Government criticised over ‘confused messaging’

Christopher Luxon has admitted he was holidaying in Hawaii last week despite his social media...
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ
The government has been accused of sending "very mixed messages" after including progressing a third medical school at Waikato University in its 100-day plan.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon released the government’s first 100-day plan yesterday.

Among the initiatives, it said it would "sign an MoU [memorandum of understanding] with Waikato University to progress a third medical school".

Only days earlier, it emerged as part of its coalition agreement with Act New Zealand, the National Party agreed that "a full cost-benefit analysis must be presented before any binding agreement is made with respect to the Waikato medical school".

Health commentator and former executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Ian Powell said the government was sending "very mixed messages".

"It seems very odd to me.

"There’s confused messaging, as if one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing."

He had previously welcomed the announcement of the cost-benefit analysis.

"That would have been a perfect opportunity to take stock and look at all the options.

"It was a step in the right direction.

"In the space of 24 hours, they appear to have changed their mind."

On Tuesday, Health Minister Dr Shane Reti told the Otago Daily Times there was always going to be a cost-benefit analysis.

On Tuesday, the ODT asked Dr Reti’s office whether Act's support for the coalition agreement was contingent on the cost-benefit analysis, why the cost-benefit analysis was included in the coalition agreement, and whether Act expressed any concerns about the proposed third medical school.

Dr Reti’s office has not responded.

During the election campaign, National promised, if elected, to establish a third medical school at Waikato.

The first intake was proposed for 2027.

University of Waikato vice-chancellor Prof Neil Quigley, who has campaigned for the third medical school for several years, welcomed the cost-benefit analysis announcement earlier this week.

Asked yesterday whether he felt the government’s 100-day plan had changed things, he replied: "You will need to talk to Dr Reti about that issue, as I do not feel it is for me to offer an interpretation of what the government has said".

Dr Reti’s office was approached for comment.

Meanwhile, managers at struggling mega-polytechnic Te Pūkenga are now in limbo ahead of an imminent meeting with Tertiary Education Minister Penny Simmonds.

As part of its 100-day plan, the government said it would begin disestablishing Te Pūkenga.

Te Pūkenga council chairman Murray Strong said Te Pūkenga was a crown entity and its obligation was to implement government policy.

"We have prepared a comprehensive briefing for the new minister and expect to meet her very soon, to update her on the progress we have made so far, and to receive her direction for the future," he said.

The government would also stop work on the Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme.