Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Ministry of Education on the carpet again

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Having made the crazy decision to put synthetic carpet in rural schools, Education Ministry staff employed the bureaucratic jackboot, Alan Emerson says.
Rotherham school principal Cheryl Barbara says her students are looking forward to sitting on wool rather than plastic carpet.
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Several weeks ago I wrote about the stupidity of putting synthetic floor covering in schools.

Since then the debate has moved from merely stupid to completely farcical.

It started with our esteemed Ministry of Education awarding an $8 million contract to a United States synthetic carpet manufacturer to install nylon carpet in rural New Zealand schools. 

That generated a predictable outcry and aptly demonstrated how completely out of touch our Wellington bureaucrats are.

For a start, the media has been full of the evils of synthetic carpets and clothing for years. Doesn’t the ministry read newspapers or watch television?

We’ve banned research into new oil fields because of the evils of petrochemicals. We’ve also banned single-use plastic bags because of their environmental impact. Did any of that information filter into the hallowed halls of the ministry?

Our strong-wool industry is in crisis. Did the ministry factor that in when it offered $8m to a US multinational? 

It gets worse, as the microplastics that come from synthetic carpet are a health risk to humans. Why risk the health of children?

As the ministry also ignored the fire-retardant qualities of wool, our children are at greater risk anyway.

Then there are all the environmental issues of synthetic carpet, which, again, the ministry seems to have ignored. “Pollute at whim” could well be one of its policies.

What made it worse was the subsequent attitude of the Education Ministry staff.

Having made the crazy decision to put synthetic carpet in rural schools, they employed the bureaucratic jackboot.

If a rural school wanted to use wool carpet it couldn’t just pay the extra. Goodness, gracious no. It had to start from scratch. It was use nylon tiles or pay for your own carpet!

Just think of the mixed messages our schoolchildren are receiving. On one hand they are told they need to protect the planet for their and future generations. On the other they’re told to sit on synthetic carpet.

Then we had the ministry strongly supporting the Prime Minister’s Excellence in Environmental and Sustainability Education award while promoting synthetic carpet in schools.

Think of the mixed messages farmers are receiving. We are told that waterways are there to be cleaned up. The exception seems to be synthetic carpets from the Education Ministry, which can seemingly pollute at whim.

Farmers are told of all the endangered species we need to care about and preserve. Contrary to that they can read that microplastics can “affect marine organisms from plankton to whales”. Add that those same microplastics, according to the United Nations, “affect all organisms including earth worms and invertebrates”, and you can understand the confusion. 

Farming has minimal environmental effects compared with petrochemicals, so why pillory farming while the effects of those synthetic chemicals are ignored?

Decisions like these show how totally out of touch with reality much of the cloistered coven of our Wellington brigade are. Mind you, National Party leader Christopher Luxon didn’t do farmers any favours when he supported the ministry, effectively throwing wool producers under the bus.

That was the bad news. The good news is that despite Ministry of Education directives, many rural schools are supporting wool. The extra good news is that wool carpet manufacturer Bremworth is prepared to substantially subsidise the schools to change to wool.

While it is great to see rural schools coming out in favour of woollen carpet, it is crazy that they’re going to have to fund-raise to install it. Conversely, if they’re happy with synthetic carpet they get it for free.

I’ve written about New Zealand carpet manufacturer Bremworth on previous occasions but on this issue it has certainly stepped up. It has launched the Bremworth Wool in Education Initiative to support those schools wanting wool carpet. What it is doing is offering schools 30% off their flooring needs to help make wool carpet more accessible. 

For the record, I’ve purchased shares in Bremworth. It is supporting farmers and I thought I’d support it. Despite the Ministry of Education’s ridiculous position, I strongly believe in the future of wool carpets.

In addition, Bremworth is calling on the government to amend its position to allow schools to take the cash equivalent of plastic tiles, which makes good sense.

So to summarise the complete buggers’ muddle the Ministry of Education has created:

The ministry has entered a contract worth around $8m to carpet rural schools with synthetics. If they prefer wool they pay for it themselves and that means fund-raising, which is a totally unnecessary commitment for parents.

A public company, Bremworth, offers to help with the bill at around $10,000 a school, just so schools can have environmentally and sustainable wool carpets.

One could humbly ask why that ministry should be taken seriously at any level when it shows  such ignorance of real life in NZ.

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