Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has questioned whether profits from a public concert at Eden Park will actually be spent on saving babies in developing countries.
Clark tonight cited media reports which cast doubt on scientist and philanthropist Sir Ray Avery's ambitious proposal to develop baby incubators which had the potential to save a million lives.
Kip Marks, an engineer who previously worked on Avery's LifePods project, questioned whether the product was ready for manufacture yet. Speaking to TVNZ, Marks said fundraising money was more likely to be used for product development.
"So what is Eden Park charity seeking funds [from the] public for?" Clark tweeted in response to the story.
"Engineer who worked on project says $$ are more likely to be going into product development in order to try to make an incubator that works.
"Hello!" she added. "Transparency please."
But Avery disagreed, telling Newstalk ZB last night the research and development phase had been completed.
He said a contract had also already been signed with an Indian manufacturer and every $2000 raised would lead to a LifePod being built and delivered to a hospital in need.
He was shocked by how criticism of the project had suddenly become personal, he said.
"I didn't realise there was such an orchestrated campaign to bring down the concert, which would end up in character assassinations ... and I guess I'm the next cab off the rank," he said.
"I was certainly unprepared for that."
Earlier today, Avery acknowledged to the Herald the LifePods had not yet got approval to be manufactured, but denied making any false claims.
He hopes to raise $4 million at the concern to make 2000 incubators which he said could be used to save a million babies' lives around the world.
Clark lives near the stadium and is concerned that letting the fundraising concert go ahead will set a precedent for further concerts.
A decision on whether the concert goes ahead is expected to be made tomorrow.
Earlier, Clark pointed to a Newsroom investigation which also raised questions about Avery's LifePods. She noted that the devices did not yet have ISO certification and that they were being developed in India because they were unlikely to get ethical approval in New Zealand.
"Million babies saved figure was plucked out of thin air," Clark tweeted.
The Newsroom investigation raised questions over whether Avery should be leading the LifePods process, whether he'd been transparent enough, and whether any of the incubators would be actually produced soon after the concert.
It reported Avery acknowledging the one million target of babies to save wasn't exact, quoting him as saying: "When you're doing marketing you pick some figures out of the air."
Speaking to the Herald today, Avery said this figure equated to the number of lives that could be saved by 2000 incubators over a 10-year period.
He acknowledged the LifePod wasn't ISO certified - saying rather it was "certifiable" - but denied that any false claims had been made.
The LifePod's components had passed ISO testing, but now needed to be validated by an independent audit at the factory in Chennai, India, where it would be manufactured, he said.
"We can't sell it - it's got to be sold by them, and they will then manufacture it and distribute it," he said.
"We've got it to the point where we can now hand it over to the manufacturer, knowing with 100 per cent certainty that he can manufacture it and get the certification within a very short period of time."
A decision is expected to be made tomorrow on whether the proposed "Million Babies" Waitangi Day LifePod Appeal concert can go ahead, after lawyers for trustees of the Eden Park Trust advised the consent process for the concert was likely to stretch beyond October and cost in excess of $750,000, not including legal costs.
"I didn't know the depth of feeling - I honestly believed hand on heart it was a good thing to do to save childrens' lives," Avery told The AM Show this morning, adding that he'd assumed only about 20 people would be opposed to the event.
However, three quarters of submissions to the resource consent process supported the LifePod Appeal concert, as did 91 per cent of Aucklanders and 87 per cent of people living nearby.
Among a range of other issues, the Newsroom investigation highlighted the facts the LifePods didn't yet have ISO certification as a medical device and production hadn't begun at scale.