Green light for health centre plan

Sale and lease agreements for the site of the much-anticipated Feilding Integrated Family Health Centre have been approved, marking a major step in a lengthy process.

The MidCentral District Health Board has confirmed it received formal notification that Minister of Health Tony Ryall had approved the long-term lease of the Clevely Centre site and the sale of the existing buildings to the Manawatu Community Trust.

The proposed Duke St facility would offer a range of health services under one roof.

The agreement approval provides the Manawatu Community Trust, which has driven the project, with access to the site so preparation for construction could begin.

Trust chairman John Culling said the approval from the Ministry and DHB was a milestone in the process.

"It has taken longer than we hoped but it's certainly a big tick to get that done."

Culling said this was only one of a few "crunch issues" that needed to be finalised before construction could begin, with discussions on the head lease, finance and final price of the building still continuing.

The lease was set to be sorted by the end of this month with confirmation of building prices expected in late September and finance and fundraising to be finalised in coming months.

Culling hoped construction would start by December.

"I am optimistic and hopeful that we will have work on the ground before Christmas."

Completion of the project was marked for late next year but it was too soon to give a firm date, Culling said.

The centre had previously drawn criticism from Feilding residents for a lack of progress over the past five years.

MidCentral chief executive Murray Georgel said that the process of approval from the ministry had been slow because of the almost 35-year lease time proposed for the land.

"Getting the minister's approval has been marvellous. It's enabled us to take the next step and allows the trust to move to financiers and start to look at finalising the lease," Georgel said.

"We are really happy the community is getting this integrated health centre, it's something we've been supportive of for a number of years and this approval gives us the knowledge and confidence that it will succeed.

"I think Feilding and the wider Manawatu community will benefit greatly from this."

A $1.5 million loan was granted by the Manawatu District Council's strategic planning and policy committee in September last year as part of the $5.9m total funding needed for the health centre.

As well as the council loan, it is likely the trust will need $1.5m in community funding and $2.9m in commercial loans.

The council has made funding of $2.5m available since 2011.

The additional $1m will be "backstop funding" should it be required.

In the approval letter to the DHB, Ryall congratulated the board and the community trust on the proposal, which "will see the people of Feilding and the surrounding area having access to better, sooner, more convenient health care".

Meanwhile, construction of the Foxton Community Health Centre project was progressing well with a formal blessing of the soon-to-be completed building planned for July 5.

Manawatu Standard