Today’s workshop produced a wide variety of aspirations from DCC elected representatives in response to the following questions. My response follows:
What are your THREE main ambitions/aspirations for your community over the next 10 years?
What are THREE key challenges you think need to be considered and addressed?
What are THREE key things you think can be done through the 10-year plan to help achieve or address these?
In my view the separation of these questions into triple tick-box answers is unhelpful as these issues are all interrelated and dealing with them is interdependent.
Over the next 10 years I believe we must walk the walk of sustainability rather than pay lip-service to it, especially financial sustainability.
To be financially sustainable, we must reign in our out-of-control Council Companies, optimise sale of identified liabilities, and reverse the unsustainable culture of increasing group debt.
We must reverse the culture of increasing bureaucracy size and cost, and become much more business-like and strategic in the way we organise contracting. We must reduce the costly virtue-signalling of demanding contractors to monitor CO2 impacts, energy use, living wage provisions, and other unnecessary compliance obligations.
We need an organisation-wide Post-covid compliance/affordability review.
We need a sustainable land-fill policy that recognises on-going landfill as necessary and affordable, and looks seriously at economically viable reuse and recycling of all Dunedin City refuse, not just the 19% collected by the DCC.
After having become more financially sustainable and given ourselves some real natural disaster headroom currently absent, we should then review our overall balance of investments in sports, culture, and environment, and optimise/prioritise what non-financial returns we get from our financial investments in all three of these areas.
A final over-arching review of how we consult with the public needs to be undertaken, with the addition of regular referenda [e.g. sent out with rates demands] on a range of issues, including: the importance of Port Otago [the South Island’s best natural harbour] to Dunedin and how it can best be developed, local government structure [e.g. public support for a Unitary Council] and general issues like reclamation, fruit trees instead of ornamentals, and provision of commuter/retail parking.
The overall issue of whether the DCC should be just a facilitator of Dunedin’s development primarily providing infrastructure services, or whether it should be pushing specific development initiatives should also be informed by referenda of various kinds over the next decade.
From: Lee Vandervis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 10:40 AM
To: “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <email@example.com>
Cc: Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Dave Tombs <Dave.Tombs@dcc.govt.nz>, Simon Drew <Simon.Drew@dcc.govt.nz>, Tom Dyer <Tom.Dyer@dcc.govt.nz>, David Bainbridge <David.Bainbridge@dcc.govt.nz>, Clare Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Robert West <Robert.West@dcc.govt.nz>
Subject: 102 Ways to Save Money in Local Government. attached
During our Annual Plan deliberations it has been claimed that with rising costs we must always increase debt and/or rates to maintain current levels of service. Even if this were true, our increases so far above inflation are unjustifiable in my view. [e.g. staff costs up 7.4% last year on top of 8% the previous year]
The opportunities for reducing waste, better strategic contracting and getting better value for significant spending remain under-explored in my business-experienced view.
The TaxPayer’s Union 102 Ways to Save money in Local Government attached has 102 suggestions of which I believe the DCC have only actioned 2. [can you identify more than 2 actioned by the DCC?]
The other 100 ways of maintaining levels of service and saving money without raising debt and rates await serious consideration by Councillors and by staff. [And there are many more DCC/CCO-specific opportunities to save money…]
Looking forward to comments,
Since it was not a Point of Order and Mayor Hawkins had not stated precisely what the Point of Order subject is, it was inappropriate for Cr. Benson-Pope to rule on it as a Point of Order and to rule in favour of what was not a Point of Order.
Cr. Benson-Pope’s subsequent insistence that I should withdraw a true statement, and apologise for it, was inappropriate, and his threat to have me removed from the Zoom meeting on this pretext was beyond his authority, [Ultra Vires] and an abuse of the important right to Democratic vote due to follow.
Cr. Benson-Pope’s repeated muting of my Zoom microphone connection was also an inappropriate breach of his responsibility to allow elected representatives to speak and to raise a real Point of Order or to object to his attempted removal of me from the meeting, especially as Cr. Staynes had confirmed that he did say what I had accurately quoted him as saying.
George st retail area Traffic Lanes have just today become a Pedestrian Shared Space, with speed humps, a 10kph speed limit, and over $10,000 worth of 10kph signs that were already purchased in advance of the Council 9-4 decision.
The change is claimed for space distancing safety and not pedestrian ideology.
Just in – a correction from DCC CEO Bidrose regarding her previously advised pre-purchase of 10kph signs:
From: Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>
Date: Saturday, 16 May 2020 at 11:42 AM
To: “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <email@example.com>, “Executive Leadership Team (ELT)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: 10kph sign purchase correction. There was NO commitment to spend for 10kph signs prior to your resolution.
