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So there was sewage leaking into Middlemore hospital’s walls

Written By: - Date published: 8:21 am, May 4th, 2018 - 87 comments
Categories: David Farrar, dpf, making shit up, Media, national, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,


Remember when news broke about how there was sewerage seeping into the walls of one of our largest hospitals?

Radio New Zealand reported the news in these rather graphic terms on March 28, 2018:

Raw sewage has been leaking into the walls of Middlemore Hospital’s Scott building, on top of all the other problems with its buildings.

The 18-year-old Scott Building houses coronary care and medical, surgical and wards for elderly people.

Counties-Manukau DHB acting chief executive Dr Gloria Johnson told Morning Report today its sewage pipes were failing because they were of a type “which deteriorates with age”.

She said pipes were probably also failing in other buildings at Middlemore, which is in the country’s highest health-need area.

“I don’t know about the cafeteria [leaking sewage] but … we think a number of buildings could have, and probably not just confined to our hospital either,” Dr Johnson said.

They expected to find more sewage problems as cladding was ripped off to get rid of rotting wall framing, she said.

It is the news that the right wanted us to forget.  Matthew Hooton did his best in a Herald article titled stink surrounds sewerage story.  He went through said this:

Is it too cynical to think the story may have been, at best, grossly exaggerated by the Government for political purposes?

No one seems to know anything about the sewage-in-the-cafeteria story, or where it came from, and no images have emerged despite even the lowest-paid hospital worker carrying a camera phone.

On Monday, Ardern announced her Government’s communications strategy involves drip-feeding stories of alleged public-sector underfunding by the previous Government. We can only speculate, but was the Middlemore sewage story the first?

He concluded by suggesting that this was all an invented crisis by Labour to cover up the fiscal hole which is appearing as we learn more about the state of the various Government departments.

National’s pollster followed this up by repeating the story and the smear.  One of his posts “the much hyped sewage leak was a stain on the ground” was, with the benefit of hindsight, full of shit.  Because further information has been released that highlights the full horror of the situation.

Radio New Zealand has responded by releasing a report provided to the Counties Manukau DHB that shows that in 2010 it was told in graphic terms about the problems.  From Phil Pennington at Radio New Zealand:

Middlemore Hospital knew about extensive leaks, rot and mould at its main building two years before it says it did.

The Counties Manukau DHB has said it was first alerted to leaking buildings in 2012 but, in fact, it was warned in early 2010.

“The cladding system to the lower levels of the building appears to be failing,” the February 2010 report by surveyors Dalton said, after it took off cladding at five spots on the south wall of the Scott building, which also houses cardiac care.

It photographed advanced brown rot and light rot in wood frames it rated as “unsound” and described “widespread incipient decay” caused by leaking.

“The use of untreated timber and established decay at corners and sheet edges demonstrates that the [three] lower level storeys are at risk of real future failure.”

Counties Manukau DHB acting chief executive Dr Gloria Johnson said that when she told the public in March this year that they were first alerted to the leaks in 2012, she was not aware of the 2010 report.

The Dalton report includes a photo of a fece-stained first-floor sewage pipe, where leaking caused “serious damage” to framing. Board’s chair Rabin Rabindran, a board member Mark Darrow and the DHB itself have all said media reports of sewage leaks were overplayed. It’s now known there were at least four such leaks of raw sewage.

There is a photo in the story for those with a strong stomach.

Then facilities manager Greg Simpson asked for funding to deal with what he thought was an urgent problem but this was declined.

Mr Simpson said he reported the issue in 2010, asked for funding to do urgent repairs and for a more comprehensive report, but nothing happened.

“I expected to get funding for what I would call fundamental failures… the failure of that cladding was fundamental. We never got that sort of funding.

“Clinical priorities took precedence. At the time they were between a rock and a hard place – they still are.”

A comprehensive report was only ordered when a cladding panel fell off the Scott building in 2012.

And in further related news Radio New Zealand has disclosed that the then chair of the Canterbury DHB signed a letter drafted by the Ministry of Health stating that his board needed no extra funding even though he knew it had an urgent need of further funds.

From the article:

The Health Ministry drafted a letter which the chair of the cash-strapped Canterbury District Health board then sent to the government saying it could work with existing funding.

