Changes focus on issues, not politics

Out and about doing meet-the-MP street meetings in Clutha, the main questions that come up are about the new Dunedin hospital, and changes to affordable water.

I am delighted that as local Labour MPs we have been able to secure the best possible outcome for Dunedin and Otago’s new state-of-the-art hospital in the fiscally constrained environment.

We secured these recently announced changes by focusing on substantive issues, and not being distracted by publicity politics.

The health minister has announced:

• An extra $10 million for the hospital which will include an additional MRI machine, and a complete fit-out of collaborative workspace. This is a reversal of a previous decision to ‘‘shell’’ these spaces.

• An additional $97 million to go towards the data and digital infrastructure required to make the new hospital operational.

• A review of proposed pathology arrangements, and a forward look at dementia health needs in the community.

The now $1.68 billion hospital is the largest ever health infrastructure project in New Zealand. Now set to be 25% bigger, the new hospital will include more than 40 additional beds and nine additional theatres.

Its design and use of the latest technologies will mean better patient flow and improved access to diagnostics and treatment spaces, which will help reduce unnecessary delays.

When it comes to water, most people I speak to agree that we need to sort out our pipes properly.

Many Clutha households have been on boiled water notices for the past months, and local government simply doesn’t have the rate base to afford the upgrades needed to remedy our ageing water infrastructure.

Our affordable water reforms will fix New Zealand’s water infrastructure and make sure households don’t foot the bill through huge rate increases.

There’s been a lot of feedback on our plan and, as the chairwoman of the finance and expenditure committee which has been considering the legislation, I’ve heard that loud and clear. Along with others, I’ve passed that message to senior colleagues.

The reforms need to save households from ballooning costs while also being more locally led. Our changes seek to strike that balance.

That’s why we’ve extended the number of water entities from four to 10. That means every council, and therefore every community, will now have a say over its local water services entities.

By setting up more water entities, we’re making sure the needs of every community, including small rural towns such as Milton, Kaitangata, Stirling, Balclutha, Lawrence and Middlemarch, are heard and met.

These water entities will be publicly owned, and regionally led by industry professionals who will be appointed by local representatives.

Our plan strengthens the links between the water entities and the local communities they serve, while also making sure that New Zealanders, no matter where they live, can access safe, reliable and affordable drinking water now, and into the future.