Government warned not to rush Dunedin hospital build

The Government has been warned it risks wasting tens of millions of dollars if it rushes the build of a new hospital for Dunedin.

Documents obtained by Newshub say getting the work underway quickly will be a good look for the Government, but could end up being a very costly move to the taxpayer.

Turning a giant chocolate factory into a hospital is a big job the Government is determined to get moving.

"The people of the South have waited too long for a hospital rebuild, and now we're getting on with it."

Labour made an election promise that construction would begin within its first term, and Health Minister David Clark is dedicated to keeping that promise.

"We've been really clear that we want to start construction this term, and it's ambitious, but I'm unapologetic about that."

But to meet that deadline, officials have told the minister they might have to go ahead and start demolition and earthworks on the site without getting resource consent for the actual building. This means there is a risk that potentially tens of millions of dollars are invested but resource consents are not granted. If approval for the buildings doesn't come through that will be a sunk cost. Translation - money down the drain.

"We wouldn't want to take risks in that regard," says the minister.

So why the rush then? It will look good for the Government.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health says early stages of construction for the hospital, which could start in 2018, will be "seen by hospital staff and the community as positive signs of momentum".

National leader Simon Bridges says the revelations are "scandalous".

"It's tens and tens of millions of dollars that could be wasted by rushing ahead because they've been mucking around and now they want to look good."

The Health Minister says he doesn't intend to put any money unnecessarily at risk.

The ministry has even offered up a solution if the Government can't get consent - introduce a law to override resource consent, similar to what was done in the Christchurch earthquake.

But the Health Minister is adamant that won't be necessary because he already has council and iwi on board.


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