During the meeting yesterday, I was asked about purchase of the 10kph signs and staff commitment to spending ten thousand dollars on those prior to any council resolution on the shared street resolutions. I had checked this out earlier and been told that street signs had been purchased, but if the resolutions did not pass, they could be used elsewhere. I interpreted that as ‘10pkh signs had been ordered’. During the meeting, I was corrected my Mr Drew, who’d been told that signs had been ordered but the arrangement was that if the slow street recommendation did not pass, council would not be paying for any 10kph signs.
I did advise the Mayor and Chair of that just prior to the meeting’s end, but there was no reasonable opportunity for me to make the correction during the meeting.
So – to be utterly clear, the road signs were made and produced without the ‘10’ in the centre – that was done immediately following the resolutions being passed. If the council had voted No yesterday, there would have been no money spent on any 10pkh signage, decals etc.
“Don’t see the value”. Letter to the ODT Editor
Mayor Hawkins “don ‘t see the value in us going through a process where we significantly reconfigure what it is that we offer our community.” [ODT 1/5/20] He and Cr.Benson-Pope want the $60 million George st/Exchange ‘surface treatments’ project to proceed and the DCC pre-covid budget to mostly continue in blind ignorance of the economic world that has suddenly vastly contracted, along with Dunedin citizen’s ability to pay rates and Council Companies’ ability to pay dividends. We can do it on “increased debt” Hawkins says, proving his total lack of business understanding and the weakness in our already budgeted BILLION$ DCC group debt.
Cr. Lee Vandervis
My submission to the Electoral Commission and the Minister of Local Government raising issues from the 2019 Election, with the Minister’s reply recently received:
From: Lee Vandervis <email@example.com>
Date: Friday, 28 February 2020 at 10:31 AM
To: Justice department <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nanaia Mahuta <email@example.com>
Subject: Electoral Commission 2019 Dunedin election submission
Dear Nanaia and the Committee Secretariat,
As the Mayoral candidate with the majority of first preference votes in Dunedin in 2019 but still not the Mayor, I wish to submit that your proposed review is welcome and the suggested administration of elections by the Electoral Commission rather than local government staff is long overdue.
The inevitable codependence of Mayor and CEO compounded by agendas differing between Council staff and elected Councillors create many tensions and vested interests in election outcomes that speak against local staff running those local elections.
I have a largely different view to the DCC submission on the 2019 Election review created by our new Mayor Hawkins, who won on subsequent-to-first-preference votes with the help of a both Green and Labour Party machinery, and a local monopoly media smear campaign against me using DCC staff-leaked untrue claims of 11 staff complaints against me.
The Otago Daily Times DCC reporter responsible for the election-year smearing stories based on the untrue staff-complaint claims has now changed jobs post-election receiving the top Dunedin City Council Marketing and Communications job.
The undemocratic and self-serving role of the local monopoly media and our local Council bureaucracy has, in my opinion, skewed the Mayoral and Councillor election results in a number of anti-democratic ways:
The leaking of damaging scuttlebutt and the breaching of the Privacy Act by DCC staff in relation to a number of issues including election signage and supposed DCC staff ‘complaints’ of me have been pushed by the out-going Mayor Cull and the ODT in the election run-up, and further compounded on social media.
The only confirmed staff complaint against me [leaked in another breech of the Privacy Act pre-election by DCC staff] was a response to my initial complaint of staff, and the resultant staff Code of Conduct process against me which is currently being challenged at my personal cost by a Judicial Review.
I support your proposal to have local elections run at arms’ length by a non-local Electoral Commission group rather than by local council staff, and to review voting methods.
DCC CEO, senior staff, the Greens and Labour local politicians, and some local big business interests had very strong self-interests in maintaining a status-quo Mayor in the Dunedin 2019 election, and they only narrowly achieved this in a variety of ways.
I believe that DCC staff involvement in organising election events, [eg specifically targeting University voting], DCC staff provision of candidate advice and nomination information, staff handling voting papers and their delivery to Christchurch for counting, changing election signage rules, again breaching the Privacy Act leaking damaging signage rule stories to the media, and DCC staff leaking defamatory claims against me personally are all weaknesses in the current electoral system that need to be investigated.
Most of these issues could be avoided if local body election administration was undertaken by the Electoral Commission or other non-local delegated organisation.
I believe that there would be overall positive economies of scale with centralised electoral administration, and more confidence amongst candidates that there was a more level consistent campaigning field.
I have also vainly complained for many elections past about the hundreds, possibly thousands of voting papers that literally litter North Dunedin streets and student halls of residence during election time, and the opportunity they present of being hoovered up and used illegally. Anecdotal suggestions on social media that this has been happening, and even support of this vote tampering, are deeply concerning. The practice of sending out voting papers to students for years after they have moved on from Otago University has created a large-scale tampering opportunity that would be lessened by a secure on-line nation-wide [FPP] voting system which I support.
Local body staff interest in local body election outcomes can be significant, especially when some of the local bureaucrats very jobs may depend on a certain election outcome.
