ORC cautiously supports efforts

The Otago Regional Council will dip its toe in, but will not dive into a campaign to secure a central city Dunedin hospital rebuild.

Stephen Woodhead.
Stephen Woodhead.

As a late addition to chairman Stephen Woodhead’s report to the council, tabled at  its  meeting in Oamaru this week, he told councillors he received a request from Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull on Tuesday morning to lobby the Government for a "top-flight" hospital in Dunedin’s city centre.

Councillors directed Mr Woodhead to write a letter of support to Prime Minister Bill English and the Minister of Health in support of a central Dunedin rebuild of an "international-quality teaching hospital" - but one councillor opposed the move.

Third-term councillor Trevor Kempton voted against the motion.Although he accepted a report "may come up with the same answer" as the mayor’s preference, the council made "evidence-based" decisions, Cr Kempton said, and a "comprehensive business case" had not been produced.

"At the moment, I see parochialism driving this a bit," he said.

"I would like to see evidence."

Cr Gretchen Robertson said  she agreed with Cr Kempton to a degree but urged councillors to look at the "broader picture".

Mr Woodhead said he agreed with both councillors. He was "not ...  in support of a general campaign, or making videos, or doing other things, but just making sure that the minister and Prime Minister were aware of the link that the hospital has with the central city and the medical school, the dental school - and how that’s all part of an important hub".

"These wider public campaigns can be captured at times by emotion and the factual information that sits underneath for a decision gets lost," Mr Woodhead said.

"And that’s not something that the regional council should get involved in."

Cr Michael Deaker said he believed "the future of the University of Otago" was at stake.

Crs Bryan Scott, Doug Brown, Andrew Noone, Carmen Hope and Graeme Bell also voted in favour of a show of support. Crs Michael Laws and Sam Neill were absent.

Mr Cull said the support from the council came after he called on every mayor and chairman in Otago to support the Dunedin Hospital SOS campaign, launched recently by the council.

He told them having the hospital in the middle of the city was not only critical for Dunedin’s economic sustainability, but had economic and health implications for the whole region.

"If you lose your teaching status, then other services tend to be degraded, and the service to the region would suffer.

"I was certainly looking for support, and I’m delighted they [the regional council] have recognised the strength of the arguments."

Having an expression of support being conveyed to Prime Minister Bill English was important, so he was ‘‘under no illusion’’ as the the importance to the region.

"It’s not just a parochial Dunedin thing."

Mr Cull said he was at a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday,  and he had "reiterated" his concerns in person.

He told Mr English the criteria for the site of the hospital could not just be financial.

"He said he understood that."

Mr Cull said the letter to Otago councils had been sent recently, and he hoped the rest would also support the campaign.

Mr Woodhead said the letter would be sent "in due course, probably next week".

Comments

Cr Michael Deaker said he believed "the future of the University of Otago" was at stake. It is. Thankyou for your good sense.