Health Minister David Clark says he will rectify National's weakening of asset planning rules that permitted the major problems at Middlemore Hospital buildings to go unaddressed.

Clark's comments to the Herald today are the next step in the blame game between Labour, National and the hospital's operator the Counties Manukau District Health Board.

The DHB is plagued by faults including leaks, toxic mould, rot, sewerage problems, asbestos and insecure power supply.

Clark said the last National-led Government had weakened requirements on DHBs for major asset management.


"That translates into the fact that DHBs haven't done as good a job as you would hope in terms of future planning for asset replacement. They are not as far down the track because they weren't encouraged to go down that track."

He cited a health select committee report from before last year's election on the Auditor-General's "serious concerns about whether the health sector is doing enough to ensure that their physical assets meet New Zealand's future needs".

"We are pleased that the Ministry [of Health] is now considering asset management seriously ...," the committee report concluded.

Clark said he had visited many DHBs since becoming minister and the state of assets he had seen confirmed his view that the system had not been adequately maintained.

"It strengthens my resolve to have asset management plans in place."

Clark indicated the regional health plan of the four Northern DHBs dated last November which refers to deferred maintenance and the poor state of 18 per cent of their buildings, including the 5 per cent in a very poor state, was not comprehensive advice.

"In the context of a document that's over 100 pages that's not the same as [stating that there is] 'sewage in walls' and 'power supplies that are failing'."

He said that when he visited Counties Manukau he was told of urgent problems at the DHB's Scott Building. He wasn't told of the urgent problems at three others.


Clark last month announced extra government funding for repairs on the Scott Building.

Former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he had no knowledge, when he was in office, of the major issues at Counties Manukau, and it "wasn't even raised" when the DHB appeared before the health select committee in February.

He understood the DHB only became aware of the extent of the problems in October.

The DHB's acting chairman Rabin Rabindran is keeping silent after he and an unnamed colleague on the 10-member board were confronted with a letter from Clark about their positions on the board.

Clark's letter said: "I have provided them with the opportunity to make any submissions before I make my final decision."

The minister refused to discuss the matter today while it was still under way.

A spokeswoman for Rabindran said: "The chair of CMDHB declines to make any comment while this process is under way but may comment in the near future."

National's health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said the Government was just looking for someone to blame.

"The investments that we made across the Auckland region in our time in government make it very clear that where we see a need for a planned replacement of hospital buildings or urgent need for repair then clearly we will do that."

Tony Ryall, the National-led Government's first Health Minister, declined to comment.