The story, Oratia, mon amour (May/ June issue) makes grim reading: An unaccountable monopoly trampling on those it’s meant to serve.
Depending on where you live, new customers are required to pay Watercare between $12,000 and $29,000 for the privilege of connecting to the Watercare network. Customers are not allowed to instead choose to install their own water system as is commonly done in areas outside Watercare’s grasp at significantly lower cost. Watercare maintains that new customers are a burden on its networks and also forbids them from making other arrangements.
At my occasionally used holiday home in Omaha, Watercare forces me to pay a fixed fee for wastewater only, which exceeds the total annual cost of both water and wastewater in my permanent home in Auckland. Again, I am not allowed to install my own system. Again, a monopoly with impunity forbids using a valid alternative. Recently, a reported leak at my home (at a time Watercare was demanding customers decrease usage) went unattended for almost a month.
While the government has improved dramatically the level of accountability and service of its agencies, at the local level (Watercare, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport) there continues to be woeful inefficiency, bloated ivory towers and an arrogance and disdain towards the customers the organisations are meant to serve.
It’s a similar problem California faced many years ago and resolved with the introduction of Proposition 13, almost halving fees like these. It’s high time central government acted to protect consumers from voracious and unaccountable local-body monopolies.
John O’Hara, Takapuna
Parker Rd residents are like royalty in Oratia. You don’t buy a house in Parker Rd. If you are lucky, you are born there. If you are clever, you marry into a family there. If you are Watercare, it seems you would bully your way in with the Public Works Act and just acquire it forcefully. We rented in this area for a year looking
for a house to buy before ending up in Carter Rd, nearby. In that year, not one house came up for sale in Parker Rd. Why “pave paradise and put up a parking lot?” Moira Craill, Oratia
(On May 30, Watercare dropped plans for a water treatment plant at Oratia.)
Matthew Hooton ( The View from Shortland Street, May/June) critiqued the first six months of Mayor Phil Goff’s term as the consummate political commentator he is. In particular, he managed to encapsulate the main management and operational issues of a city that many might argue is not “fit for purpose” as it is “too big for purpose”. Some clever wit has rebranded Auckland as the new “Goffham” city, although I favour “Cone-city” as streets, pavements and motorways disappear under a mountain of directive cones. This is particularly ironic, as clear direction of our city appears one of its chief management failures.
Apart from the crisis of housing and infrastructure, there are many lower-level issues such as air quality, residential amenity, sewage and green spaces. For example, what of the fudging around the routine dumping of sewage into the Waitemata? While heavy rain rebrands our city as “Shitty-of-sails”, apparently it is still in the “too expensive” tray.
Another issue requiring more than show-pony leadership is the constant biting and “developing” of the last vestiges of green spaces in our city. Every Aucklander has the feeling that ours is a city managed by “agenda” and not community. Perhaps the reality is that council suffers the way of all too-large corporations — it is utterly unable to link into a big picture and connect the dots to the very human and communal level.
Hooton picks up on a “watch this space” issue; the city is coming to the end of a “temporary” transport levy. If this is discontinued, there will be a hole of around a hundred million dollars.
All the issues of our city are easily addressed by correct management and planning linked to adequate resource. Within the user-pays ideology of rates, which has always been the justification of increasing them, quite why one person owning and living in a house pays the same rates as eight people living in an identical house has never been addressed. Indeed, our city funding reflects a foundational flaw within the entire New Zealand taxation system. Communal resource is harvested via a groaning, complex, multifarious composite system of funding that seeks to manage down true costs, lump it on some and not others and not deal with inefficiencies.
The burning question is why can’t we have one payment system that covers all national and local requirements and services instead of a zillion systems requiring a mountain of administration. Russell Hoban, Ponsonby
Why, why, why?
Why is the On the Town section of your magazine so old-fashioned, impersonal and formal? I refer to the use of Mr, Ms (why no Mrs?) for all those who have been photographed. Why, in this day and age, and in our friendly society, is this formal system used? Gone are the days when introductions were Mr So and So, Mrs So and So. God forbid if someone calls themselves Mr or Mrs or Ms.
For many years now, Christian names have been used to record names. I refer to honours boards, other publications and general news items. The honours boards in particular are so much more interesting since using Christian names.
All your articles about people use this format; why is this section so different?
As a subscriber, I enjoy your magazine very much but every time I look at this section, I ask the same question: why?
I have finally decided to ask the question.
Ross Bragg, Mission Bay
(Why indeed? See page 20 — Ed.)
I am “Ruth”, a subject of Herbert Green’s Unfortunate Experiment at National Women’s Hospital ( The inside story of the Unfortunate Experiment, March/April). The experiment was exposed in Metro in 1987. Over the years — and recently stimulated by Ron Jones’ book, Doctors in Denial — I have reflected on the role of some of the leaders of the medical profession who did not intervene to stop Green’s experiment. These specialists turned their backs on patients, allowing the welfare of their profession to take precedence. I regard these “leaders” as weak, duplicitous and totally lacking in empathy for the patients.
