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The Napier Public Hospital Site

Press Release 7th August 2006…

Matter: The Napier Public Hospital Site

The Napier Public Health Action Group Incorporated is going to court over the pending sale of Napier's former public hospital.

The Group is seeking a Judicial Review in the High Court on the legality of the Government's attempt to sell the former Napier Public Hospital hill site on the hill in Napier.

It is citing the Minister of Conservation, the Minister of Health, and the Crown Health Agency for what it believes are their unlawful actions on a matter which has been of considerable public health concern locally.

It is doing this for two reasons.

First. The Napier Public Hospital site is protected by trust law.

This trust law 'permanently' reserves the site 'for a hospital and grounds'. The trust is a 'wheel-brace' preventing the property being used for any other purpose, and specifically disallowing sale. These trust purposes were legislated in place and only further legislation can remove them, as Justice Gendall's 2004 ruling noted.

The Government, and District Health Board trustees, have repeatedly had their attention drawn to the illegalities of their actions. Services have been withdrawn and assets have been stripped; and now a sale is being attempted through the Crown Health Funding Agency. No such legislation to change the trust status of this public health site has been enacted, and no notice has been taken of strong community reactions to the illegalities.

It follows therefore that the government, in approving the sale of this substantial trust-protected publicly-owned site with its modern, purpose-built hospital buildings is knowingly acting in violation of the trust. The District Health Board, and its successor the Crown Health Funding Agency have also been party to violations of trust provisions.

The action of the Crown Health Funding Agency, in its role as trustee, unlawfully attempting to sell this trust-protected community asset is disturbing.

The spectacle of Government sanctioning the District Health Board's and now the Crown Health Financing Agency's violation of statutory trust law should alarm everybody who has any faith in the rule of law; trust-law in particular.

This had to be challenged.

Second, the very way Government has connived with Health Board and Funding Agency in the methodical stripping of services and assets from the trust site towards preparing the property for sale without any consultation with the affected population is also unlawful.

The District Health Board was required by law to consult with the resident population about any proposed sale. It failed entirely to consult or consider the wishes of the affected community at any step in the methodical process of moving the property on to this point of sale. Community wishes have never been sought by Government, its agencies, or health boards. Yet high levels of community frustration and anger with the decisions taken have been present from the beginning.

The Minister of Health is required to monitor the activities of the DHB in this regard and be satisfied, prior to approving any sale, that this consultation has occurred. No such consultation was undertaken by the DHB or the government agencies dealing with the trust-tagged property at any stage on the pathway leading to sale The Minister has required other DHBs to undertake such community consultations, but not here.

Yet the Minister has approved the sale. This places the Government and its health agencies once again in a connived, violation of law.

This too had to be challenged.

We believe that the illegalities deployed to cash in on a substantial trust-protected community asset amount to a multi-million dollar public-health theft from the whole Hawkes Bay community, and Napier in particular.


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