Support in South

Southerners have thrown their weight behind the site of the largest hospital project in New Zealand history.

The new Dunedin Hospital, which will cost more than $1 billion to build,  is expected to bring boom times to the city and the region, but also years of disruption.

Health Minister David Clark yesterday revealed the new hospital will be built on a block of land between Hanover and St Andrews Sts, as well as on the former Cadbury site - as foreshadowed in yesterday’s Otago Daily Times.

In a poll on www.odt.co.nz, 85% of people said the right site had been chosen.

However, Dr Clark also dropped a bombshell by announcing the hospital rebuild would take up the entire Cadbury site, scuppering plans already announced to redevelop the Cadbury World tourist attraction, with the loss of 39 jobs.

The new hospital would be the most modern health facility in New Zealand, and represented the largest building project in the city, Dr Clark, who is also MP for Dunedin North, said.

"I’m absolutely delighted, as this is a project I’ve followed very closely in my time as an MP," Dr Clark said.

"I’ve been very frustrated with the delays, and to be able to announce some real progress now is very exciting."

Dr Clark promised construction would begin during this parliamentary term: the next election is scheduled for 2020.

More than 1000 people are likely to be working on the hospital rebuild, and plans are being developed for how to house those workers.

Dunedin has been crying out for a new hospital for years and  patients are now being treated in buildings beset by multiple issues.

Many buildings leak, several are riddled with asbestos, water is causing damage to structural steel and concrete, and staff in several departments have to negotiate their way around facilities that were not designed for the demands of modern medicine.

The Southern District Health Board has previously said it needed extra funds to keep its existing buildings operating during the rebuild period.

Dr Clark would not comment on DHB budgets yesterday, but it is understood an interim works programme should ensure clinical services continue in current facilities.

The new hospital is likely to have about 400 beds, compared with around 350 now.

The new hospital is also likely to leave some land undeveloped for possible future expansion.

All services provided by the current hospital will continue to be provided by the SDHB — including neurosurgery. Some services may be moved to primary or community care providers rather than being offered at the hospital.

While the health sector reacted with joy to yesterday’s announcement, it sparked uncertainty for the eight parties, other than Mondelez, owning land required for the hospital, and the businesses operating there already.

"As far as the businesses are concerned, the businesses will still be open tomorrow and next week and next month," Pete Hodgson, chairman of the Southern Partnership Group, which is guiding the rebuild, said.

"There is a period of time taken to secure the land and that period of time will be when the businesses can start to think through what their relocation plans might look like.

"There will be a different story for every business: the process is under the Public Works Act but need not necessarily involve compulsory acquisition, and hopefully, will not."

Dr Clark said he had directed officials to set up a national health assets register, so planners would know in future which DHB buildings were approaching the end of their useful lives.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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