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A ''market sounding'' for a public-private partnership (PPP) was pencilled in for April-May in a hospital rebuild schedule.
When the Otago Daily Times first asked if it was going ahead, rebuild boss Andrew Blair said it was.
''Yes, a market sounding is taking place, as we indicated would happen,'' he said in an email.
But when pressed for details, a ministry spokeswoman revealed it had been put off.
''The delay is so we can give the market a clearer picture of what we are progressing.
''We have recently made the decision to delay the market sounding until after decisions are made on what options will be progressed from the indicative business case into the detailed business case.''
The shape of the project is unknown. The ministry cannot say if the ward block, the biggest hospital building, will be replaced.
Labour health spokesman Dr David Clark said the PPP delay was probably because the ministry had not worked out what it was rebuilding.
''It suggests that they really haven't got their heads around what has to happen.
''It looks again like timelines are slipping and a normal process isn't being followed. This is more bad news for those hoping for a full and timely rebuild.''
The specially-appointed ''Southern Partnership Group'', established 18 months ago to take over the governance of the delay-ridden project, had made little progress, Dr Clark suggested.
''It shows that for the Government this is not the priority that they say it is. If it was a priority, they would have the resources in there.
''We have been faced with years of delays and a failure to commit to getting on with the build.''
Labour supported controversial PPPs, to a point, but only if they were appropriate for the circumstances, he said.
PPPs involve the private sector taking a financial stake in a public asset or project.
Private financing of public hospital builds has been widely used in the United Kingdom, where it was criticised across the political spectrum as far too costly.
Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman released a short statement that did not directly address the issue.
''We're progressing well with the largest hospital rebuild in New Zealand's history in Canterbury and the new West Coast Hospital is now under way.
''Our attention is on Dunedin Hospital as its redevelopment is the next big project and it's progressing well,'' Dr Coleman said.
According to the rebuild schedule, the indicative business case is to be completed in the middle of this year, and the detailed business case by the middle of next year.