• Video: Labour has the funds to build a new Hawke’s Bay hospital, says Chris Hipkins

Video: Labour has the funds to build a new Hawke’s Bay hospital, says Chris Hipkins

Labour has set aside funds to build a new Hawke’s Bay hospital if re-elected, says party leader and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

Hipkins, who was in Hawke’s Bay today, announced that his party had  pledged $1billion for the project and promised to begin a business case within its first 100 days of a new term.

Hipkins sat down for an interview with Hawke’s Bay App in Napier this afternoon. Asked how Labour would pay for a new hospital, Hipkins said: “The money is coming out of what we call the Multi-year Capital Allowance. “

“So the government set aside quite a lot of funding for capital works, for schools and hospitals in particular, and this is coming out of the funding that we've set aside for that.”

He said Labour was listening to the community in giving them a new hospital.

“We've had some really passionate advocacy from your local members of Parliament. Anna Lorck, in particular, has been relentless on making sure that Cabinet ministers and the Minister of Health in particular know how important it is that we get a new hospital here.”

“We knew when we came into government that our hospitals around the country were really badly run down. We've been working our way through them. We said some time ago that Hawke's Bay was next cab off the rank, and so I'm really pleased to be able to make the announcement today that actually we're going to do it.”

With regard to National’s claims that it said it would build a hospital in 2020 but Labour took it off the table, Hipkins was dismissive.

“Their commitments in 2020 just weren't credible. Ultimately, we've been careful about managing the government's finances so that we can actually catch up on our health infrastructure.”

“Our government, over the last six years, has spent six times more on hospital upgrades and health capital than the National government spent in the nine years that they were in government. I think if you want a government that's investing in upgrading and improving our hospitals, it's clearly a Labor government that's going to do that.”

This week the government also announced a Cyclone recovery package to support local businesses, tourism and the rebuild in Wairoa.

Hipkins said the announcement was aimed at getting local tourism moving.

“We've said that we'll support the communities affected by the cyclone right the way through.”

“It's about supporting some of the immediate business needs, including the need for, if you think about Wairoa, for example, for temporary accommodation for those who are coming in to support the rebuild. So we've got a package of announcements around that extending the Wairoa airport runway, for example, so that we can give them more resilience. Those things are all relatively small projects that will make a difference.”

Asked what he thought of complaints from communities affected by the Cyclone that the Government and councils were not doing enough for them, Hipkins indicated that he understood the frustrations.

“I acknowledge that for those who were affected by the cyclone, it can feel like a very long lonely journey to get your issues resolved. Whether you want certainty about whether you can move back into your house or exactly what's going to happen. We've moved as fast as we can. We are making sure that the local community, the local councils, are still leading the response, but they're being supported by central government.”

“If I look at the decisions around flood affected areas, severely flood affected areas, and I contrast that to those areas that were severely affected by the Canterbury earthquakes, we've actually made decisions faster than the last government did.”

“We have tried to build a response that's more nimble, but it does take time. You've got to get the geo-technical engineers and there's only a limited number of those. You've got to have a process that means you're making good evidence-based decisions.”

Hipkins says he feels the mood in Hawke’s Bay is optimistic, but that times are challenging now.

“I think we have got a great future to look forward to as a country, but right now, particularly with issues around the cost of living, families are feeling the crunch from that.” “But the latest economic data that we saw out today shows that the economy's turned the corner, the economy's growing again. Even in spite of the fact that we've had the cyclones and the flooding to deal with this year, the economy's growing again, inflation's coming back down. That's positive because it means, over time, interest rates will come back down. It means that food prices won't continue to go up to the extent that they have been. So those are all positives.”

“What we've got to do is make sure that wages are growing so that people who feel like they've gone backwards during this cost of living spike can catch up again. We do that by growing wages.”

Despite the polls which show National leading Labour, Hipkins is confident that Labour can win all three Hawke’s Bay seats – Napier, Tukituki and Ikaroa-Rāwhiti. In Tukituki incumbent MP Anna Lorck is facing a challenge from National first-timer Catherine Wedd. In Napier, Mark Hutchinson is the Labour candidate competing for Stuart Nash’s seat against National’s Katie Nimon. In Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, Cushla Tangaere-Manuel is up against Meka Whatiri, who defected from Labour to Te Pāti Māori.

“I'm very confident about all three seats. I've been on the ground with Anna, for example, and I've seen how hard she has been working over the last three years, to really passionately advocate her community. And I think she's done an amazing job.”

“We also have an outstanding candidate Mark Hutchinson to take over from Stuart Nash here in Napier, who I think will be a real asset to our Parliament and to our Labor team. And Cushla TangaereManuel is just really already making her presence felt, and she hasn't even arrived at Parliament yet. So I think she'd be a really amazing advocate for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.”

Watch the accompanying video for the full interview. Video by Ben Firman, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air.