In my view the STV system [that was approved in Dunedin after a big Political Party and University push] has resulted in a more diverse range of elected representatives at the expense of democratically popular representatives. Our ‘modified’ STV system used since 2004 was cobbled together by 2 Internal Affairs computer programmers to rank winning candidates based on arbitrary thresholds, and the cumulative over-weighting of subsequent-to-first-preference votes that are severe weaknesses in the opaque STV system.
In our 2019 Mayoral election the STV system required more than 10 iterations to swamp the popular democratic first preference Mayoral votes.
Many voters have complained to me of STV complexity, and the confusion of having DCC STV voting alongside ORC FPP voting. Anecdotal evidence points to confusing voting systems that have put people off voting at all.
Even the University ‘experts’ Hayward and Geddes could not agree prior to the election on how to advise people to vote in the confusing, opaque, and unverifiable modified STV system.
Electionz’ Warwick Lampp has been unable to provide convincing evidence that our modified STV system outcomes are truly representative, saying only that the STV system gives consistent results when test run.
I was an initial supporter of STV based on University ‘expert’ claims, but since being involved and seeing how it really ‘works’ I am completely opposed. It is arbitrary, unrepresentative, unverifiable, and widely misunderstood and mistrusted by many voters.
The claim by the beneficiary of this STV system Mayor Hawkins in his DCC submission that STV is a more representative system than FPP is not supported by the facts or by the outcomes in my view.
STV is widely acknowledged now locally as punishing strong candidates with specific policies and strong first voter preference, in favour of candidates who forward few policies or specifics.
Other issues which speak against local election administration include a resistance by local staff to investigate hidden electoral donations, answering questions regarding the handling of votes, and creating electoral signage rules that favour some candidate’s traditional signage advertising while out-lawing others.
All of the above issues have email trails, many extensive, which I am happy to forward and to personally present when addressing an investigative Electoral Commission panel, which is now absolutely necessary to restore public confidence in our local government electoral process.
Cr. Lee Vandervis
47 Garfield Avenue
Office of Hon Nanaia Mahuta
MP for Hauraki-Waikato
Minister for Māori Development Associate Minister for the Environment
Minister of Local Government Associate Minister of Housing (Māori Housing)
Associate Minister for Trade and Export Growth
+64 4 817 8711 Private Bag 18041, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160, New Zealand firstname.lastname@example.org beehive.govt.nz
29 April 2020
Councillor, Dunedin City Council
Tēnā koe Lee
Thank you for your email of 28 February 2020, sharing your views on local elections in New Zealand.
I note your concerns with the Single Transferrable Vote (STV) system. This is a system that local authorities can choose to adopt, and it is a matter for the Council as to whether to keep the STV system or go back to First Past the Post electoral system.
You may be interested to know officials at the Department of Internal Affairs are working on options to modernise voting in New Zealand, which includes online voting trials. Online voting has the potential to assist certain groups of electors who currently have issues exercising their right to vote under the postal system, such as people voting from an overseas location.
You may also be interested to know that the Justice Committee is conducting an inquiry into the 2019 local body elections, to identify opportunities for improvements to the legislation. The submission period for this inquiry closed on 29 February 2020, and the Committee’s report will be made available on the parliament website. Further information can be found at http://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/scl/justice.
I appreciate your views and suggestions on improving local governance. As you know, the Productivity Commission has completed its inquiry into local government funding and financing. The Government was presented with the Commission’s final report and recommendations and will be responding to the Commission’s report in due course.
Thank you again for writing.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Local Government
From: Lee Vandervis <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 29 April 2020 at 10:11 PM
Cc: "Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Simon Drew <Simon.Drew@dcc.govt.nz>
Subject: Discussions with ex DCC water manager Darrel Robison
Thank you for your engineering insights into the George st water systems today.
I have had a few discussions with Darrel on the subject recently, as it applies to the George st upgrade proposal.
Darrel was quick to point out that initially doing up the pipe-work while we were at doing up George anyway made some sense, but that this sound argument had lately morphed into ‘we have got to do up the pipe-work now so we should do the George st upgrade while we are at it’.
But to the technical stuff as below, Darrel seems to have a more optimistic view of pipe maintenance needs than I have heard recently. It was interesting to have confirmed that some brick/tile drains built by the Romans are still in use in London!
Looking forward to your further advice, and if it is similar to what Darrel lays out in detail below, including a block-by-block analysis:
From: Darrel Robinson <email@example.com>
Date: Saturday, 18 April 2020 at 1:45 PM
To: Lee Vandervis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Comments of Wastewater, Stormwater and Water Mains in George Street from Octagon to Albany Street
I have spent a bit of time looking at the DCC Water Services Maps and supplementing / verifying that information from my own recollections. The maps themselves were put together by a diligent team who had excellent base maps which were created in the 1960’s to start with so I expect them to be extremely reliable. However not all data would have been available to them and thus there will be some information gaps, particularly on repair data.
The extent of the proposed George Street upgrade I understand to be from the Octagon to Albany Street so will comment on the services on a block by block basis.
