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The public often asks what parking facilities are proposed for the new hospital. This article will not provide an answer, but it will explain the context, the timeline and the next steps.
Design for both the outpatients and inpatients buildings is proceeding pretty well. The outpatients building is due to open in three years and seven months, and the inpatients building three years and three months after that. Demolition is progressing for all to see, as is back-room activity like resource consent applications. Both buildings will abut St Andrew St: the outpatients on the ‘‘Wilsons’’ block to the north and the inpatients on the ‘‘Cadburys’’ block to the south.
But the new campus will be a good deal more than two buildings, and our health system is plenty more than just hospital buildings. A lot needs to be done throughout our region, and a great deal of it is to do with changes to primary and community care, changes to the way services are delivered in the new facility, and information technology which enables the whole lot to hang together.
There is more. A whanau/family centre is being contemplated for out of town folk, perhaps using some floors of the existing Te Rangi Hiroa building. There is the possibility of some acute mental health beds shifting on site from Wakari, though that review has yet to report. We must allow for utilities, for landscaping, for people to walk freely from one facility to another, for future expansion and for changes in how health is delivered.
Interwoven in all this is car parking. The current ward block and clinical services block have only 101 car parks, most of which are for staff. Most patients and staff find their parking elsewhere. We want to do better than that in the new hospital, for two main reasons. People who come to hospital by car are often compromised in some way, so facilitating parking makes good sense. Secondly, staff security matters, especially for those who begin or finish work in the late evening. Parking for those who are building the hospital is an additional issue for the next few years.
There are also multiple solutions. Some don’t involve car parking at all, such as secure bike facilities and park and ride (there is already a hospital staff shuttle between Wakari and Dunedin hospitals). One day autonomous vehicles will be with us and they shouldn’t need any nearby parking. However, we will also need car parks. So, who will provide them and where?
Some private sector developers are already expressing interest. But they must be adequately profitable. The DCC provides nearby all-day ground level parking so inexpensively that a competing car park builder cannot cover their costs. There are two ways through this conundrum. One is for the DCC to raise fees. The second is for the DHB to underwrite some floors for staff use.
The DHB can, of course, provide its own car parks and that may well be guided by resource consent considerations. Thirdly, the DHB could hire some nearby existing car parks, such as those owned by the DCC that are underutilised.
Right now, we are about to develop a more detailed master site plan for the new campus, in close conjunction with Ngai Tahu, the university, polytech, DCC, ORC and others. I expect it might take maybe 20 weeks, and car parking options will take form as we go. The university made its substantial draft plan public recently and now it is time for the DHB to reciprocate. There is much at stake. We want to secure good porous adjacency between health education and health provision. Those links are the heart of Dunedin’s economic and social future and we must get them right.
Key players have been engaged in these plans for a while now. We now have a well-situated and well-proportioned hospital. But we have many other balls in the air as well. Each of these balls must be pulled out of the air in a deliberate and timely way. If we stuff it up we will have to undo plans and redesign.
I urge letter writers, councillors, commentators and others to refrain from a unidimensional focus on car parking. All will become clear in good time, certainly before the DHB winds up a year from now.