The Government’s cut-price plans for major Northland highways shows it’s priority is pet projects like central Auckland trams and is leaving Northland behind, MPs for Rodney, Whangarei and Northland Mark Mitchell, Dr Shane Reti and Matt King say.
“The Penlink project would provide an alternative route between the Whangaparoa Peninsula and State Highway 1 at Redvale. With only one way out of the Whangaparoa Peninsula this road is not only a safety issue, but also vital for the overall network,” Mr Mitchell says.
“This is an important project that the Government has wrongly thrown into uncertainty.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is choosing to axe or down-grade projects that, had they gone ahead, would have made a real difference to our community, as well as the wider Northland transport network.”
“The previous National Government committed to delivering a full four-lane motorway from Auckland to Whangarei. This was a vital project for Northland on a road that links us to the rest of New Zealand and built on our previous Road of National Significance between Puhoi to Warkworth,” Dr Reti says
“Part of this project, from Whangarei to Te Hana, was forced to be put under re-evaluation by NZTA following the Government’s cuts to highway funding. NZTA has since announced that instead of a reliable four-lane highway, only short term safety improvements are being made.
“It’s not good enough. State Highway 1 from Whangarei to Marsden is the deadliest Police Hot Spot road in New Zealand. Four lanes will improve the safety profile of this deadly stretch of road.”
“This is a project desperately needed in the north and, if built, would provide a huge boost to the economy and employment of our region. The Northland region has significant potential which is mostly dependent on State Highway 1,” Mr King says.
“The four-lane motorway would be a game changer for Northland by providing a safer, more reliable and resilient route for local communities, visitors and freight. It will be the gateway to the north.
“But by moving billions of dollars out of state highway funding for trams in central Auckland, the Government is showing its true colours. This tram plan is a sham. Northland deserves better.”
Health Minister David Clark must take responsibility after the release of a damning report by AuditNZ, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The report shows the Ministry of Health didn’t properly manage conflicts of interest when it reviewed the failing $90 million National Oracle IT Solution.
“The Health Minister’s shambolic handling of the National Oracle IT Solution (NOS) calls into question his leadership and his credibility.
“David Clark has yet to take responsibility for the fact the review he commissioned and then subsequently tried to bury showed there is ’little evidence’ conflicts of interest were considered, and management of the risk of conflicts of interest in the initial report was ‘wholly inadequate’.
“This comes from the Office of the Auditor General’s report into conflicts of interest that Deloitte told the minister 'our preference is that this information is not made public’.
“The report contains a battery of significant failings including:
- There is little evidence that the Ministry fully considered the conflict of interest
- The conflict of interest was poorly managed by the Ministry
- Communications around the conflict were wholly inadequate
- The perception by others Deloitte favoured its own interests at the very least represented a perception of conflict of interest
“The AuditNZ report concludes with five areas where the engagement of Deloitte did not demonstrate good practice and a raft of recommendations. It now comes as no surprise that David Clark played political games and tried to avoid releasing the AuditNZ report.
“David Clark must account for this incompetence, misuse of $150,000 of taxpayer money and subsequent attempt to hide the truth.
“It is also important to note that the $150,000 is just for the conflicted Deloitte report and not the cost of the AuditNZ review of the conflicted Deloitte report – which David Clark is refusing to reveal.
“David Clark is clearly not up to the task. We support the objectives of the National Oracle Solution and this crucial review which informs how many millions Cabinet will need to inject into the Oracle project now needs to be redone, and overseen by someone other than the Health Minister.”
In light of recent information that Lakes DHB is subject to 1.7 million cyberattacks per day Health Minister David Clark must ensure the sector and the public that something is being done to keep their data safe, National’s spokesperson for Data and Cybersecurity Dr Shane Reti says.
“Recently, a spokesperson from the David Clark’s office, told a Newshub reporter that Bay of Plenty DHB being subject to 800,000 cyberattacks per day wasn’t at a threshold that he would appear on camera to address these concerns.
“Information revealed in Parliament today shows Lakes DHB to be even worse than Bay of Plenty DHB at 1.7 million attacks per day that is, 20 times per second.
“In the House today when the Minister was asked whether the new information shows significantly more attacks on another DHB, firstly he didn’t know who the DHB was and secondly he naively replied that this only becomes a problem when there is a breach. This is not the right way to address cybersecurity issues.
“As a previous lecturer on cybersecurity I can tell him for free that if he does not act to support DHBs with their cybersecurity one of these attackers will eventually get through. Just one breach could expose New Zealanders private information and potentially wreak havoc in the health sector.
“His repeated dismissal of DHB cybersecurity concerns begs the question, what damage has to be done and what data has to be stolen or ransomed before he acts?
“The daily cyberattacks on Lakes DHB almost equals the number of cyberattacks on the whole Ministry of Health over a whole week. This shows that attackers are targeting smaller DHBs because they may lack vital infrastructure or have less cybersecurity support.