An area of significant risk of needing repair are the stormwater and wastewater drains serving individual premises. These are owned by the properties they serve and thus are not the responsibility of Council. There is much greater risk of structural failure on one of these drains than of the wastewater / stormwater sewer they connect to. They may also be older than the sewer connected to as this area was originally served by a combined sewer system (both wastewater and stormwater in the same pipe) and it was only in the 1990’s that separation of these combined sewers was completed. In the case of George Street, the separation work immediately preceded the George Street upgrade programme those almost 30 years ago. I know that there is an investigation underway within Council staff about assuming ownership of these sections of private drains (and also watercourses) but am unaware of where that work has got to. The same issue does not really apply to water services as the service from the main to the property stop cock is part of the Council’s asset and it is only the short (300 mm) section of the service from stopcock to the street boundary that is privately owned. Given that these services are quite shallow, that does not pose an undue risk. However the vast majority of water repairs are on water services so I would advocate that the services be replaced as part of any street upgrade.
There will be a number of fire services from water mains and connected to building fire sprinkler systems. I am pretty sure that those too are owned by the property served. You would need to check on that.
Before a block by block comment, a general comment on the 300 mm water main and the 900 x 600 stormwater sewer running along the George Street centreline.
The 300 mm watermain is of cast iron material and is the City’s first main and dated from the 1860’s and installed as part of the system that followed the construction of the Ross Creek Dam and Reservoir. It has been very reliable to the best of my knowledge. When the concept to upgrade George Street along with the replacement of services was first mooted, I thought quite a bit around “if it was my call, would I replace the 300 mm watermain and the 900 x 600 mm stormwater sewer?” I didn’t reach a firm position and to me, it is a very tough call to make. To some degree, I guess it comes to the Council’s tolerance of risk which I perceive to be quite low.
Both are old but neither seems to give any significant trouble so it’s quite a big call to make. The length of street being redeveloped is in the order of 900 metres and at a rate of say $1500 / metre on the stormwater and $1100 / metre on the water, that represents a spend of $2,340,000. To that must be added valves, hydrants, manholes, traffic management, engineering fees, and other sundry items so I would suggest the final figure would approach $3,500,000. So quite a big spend if it’s not actually necessary. To me, before making a decision, a robust engineering assessment of condition needs made. Currently, a lot of emphasis seems to be placed on an asset’s age as an indicator of condition. Sound engineering judgement has always been a fundamental input to sound asset management practice but it seems that element has been given reduced importance in the modern application of asset management. Nothing can replace sound engineering judgement.
The 900 x 600 mm stormwater dates from the 1870’s and was part of the original drainage scheme for the Central City. The sewers are egg shaped (pointed end down) and constructed of brick. The brick was source from local brickworks and thus were of varying quality. To counteract wear, the invert of the pipe was a shaped ceramic tile set in to the brickwork. In most cases, the brickwork has not given rise to much in the way of structural issues; the issues are more cosmetic. I would have thought by now that any structural issues would have emerged. TV inspection surveys were done in 1970 and that showed the lines were generally in good condition. Any that were not in good order were progressively relayed with concrete pipe or lined with plastic liners. The pipes are hugely oversized so there is no issue relating to capacity. A further inspection in the 1990’s showed little if any degradation in most lines. The exception was the line down St Andrew Street and with it being quite shallow and the level of heavy traffic, significant cracking and structural deformation had taken place. It has since been replaced. There will also be gas pipes in George Street but I doubt if they were still in service. Those not in service were sold to Telecom so I suspect they are now part of the Chorus asset.
There are extensive ducts for phone and electricity cables. In the case of phone ducts, they are massive – probably 6 pipes high by 6 pipes wide so they do take up a lot of space. I recall they were laid near the western kerb.
So now to comments block by block.
Octagon to Moray Place.
There are 3 water mains in this block
Moray Place to St Andrew Street
Again 3 mains in this block.
St Andrew Street to Hanover Street.
Hanover Street to Frederick Street.
Frederick Street to Albany Street.
I hope this information is of use to you. After you have had a read, perhaps you could give me a call with any questions.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, is an unobtrusive piece of biological machinery. It spreads parasitically through the respiratory tracts of human beings, often without provoking symptoms in those who carry it. Yet for some, particularly the old, it is deadly. This combination of properties make the pandemic both dangerous and difficult to stop. As of April 22nd it had killed 182,000 people.
So far, every country that has reduced covid-19 infection to low levels has relied to some degree on “social distancing”—that is, either encouraging or forcing people to stay at home, and to keep well apart if they find that they have to go out—to prevent the virus from spreading. On top of this many are in any case fearful to go out, lest they catch the illness. Without a vaccine or therapeutic drugs, neither of which is guaranteed, countries therefore face a future of bouncing in and out of lockdown every few months, with infection rates ebbing and flowing in response. The result will be mounting death tolls, depressed economies and confidence-sapping uncertainty. This can, however, be partly ameliorated by extensive testing for the virus. Testing enables the government to keep tabs on the disease, reveals which social-distancing measures work, and, if those testing positive remain at home, instills confidence in the public that it is safe to go out…
from today’s New York Times:
It is not a simple choice, as Economic collapse means extra deaths as well from many causes, and we haven’t seen the increase in suicides info yet…from today’s Economist magazine.
