I announced on Monday with Leader Judith Collins National’s commitment and timetable to build a new, larger and safer hospital for Nelson.
The current hospital is deficient in three ways. Our population is growing and aging and the current 149 beds is insufficient. The main buildings are over 50 years old and not of the standard we need for patients and our dedicated doctors and nurses. The hospital is also earthquake prone. It is unacceptable that we would not have a functional hospital in the event of a major quake.
I rewrote the earthquake prone building laws as Minister of Building in 2017 in response to the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes. The required seismic assessments done in 2018 on Nelson Hospital show the Percy Burnett tower block is 33% of standard, the George Manson tower block and operating theatres are only 22% and the chimney tower just 20%. The law requires replacement or upgrading by 2028.
This time frame will not be met if we do not get started soon. The current government has just announced millions to relocate MPs and Ministers offices in response to seismic issues with Bowen House at Parliament. This is a much newer building and has a much higher rating than Nelson Hospital. Our hospital should have been given priority.
Constructing a new Nelson Hospital is a massive task. It will be Nelson’s biggest ever building project. It is complicated by having to maintain health services throughout the rebuild. We need to get the detail right.
National in the last Government built new hospitals in Rotorua, Waikato, North Shore, Golden Bay, Blenheim, Kaikoura and Burwood. We started construction in 2016 of Greymouth and Christchurch’s main hospital and in 2017 approved a new hospital for Dunedin. These three have all fallen behind schedule. The lessons from these projects is that they take years to plan and build.
National’s timetable for a new Nelson Hospital is to consult with the community and hospital staff in 2021, do detailed design in 2022, complete consenting and contractor selection in 2023 and to complete the new hospital by 2027. It is tight but doable. It is a good time to be investing in infrastructure.
National’s commitment is to rebuild on the current site. This is because it is well located close to the central city and other important services. There are no other large suitable sites available. There are also some assets on the existing site that can be retained. A key issue to resolve in the design stage will be improve parking and may include a parking building.
I was disappointed in the Nelson Labour candidate’s negative response to National’s hospital announcement. These huge projects often span different governments. I would welcome a similar commitment to Nelson from Labour. I will work with our Health Board and across all political parties to get the right result for Nelson.
My objective is a new hospital that will meet our region’s health needs for the next half century and I will work with whomever to achieve it.