Information obtained by Checkpoint under the Official Information Act shows that in December 2015, the DHB’s then-chairman Murray Cleverley sent a letter to the health and finance ministers, having received an identical draft of the letter from the Ministry of the Health the previous day.

The DHB’s chief executive and the Ministry of Health were aware of the letter, but none of the board members knew.

Board members have told Checkpoint they could not believe it when they learnt what had happened and would have never agreed to the letter being sent.

The DHB was under intense financial pressure following the Christchurch earthquakes, and desperately needed more money, they said.

On 10 December, 2015, national health board acting national director Michael Hundleby sent an email to CDHB’s chairman at the time, Murray Cleverley.

It included a letter, which Mr Hundleby told Mr Cleverley was the “draft letter below we were going to discuss today”.

That letter, released to Checkpoint under the Official Information Act, was for the health minister and finance minister of the time, and said the DHB understood the Crown’s expectation to manage its capital spending within existing funds.

The very next day, Mr Cleverley sent the exact letter (only changing CDHB to Canterbury DHB, and ‘yours sincerely’ to ‘kind regards’) on CDHB letterhead to then-Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and then-Finance Minister Bill English.

It stated: “The Canterbury DHB acknowledges the Crown’s expectation that the capital redevelopment programme governed by the Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group; the earthquake programme of works; as well as DHB ‘business as usual’ capital spending will be managed within existing crown funding; and Canterbury DHB’s own resources.”

Effectively, he was telling them the DHB did not need more money, despite knowing the DHB was under significant financial pressure, including the costs associated with demolishing 44 buildings.

No one on the board apart from the Chairperson knew about the letter.

It is great that there is a new progressive Government.  But it is going to take years to fix up the physical and financial mess that National has left us.

87 comments on “So there was sewage leaking into Middlemore hospital’s walls ”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    When Coleman kept referring to the Manukau DHB chairman address to the select committee on their funding and how ‘ no problems were raised’ rang alarm bells for me that it looked like Colemans office had approved his speech. Now we have proof that even the Ministry pulls the strings on what DHBs are allowed to say.

    • OnceWasTim 1.1

      all part of our efficient and effective, non-partisan public service. Oh and I see MS’s comments at 3.1.2.1
      Many of us have seen a pattern emerging for quite some time

  2. Shona 2

    All going well someone in National ( maybe a few of them) will be nailed to a wall over this.

    • Greg 2.1

      They will just deny it nats never take responsibility

    • cleangreen 2.2

      I hope so Shona;

      I hope national get hung for this.

      As National did this to our rail line in Gisborne when they deliberately took all rail maintenance staff off the line between Napier to Gisborne in 2011, and only left a ‘skeleton staff’ of only four to carry out occasional work on a 212 km section of our rail line.

      So now we know that was why our rail was washed out when drains got clogged during a heavy storm and the rail was damaged and national was responsible for damaging our asset and caused it all.

      http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1302/S00183/kiwirail-admits-lack-of-maintenance-led-to-wash-out.htm

      Hang the National Party high I say; – the scoundrels..

  3. Gosman 3

    Ummm…. no one forced anyone to sign any letters or to stop them reporting issues.

    • ankerawshark 3.1

      Apparently the rest of the CDHB didn’t know their chairperson had signed this letter.

      The chairperson was pressurized. He was a fool to give in and obviously put his own position before the health needs of those he was paid to look after. He has responsibility for that. But the real crime is the Ministry’s/ministers.

      Thank god we got rid of the lying b….s

      • Gosman 3.1.1

        How exactly was he pressurized? Are you stating the Chairs of DHB’s are incapable of operating independently of Government? In which case you should be calling for a complete overhaul of the DHB appointment system then.

      • Gosman 3.1.2

        Also if the Chair did not inform his board over what he was doing and why doesn’t that make him even more incompetent?

        • mickysavage 3.1.2.1

          Ministerial appointment. And there seems to be a pattern emerging.

          • Gosman 3.1.2.1.1

            Then there is a problem with the system. Is the government looking to change the way Chairs of DHB’s are appointed? At least I would think they would be calling for an enquiry in to the way they get appointed.

