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Ambidextrous Ministerial Portfolios

Op-Ed Piece
Napier Public Health Action Group

Ambidextrous Ministerial Portfolios

According to information held by the Napier Public Health Action Group Inc, the Attorney General, Margaret Wilson, carries the portfolio responsibilities for maintaining and protecting Public and Statutory Trusts. In late October 2003, the Group wrote to Ms Wilson in that capacity, petitioning her to protect the Public Trusts extant on the Napier Hospital site against the actions of the Minister of Health, Annette King. The Group stated that Ms King's actions were, and still are, contrary to natural justice and contrary to a caveat placed on the site in 1994 by the District Land Registrar which prohibits registration of the Title to anyone not involved in health services delivery.

In her reply of the 18th of December, Ms Wilson stated that she had been advised that Ms King had transferred the site to the Residual Health Management Unit under the Health Sectors (transfer) Act 1993 complete with caveats attached. Wilson's statement is demonstrably false! She also rejected any claims of breach of natural justice.

On the day of the caveat hearing in Palmerston North (March 2, 2004) and again following it, a check of the Hill site Title was carried out by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). The check showed that no such transfer had occurred although both Ministers stated in writing that it had occurred. If recent history is any indication, Ministers have been fired for lying to the public and the House. Will the Labour Government be consistent?

In replying to the Attorney General's December letter, the Group cited seven valid reasons why natural justice has been breached and, following the LINZ check, these have now increased to eight. An acknowledgement of the Group's letter came via Ms Wilson's secretary who advised us that the "Minister is considering your letter and will respond shortly".

No response eventuated from the Attorney General. Instead, the letter was forwarded to The Minister of Health and she replied. Her response was, of course, predictable; filled with all the old excuses and hastening to add a 'confirmation' that her statement of the 30th of September, that "the site transfer would occur within the next three weeks" (regardless of overwhelming opposition by Napier residents and the site having two caveats and two Statutory Trusts placed on it) did not in any way confirm that the Crown had acted in anything but a proper manner regarding Napier Hospital. Napier people know otherwise! Indeed, at a public rally on the 3rd of October 2003, an unanimous resolution was passed that the Attorney General move to fire Annette King because of her perfidy on this matter. Ms Wilson has yet to respond to the letter calling for King's dismissal.

The Group replied promptly to King and the point was made, amongst others, that "*promises made by government - surely a Crown responsibility - have not yet been kept*". King's reply stated that "the Hawke's Bay District Health Board has previously acknowledged that the consultation process around the siting of the regional hospital was not as comprehensive as it should have been, *but that it was now time to move on*". It appears that when King has run out of, at best, semi-intelligent things to say, that cliché is selected most often.

King's parting shot came via her Senior Advisor in a letter to the Group on the 18th of February 2004: "The Minister has read your letter and considers that there is nothing further to add through ongoing correspondence with you and your organisation on this issue. *The Minister will not correspond further with you or your organisation*". So much for the democratic principles, honesty, openness and transparency that the Labour government claims as the foundations of its very existence. Ms' King and Wilson have behaved as their colleague Lianne Dalziel; misleading New Zealanders and twisting the truth. Should they not be held accountable considering their disgusting behaviour in this whole sordid affair?

And what of the others who, over a long time have perpetrated this and other campaigns of misinformation against the Napier people: members of Napier City Council, local politicians, Health Board members and staff, Crown representatives, legal representatives, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Medical fraternity as well as other groups and individuals who colluded in the stripping of Napier Hospital for their own pecuniary gain?

Napier serves as a warning to all provincial cities and towns. There are those who, under the banner of 'regionalisation', can smell immense profit to be made by divesting communities of their vital infrastructures. These parasites have already stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from Napier and will not be satisfied until Napier no longer exists as the economic centre of Hawke's Bay. Indeed, any province will be easy prey until New Zealanders unite and demand accountability from their public servants. Are New Zealanders now so benumbed by the political brutalities of the past twenty years that they will remain idle while their collective assets are destroyed by a handful of elected ideologues or is there still a spark of Kiwi Fortitude left? Ask yourself, whose country is this? If the answer is "mine", then fight for it or you'll lose what's still yours.

Dave Taggart,
Napier Public Health Action Group Inc.

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