11-year-old writes to Jacinda Ardern 'mad' about $250 million Parliament upgrade as Starship Hospital faces ICU shortage

Jacinda Ardern is yet to respond to an 11-year-old "mad" about a $250 million spend-up on parliamentary offices when Starship Hospital is facing an ICU shortage. 

Cooper Sinclair wrote to the Prime Minister on April 14 asking if she'd consider giving some of the money to upgrade Parliament to Starship, which is seeking $8 million from the public to pay for more paediatric intensive care units. 

Starship, one of the first purpose-built children's hospitals in New Zealand, had earlier this month secured $7 million in pledges and donations for the $40 million project. The Government has committed $25 million. The rest is being fundraised. 

Cooper's letter to Ardern was prompted by two stories he watched on Newshub Live at 6pm: Starship Hospital's "critical" paediatric ICU shortage and the plan to spend $250 million on upgrading Parliament, including a new six-storey building. 

Cooper said the Starship story made him "sad" while the Parliament spend-up story made him "mad" because his 9-year-old cousin Max recently had his open heart surgery at Starship postponed five times because there weren't enough ICU beds. 

"Max lives in Methven with his mum, dad and sister, Honor, so they have had to come up to Auckland and fly back to Christchurch each time the surgery was postponed. It was a really stressful time for all our family and I was worried," Cooper wrote. 

"I know being a politician is important and you need office space and nice surroundings to work in but don't you think that children like my cousin Max are more important to New Zealand? If so, why don't you take $7 million from the Parliament building money and give it to Starship?"

Cooper and his cousin Max.
Cooper and his cousin Max. Photo credit: Supplied

The Prime Minister is yet to respond to the letter, which Cooper told Newshub is "disappointing", but he acknowledged Ardern is "busy" and he hopes to hear from her soon with some good news. 

When asked earlier this month what she'd like to see from the $250 million spend-up, Ardern said: "That everyone has an office which isn't earthquake-prone."

Parliament is currently struggling with overcrowding as Bowen House, a rented foreign-owned office tower across the road from the Beehive, is seismically strengthened. 

House Speaker Trevor Mallard, who announced the upgrade, said he hoped it would cost less than $250 million, but he couldn't give detailed costings for the plans, aimed to be finished by 2026. 

Cooper and his mum Olivia Blaylock spoke to The AM Show on Tuesday about the letter urging the Prime Minister to repurpose some of the money. 

"Cooper was so furious when he was watching the news and saw where the money was going, and so I said, 'You should write a letter' and he did," his mum said. "It just makes sense, doesn't it? It's an essential service and yet they're being asked to fundraise."

Cooper said it's time for a rethink of the spending on Parliament. 

"I don't think they should spend so much money on it. It's kind of silly. It sounds like they have a lot of unnecessary things."

Cooper Sinclair and his mum Olivia Blaylock.
Cooper Sinclair and his mum Olivia Blaylock. Photo credit: The AM Show

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who holds the public purse strings as Finance Minister, told The AM Show supporting Starship is a priority for the Government, which is why $25 million was put towards the ICU project. 

"At the time we did that, the Starship Foundation said, 'We'll raise the balance' which was about $15 million. They've got about half of that and they've launched a new campaign for the rest of it," Robertson said. 

"We're absolutely committed to seeing those extra beds at Starship, that's why we put the $25 million in. It's a subset of about half-a-billion dollars that's going into hospital buildings in Auckland and we're really committed to this. We know what a great job the Starship Hospital does."

Robertson didn't rule out more money for Starship if it can't fundraise enough. 

"The Starship Foundation certainly said to us that they were confident in their ability to raise this money. They've raised a lot of money in the past. But obviously, if we've put $25 million into a project we want to see it succeed so we'll keep working with the foundation to get this built."