            • OnceWasTim 3.1.2.1.1.1

              Finally you’re beginning to get it Gosman.
              And hopefully (tho’ I’m not holding out much hope) it’ll be a wider review than just the way Chairs of DHB’s are appointed

              But of course even IF they did call for an enquiry, you’d be among the first to bleat about the number of reviews and enquiries are set up.

              • Gosman

                I haven’t complained about the number of reviews yet. But I very much doubt there will be one on the process of appointing Chairs of DHB’s.

            • mickysavage 3.1.2.1.1.2

              Yes there is a change in the system the new Government intends to appoint dedicated talented people to the job not Government yes men.

            • Ankerrawshark 3.1.2.1.1.3

              Really not sure about DHBs system. But it seems to me the head of the DHBs in Chch felt pressured to sign a letter drafted by the ministry of health. It seems the ministry and or minister wanted to hide the real level of expenditure required for chch. So it’s not really about the DHBs structure as such………

        • Gosman 3.1.2.2

          All I am seeing so far is Labour carrying on as National did with the DHB appointment process.

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/103518939/more-dhb-chair-turnover-but-health-minister-says-its-not-political

          It is as if they are quite happy with how it is working…

    • crashcart 3.2

      High bar you set there Gos.

      So the ministry sends a copy of the letter to the head of the DHB saying that they don’t require more funds in an email saying we will talk about this letter. The same letter is then sent back the next day unchanged and not approved by the board.

      I have no doubt that discussion about the letter went along the lines of “you will not be getting any extra funds, don’t bother asking, it would be in everyone’s best interests if you just signed and sent back the letter we gave you”

      Yea no one forced him to sign it. I would hope those trying to build a better future would have been better at building anything to be honest.

    • Gabby 3.3

      Sounds like they kinda did gossy.

  4. Matiri 4

    Sewerage is the pipes. Sewage is what goes down them and into the walls at Middlemore hospital.

  5. Rosemary McDonald 5

    There is history here.

    History from way back, and it is simply too simple to merely blame the Natz.

    Read this…https://www.eastonbh.ac.nz/2002/06/the_new_zealand_health_reforms_in_context/

    …from 2002. More relevant today, perhaps.

    “Abstract: The New Zealand health sector reforms of the 1990s have to be seen in the context of the long term development of the New Zealand health system. The evolutionary change between 1938 and 1990 was abruptly replaced by the revolutionary policy of commercialisation from 1991 to 1993. …

    … This proved unsatisfactory, with the promised benefits such as significant productivity increases not occurring. In some ways the system functioned even more imperfectly, although this was in part due to the funding cutbacks which took place at the same time. The policy shifts from the mid 1990s have largely taken the New Zealand health system back to where it would have been, had the evolution up to 1990 continued. There remains unfinished business, the largest of which is that the tensions between the managers and the health professionals have not been resolved. The New Zealand experience provides strong evidence that comprehensive commercialisation – business practices within, market relations between institutions – will not make a significant contribution to the design of effective health systems.”

    ” But there is so little evidence of any gains from commercialisation that it seems unlikely that even with appropriate implementation the policy has a major contribution to the resolving of the problem of designing effective health systems. The experiment is New Zealand’s gift to the international study of health systems: New Zealanders paid its cost.”

    • Gosman 5.1

      How were Hospitals run before the reforms of the 1990’s?

      • Rosemary McDonald 5.1.1

        Gosman….do what we all have to….let your fingers do the walking. Then share with the rest of us….

        • Gosman 5.1.1.1

          No, because I suspect the process was even more centralised than it is today. This would have mean the Ministry of Health would have had even greater control over the various Hospital budgets.

          • Rosemary McDonald 5.1.1.1.1

            Shit Gosman…read Brian Easton’s paper…link in my original comment. The chapters have headings…with dates and everything…to make it really easy for the literally challenged.

            Now, ffs, I have rust in my Bus to deal to….

            • solkta 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Is that “literally challenged” rather than figuratively challenged?

              • Rosemary McDonald

                “Is that “literally challenged” rather than figuratively challenged?”

                Intentionally left open for personal interpretation. 😉

                ….argghhh! Rust, it never sleeps! 🙁

            • Gosman 5.1.1.1.1.2

              Easton’s paper suggests it was more centralised in the past.