The experiment should never have taken place. The matter should have been settled by the Cartwright Report, but sadly no; a new generation of doctors led by Tony Baird (chairman and later president of the New Zealand Medical Association) has engaged in years of denial, and defence of Green’s experiment. One would have expected that Baird, who was well aware of the effects of Green’s experiment, would have embraced the Cartwright Report. Instead, for 30 years he has publicly sought to undermine it, and joined forces with revisionist history professor Linda Bryder, who has shown no empathy for, or understanding of, what the women went through.
Now we have a new group of doctors who elect to bask in their ignorance, or turn a blind eye. It is shameful and does little to restore the public’s faith. The University of Auckland, hiding behind a mask of “academic freedom”, appears to support revisionism, denying the harm arising from the actions of its employees. It shows no sign of remorse, and certainly offers no apology to the subjects and victims of this unethical experiment.
Clare Matheson, Avondale
The launch of Ron Jones’ book, Doctors in Denial, was a significant event in post-Cartwright history. The book contains new evidence that two senior doctors at National Women’s Hospital, Mont Liggins and William Liley, were well aware their colleague Herbert Green was conducting research. Liggins, Liley and Green were friends, and business partners in a forestry venture. Also compelling was Liggins’ confession he had “borne a burden of guilt for not having seen the study for what it was at the outset”. Liggins further acknowledged that “it was an experiment with two possible endpoints — invasive cancer or no invasive cancer”.
At the book launch, a very moving and unqualified apology was given to the patients and families involved in the Unfortunate Experiment by the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. In the TV programme Sunday, aired on February 12, Margaret Wilsher, chief medical officer of Auckland City Hospital, also gave a personal apology, and the hospital has plans for a ceremony of recognition.
These recent developments come on
top of the fact there has been no academic rebuttal of the McIndoe et al.
1984 paper, “The Invasive Potential of Carcinoma in Situ of the Cervix”, the Cartwright Report stands unchallenged in any court, the Medical Council in 1990 found Dennis Bonham guilty of disgraceful conduct, and Bruce Faris and Richard Seddon were found guilty in 1995 of conduct unbecoming a medical practitioner. Only compassion for Green’s ill-health saved him from also being formally censured by the medical profession.
If academic defence of Green is not dead, it certainly should be. All the chocks under the feet of the defenders have been removed except one — the University of Auckland, employer of Bonham, Green, Liley and Liggins.
I am the eldest child of Dr Bill McIndoe, the senior author of the 1984 paper. I have an MA Hons degree in history and an LLB from the University of Auckland. I spent my professional life as a practising lawyer. It deeply troubles me that my own university has so far failed to acknowledge or apologise for its role in the Unfortunate Experiment. There should be no “sides” in this. Professor Sir David Skegg has said “Green was far from being the devil incarnate as some would portray him”, and my father didn’t think any good would come of pillorying him. There are no heroes or villains — only a cataclysm of lives lost and damaged, of hardship, pain and sorrow suffered by the patients and their families.
I call upon the university to acknowledge the role it played in this tragedy and to issue an unequivocal apology to those who suffered.
Mary Whaley, Ohakune
There are too many “alternative facts” in the book by Ron Jones about himself, and in your coverage, to correct them all, but his reference on TV to the deaths of 70 women as a result of Herb Green’s observational study is outrageous, not supported by evidence and cannot be allowed to stand without comment.
Sandra Coney started with a claim that 29 women had died; then in an article in the Listener in 1988, she referred to “26 lives wasted”. Now she claims there were 30 deaths. Diana Clement writes of up to 30 deaths in 21 years. None state the source of their figures.
The 1984 McIndoe paper mentioned the deaths from invasive carcinoma of 12 women out of 1028 who presented with carcinoma in situ (which is not cancer and women cannot die of it) at National Women’s between January 1955 and December 1976. Four had normal examinations and smears after their initial management, and all that the 1984 paper concluded was that there was an increased risk of invasive disease if women had “continuing abnormal cytology”.
In a Cartwright Report appendix entitled “Some deaths in patients with positive cytology”, 24 women are listed, but for only eight is “Ca cervix” given as the cause of death. It is not known whether any were involved in Herb Green’s study, which did not start until 11 years after the start of the collection of the women’s stories for the 1984 paper.
Clare Matheson remains dissatisfied. Having accepted part of $1,020,000 for exemplary damages after the National Women’s inquiry, she signed a settlement that no fault or liability was admitted by the doctors, the hospital board or the University of Auckland and that no further action would be taken.
Yes, the Cartwright Report brought patients’ rights to public attention but not all the outcomes from the inquiry were positive. There was an overreaction that led to surgery for low-grade cervical abnormalities in young women; for some, there was permanent damage for changes that would never be cancerous. They do not have a voice. Meanwhile, a vocal minority continues to promote a distorted account. The only reliable source of information is the book by history professor Linda Bryder.
Ron Jones’ claim for sainthood as a “whistle-blower” is weak. He was second choice for a fourth author of a paper with dubious statistics, published only in the United States, never to my knowledge presented in New Zealand and with the unsurprising finding that women with abnormal smears after initial treatment were more likely to have invasive disease later.
In the 1984 paper, there is no condemnation of Herb Green, the word experiment does not appear, and there is no mention of some women having no treatment at all.
Tony Baird, Remuera