Does crashing the Economy really save lives? Future historians will have a lot of data to research for decades to come…
FaceBook comment from:
From: David Benson-Pope <David.Benson-Pope@dcc.govt.nz>
Date: Tuesday, 7 April 2020 at 6:11 PM
To: Lee Vandervis <email@example.com>
Cc: Clare Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <email@example.com>, Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Simon Drew <Simon.Drew@dcc.govt.nz>, Dave Tombs <Dave.Tombs@dcc.govt.nz>, Nanaia Mahuta <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 3 x Notices of Motion first lodged with staff 20/03/20
In my earlier message I forgot to thank you for blocking my access to your PUBLIC facebook site.
I suppose that was the result of the time I have spent last week in correcting the misinformation and worse that you peddle, in particular of late about the location of our new hospital, but I must say that I feel somehow liberated at no longer visiting the dark space that you and your followers inhabit.
The best part is of course that I no longer see the abuse that your trolls will doubtless continue t o direct at someone …
From: Lee Vandervis <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 3 x Notices of Motion first lodged with staff 20/03/20
Date: 8 April 2020 at 9:14:43 AM NZST
To: David Benson-Pope <David.Benson-Pope@dcc.govt.nz>
Cc: Clare Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <email@example.com>, Sue Bidrose <Sue.Bidrose@dcc.govt.nz>, Sandy Graham <Sandy.Graham@dcc.govt.nz>, Simon Drew <Simon.Drew@dcc.govt.nz>, Dave Tombs <Dave.Tombs@dcc.govt.nz>
In a decade of social media, I have had to block a total of 3 persistent, abusive, and misrepresenting trolls David.
You have just become troll #3, and the only one I have met. [unless perhaps you were also one of the other two]
My ‘dark space inhabiting’ followers as you falsely characterise them were sufficiently numerous to make me the first-preference Mayor at the last election whereas your party vote got you less than half of my independent Councillor votes.
I do however yield to your intimate knowledge of dark spaces, as detailed in Police files and Investigate Magazine published statements, some R18.
And as regards your false claim about my understanding of Standing Orders, you are the Cr, who decided to sink a two-year long unanimous Council resolution to investigate Unitary Council advantages and disadvantages without understanding the many Standing Orders requirements for revocation of a resolution, and wasted a great deal of staff time relitigating the whole revocation process just to ensure that Councillors would not know what the implications of a Dunedin Unitary Council might be. You also regularly attempt Points of Order which aren’t under Standing Orders. You should read Standing Orders in the time you now have not trolling my FB page.
Looking forward to you fact-checking the above,
Still time to rethink what may have been the worst decision for Dunedin this century?
From: Lee Vandervis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 8:45 PM
To: EditorODT <email@example.com>, “Nicholas. Smith” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FW: Hillside Hospital? Opinion piece for ODT
There certainly are benefits to keeping our new Hospital rebuild in the City centre, since this physical closeness helps synergies with the Medical School. There is also the desire of some Hospital visitors to access shops and facilities found near the existing Hospital.
More generally we like what we are familiar with, with some of us fearing any change, and confusing change with loss.
Change is inevitable however, since Hospitals have become increasingly technological and new Hospital design can look quite different from our current concrete high-rise. New medical technology, better access and a need for restful ‘human spaces’ means that our new Hospital can serve Dunedin and the whole Southern region better, even if it does end up looking quite different.
The premature DCC decision to push for a central-city-only rebuild of Dunedin Hospital was unfortunately made without any staff report and without any information on modern Hospital design. The agenda item was forcibly moved by ex-Labour MP Cr. Benson Pope with an unfortunate, polarising tirade against the Government, accusing Treasury of past “lunatic suggestions”, and saying “Government makes stupid decisions based on stupid treasury advice.” Mayor Cull chimed in, accusing Treasury of always going for “what is the cheapest option”, claiming ‘saving $2 – $3 million on land costs would be soon swallowed up in extra transport costs’, and that rebuilding in the central city was a “complete no-brainer”. Only 3 Councillors voted against, but it would have been at least 4 against if we had known that a $10,000+ election-style leaflet Campaign was planned playing party politics. Cr. Benson Pope inappropriately goaded one naysayer with sarcasm about his National Party connections, and branded the three Councillors (including myself) who voted against as being ‘Tories’, even though it is public knowledge that I voted for Labour candidate David Clark at the last election.
