I’m an elected Health Board member, Safe Food campaigner, former MP and Chair of Parliament’s Health select committee and an experienced director, on the boards of Consumer New Zealand and UN Women NZ.
As a long-term champion of good health, I’ve led successful campaigns for healthy hospital and school food, improved aged care and the over-use of antibiotics and consumer and clinical input into decision-making.
Our DHB faces big challenges –financial pressures, increasing demands for health services, ageing infrastructure. To tackle these we need to;
- Ensure everyone can access affordable healthcare when they need it, especially Maori and Pacifica, residents in Porirua and Kapiti;
- Focus on keeping people well and tackling the root causes of ill-health such as poverty, poor housing, poor diet;
- Deliver more innovative healthcare in the community; Invest in public, community, mental health and addiction services;
- Ensure staff are well paid and well supported; Improve patient safety and reduce the spread of superbugs;
- Provide better support for our ageing population, and high quality aged, home care;
- Create world-class children’s hospital and a new home-like birthing unit;
- Ensure equity for Maori, Pacifika, the disability community and other vulnerable groups;
- Reduce hospital’s carbon footprint and increase the resilience of our hospital.
The Government's decision to remove state-funded charter schools and partially privatised state-owned enterprises from coverage of the Official Information Act is an alarming move, and sets a dangerous precedent. It nibbles away at our democracy and threatens to roll back our culture of openness and transparency. If these state-funded organisations are allowed to make all their decisions behind a cloak of secrecy, what other agencies will be next? And if they are able to keep their decisions secret, how will they be held to account?
Most countries in the world are expanding their rail networks. But the future of ours is looking uncertain as a series of closures shrinks it ever further. The past 12 years have seen the closure of passenger rail services to Rotorua, Tauranga, Napier, Dunedin and Invercargill, as well as the recent mothballing of the Stratford to Okahukura and Napier to Gisborne lines, the closure of Hillside rail workshops and the sacking of 181 staff.
Could horsemeat be hidden in our food too? With NZ's disclosure requirements it's hard to know for certain. It's interesting how a food scare on the other side of the world can create ripples right around the globe. The discovery that horsemeat, disguised as beef, is being widely sold in Europe in classic dishes such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognese and burgers has created a food scandal in Europe that keeps on escalating.
Fallout from melamine debacle should have motivated Fonterra to deal with DCD scare quickly and openly. It's always interesting to see how corporations and governments respond to a food safety crisis. There's invariably a temptation to cover up, procrastinate, deny or downplay a food safety risk because of its potential to scare off consumers and international trading partners. This is especially the case when the food safety scare involves New Zealand milk, our major export commodity which earns us around $11 billion a year.
It's time for shareholders to question why caregivers are among the lowest paid workers in New Zealand. I see the aged care provider Ryman Healthcare is one of the best performing companies on the sharemarket, and has returned on average 19 per cent to its shareholders over the past decade. It has its sights set on becoming the No1 company on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. Other aged care providers such as Metlifecare and Summerset are also performing well, and are fast becoming the darlings of the sharemarket.
Colony cages are no better than battery hen cages, despite the spin, argues former Green MP Sue Kedgley. Two years ago, I was invited by the Egg Producers Federation to have a look at some new ''colony'' cages that Mainland Poultry had installed in its huge facility outside Dunedin.
The demise of our bees would be ruinous to our agricultural nation. I've been contacted recently by several beekeepers who are worried about what is happening to our nation's honey bees. A Bay of Plenty beekeeper recently lost 230 of his beehives - or half of his operation. He's been beekeeping since 1981, and has never had losses like this before. He says other beekeepers have experienced similar losses. A Northland beekeeper recently lost 900 of his 1000 hives; another has lost 400 hives, and others last year lost half of their hives.
After being on the back burner for decades, Transmission Gully is now on the fast track. It's been given the green light by a fast track consenting process, and work on the motorway is to begin in 2015. The Government is intending to fund the $1.3 billion motorway through a public private partnership. Under this arrangement, a private consortium will finance, build and operate the motorway for 25 years, and the Government will pay the consortium $130 million a year, or $356,164 every day, for the next 25 years.
Ever since the 1990s, when successive governments tossed out regulations with reckless abandon, regulation has been unfashionable in New Zealand. The word "regulation" has become almost a term of abuse, implying excessive government interference in people's lives. Government policy stipulates that regulation should be a last resort, and almost any attempt to regulate is ridiculed as "nanny state".
In a few weeks' time, the governments of Australia and New Zealand will decide whether to introduce a new system on food labels that will enable consumers to see at a glance whether food is healthy. At the moment, it's almost impossible for shoppers to work out from a label, whether food is healthy or laden with fat, sugar and salt. This makes shopping difficult for people who want to buy healthy food for their families, especially when there are so many foods to choose from in the supermarket.