Hospital build details almost settled: director

It might seem like nothing is happening on the site of the future new Dunedin Hospital, but the next two months are shaping as being crucial for the project, the man managing the build says.

Planning and contracting had continued since demolition was completed and final details of who would build what and how they would do it were close to finalisation, hospital project programme director Mike Barns said.

"We are really looking forward to getting under way because we realise how important the project is to Dunedin."

Consent was granted for the first stage of the project, the foundations and earthworks on both sites, at the end of last year, and the Ministry of Health is now working on its application for building consents.

The independent panel which considered the application under fast-track provisions enacted by the Government as part of its Covid-19 recovery programme imposed several conditions, many of which the ministry agreed to.

"We were quite happy with them. They were what we were hoping for, so the process was very useful," Mr Barns said.

Demolition of the buildings on the inner city sites finished slightly ahead of schedule, which had allowed time for additional health and safety work to be carried out before piling work began on the outpatients building, the first of the two main hospital buildings, he said.

"The space has allowed us to talk to contractors and the team, recheck the condition of the ground and make sure that everything is OK for the next step," Mr Barns said.

The piling and construction contracts were in the final stages of negotiation and should be confirmed in the next few weeks.

"We expect to get the main contract for the outpatients building finalised within a month and endorsed and signed within the next eight weeks."

Architectural drawings for that building, which is based on a similar facility recently built in Christchurch, were 75% complete and accurate enough to be able to be released to the preferred contractor, Mr Barns said.

"The last 25% has to be finalised, peer-reviewed and then costed to be sure it is within budget, and then we will be able to release them.

"What is going in there is pretty much locked in, but how it will be configured we are still talking about."

The Covid-19 outbreak had not been an obstacle to progress so far, although it could not be ruled out that illness-related absences might pose a problem in the future, Mr Barns said.

The pandemic was also expected to make hiring construction crews difficult, but the sector had told him that both personnel and materials should be available.

"The outpatients building is quite a small building and not as labour-intensive, which will help," he said.

"We are going to have to deal with the materials question as it comes up, but the contractor we are dealing with has their own supplies in storage in anticipation of the project being let.

"It is a risk we have to manage along the way, but we are quite a way before we get to that point and we have already secured the steel that we need, nor are we expecting to be held up waiting for concrete."

Piling work was expected to start within two months and construction work would begin within nine months.

"Things will start to become visible very quickly. You will soon see people active on site."

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