God I hate to agree with Cameron Slater – but he’s right – the NZEI has some explaining to do



One of the most disturbing elements of the horror that is child rapists Robert Burrett’s 30 year reign of terror in NZ schools is the way the NZEI seems to have protected his rights

Steve Parry, former chairman of the board of trustees of Pukenui School, where Burrett became deputy principal in the late 90s, said the school had tried for some time to get rid of him but ran into stiff opposition from the teachers’ union NZEI.

“They were quite evasive and defensive of the guy – it frustrated us to a high level,” Parry said.

Eventually in 2001 the board reached a confidential settlement with Burrett. Stuff understands he walked away with about $8000.

…and the manner in which schools settled secretly to push him out so that their reputations weren’t damaged.

It seems on the face of it, Burrett’s employment rights and the desire to protect the reputations of the schools outweighed the safety of the children Burrett molested, sexually assaulted and raped.

I hate to agree with Cameron Slater – but he’s right here. The NZEI needs to explain itself and the schools who chose their reputation over the safety of their pupils need to urgently be investigated.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

That a man as damaged and as much of a predator as Burrett was allowed to continue anywhere near children is disgraceful enough, that schools and unions may have been complicit in giving him that opportunity is abhorrent.

I am a huge supporter of public education and see teachers as an under paid, under resourced sector who are immensely important to society and don’t buy into Slater’s hate campaign against them, but serious questions have been raised by Burrett, and those involved need to explain themselves.


  1. Something doesn’t smell right here.
    It seems very odd to me that the NZEI would knowingly and deliberately cover up a sexual predator, they are usually among the first to expose and take action against them.
    I suspect there is a lot more to this behind the scenes. There may very possibly be a problem between the schools BOT and the teachers..
    Cameron Slater, of course, would never bother to check any facts before accusing anyone of anything. Real journalists would.
    There are two sides to every story and we should get more information before we start laying the blame squarely on the union.

  2. With all due respect for the survivors of Burnett’s abuse, it’s not the unions role to investigate criminal allegations against their members, that’s the job of the Police. The role of unions is to advocate for the employment rights of their members, and that’s what the NZEI appear to have done here. When abuse accusations were made, the school should have reported them to the Police, and both the Board and the union should have cooperated with their investigation. The real problem here seems to be that abuse accusations were handled in-house.

    • “The role of unions is to advocate for the employment rights of their members, and that’s what the NZEI appear to have done here.”

      Read the article linked to by Martyn. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/77703452/concerns-raised-about-child-rapist-robert-burrett-more-than-30-years-ago. You’ll see the NZEI did more than advocate for his rights, they deliberately obstructed the efforts of schools to remove a hopeless (not my word) teacher, who also happened to be a child rapist.

      • They did not obstruct the efforts to remove a hopeless teacher who happened to be a child rapist.

        At the time he wasn’t a child rapist. He was a rapist when he was a school caretaker.

        That logic implies that someone who lets someone pass their driving licence should not have let them pass if some time later, maybe years and years afterwards, they kill someone with bad driving.

        • That logic is not logic at all. If you read my post I emphasised the ‘hopeless teacher’ part. Yet you seem to think that being a school caretaker is ok for a child rapist! Sick.

  3. Kudos for agreeing with Slater, if we all worked harder at finding compromises with those we are diametrically opposed to then perhaps we could progress at a faster rate.

  4. Schools are being sued constantly and principals and board have to pay a heap of money to defend themselves against this sort of discusting nonsense.
    Unions defend their members even when the members are wrong.
    Teachers get away with a lot because they know they have a strong union and will be defended ,rightly or wrongly. Teachers pay a high union fee and unions like to justify the high fee.

    • I’ve dealt with unions a few times when they’ve been called in by aggrieved employees, and in every case where it was clear that there were no grounds for grievance the union would not take up the case.

      Unions are not above the law, and my experience of negotiating with them tells me that they have a clear understanding of that. I have never known a union waste their time and money defending a case where the employee was in the wrong. They may, however, negotiate severance terms, in which case, if the school is wishing to hush it up and not call in the police, then they may have a bargaining role.

      • Im not accusing unions of wrongdoing ,but if a teacher gets unions involved it rarely goes to court because the school tries to avoid that option because it would cost a lot of money and time to defend ,so settlement is reached by the schools usually in teachers favour
        The legal bills of schools is high due also to parents getting lawyers involved, this increases the cost of education .This is why schools avoid getting police involved .

        • The best way for schools to cut their legal bills is to follow the law in terms of recruitment and the care of children in the school. These are clearly laid out. It’s when schools try to cut corners that they end up in trouble, which can be expensive to get out of. If anything, the unions can save a school the cost of taking a case to court by negotiating a mutually agreed settlement without bringing in solicitors.

          In my experience of working with schools, the biggest risk is untrained Boards of Trustees who don’t follow proper procedures.

    • If we take your comments to their logical conclusion then you apparently believe that no-one deserves any legal representation if they are guilty.
      The big hole in what you say is that people are only guilty if proved guilty, not just because YOU think they are guilty based on what you have read in our superficial media.
      Everyone is entitled to legal representation.
      Do you think that when a lawyer defends a rapist or murderer in court that means that he/she supports what this person is alleged to have done?

  5. As a teacher and an active union members, and a teacher at the school concerned for a short time after this man left Te Kuiti, I can tell you that neither the school nor the union would have let a man who was knowingly molesting children continue in the profession unchecked. At the time this process happened, it was not his sexual conduct called into question, it was his fitness to be a teacher who was effective in delivering the curriculum and being responsible for the wellbeing of the students in his class and the school. Due to his drinking and erratic behaviour he was not fit for either. His sexual conduct appears to only have been an issue in recent years, although there is still the possibility that new and older claims may be brought to light. Changes have happened to how things are reported and investigated since the incidents in the 90s and early 2000s. As seen by the recent trial of a former principal from a school near Putaruru, schools, the union and the Education Council have acted promptly.

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