              • Sacha

                Everything was. what’s your point?

                • Gosman

                  Who put the letter together that was sent to the Chair of the DHB to sign?

                  • Sacha

                    The Ministry acting as agents of the Minister.

                    In the past they would not have needed any such subterfuge. The Health Ministry would have agreed to replace the buildings and the Ministry of Works would have been tasked with the construction work.

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.2

            No, because I suspect the process was even more centralised than it is today.

            And you’d be wrong. Basic maintenance wouldn’t have required pleading with the ministry for funds. It would simply have been fixed and the bill sent to the ministry.

            • Gosman 5.1.1.1.2.1

              Where was the accountability then Draco?

              • Draco T Bastard

                Silly little things called receipts and invoices and bookkeeping. You know, records that could be looked at after the fact.

              • Tracey

                Shouldnt you be on Bridges facebook…. kiwiblog etc asking them about National’s behaviour/accountability

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2

        Much better with less bureaucrats.

        For starters, they didn’t have sewage leaking from the pipes and if they had it would have been fixed pronto.

        • Rosemary McDonald 5.1.2.1

          “…and if they had it would have been fixed pronto.”

          Damn right there DTB.

          Today there’d be screeds of paperwork just to get a plumber in to give a quote, then the quote would go to the committee responsible for delaying vital work who would have to send it to the committee charged with doing a cost benefit analysis which would cost more than it would have to just fix the bloody pipe.

          Some are nostalgic for the good old days when hand controls were fitted to a disabled person’s car in exchange for a crate of DB Brown.

  6. agora 6

    What is that white thing on Teresa May’s head – Middlemore fungal growth or premature ageing due to loss of Brexit support ?

  7. Chris T 7

    Are these the same DHBs Labour want to put oversee’ers at their meetings because they are useless or different ones?

  8. Pete 8

    I’m not on Twitter so when Matthew Hooton apologises could someone let me know on here. Thanks.

    Then again, maybe I’ll see it as a headline in his Herald column.

  9. Gabby 9

    Honestly, what is the point of the Hundleby type?

  10. Heather Tanguay 10

    Those that allowed our hospitals to fall into such disrepair should be named and publically shamed.
    Those that have been awarded different medals and honours should have them removed from them.
    The endless lying and cover-ups continue, the past National government will be remembered for what they did not do.

    • Gosman 10.1

      Yet I don’t think that will happen somehow…

    • Obtrectator 10.2

      Collective memory these days tends to be held and gate-kept by the MSM, who mostly don’t want to remember any of the Nats’ failings.

  11. Aaron 11

    I guess it was an honest move to remove “yours sincerely” from the letter 🙂

    Just a small act of rebellion.

    Very small.

    • Gosman 11.1

      Except he didn’t need to send it at all. He is not beholden to the Ministry of Health.

      • Wensleydale 11.1.1

        You know how “expectations” work in government, Gossie. It’s basically a euphemism for “you will do as you’re told, with a big smile on your face… or your career may encounter some turbulence.”

        Sure, he didn’t HAVE to send the letter. It probably came down to “how much do I enjoy my current position, with the large salary and associated perks?”. Either way, the Ministry shouldn’t be writing letters for people to sign. It’s fairly disingenuous stuff.

        • Gosman 11.1.1.1

          He is a Chair of a DHB. This should not have been his career. If he felt uncomfortable with doing this he should have resigned.

          • Wensleydale 11.1.1.1.1

            Yes, he probably should have. Or at the very least, told somebody what the Ministry were asking him to do. A lot of people seem to have great difficulty reading a moral compass these days, I’ve noticed.

            • tracey 11.1.1.1.1.1

              I agree the Chair ought to have refused. The lack of moral compass is observed in Ministers and we who then reward them by re electing/voting fir them.

          • Sacha 11.1.1.1.2

            An honourable person would have resigned, yes – though would either of the last two Nat Health Ministers have appointed them as chair in the first place?

            • In Vino 11.1.1.1.2.1

              Nice one, Sacha. The Nats pretend honour and truth, but don’t practise it, and certainly would not appoint someone who might have the honesty and courage to complain about obvious underfunding.

              • tracey

                In Vino

                And why would they. The litany of breaches of the Cabinet Manual suggest that ethics and morality dies a long time ago.

