MP chides rebuild convener over focus

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse in Queenstown yesterday. Photo: supplied
Michael Woodhouse. Photo: supplied
Dunedin MP Michael Woodhouse has taken exception to Pete Hodgson's assertion the Dunedin Hospital rebuild tender will be ''inevitably international'' in its scope.

Mr Hodgson, convener of the Southern Partnership Group and the Dunedin Hospital project local advisory group, believed up to 1000 construction workers would work on the hospital rebuild at its peak and it was clear Dunedin could not provide all of them.

He recently said it would be some time before the groups were ready to tender the main contract, but believed the main tender would ''inevitably be international in its scope''.

Mr Woodhouse said it was ''a surprising concession'' so early in Mr Hodgson's time in the partnership group, ''given his previous insistence that these sort of projects should, by their nature, be local''.

''When we [he and Mr Hodgson] were members of a working group that was set up to look at the possibilities of electric trains being constructed at the Hillside Engineering workshop, he conceded that as a member of the Labour cabinet under the Clark government, that it was a mistake to put the trains that went to Wellington out to a Korean provider, and that they should have looked harder for a local provider, and he was imploring me to make sure the tender documents for KiwiRail had a requirement, that favour would be given to tenderers that had the highest proportion of local content.

''It surprised me in the context of that, that he went so quickly to an inevitability that the tenderers [for the Dunedin Hospital rebuild] would be international in scope.''

Mr Woodhouse said the lead construction contractors in the three previous largest hospital building projects were all New Zealand firms. He quoted Auckland City Hospital, Wellington City Hospital, Christchurch City Hospital and Burwood Hospital as examples.

''I want to lay down a challenge to Pete, to say that he should not be so ready to expect that it's inevitable that an international contractor would be required, and he should be consistent with his own previous comments in this regard and ensure that tender documents place a high value on local content.

''I'm absolutely convinced that the expertise is in New Zealand to build the hospital.

''I just think that we need to be cautious to ensure that this massive project is not only good for the city from a health perspective, but it's also a significant economic boon that could last for several years.''

Mr Hodgson said he disagreed that there was capacity in Dunedin ''or indeed entirely in New Zealand'' to undertake what he called ''the largest health sector capital project in New Zealand's history'.

''I respectfully disagree.

''All the other hospital construction projects he mentions have an international business component, and so will this one.

''It is therefore inevitable that the tender process will be international in its scope.''

However, he said with some careful thought, the economic development benefit for Dunedin and for New Zealand should be able to be maximised.

''That is one of the reasons I established the local advisory group, it is one reason why there may well be more than one construction tender, and it is one reason why one or more joint ventures might eventuate.''

Mr Hodgson believed the project now had momentum and people were feeling more included.

''Accordingly, some elegant lateral thinking is starting to emerge which should ensure that the local economic benefit is maximised.''

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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