“National are concerned with cybersecurity and are seeking an urgent stocktake of DHB cybersecurity by the independent Government agency CertNZ.
“CertNZ was set up by the previous National Government as a clear commitment to the cybersecurity of New Zealanders and their data.”
Official documents have revealed there are up to 800,000 cyberattacks a day on the Bay of Plenty DHB, despite the Health Minister dismissing cybersecurity concerns in general as ‘hypothetical’, National’s Data and Cybersecurity spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“And as the UK deals with the aftermath of a serious cyber-attack, highlighting the vulnerability of individual health data, Health Minister David Clark’s dismissive approach to cyber security in New Zealand is a real concern.
“Official information obtained by the National Party shows just how prolific these cyber-attacks are, with most of the 800,000 daily attacks on the Bay of Plenty DHB originating in Russia and the Ukraine.
“In light of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled the National Health System in the UK it is imperative that our DHBs are fully equipped to handle and protect the important data that they hold.
“Bay of Plenty DHB for example has been cyberattacked three times more per week than the whole Ministry of Health. It had to put in corrective measures to block the attacks because there were so many that the DHB audit log was filling up every 30 days.
“Dr Clark has also downplayed cybersecurity issues by saying he won’t deal in hypotheticals. There is nothing hypothetical about our DHBs being under cyberattack– it is clearly occurring and at an alarming rate.
“This shows a lack of leadership. The Minister needs to undertake an urgent cybersecurity stocktake across all DHBs and dramatically improve security measures and monitoring.
“CertNZ is well placed to do that work. It was established by the National Government as a first response cybersecurity centre for collating, analysing and advising members of the public, business and the government on cybersecurity matters.
“The Health Minister needs to take issues of cybersecurity in our DHBs seriously and act to ensure that our DHBs, the systems that they run and the data that they hold is safe.”
A release of official documents confirms the Ardern-Peters Government does not consider further research into farmer suicide to be a high priority, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Documents relating to a funding application for Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) show how officials successfully persuaded the Minister of Health David Clark and the Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor that further investment into farm related suicide research is not a priority at this stage,” Dr Reti says.
"This astounding admission continues the Government’s dismissive attitude towards rural mental health – further compounded by the refusal to commit to a school of rural health.
"A statement like this in the context of the current Mycoplasma Bovis incursion defies belief. That the Government would pull funding and deprioritise farmer suicide research at this time is shocking.
“It's all very well to hold a general inquiry into mental health, but the rural community has specific needs now – and RHAANZ was geared up to deliver to those needs.
“RHAANZ is an organisation that stood up and delivered support when the GFC hurt rural communities. The documents show that the ministries of Health and Primary Industries ‘value RHAANZ as an important member of the rural health sector and value their contribution’ and yet that hasn't stopped the Ministers from withdrawing sustainable funding.
“In response to this decision, former Dairy Woman of the Year and Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has launched a petition seeking public support to save rural healthcare services https://barbarakuriger.national.org.nz/save_our_rural_healthcare_services
"Ask the public what is more important – $1 billion to go towards foreign affairs and diplomats or research into farmer suicide – I’m pretty certain the Government will know the answer so I urge it to do the right thing and step up and make rural mental health a priority during this critical time,” Dr Reti says.
National is urging the Government to support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) with ongoing funding, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.
“National recognises that rural communities in New Zealand have different needs and face special challenges, especially when it comes to accessing health services,” Dr Reti says.
“We support the RHAANZ’s request for ongoing operating funding outside their existing contracts to ensure that rural communities have access to the services that they need.
“RHAANZ provides information, advocacy and solutions to issues that affect the health and wellbeing of rural communities. It also provides access to vital support for rural mental health including suicide prevention workshops and clinical champions in mental health.
“The Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark’s reluctance to commit to RHAANZ shows that they have no understanding of the challenges involved in providing health care in rural communities.”
National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King says that it is greatly concerning that the RHAANZ may be forced to begin the wind-down process within the next fortnight.
“We understand the funding bid was put to the Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark last November and to date RHAANZ have heard nothing,” Mr King says.
“RHAANZ provides support to around 600,000 New Zealanders and we encourage the Ministers to confirm that they will fund RHAANZ urgently.
“At the moment we are unsure what will happen to the RHAANZ’s 16 regional mental health clinical champions and medical director who help rural communities to access professional mental health services, as well as the RHAANZ’s general function to identify and resource solutions for rural health.
“The Health Minister is also refusing to confirm his support of a School of Rural Medicine, which a National-led Government had committed to establish within three years.
“This coalition Government claims to be the champion of regional and rural New Zealand but delaying any commitment to RHAANZ does not support this claim.”