                The former CM DHB member who went to the press last week or so to turn this on Labour…

          • tracey 11.1.1.1.3

            Gosman we have Ministers caught breaching the Privacy Act, leaking info leading to death threats, “forgetting” they made police statements about a colleague. None of them resigned. You didnt demand they resign. Hell you may have voted for them in 2017 but a DHB Chair shoukd have resigned if unhappy with unethical behaviour…

  12. DH 12

    I really hope this isn’t the direction Labour will head, I don’t want to see 3 yrs of alarmist propaganda.

    Has anyone read the RNZ article linked to here? The Dalton report excerpts are too incomplete to make any strong assumptions from…. except it appears to be talking about water leakage from outside. The caption in the photo makes no mention of faeces, was that actually stated in the report or has someone made a leap of logic?

    I’m a little dubious on the sewage claims for practical reasons… they don’t make a lot of sense…. but I’m open to a convincing story which will prove it happened. They must have called the plumbers out, let’s hear it from the professionals.

    • Sacha 12.1

      “Photo 10: Leaking bathroom soil pipe”

      I guess those could be random marmite stains on the pipe inside the wall cavity, if you’re absolutely determined to resist the simplest explanation. #roses

      • DH 12.1.1

        A simple explanation is a spill from the floor above leaching through the floor and running down the pipes. Could be more of the mould that’s showing on the ceiling in the picture, could be a lot of things. Turds aren’t the only things brown in this world.

    • Pingao 12.2

      The photo shows uPVC pipe which should not deteriorate in the 18 or 19 years stated – it is inside and not exposed to sunlight which degrades PVC. The stains could be from foul water but unless the soil stack is actually blocked AND the pipe joints have not been solvent cemented it seems unlikely to actually be faeces. Sewage also has a distinctive smell that surely would have been noticed?? It does look like contaminated water stains though. There may of course be a fixture or vent pipe that was removed or not completed and not capped off but that should be obvious to whoever inspects it. I would have thought that the annual (at the very least) building inspections should have revealed the issues.

      • DH 12.2.1

        Yeah that’s pretty much what I thought, albeit from a laymans perspective. Pipes failing after 20yrs would be a national calamity, they’d be ripping buildings open left right & centre.

        People need to question these things; apply a bit of common sense and see if stacks up. The story never sounded right to me, a hospital of all places wouldn’t tolerate raw sewage for starters.

        • tracey 12.2.1.1

          A hospital, of all places, shoukdnt have to tolerate

          Understaffing
          Lack of beds
          Overworked staff

          And yet… and yet…

          • DH 12.2.1.1.1

            Not really the same tracey. Raw sewage is surely a serious health issue. How many diseases & infections are traced back to contact with faecal matter? There has to be more to the story IMO.

            • tracey 12.2.1.1.1.1

              Actually it is part of exactly the same thing. The constant degrading of health serices and facilities for the pursuit of magical surplus to win votes.

              Something has to give. To this end it wouldnt surprise me if this had happened. So far the available evidence suggests yes and the contrary evodence is appointees of the former government saying it didnt.

              Happy to look at your contrary evidence.

              • DH

                It would surprise me tracey. Deferred maintenance on leaky buildings, leaky water pipes; I can see that. But unattended, and furthermore deteriorating, sewage issues? I just can’t see that one. There are limits.

      • tracey 12.2.2

        What about the sealant used to attach pvc pipes? Notoriously dodgy during the 90s and 2000s

        • Pingao 12.2.2.1

          PVC pipe is solvent welded … essentially the solvent ‘melts’ the PVC to form a completely sealed joint. There are other methods of jointing PVC but for above ground-level PVC it is pretty much always solvent. This method is the acceptable jointing method since before the Building Codes of the early 90s. It would be a complete stuff-up on the part of an installer to miss a joint (and inspections).
          You might be thinking of a different pipe. There were other plastic pipe systems for water (a failure of a very few manufacturers) in the early 90s that had some inadequate fittings for joining pipe.
          I’m thinking the whole leaky soil stack/pipe thing demonstrates a history of neglect going right back possibly to installation (or possibly a subsequent alteration) and I find it hard quite to comprehend.

          • Tracey 12.2.2.1.1

            Thanks.

