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Health Minister abuses her position

Health Minister abuses her position

13 September 2005
Media Release
Napier Public Health Action Group (Inc).

“Annette King has grossly abused her power as Minister of Health in the matter of the disposal of Napier Hospital”, said Don Stuart, Chairman of the Napier Public Health Action Group (Inc).

Our research shows four distinct breaches of the Letter of the Law by Annette King.
“What follows is a very brief outline of this abuse. Copies of all cited documents are available on request”, he said.

Under Section 144 “The Land Act 1877”, Governor Constantine permanently reserved upon trust, as a site for hospital and grounds” the Napier Public Hospital (cited in NZ Gazette 1879: 72-3).

In March 2004, the Napier City Council defended a caveat it placed on the site in 1997 supporting a 1994 caveat placed by the District Land Registrar “to prevent improper dealing with the land. The land is subject to statutory trusts”. The District Land Registrar advised in writing to the then Chair of HealthCare Hawke’s Bay (as the DHB was called at that time) that, when lodging his caveat, pre-existing “public trusts on the Title act as a perpetual caveat in accordance with Section 129(5) of the Land Transfer Act 1952, preventing disposal of the land other than in accordance with those trusts.”

On 30 March 2004, in Palmerston North High Court, Master Gendall’s judgement found that the Napier City Council caveat was irrelevant because “The land is subject to statutory trust under Section 98 ‘Reserves and Other Lands Disposal and Public Bodies Empowering Act 1920’ whereby the land was transferred to the original owners ‘in trust as a site for a hospital and grounds’.”

Prior to this date, Annette King tried several times to transfer the ownership of the site to the Residual Health Management Unit (RHMU). On 26 September 2003, she announced that “the land would be transferred ‘caveat and all’ to RHMU”. She also said on that date, “We are not going to spend another health dollar on bricks and mortar on the hill.” She offered no legal basis for her action. She ignored the will of the electorate who want their hospital to be operational and she breached the legislated tenets of natural justice (NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990).

Master Gendall noted that “on 20 October 2003 an agreement for sale and purchase was signed by Healthcare Hawke’s Bay (the nominal ‘owner’ of the site) as vendor and the RHMU as purchaser, pursuant to the Health Sector (Transfers) Act 1993. Under clause 2.2 of that Act, “the property will be transferred to RHMU subject to the statutory trusts imposed by the Reserves Act 1977 and/or the Reserves and Other Lands Disposal and Public Bodies Empowering Act 1920.” Master Gendall also noted that the transfer was subject to the perpetual caveat guarding against further dealings manifestly inconsistent with the trust. Master Gendall said the “only situation in which the property can be transferred without the trust, therefore, is if parliament legislates to remove it or alter its terms”.

We believe that, in trying to use the Reserves Act 1997 to override the statutory trusts, Annette King is abusing that Act. Section 11E was created in 2000 by the Labour Government and backdated to 1997. Part 5, Section 112 of that Act states “The District Land Registrar must not give effect to dealings that are not in conformity with trusts.”

If Annette King ever tried to say there was no “doubt’ she would clearly be lying, given the Caveat Court case and Master Gendall’s judgement, as well as the manifold letters she and other MPs have received from Napier residents in the last few years.

Section 119 of the Reserves Act requires that “anything to be publicly notified or refers to public notification, the subject-matter shall be” gazetted and published in main city newspapers and any other newspapers as the Minister directs. Between 1 January 1993 and 25 October 2004, no public notice pertaining to this statute has been issued. No individual or organisation has made any submissions because no public notification has been given. THEREFORE THE PEOPLE OF NAPIER HAVE BEEN DENIED THEIR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS.

Annette King’s statement to Peter Dunne in September 2004 is demonstratively false. She wrote:
I have corresponded with Napier residents on this issue for some time and have made it clear that the Government will not be reopening the Napier Hospital, nor has any other political party promised to reopen the Hospital. It is now time those Napier residents trying to have the hospital reopened moved on...

Written and verbal reassurances from senior Labour Party members, including Helen Clarke, Michael Cullen and Annette King prior to the 1999 General Election, were that the Labour Party would re-open Napier Hospital if they were elected to Parliament in 2000.

“If Annette King is allowed to destroy the Public Trusts that protect the Napier Hospital in the manner she is currently attempting, then no Public Trust will be protected in the future”, said Mr Stuart.

“The Napier Public Health Action Group calls for a public enquiry into the underhand actions of Ms King and those who support her actions”, he said.

Don Stuart,
Chair, Napier Public Health Action Group (Inc).


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