MP pushes for more rebuild details

Michael Woodhouse.
Michael Woodhouse.
The Ministry of Health says it will do better after delays releasing information related to the Dunedin Hospital rebuild project were criticised by National Party list MP and health spokesman Michael Woodhouse.

He told the Otago Daily Times the ministry had become ''very tardy'' at disclosing information about the project, and the lack of transparency was ''something of an indictment''.

The hospital build was complex, but the group in charge had promised to keep the public more informed than they had been, Mr Woodhouse said.

''That's just not happening, and I think that's very disappointing.''

Although the ministry had no statutory obligation to publish the minutes of meetings of the Southern Partnership Group (SPG), it did have ''a broad obligation under public sector reporting to make things that are in the public interest released in a timely manner''.

Ministry health infrastructure director Karl Wilkinson, responding to the criticism, said the ministry was ''committed to being open and transparent on the new Dunedin Hospital project''.

While there was no statutory obligation to publish the SPG minutes, it was only ''internal processes'' within the ministry which had caused a delay in doing so anyway, he said.

''We are currently resolving this issue and expect the SPG minutes to be available on the ministry's website later this month.

''We know this project is important to the local community and stakeholders in the region.''

The ministry was also providing regular project updates through the media and on the new Dunedin Hospital website, and a second public forum will be held in Dunedin later this month to discuss progress.

The public would have an opportunity to put questions to members of the SPG, the Southern District Health Board and ministry staff at that gathering, he said.

Mr Woodhouse also raised concerns about the level to which documents related to the hospital project were being redacted, which ''effectively reduced them to uselessness''.

Mr Wilkinson said the redactions were made in line with Official Information Act provisions, which allowed for information to be withheld on a variety of grounds, including ''commercial sensitivity matters or decisions which are under active consideration''.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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