until after 5am. 

"Yesterday as I moved around the city, there were some really big pockets that have been hammered in the city big time and are doing it really tough and they are really challenged," he said. 

"But there are other parts of the city if you think about where I was over the weekend at East Auckland and think about Papakura and other spaces, where actually schools were quite reasonable to open."

All schools in Auckland are currently closed until February 7, but Newshub understands they may reopen earlier than originally planned.

Bridge questioned who Luxon was criticising, with the National Party leader saying he was frustrated with the inconsistency of the message. 

"My issue is just the inconsistency, the shambolic communication that we actually saw with the Ministry of Education," he said. "They came out on Monday night saying it's off for a week, then came out yesterday saying we might be opening during the course of the week. 

"Why not leave it to those local principals who understand their communities, understand the infrastructure that's around them, are in touch with those local community hubs around them to make the call each week."

National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: AM

Bridge pushed back on Luxon again saying the ministry cited the NEMA for why schools had to close and asked if he was criticising NEMA in the middle of a state of emergency. 

"What I'm saying to you is there has been shambolic communication where it's gone on, off, on, off, on, off. It's happening, it's not happening," Luxon said. 

"Yesterday we woke up after being told at 10pm the night before that there was no school and a blanket ban for school, that actually the decision will be revisited through the course of the week. 

"So all I'm saying is, look, the model, rather than a blanket ban from Wellington for a week might have been better to say, look, let's empower local schools."

It wasn't just Luxon slamming the Government, ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden told AM Early on Wednesday Prime Minister Chris Hipkins should be questioned for the way the school closure announcement was handled. 

"We've also seen the Prime Minister not be clear on communication either and not get flack for that yet," she said. 

"I'm talking about the decision to overnight close schools around Auckland just before they were ready to start up for the year and that communication was handled very poorly," she said. 

"Schools didn't know until around 9pm that night before, and parents had to scramble overnight to find people for childcare."

ACT Party deputy leader Brooke van Velden.
ACT Party deputy leader Brooke van Velden. Photo credit: AM

But the Ministry of Education has received some support for their decision, with the president of the New Zealand Principals Federation saying there has been little pushback from school leaders. 

"I have been monitoring what's been going on in Auckland and I've spoken to many principals and the majority of them are very supportive of this move by the ministry," Leanne Otene told AM on Tuesday.

"Our first priority is the safety of our tamariki and our staff. We know that getting to and from school is part of making sure that we make sure that we do everything to keep them safe, so we actually are behind this move."

The Ministry of Education apologised for the "slow communication" in telling schools that they would be closed until after Waitangi weekend.

"I know that yesterday's [Monday's] message came as a shock... [it] was necessary in order for emergency services to work on fixing road infrastructure," said secretary for education, Iona Holsted.

Some schools didn't receive the news until after it was reported by the media, which Holsted said was due to a technical glitch.

Watch the full interview with Christopher Luxon above.