11-year-old Cooper Sinclair left 'confused' by Jacinda Ardern's response to letter urging more funding for Starship Hospital

An 11-year-old who wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging her to put more money towards Starship Hospital has been left "confused" by her response. 

Cooper Sinclair wrote to Ardern in April asking her to consider giving some of the $250 million to upgrade Parliament to Starship, which is seeking $8 million from the public to pay for more paediatric intensive care units (PICUs). 

Starship said last month it had secured $7 million in pledges and donations for the $40 million project. The Government has committed $25 million and Starship is fundraising the remaining $8 million. Starship has been running ads on TV seeking donations.  

In his letter, Cooper said plans to spend $250 million upgrading Parliament 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."

Ardern has responded to Cooper in a letter obtained by Newshub. In it, she says she was "so sorry" to hear Cooper's cousin had been unwell, but was "so pleased" to hear that his operation was successful. 

"I understand that you are concerned about the money that Starship needs to continue its building work and have enough beds for its patients. I agree that Starship's new facilities are very important. The funding for Starship will help ensure children like Max are well cared for."

Ardern mentioned the Government's $25 million contribution, and promised Cooper the Government is "absolutely committed" to the project. 

She also gave the Government's justification for the $250 million Parliament spend-up, which includes a new office block and seismic strengthening of Bowen House, a rented foreign-owned office tower across the road from the Beehive. 

"It is important to me that if there is an earthquake, all the staff who work here are safe. Because we lease the current building it will work out either cost neutral or cheaper to build a new one over a thirty year period. So in a sense it's no more than the rent we are paying for the current building which has the earthquake issues," Ardern wrote. 

"Please know, Cooper, that we will keep supporting Starship and investing in a range of health services and hospitals around the country."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Cooper has been left scratching his head after the response.

"It's awesome that she wrote to me and it's a nice letter but she doesn't really answer my question about why the Government can't give some more money to Starship," he told Newshub. 

"And she says that they will keep supporting Starship but does that mean they will give them the money they need to make the PICU bigger and get extra beds? I'm confused."

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who holds the public purse strings as Finance Minister, told The AM Show last month that supporting Starship is a Government priority. 

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

"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."  

Starship has so far received 11,582 donations towards expanding its PICU, which is at "critical" capacity. In the 31 days since the campaign started, Starship has raised $1.5 million.