The Minister for Health David Clark has acknowledged that there is a conflict of interest with the independent reviewer of the $90 million National Oracle Solution IT programme, but is yet to release the details, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti says.
“Under prolonged questioning in the House this week, the Health Minister admitted that a conflict exists with the independent reviewer of the National Oracle solution project but suggests that because it had been declared there is nothing to worry about,” Dr Reti says.
“Even if, as he suggests, there is nothing to worry about with Deloitte’s review of their subsidiary company’s programme he needs to release the conflicts statement so that the sector can have confidence in the programme.
“This is a vital project that will lead to savings for the health sector and improvements in patient care, but the delays are causing significant uncertainty and cost to the Health sector.
“The Minister’s vague assurances that the conflict has been managed are not enough. The taxpayer can reasonably expect to hold the Minister to account for what may be millions of dollars.
“I am asking for the Minister to release the reviewer’s conflict of interest statement so that once the review of the programme is complete and the programme is finalised the sector can have confidence in the National Oracle Solution going forward.”
National Party Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti has revealed a supposed ‘independent review’ of the failing $90 million National Oracle Solution programme is, in fact, being carried out by the owner of the company that installed it in the first place.
“Health Minister David Clark describes the programme as having ‘challenges’ and needing an independent review but has then overseen the appointment of Deloitte to carry that out,” Dr Reti says.
“However, Deloitte owns the IT company, Asparona, which helped implement the project, meaning it potentially bears some of the responsibility for the issues we are seeing today.
“I don’t think it takes a genius to see a clear conflict of interest here.
“This is at best a lack of oversight that shows that Dr Clark has no idea what is going on and at worst an attempt to avoid real scrutiny of a $90 million-plus project which has real promise but has gone off the rails.
“This project is funded by DHBs to provide a replacement for ageing finance and supply chain systems. If implemented right it would allow the sector to significantly reduce non-labour costs, and invest more in patient care.
“But it is clearly being mismanaged on the Health Minister’s watch.
“This self-titled ‘open and transparent Government’ is appearing less and less so by the day and undermining the independence of this review is just one in a long list of questionable actions.
“The Minister’s poor judgement and the clear conflict of interest here calls into question his other appointments and the public will rightly be asking what else he has got wrong?
“The Minister needs to sort this quickly by appointing an independent body to review the National Oracle Solution project. He also needs to urgently explain how this contract came to be awarded and seek an assurance from his ministry that its processes for awarding contracts are robust because this just doesn't pass the sniff test.”
National MPs Dr Shane Reti and Matt King have today launched a campaign to ensure the Auckland to Whangarei four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.
“The previous National-led Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand, including the delivery of a full four-lane motorway from Auckland to Whangarei,” Dr Reti says.
“Work has already started on the Puhoi to Warkworth section, however, Transport Minister Phil Twyford has indicated a number of projects such as the remaining four lanes from Warkworth to Whangarei are under review.
“The Northland Regional Action Plan was developed by key stakeholders including regional and district councils and through it, Northlanders determined that a four-lane highway from Auckland to Whangarei would provide the biggest boost to the Northland economy in recent times.”
“The Northland region benefits from a sub-tropical climate, fertile land, spectacular scenery and coastline. The region has significant potential which is mostly dependent on State Highway One,” Mr King says.
“The four-lane motorway would be a game changer for Northland providing a safer, more reliable and resilient State Highway One for local communities, visitors and freight. It will be the gateway to the north unlocking the potential and allowing business and people to thrive.
“Our local National team will be pushing the Government to commit to the project and we encourage the public to show their support and ensure our region’s voice is heard loud and clear by signing our petition.
“We will be taking this online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.”
The petition can be found here.
Labour’s policy to ring-fence pharmaceutical funding is widely considered to be bad news for Pharmac’s funding model, National Party Associate Health Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Ministry of Health warned the Health Select Committee before the election that ‘there is strong evidence suggesting that ring-fenced funding for medicines would undermine Pharmac’s business model’.
“Yet David Clark is still pursuing their policy to implement an interim drugs fund despite the Ministry of Health, Pharmac and the Health Select Committee all agreeing that it may reduce Pharmac’s buying power.
“In the Briefing to Incoming Ministers Pharmac warns of the failed UK early Access to Medicines Scheme and goes on to say that a similar scheme in New Zealand would ‘make unpicking existing arrangements challenging’.
“When asked whether ring-fenced funding undermines the Pharmac model the Minister touts the successful Pharmac rare medicines trial as an example, however, earlier this month the Health Select Committee tabled their report on a rare medicines petition where they suggested that the model was not effective for Pharmac’s bottom line.
“Not only are the Ministry specifically saying that Pharmac will be negatively affected but even David Clark’s own colleagues on the select committee unanimously agreed with the report in its entirety.
“We need to ensure that the learnings from the Pharmac rare medicines trial are not ignored and take notice of the warnings from officials and international experience.”