Many modern hospital designs call for a large land area of perhaps 10 hectares allowing low-rise buildings with access to restive outdoor areas, easy close parking and a safer large all-weather helicopter landing area. These modern Hospital desirables are not possible on the current site, even with the addition of a nearby block. Mayor Cull’s $2-$3 million estimate of Central Business District land costs is beyond optimistic, since as an example much cheaper land for the Stadium outside of the CBD was budgeted at $15 million but ended up costing more than $30 million. Prime Minister English was correct to highlight land cost as an important site consideration. As well as upsetting Government and Treasury leaders, the DCC Hospital campaign will just drive up the price of pricey central city land if there are no other agreed options.
The “SOS Save Our Services” part of the DCC Hospital campaign is misleading by its very name, since all Government and Southern Partnership Group public statements have already assured us that all current services will be retained.
As for “Saving Our Site”, it is a fantastic notion that a modern Hospital can be built on the current CBD site as well as remaining operational throughout the rebuild. Auckland’s famous Starship Hospital is not in the CBD and neither are Shortland Street, Wellington or Christchurch Hospitals! Even if our existing Ward Block is stable enough to do up rather than rebuild, it lacks the height between floors necessary for modern services ducting alignment, and is set up for shared rooms when private rooms have real advantages such as infection control. The 2015 Harvard Business Review “Better Healing from Better Hospital Design” stated: “When one of two McGill University hospitals in the Montreal region of Canada redesigned its ICU from shared to private rooms, the rate of bacterial infection decreased by more than 50%. The new ICU design also decreased the length of stay by 10%…. When hospitals provide easy access to nature, patients, employees and family members can all enjoy the benefit it provides, including reduced stress, reduced blood pressure, reduced pain and increased pain tolerance, faster recovery times, and, simply, pleasant escape from stressful situations.”
Hopefully Council may yet moderate its narrow demand, and at least accept investigation of other sites. Two sites already owned by the Government are Wakari Hospital, and Hillside Workshops. Both sites are much larger than anything that could be available in the central city and both have good existing transportation and bus access. They both offer much better parking for patients, doctors, nursing staff and visitors, and have potential for quieter cleaner restful ‘human spaces’ in a park-like setting. Neither site is far from the suggested CBD site of Cadburys. My timed drives from Cadburys carpark took 3 minutes to get to the Medical School, 5 minutes to Hillside and 7 minutes to Wakari.
Hillside has particular advantages. It is most easily accessible, next to a major shopping area, large, level, and elevated enough to avoid flooding – even when the DCC pump screens and mud-tanks were blocked.
A new Hillside Hospital would boost South Dunedin development more than detract from central city businesses that already have the University, Polytechnic, Dental School, and Medical School, – all needing more space and parking. The Polytechnic new $60 million building program and the University $230 million building program will add to central pressures.
Building a modern Hospital is much more complex than building a modern hotel, which also takes years to design. We should celebrate our unrivaled wealth of medical specialists and teachers and provide them with the best teaching Hospital possible within achievable budgets, be that centrally located or a few minutes away. To that end it is vital to keep an open mind, especially in an election year by avoiding party-political campaigning, and aspiring to a better new Hospital, not just saving what we have. Decision-makers must wait until all the expert information is gathered to know what is the best kind of Hospital for our future, and then pull together for the best result in the best place.
Cr. Lee Vandervis
Wednesday, 9 October 2019
A drilling rig operates in Cumberland St outside the former Cadbury factory in August, as engineers conducted ground assessments for the new Dunedin Hospital. Photo: Gerard O’Brien
Some services may be squeezed out of the new Dunedin hospital due to budget concerns, clinicians fear.
Sources have told the Otago Daily Times they are concerned important services could be left out of the buildings due to concerns over a potential overrun in the budget of the $1billion-plus project.
Issues with the inner-city site, particularly concerning the cost of piles to build on reclaimed land, were believed to be concerning hospital planners and behind a bid to reduce the footprint of the new hospital.
Southern Partnership Group chairman Pete Hodgson played down budget concerns and predicted the new hospital would be a similar size to the current one, with more surgical wards and larger emergency and intensive care units.
”Eighteen months ago, the hospital scale had to be reduced by a substantial amount, and we are doing that process again, but clinicians are noticing it more because planning is further advanced and they can see it taking shape,” Mr Hodgson said.
”By the end of stage two of planning, which will be this side of Christmas, we will be in a position to offer a great deal more certainty than clinicians have at the moment, and I think it is the uncertainty that is getting to them at the moment.”
The project’s Clinical Leadership Group, a committee of medical personnel assisting with hospital design, wanted the buildings to work well for patients and provide the services they envisioned, chairman John Adams said.
However, the rebuild project was faced with a ”very complex situation”, and clinical staff were involved in ongoing discussions about the function of their units in the future hospital.
”The crucial thing for us to make sure that when the final design is in, that the design meets the requirements for clinical functioning,” Dr Adams said.
”Design is ongoing, we are at the second of five stages, and it is premature to make a definitive comment on the size of the hospital because there are a number of balls in the air at the moment and it is very difficult to make a definitive comment on where things will land.”
