Curran parodies Coleman over scrapping SDHB poll

Despite voting with the Government to abolish next year's election at Southern District Health Board, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has taken a swipe at Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman over ‘‘erosion of democracy''.

In a column entitled ‘‘Twelve Days of Coleman's Xmas'' in The Star, Ms Curran says scrapping the 2016 election reduced the voice of the people.

‘‘This is an erosion of democracy and further reduces the voice of Dunedinites in the future of their hospital and their health system,'' says ‘‘day four'' of the festive parody.

But Labour voted for the New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Southern DHB) Elections Bill, which passed its first reading on Tuesday with 95 votes to 26. It extends the commissioner regime three years, to 2019.

When contacted, Ms Curran said Labour wanted Dr Coleman held accountable, rather them letting him hide behind elected board members.‘‘Labour is supporting the Bill. But that is so the minister can't duck for cover.''

Ms Curran said scrapping the election reflected the seriousness of the board's problems, and the time needed to sort them out. ‘‘Democracy and elections and having a governance board that's local is really important.

‘‘[But] that's the situation that we find ourselves in.‘‘That's not Labour's fault that the Government took so long to act on [the board's problems].''

Asked if it was a cynical decision to increase heat on Dr Coleman over the health board's woes, she said: ‘‘I think it's a political decision but I don't think it's cynical.'' In June, when Dr Coleman appointed commissioner Kathy Grant, he said democratic elections would take place next year.

In the debate in Parliament last week, Dr Coleman said he had not taken the decision lightly, but the extension was necessary to secure the board's long-term direction.

The Government was spending big money on Dunedin Hospital in the coming years and needed to have confidence.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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