Mayor's hospital campaign comments 'surprising'

There are no plans for the Dunedin City Council to back off the campaign against cuts to the new Dunedin hospital, its instigator says.

David Benson-Pope. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
David Benson-Pope. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Cr David Benson-Pope, who brought the notice of motion resulting in the council’s unanimous approval of a $130,400 campaign fund in January, said recent comment by Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich that the campaign would be less active was surprising.

Cr Benson-Pope said there were still a large number of issues to be clarified and resolved, such as the lost floor area at the hospital.

The campaign would continue just as strong as ever.

"I, and I’m sure others, were surprised by some of the comments that were made by the mayor, because while the focus might have changed, our resolution hasn’t down-sized or backed off at all."

Mr Radich told the Otago Daily Times on Friday there was no point in the "They Save We Pay" campaign being as active as previously, although the council would continue advocating for the best outcome.

"We’re not going to be out on the streets campaigning as we have been," he said.

The council met Te Whatu Ora Heath New Zealand (HNZ) Dunedin hospital project staff last week to discuss unresolved issues following the Government’s reinstatement of $10 million to the project, after the design was cut by $90 million in December.

The $10 million included the return of a third MRI scanner, previously planned to be shelled and potentially added later, and the return of a collaborative space for clinicians to work in, as well as more work to prepare for the shelled PET scanner in future.

Issues that could be addressed immediately had now been resolved, Mr Radich said.

Other cutbacks still in place included pathology space and Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP) beds, but these were under review, and the council would closely monitor the situation.

It would continue to meet HNZ and clinicians, likely on a monthly basis, he said.

There had been "good wins so far" and he remained hopeful for "more positive outcomes".

Sophie Barker.
Sophie Barker.

Deputy mayor Sophie Barker said the council had fought hard and had a surprise early win with the reinstatement of $10 million.

However, it was important to "keep the pressure on" because of the pathology and MHSOP reviews.

The council was concerned about how long the reviews would take, what outcomes they would suggest and how those suggestions would be carried out.

"We need to make sure that actually happens, and there are solutions for those problems.

"If we don’t get those, we’ll be out fighting for those again — we don’t want to feel like we’ve been put off."

Other problems included operating theatres, the public overbridge, design amenities and healthcare delivery models.

When the PET scanner would be installed, and whether the cut Pavilion Building could be installed in future were among the issues that remained unclear.

People were still encouraged to sign the New Zealand Nurses Organisation-instigated petition against the cuts, which the council was supporting as part of its campaign.

At least 17,000 had now done so — more than 15,000 had signed online at, while about 2000 signatures had been collected in person.

Because the district health board system had been abolished, there were no locals voted on to represent the area and it was up to the council to keep the the pressure on HNZ for delivery, she said.

"Every one of those signatures helps the voice of the South."