Govt plans to speed build

A concept design image for the new Dunedin Hospital buildings. The design continues to be refined...
A concept design image for the new Dunedin Hospital buildings. The design continues to be refined and further changes to the facade are likely. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
The new Dunedin Hospital project went into overdrive yesterday with the release of new design pictures and the announcement of an overhaul of its governance structure and a bid to speed the building process.

Concept designs for the $1.4billion, twin-building hospital project are due to be released next week, but Health Minister Andrew Little yesterday unveiled three indicative drawings and a site map.

He also announced the project’s governing body, the Southern Partnership Group, would be replaced, and the Southern District Health Board would be required to institute a "DHB transformation programme" to manage the move to the new complex.

The Government is further attempting to get the project, which is a year overdue for delivery of its detailed business case for Cabinet consideration, back on track, Mr Little announcing yesterday it was applying for fast-track consent under recently passed Covid-19 recovery legislation.

"This is a very big project for the Government and we know how important it is for Dunedin and the region," Mr Little said.

"Having only recently got the portfolio, it quickly became apparent that we needed to get some momentum going at the decision-making end."

The newly created executive steering group would be led by an independent chairman and include representatives from the Southern DHB, Ministry of Health, iwi, clinicians and people with infrastructure expertise.

A newly released Cabinet paper said the new group ran the risk of being seen as lacking independence from the ministry, and the right members would need to be recruited to avoid that.

The paper considered but rejected the possibility of a committee, which would report to the SDHB, managing the project.

"Southern DHB’s performance is variable across the health system, with a persistent financial deficit, ongoing service performance issues and a D investor confidence rating," it said.

"The new DHB board already faces significant challenges and does not have the capacity to adequately govern both the new Dunedin Hospital project and DHB transformation programme."

The transformation programme would require the SDHB to establish a new board with a focus on aspects of the hospital project which were not the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.

The Cabinet paper identified issues which had beset the Christchurch hospital project, which ran overtime and over budget, and said similar problems had also been seen in the Dunedin project.

In September, the Cabinet approved "in principle" the development’s detailed business case, Cabinet papers noting it would exceed its $1.4billion budget.

Mr Little would not be drawn on what the new budget would be.

"Until detailed planning is done it is impossible to say, and once that work is done we will have a clearer picture," Mr Little said.

"But we know how important the facility is, not just for Dunedin — it has nationwide implications as well."

Last week the Ministry of Health was granted consent to demolish the former Cadbury’s factory, which occupies half the site for the new new hospital.

Demolition is under way on buildings further up the street, the land where the second of the two planned main hospital buildings will stand.

The early construction engagement contract for the inpatients building was expected to be awarded in April 2021, and the tender for the outpatients building would be released later in 2021, Mr Little said.

"This is about getting the contractor involved early so they are a part of the design phase."

The Ministry of Health yesterday applied to speed up the consent process for the new hospital.

If approved, the project will be one of the first to take advantage of the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast Track Consenting) Act, passed by the government earlier this year as part of its pandemic recovery package.

Rebuild director Mike Barns said a fast-track consent would give people confidence the new hospital would soon be open for business.

"It’s important we have certainty on the construction timeframes for the new Dunedin Hospital," he said.

"We want people in Dunedin and the southern region to feel confident that outpatients will open in 2025 and inpatients will be on track for 2028."

The consenting decision should be made early next year.

Under the Act, Environment Minister David Parker would assess the application first and if approved, refer it to an expert consulting panel — which must include a local council nominee and an iwi representative — for final consideration.

"We’ve discussed the option of using the Covid-19 Recovery Act with the Dunedin City Council, and they understand and support the need to use the fast-track process," Mr Barns said.


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