Clinicians and the CLG would continue to raise any issues where they feel the clinical functioning of the hospital might be compromised, Mr Adams said.
”Whatever the size of the hospital, the design and functioning of the hospital needs to meet the clinicians’ view and wishes for how it will work and how the clinicians will work together.”
The new Dunedin Hospital was originally planned to include an eight or nine-storey main inpatient building with a smaller six-storey outpatient and day surgery building alongside, providing about 50 more beds than the current hospital.
Mr Hodgson expected those configurations would remain roughly the same, although final decisions were yet to be made.
Difficulties in building on the hospital site mirror issues faced by the city’s other major construction project on reclaimed land, Forsyth Barr Stadium.
For that build, piles had to be driven through a layer of soft marine silt to reach firmer ground.
The stadium’s 530 piles are at an average depth of 18m, some as shallow as 15m and others as deep as 25m.
In July, further geotechnical testing was done on the hospital site, with drilling down to 30m.
”The foundations will undoubtedly be more expensive; we have been saying that for a year now,” Mr Hodgson said.
”The only good thing about where the hospital is going is that it is uniformly bad, which I understand to be better than unevenly bad. Wherever we put the hospital in the CBD, we would run into that problem.”
The difference in price between foundations on bedrock and on less suitable ground was about 3% of total budget, Mr Hodgson said.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Michelle Arrowsmith said it had been known for some time that considerable ground works and preparation would be needed.
”There are several ways to manage the ground conditions and we are currently working through the options.”
While the size of the new hospital was still to be finalised, it would be ”significantly bigger” than the 63,000sqm of the current hospital, but smaller than the 105,000sqm proposed in the original master plan, she said.
”The key focus is on getting the new hospital’s functionality right, not the square metres.
”Dunedin needs a hospital that makes more efficient use of space than the current hospital: it needs to be the right size hospital that is affordable in terms of building and running costs, with capacity for future growth.”
It seems that the Cruise-ship industry is unlikely to get any government bail-outs, even if that were possible. If the Economist is right, we may never see these elderly spenders and our related businesses in Dunedin again, certainly not this year.
The vertical commercial construction industry is at a precipice. In less than 6 weeks that precipice will crumble and there will be very few, if any locally based larger national main contractors not in receivership or liquidation. Even the most iconic brands are at risk. A very senior figure in construction has described the industry as nothing more than “a house of cards based on cashflow”. Today, Naylor Love CEO Rick Herd reinforced that sentiment by releasing a statement asking for government intervention saying the problem is that vertical construction is low margin and high cashflow. He claimed that many small to medium sized companies are at a high risk of collapse without Government support. However the biggest insolvency risk is to the thinly capitalized largest main contractors. The writer is aware that today startling information prepared by a senior group in the construction sector, was circulated around Government showing the devastating effect of the shutdown. In summary, a larger main contractor turning over $15 million per month would go from earning $600,000 per month margin (ie 4 % net margin which is desirable but rare) to losing $3.9 million per month. The figures allow for the wage subsidy and paying staff at 80%. There are a number of larger main contractors whose turnover is double, triple and even quadruple this $15 million per month, and consequently will have the same proportional devastation in red ink. Naylor Love as one example are reported to have turnover in excess of $700 million nationally.
The essential problem is that the majority of larger construction firms have very little assets or balance sheet strength, often on the advice of their accountants. There is zero probability that the majority of firms turning over $15 million per month have a spare $3.9 million in cash. Resilience is non-existent, and insolvency is not far behind. To put this into perspective, larger main contractors celebrate when they can achieve 2 % EBITDA for the year, let alone 4 %.
So why is this a big problem? Because at 2 % EBITDA ($3.6M on $180M turnover) the 4-week shutdown will consume more than the entire margin for a year. If the shutdown is 8 weeks – its 2 years of margin, ie $ almost $8 million that has gone forever: negative cashflow, insolvency and ruin beckon for many.
Adding another layer of stress to the situation, as a result of the judgement against the Mainzeal directors, directors are acutely aware of their personal liability should they allow their company to trade while insolvent, and if the company is insolvent they have no option but to call in the receivers.
Razor thin capitalization is the principal reason that margins remain low in the industry – because the only way firms can achieve an adequate return on capital invested is to minimize the capital invested and maximize the revenue. The effect of this is firms with little or no cash reserves or assets performing projects of $50 million, $100 million and more. The evidence is all around. Myopic project managers and quantity surveyors then advise clients that anyone wanting a return in excess of 3 % is price gouging.
Contractors with more assets, liquidity and balance sheet strength who consequently require a better return are – were – at a significant disadvantage. Contrary to the claims of Mr Herd, a higher proportion of the small to medium companies are better capitalized and generally more conservatively managed than the larger Tier 1 and 2 firms, and will better withstand the shutdown.
