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An Australasian consulting firm has been awarded a major planning contract for the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment.
The Sapere Research Group will help the politically appointed Southern Partnership Group to develop the "business case'' for the Government to consider.
The Southern District Health Board and the Ministry of Health announced the move in a joint press release.
In a nod to the repeated delays in the project, the press release says the group has the skills and experience to "speed up the redevelopment process''.
The redevelopment centres on the clinical services building, but will look at the entire hospital campus.
It could take up to a decade, but the partnership group is said to be trying to speed up the timeframe.
The same firm - Sapere - has written a long-awaited report on the future of health services in the Wakatipu, which the ministry refuses to release.
The report looks at the possibility of removing Lakes District Hospital
from direct control of the health board, and into a community health trust.
The Otago Daily Times has been seeking the report since July.
The newspaper was told in December the report was being withheld to allow a "free and frank'' expression of views between officials and other parties.
Asked why the report was taking so long, a spokeswoman said "a number of factors have affected the timeframes, including changes to stakeholders, such as the change to Southern DHB governance arrangements''.
A request for an update on the report received no reply this week from the ministry.
In 2014, the health board confirmed it was walking away from a planned hospital redevelopment in Queenstown because of the cost.