December 2019 start for hospital

A tentative construction start of December 2019 for the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment has been revealed in new documents released by Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman under the Official Information Act.

The documents also show officials are pursuing a "potential'' faster timeframe for the delay-ridden $300million redevelopment.

Dunedin North MP David Clark said it appeared the Government wanted to keep its options open over the timing, which would be useful ahead of next year's general election.

"The local pressure and common sense dictates a faster timeframe. They are spending money on combining processes to make that a reality.

"They need to come clean with the people of Dunedin as to what they've got planned and what they're spending their money on.''

With no elected board members on the Southern District Health Board any more, there was less public pressure on Dr Coleman and the Southern Partnership Group appointed by the minister to oversee the project, Dr Clark said.

"If they are speeding up the process, as all indications suggest, then the public needs to be involved to have their say.''

While the documents confirm officials received permission to combine a "strategic assessment'' with an "indicative business case'', which would save six months, Dr Clark believes the documents indicate officials have brought forward other elements.

However, Dr Coleman's spokeswoman said the rebuild was proceeding through an established Treasury process for large projects.

"While the December 2019 date was indicated, until the scope of the redevelopment is agreed, it is too early to commit to a start and completion date.''

Last year, the Otago Daily Times reported Dr Coleman had asked officials to see if they could speed up the project.

The documents show officials are warning that a "fast-tracked approach'' reduces the chance of building a different type of facility from the "status quo''.

"To maximise the opportunity the redevelopment provides for helping the DHB achieve sustainability, the Southern Partnership Group will need to challenge the status quo.''

The joint process could mean extra cost, officials said.

"This may mean additional cost should the shortlist of options not be the anticipated options.''

Previously, officials had not disclosed a possible start date for construction.

The planning stages of the redevelopment have been affected by delays, partly because the SDHB was sacked last year.

Some parts of the requested papers were redacted by officials, who cited a right to "free and frank'' expression of views, commercial sensitivity, and that some information was outside the scope of the ODT request.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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