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News Worthy - 1 September 2006

News Worthy
1 September 2006 - No. 85

Dirty work at the crossroads

Parliament continues to be consumed by two events which are clearly impacting on the voters (not withstanding views to the contrary that they are not resounding outside the beltway).

These events are the serious allegations of misconduct against Phillip Field, the MP for Mangere and the inappropriate expenditure of public money on Labour’s election campaign.

On the second issue key points include:

- the completion of the report of the Controller and Auditor-General into serious irregularities in respect of election advertising. In the case of the Labour Party the amounts in issue are said to exceed $800,000 and centre on a so-called “pledge card” and brochure.

- visiting British Labour MP Austin Mitchell made it clear on TV1’s Agenda programme on 26 August 2006 that British Labour’s pledge card (on which the New Zealand card is based) has to be financed by the Party, not the taxpayer. “In Britain it would not have been possible to do it that way – political spending has to be financed by the Party,” he said.

- on 5 October 2005, the General Secretary of the New Zealand Labour Party, in a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer, withdrew his offer to have amounts expended in respect of the “pledge card” and the associated brochure counted as an election expense

- legal advice contained in a report from the National Crime Manager of the New Zealand Police dated 27 February 2006 that were a criminal charge brought against the Chief of Staff to the Labour Leader’s Parliamentary office that “such a charge would likely result in a conviction”.

The National Party has repaid the claimed amount of unauthorised expenditure. It is not clear what the precise amount of unauthorised expenditure by other parties is but media comment suggests that the following amounts are involved:

NZ Labour $800,000
ACT $ 60,000
United Future $ 40,000

Lab services in the Auckland region

It is unusual to make decisions to degrade health services. Such is the case with the provision of community laboratory services in the Auckland region. Three District Health Boards are involved – Auckland, Waitematä and Counties Manukau.

Diagnostic MedLab was the provider of the services and is being replaced with effect from July 2007 by a trans Tasman consortium.

The parties have gone to Court and there are allegations of conflict of interest and shortfalls in the tender process.

On any one day at 84 collection centres throughout the Auckland region, 300 trained phlebotomists (collectors) are taking blood, urine and other samples from around 10,000 Aucklanders who have been sent to a local collection centre by one of the region’s 2,000 general practitioners, medical specialists or other health professionals.

At the same time, a fleet of 45 cars travel 10,000 kilometres every day transporting the specimens back for testing at a central laboratory, as well as calling on rest homes, private hospitals and homes to take specimens from elderly and frail, and often ill people.

At the laboratory, a staff of 400 pathologists, senior scientists, technologists and laboratory assistants process around 32,000 tests every working day. The results of those tests are sent back to the community health professionals within 2 to 24 hours, depending on their urgency.

Every day, the laboratory receives more than 75 telephone calls from doctors and specialists to discuss in more detail the results of tests and the implications for their patients. Every day, specialist haematologists send out around 60 interpretive clinical letters, often detailing specific health management plans for individual patients.

The results of the tests help Auckland’s community health professionals - general practitioners, specialists and midwives - make the right diagnosis or confirm their diagnosis, identify health problems before they become life-threatening and play a critical role in getting people on the path that leads to an improved quality of life.

This service for around 1.6 million people costs the New Zealand taxpayer around $70 million each year. It is under threat.

"Over my dead body"

So (allegedly) said the Prime Minister in her condemnation of the State Highway 20 route in Auckland.

State Highway 20 is a critical connection in the highway network and was planned to be completed by 2015. The link is five kilometres long and runs from Mt Roskill to Waterview. It is almost wholly within the electorate of the Prime Minister.

Completion of the route is highly desirable before the Rugby World Cup event in 2011 and the delays to date are a copybook illustration of Government inaction and the excesses of the planning process.

Now Transit NZ is sending the project back to the drawing board to consider three potential options for taking part of the motorway underground.

A key aspect in the planning process is the notice of requirement to be issued under the Resource Management Act. At this stage the detail of that notice has not been finalised and it is only one of a large number of statutory steps to be taken.

There will be resource consents required from the Auckland Regional Council for earthworks and stormwater discharges. There will be resource consents required when detailed design work is done to deal with some works extending outside the designated land. There will be a serious of building consents and engineering approvals for the physical work itself.

As others have observed, the planning process (unlike other countries) has become so complex and time consuming that it takes far longer to plan for the road than build it.

Auckland is the loser for the delays.

Political Quote of the Week

"The tides of history have brought us all to these fair shores. We are none of us responsible for those tides, but we are their beneficiaries, privileged to share with one another our diverse inheritances of tradition and culture. We are all part of this land, as it is part of us. In it, we all belong together." - Rt Hon Sir Michael Hardie Boys - NZ Governor-General

Richard Worth

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