Dental school plan 'back on track'

The University of Otago is taking steps to get its proposed school of dentistry building project, worth more than $50 million,  ''back on track''.

The project had ''moved slowly'' since scoping work restarted last May, university property services director Barry MacKay said in a report tabled at the university's recent capital development committee meeting.

The $50 million to $100 million project will replace the current school building, which former school dean Prof Greg Seymour has said did not meet ''the requirements of the 21st century''.

University chief operating officer John Patrick recently said this would be the ''highest-cost and possibly most complex capital works project ever undertaken by this university''.

Mr MacKay said a value management workshop was held last August to help in further defining the project brief.

This did not provide any significant project savings, but later work had ''provided options which should allow the project to proceed''.

And efforts were being made to get the project ''back on track'', the report noted.

Mr Patrick said in February the university aimed to spend more than $600 million on infrastructure as part of its priority development plan.

Most projects in that plan - including the dentistry school - would start in the next two years, he said.

Asked later about more recent progress, Mr Patrick said the project was included in a ''revised and updated priority development plan'', which would be considered by the University Council midyear.

Asked when any physical work was likely to start on site, he said it was ''still too early to determine this''.

''However, this is a very important project and we expect it to have a very high priority,'' he said.

''Assuming that council approves the high priority of the dental project, more detailed planning and costing of the preferred option will follow.''

This would lead to a formal capital expenditure evaluation and a request for a project budget in due course.

Given the project's cost and complexity, it would have a ''large number of challenges''.

It was ''too early to specify exactly what these challenges will be'' until the preferred option was agreed by the project working party and detailed planning work proceeded.

At the university's latest council meeting Mr Patrick said rehousing staff during construction would be a significant challenge for the project.

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