By what route will the new hospital go

The hospital site. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The hospital site. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Civis sighed this week when reading about blowouts and delays for the new Dunedin hospital.

The price tag, once $1.2 billion to $1.4b, is now understood to be more than $2b. There is also a delay of about six months in the expected start of above-ground construction of the new in-patient building. Civis, no doubt like many in the South, reacted with disappointment, impatience and frustration.

The above-ground contractor, according to a Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora document last August, was forecast to start in the first quarter of this year. Now, this work is expected to begin in the third quarter.

Blamed is the need for due diligence in contract negotiations, including a targeted review of the project and independent assurance. There are fears about unknown costs. Supposedly, the inpatient building is still expected to open in 2029. We shall see.

Dear oh dear. Where to start with a project beset by delays and uncertainties.

Perhaps with National’s fanfare announcement in August 2017. Given the scale of the project, it would be "the largest hospital rebuild in New Zealand history".

In September 2020, Labour announced confirmation of design and a business case was being prepared.

Cuts were subsequently made to save scores of millions, and a redesign was required. This blew the project out a year. The redesign and the delays also, in effect, undermined any savings. Some of the cuts were then reinstated under political pressure.

National, before last year’s election, announced it would reinstate the beds, operating theatres and radiology services Labour ditched. There is also the future of other key parts of the project like pathology services that require clarifying.

Not only is there the prospect of further delays, but Dunedin interests are finding it hard to get clarity from Health Minister Shane Reti on where everything stands.

National promised in opposition and must now deliver. Southerners will be determined that that is so — and so they should.


Last week we journeyed along the route of the pronunciation of the word route.

Civis did not, however, detour in the direction of the "Pigroot". It’s not only a beauty of a drive from Palmerston to the Maniototo — especially the tussock tops — but the route is also central to Otago’s history. And yes, it’s still occasionally misnamed the Pig Route.

One of the livelier write-ups about the Pigroot is, of all places, in the Contractor magazine. Writer and journalist Hugh de Lacy explores the area under the Heritage Trails heading. It seems, although pigs aplenty roamed the area, that mud was primarily responsible for the name.

The pass at the head of the Shag Valley soon earned the name the Pigroot after the track became the main supply route to the Otago diggings. Bullock-drawn supply wagons churned up the countryside so much that it looked like wild pigs had been rooting it up.

As Mr de Lacy put it, the name stuck like mud to the entire road, even though the Palmerston-based Waihemo County Council grumbled for the next 75 years that it sounded ugly, and would have preferred it be called Ohinemaru, the Māori name for the main saddle.

First, it was supplies heading over the route for the alluvial gold miners. Then, it was the turn of the heavy machinery for the hard-rock mines.

Sometimes, two or three teams of 10 or 12 bullocks each ("double-banking" or "treble-banking") were hooked up so a single wagon could climb the pass. The first hill up the Shag Valley came to be called The Black Pinch. Further up was Dead Horse Pinch, for reasons easy to surmise. The Pigroot is now State Highway 85, national control of the road coming in 1948.

These days there’s still gold, and lots of it, carried on its lower sections, thanks to the Macraes mines.