'Disappointing': Leary's comment on mayor’s holiday criticised

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich. Photo: Peter McIntosh/ODT
Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich. Photo: Peter McIntosh
MP Ingrid Leary has been criticised after accusing Dunedin’s mayor of jetting away on holiday when the city needs him.

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary’s comment that Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich "unbelievably, has jet-setted out of Dunedin just as the Health Minister [Dr Shane Reti] is finally due to arrive after a seven-month no-show" has been slapped down by some councillors, including the deputy mayor, as "disappointing".

They arrive amid concern the government might not fulfil its pre-election promise to build the new Dunedin hospital to the original specifications.

Dr Reti is expected to be questioned about the government’s plans today.

Councillors also went after Cr Steve Walker, who said on social media the timing of Mr Radich’s holiday was "not great".

Ingrid Leary
Ingrid Leary
He told the Otago Daily Times his comments were not intended to be critical.

"I don’t blame the mayor on this one, just unfortunate timing.

"This is, of course, separate to any general views I may hold about the mayor’s overall handling of the current hospital situation which is a whole other story."

Deputy mayor Cherry Lucas said the mayor was entitled to take annual leave just like anyone else.

"It’s disappointing to see him attacked in this way.

"The mayor’s overseas trip has been planned for months, whereas notification of Minister Reti’s planned visit to Dunedin was only received at noon on Monday.

"As deputy mayor, I am well briefed on council’s collective position — which is that the government should deliver the new Dunedin hospital as promised — and I will be meeting Dr Reti on Thursday to convey this message clearly."

Ms Leary later tempered her criticism of the mayor.

"Absolutely, he is entitled to prioritise his leave and people will make their own judgements about his actions in relation to the hospital.

"Perhaps if he’d given more notice to others about his travel — including his fellow councillors — the ministerial visit could have been co-ordinated to occur when he was in town."

Cr Andrew Whiley said the mayor had a life away from the council.

"In the past 12 months and in the next few months councillors have been away or have upcoming trips away.

"It is disappointing comments like these are made from elected officials."

Cr Bill Acklin agreed.

"The mayor’s trip has been planned for a long time. And he deserves to have time away from council.

"That is why we have a very capable deputy mayor."

Steve Walker
Steve Walker
At a health select committee this week, Dr Reti said completing the hospital to full specifications was "still on the table" but the reinstatement of 23 inpatient beds, two operating theatres and the country’s first publicly owned PET scanner could be related to the final stage of the inpatient build.

This could be six to 10 years away, Dr Reti said.

Ms Leary has said Dr Reti made very specific promises during the election campaign and his recent comments showed an "an intention to break those promises".

Some councillors, such as David Benson-Pope and Sophie Barker, have suggested reviving the They Save — We Pay campaign.

Ms Lucas said she would speak to Dr Reti today.

"My message, on behalf of council, will be clear — keep the promise you made on the election campaign, and deliver the new Dunedin hospital as you said you would.

"Council will continue to watch developments closely and we expect nothing less than a promise kept, to ensure the new Dunedin hospital meets the needs of our community now and for years to come."

Earlier this week, Mr Radich said Dr Reti "has provided consistent assurances about the new Dunedin hospital and I am pleased to hear them".