            I know that sealing pvc to cladding etc was often a failure in leaky homes because the sealants reacted to the pvc. It was not every building but it wasnt all buildings.

            BTW you have so much more faith in the Building Code and its interpretation and application than me. Historicalky its minimum standard has failed in many places

            • Pingao 12.2.2.1.1.1

              Fair enough wrt to leaky buildings. The building codes and standards are updated as issues come to light but the oversight/management systems of the hospital in this case should catch failures such leaky pipes in a commercial or public building.

              • tracey

                Building codes are updated when enough years have passed and the big guys are still safe.

  13. cleangreen 13

    As I explained on 2.2 National did this same thing, “deferring repairs” to our infrustructure was common place under national, as it was with our rail line in Gisborne when they deliberately took all rail maintenance staff off the line between Napier to Gisborne in 2011, and only left a ‘skeleton staff’ of only four to carry out occasional work on a 212 km section of our rail line.

    So now we know that was why our rail was washed out when drains got clogged during a heavy storm and the rail was damaged and national was responsible there too.

    They should face legal action here to.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1302/S00183/kiwirail-admits-lack-of-maintenance-led-to-wash-out.htm

    • Rosemary McDonald 13.1

      Funnily enough cleangreen, one of the Executive Leadership team at the Miserly of Health used to work for Kiwirail…O’Keefe.

      https://www.health.govt.nz/about-ministry/leadership-ministry/executive-leadership-team

      • tracey 13.1.1

        Thanks for all the research you have been doing, the links and your stickibility Rosemary. It has strengthened the quality of the discourse immeasurably.

        • Rosemary McDonald 13.1.1.1

          Thanks tracey.

          With regards to the Misery of Health…it is personal.

          But, after the angry ranty (on more than one occasion) tears after having dealings with them in the context of the disability supports my partner needs, I have taken the time to find out who the enemy is.

          Hundleby has publicly shown his true colours with the letter incident…but unless this New Government grows some and removes the whole Executive and senior management teams there will be no change.

          The other member of the Executive team who has displayed their true colours is Jill Lane, who, after it came to light that the government’s response to the family carers case was a failure declared that this was because…

          ” ….it takes time for disabled people and their families to take up new options when they come available, we see that routinely with every other new initiative we put in place.”

          http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/242096/disabled-care-pay-policy-%27unworkable%27

          This was the Funded Family Care scheme that the Appeal Court found to be…
          ” Second, we have referred to our unease, which is shared by Palmer J, about the complexity of the statutory instruments governing funding eligibility for disability support services. They verge on the impenetrable, especially for a lay person, and have not been revised or updated to take into account the significant change brought about by pt 4A. We hope that the Ministry is able to find an effective means of streamlining the regime, thereby rendering it accessible for the people who need it most and those who care for them.”

          http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/GE1802/S00022/judgment-chamberlain-v-minister-of-health.htm

          These people will never have to account for their mismanagement of our publicly funded health and disability system….but some of us will remember how appalling their attitude has been towards the citizens they work for. That’s us, btw. 😉

  14. Nick K 14

    But it is going to take years to fix up the physical and financial mess that National has left us.

    A silly comment. Even Grant Robertson agrees the financial books are in excellent shape.

    Unlike they were when the Nats took over in 2008.

    • tracey 14.1

      You see Nick, you started well and finished badly. Both English and Key said we were in good shape to weather the GFC… cos of… Cullen = Labour.

      Isnt is great that the books are great though? That GDP is still rising, after 40 years. An Accountants wet dream even. Shame about

      Mental Health services
      Youth suicide rates
      Midwife shortages
      7000 teachers short
      Housing shortage
      Dunedin hospital 10 years in the promising
      Chch health infrastruture
      EQC
      Stagnant wages compared to accom costs
      Increased child poverty

      Remind me the fucking point of the books looking good?

      • millsy 14.1.1

        Here in New Plymouth (where I work) and Waitara (where I live 14km away), I have noticed beggars and homelessness appaearing in the past few years. Unheard of, until now.

    • ropata 14.2

      joyce’s budget was total bullshit from the most irresponsible government in recent history. massive underinvestment in the people of NZ so that they can make their fucken spreadsheets add up

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