April 18 2014, updated 1:23pm

Gagged over secret DHB report

Four councils take legal action over DHB's sacking

Last updated 00:22 29/02/2008

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The Dominion Post has been barred from revealing the contents of a draft report investigating conflict of interest allegations at Hawke's Bay district health board.

The newspaper obtained the leaked contents of the report yesterday but was last night issued with an interim court injunction forbidding publication of them.

Allegations of a conflict of interest, involving a $50 million health contract and Government-appointed board member Peter Hausmann, were the catalyst for a series of problems that culminated this week with Health Minister David Cunliffe sacking the board.

The minister this week appointed a commissioner - Sir John Anderson - to replace the board, citing internal board divisions, an irrevocable breakdown in relations with hospital management and a $7.7 million budget blowout.

The board was only elected at the end of last year and the mass sacking has pitted the Government against Hawke's Bay's leaders, with mayors decrying the decision as "unreasonable and irrational".

Hawke's Bay Regional Council voted on Wednesday to seek a judicial review of the ministers decision and yesterday three more councils - Napier, Hastings and Wairoa - voted to join the action.

Central Hawke's Bay District Council will vote on the matter today.

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said the challenge would be funded through rates.

Cunliffe said today he was "quite relaxed" about the legal challenge as he had considered all possible outcomes before moving sacking the board.

Meanwhile, allegations of a conflict of interest have embroiled Hausmann and Cabinet minister Annette King's husband, Ray Lind, who was employed as the board's chief operating officer. Hausmann's company, Healthcare NZ, was awarded a $50 million health contract, which the board later cancelled.

Last night's gagging order was obtained on behalf of the director-general of health and Healthcare NZ. It blocks The Dominion Post from telling the public what the investigation into the conflict of interest claims discovered.

The inquiry was conducted by a three-man review panel for the director-general of health. The first draft of its findings was released to interested parties in November.

After those parties - including the board and Hausmann - responded, a second draft was completed this month. The board obtained an injunction this week relating to that draft to get more time to respond to its findings.

Yesterday the newspaper was leaked the contents of the first draft's findings.

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But last night the Crown Law Office threatened the newspaper with a court injunction, saying the report was confidential and "circulated on a restricted basis only to the parties directly affected by the content of the draft report".

"The director-general [of health] asserts a right of confidentiality and privacy in the draft report. Any publication or dissemination will breach the confidence attached to the draft report and its contents."

Publication would be likely to expose The Dominion Post to defamation or other proceedings, the Crown Law Office said.

Justice Jill Mallon granted the injunction in the High Court at Wellington last night.

After the ruling, Hausmann said of the leak: "I am deeply disappointed at this deliberate attempt to undermine the panel's process and to break undertakings of confidentiality."

Hausmann said he had cooperated fully with the review and "respected the integrity of the process throughout".

- with NZPA

- © Fairfax NZ News

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