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Rebuild of Nelson's hospital delayed by at least six months

A business case to rebuild Nelson Hospital has been delayed getting to ministers by at least six months.

There's now big question marks over whether the project will get underway before the election, as was promised.

Under the Official Information Act 1News has learnt the business case was meant to go to ministers last December but that's now been pushed out to July or August.

The documents show a review in October found "the business case is not investment ready".

Nelson Mayor Nick Smith is frustrated by the delays and the lack of information he's getting. "I do not have any clarity about those key features of what's the timeline, what's the budget, how many beds."

Smith is asking health officials to appear before the council to provide an update on the project.

Two of Nelson Hospital's main buildings are earthquake prone and need to be strengthened by 2028, a deadline Smith is concerned won't be met.

"We're playing a game of Russian roulette every year. The most important facility you need to have operating if we do get a major earthquake is the hospital. And I live in fear that we'll get one of those major quakes before the job is done."

Originally the Nelson Hospital rebuild was expected to cost around $700 million, with some funding put aside by the Government in last year's budget.

Nelson MP Rachel Boyack said the rebuild was a top priority for the Government and for her.

"What I understand is that Treasury and Te Whatu Ora have gone back to ensure they've got all the detail they need for this project. It's so important that if we rush it we might get some aspects of it wrong."

Former Health Minister Andrew Little said last year the rebuild would begin before the election but with 19 weeks to go that's looking increasingly unlikely.

Naylor Love chief executive Rick Herd has been involved with many hospital builds and says delays are common.

"No way will it start before the election. The best they would hope to do is some enabling work, which might be moving some pipes or garden. That would be all that would happen before the election I assure you."

Herd said hospital builds should be streamlined to reduce delays. "Why isn't an operating theatre in Invercargill the same as an operating theatre in Whangārei? Why isn't the material in those places the same?"

Kindergarten in limbo

Healthkids Kindergarten is on the hospital site and is in limbo as it's not clear whether a childcare facility is included in the plan, though their lease has been extended to June 2024.

Head teacher Kimberley Cunningham said the uncertainty is tough for families and staff.

"It's quite unsettling. We've even had families move away from the kindergarten because they'd rather do the transition now rather than the waiting game."

Parent Stephanie Rout said if things are going to change children will need time to settle.

"There's not a lot of spaces in kindergartens and daycares around Nelson, so we'd have to make some plans fairly soon and that's just a little bit worrying."

A spokesperson for Te Whatu Ora said the review last year meant the business case was changed to a different type of business case.

"A Programme Business Case not only defines what needs to be built and when, but also what investment is required for the workforce and digital transformation to support the new hospital

"The approval of the Programme Business Case will confirm a direction of travel and will allow more detailed development planning to occur."

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