Hospital progress point of contention for politicians

Michael Woodhouse and David Clark no longer have political responsibility for health, but that has not stopped them clashing about the new Dunedin Hospital.

Asked what the big political issues of the year would be for Dunedin, the two local senior MPs both nominated the hospital, but with starkly differing views about the $1.4billion project.

Labour Dunedin MP Dr Clark extolled the rapid and exciting progress the hospital was making, while Mr Woodhouse said the project was scandalously behind time and over budget

"It staggers me that now, four years after the indicative business case was approved, that the detailed business case for the hospital still hasn’t been signed off ... IF that was a National government they would be burning effigies of me in the Octagon," Mr Woodhouse said.

The detailed business case, which will set out the size of hospital buildings and what services will be provided within, is almost a year overdue, having originally been scheduled for Cabinet approval in March 2020.

Cabinet decided just before the October election to give "in-principle" approval to the detailed business case and released $127million for early work.

"There is an appearance of progress, while behind the scenes we know that there are massive arguments going on between Treasury and the Ministry of Health over the scale and cost of this project," Mr Woodhouse said.

Dr Clark, on the other hand, said he was proud of the work done so far.

"We got the money set aside and have the team set up, the construction phase is well under way and the demolition of buildings has taken place," he said.

"Plans have already gone through multiple stages, and I predict it will bring jobs and prosperity to Dunedin."

Mr Woodhouse nominated jobs and housing as other major issues in Dunedin.

Dr Clark agreed on jobs and highlighted work he will be involved in as State Owned Enterprises Minister to revive KiwiRail’s Hillside workshop.

"The Prime Minister herself has said she is keen to see more work there, so I am excited about the prospects there, but there is no doubt that there is still work ahead."



Gotta say, the large demolition in the absence of an agreed plan is rather unnerving. Last I heard the proposal was for a tiny (but architecturally interesting) hospital that is supposed to be supported by community service centres, which aren't there and are not budgeted for. Given that the Reserve Bank is printing money, it seems churlish of Treasury to quibble over putting money into decent sized health infrastructure, but then the Treasury is still stuck in the neoliberal fad that was the 1990s, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.