However, there is a solution to the impending devastation, and it is simple. Clients and their advisers on major projects must step up and honour their contractual obligations to pay main contractors their delay costs when contracts have been suspended due to the shutdown. This would enable a number of the contractors to at least survive. Most if not all standard forms of contract have terms similar to NZS 3910, the most widely used form of contract which at Section 6.7.1 states “ If the suspension of …the Contract Works becomes necessary, the Engineer shall instruct the Contractor … to suspend the progress.. of the Contract Works”.
It further states that all costs due to the suspension of the work are to be paid to the Contractor by the Principal, by treating the suspension as a variation. This might seem odd or even unfair to the layperson, but as a veteran of many similar disputes, I can absolutely confirm that this is the case. A future article will explore this further.
It is a sad indictment on the ethics of project managers, engineers, and even Crown departments and local bodies, including the Christchurch City Council, who have either not responded, written to contractors refusing to suspend the work or saying before they instruct the suspension of the contract works they want to “negotiate”. In the current climate it is more than sad – it is despicable. If more major contractors collapse, the effect not only on their staff but already severely stressed subcontractors and suppliers will mean financial ruin for many, and no doubt mental health problems and suicides will also result.
Major clients of the construction industry, and especially Crown and local bodies must heed this message: now is not the time to call in the lawyers to delay, deny and defend indefensible positions. Clients must look at the bigger picture – the entire viability of the upper end of the sector is in doubt, thousands of livelihoods are at risk, and it is far better to pay some hundreds of thousands now in legitimate delay costs than have a very high risk of contractor insolvency and consequent massive increases in cost bringing in other resources to finish the project. Recent history is littered with such examples where main contractor insolvencies during construction have caused massive increases in final project costs to clients.
There is no doubt that incompetence and mismanagement cuts a wide swathe through the industry, but now is not the time to focus on that. The commercial construction industry is at risk. Listen to Jacinda – if you can’t be kind, at least do the right thing. It’s in your own interests.
Elizabeth Weise15:41, Mar 29 2020
Singapore scientists study genes to fast-track coronavirus vaccine
Scientists in Singapore believe they have developed a way to track genetic changes that accelerates testing of vaccines against a coronavirus that has killed more than 16,000 people worldwide. The team hope it can be an important step in fighting the virus.
At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientists are tracking by their genetic footprints.
While much is unknown, hidden in the virus’ unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanks to quarantine measures.
Scientists are tracking eight strains of the coronavirus by their genetic footprints.
Huddled in once bustling and now almost empty labs, researchers who oversaw dozens of projects are instead focused on one goal: tracking the current strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the illness Covid-19.
Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task of rapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken from people sick with Covid-19. The information is uploaded to a website called NextStrain.org that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similar but new subtypes.
Covid-19 has mutated: Should we be more fearful?
Scientists in China claim to have identified two main strains of the coronavirus that is circulating in humans, indicating that the virus is mutating.
While researchers caution they’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and that no one strain of the virus is more deadly than another. They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as they evolve.
“The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other,” said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus first began causing illness in China sometime between mid-November and mid-December. Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have more than 3 billion. So far even in the virus’s most divergent strains scientists have found only 11 base pair changes.
That makes it easy to spot new lineages as they evolve, said Chiu.
“The outbreaks are trackable. We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating,” he said.
So far, most cases on the US West Coast are linked to a strain first identified in Washington state. It may have come from a man who had been in Wuhan, China, the virus’ epicentre, and returned home on January 15. It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreak by Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research centre in Seattle.
On the East Coast there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.
The helpline is now available to coordinate requests for assistance in relation to emergency food, household good/services and other welfare-type requests for the Otago region.
Dunedin City Council via the Customer Services Contact Centre 03-4774000 will receive calls and log details on behalf of the region. The after-hours service will also take calls outside DCC operating hours.
The number for members of the public to use is: 0800 322 4000 and will operate daily from 7am to 7pm, from today.
Medical science has come a long way in the 100 years since the Spanish flu, as many have said.
In my view better hygiene, control of symptoms and understanding how to slow viral spread will ensure that relatively few will die from Covid-19 in NZ because the Arden Government have wisely followed the best Taiwanese containment model.
Not so Africa and many other countries. There is no cure or vaccine yet, and a vaccine lead-time will be long.
The price of containment in NZ is stalling our economy, which will have severe personal limiting effects, unemployment misery, and long-term economic contraction.
I apologise to those offended by the scary view of my previous post which I wrote in reaction to people claiming that Covid-19 is just another flu and that it will be business as usual after the 4 week lock-down.
I believe that we are in for years of economic contraction because major industries like Tourism have stopped, and because the printing of even more money as in the 2008 bail-out spree is unsustainable. Locally, we need to alter our spending priorities now, focusing on what is really necessary.
I am using lock-down time to reassess my personal priorities and to rethink how we might optimise social positives in a contracted economy. We now have lots of technology to build our individual social capital – to share info, skills and support.
A major world positive is the current greening of the planet, allowing much more food to be grown. Happy gardening if you have that option…