Hospital buildings survive

An application by the Southern District Health Board for resource consent to demolish two category 1 listed historic buildings on its Kew Rd, Invercargill, site has been turned down.

The health board spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the application, with a hearing held last year.

The decision was obtained by The Southland Times this week.

The parties involved were advised of the outcome on Thursday but hearings panel chairman Darren Ludlow declined to comment on the matter, saying he wanted to wait until Monday to make the decision public.

The health board applied for consent to demolish two category 1 listed heritage buildings on its hospital site and to deposit the demolition material in a cleanfill at the hospital site.

The board cited safety concerns as part of the reason for wanting to get rid of the two buildings, the decision said.

The buildings were the former administration block and the nurses' home, which date back to the 1930s. They were designed by Invercargill architect Edmund Wilson, who also designed the town hall and civic theatre.

They are two of 16 category 1 listed hospital buildings in the country.

"This was a very difficult decision, with heritage values competing against earthquake risk, and costs associated with strengthening and maintaining heritage buildings in a functioning hospital setting," the panel said.

The decision did not take into account the Southern District Health Board's responsibility to provide healthcare services, the findings said.

"The panel's consideration cannot extend to include the applicant's responsibility to provide healthcare services as this is not a matter over which our discretion is reserved."

The Historic Places Trust welcomed the decision.

Otago and Southland area manager Jonathan Howard said it showed the council recognised the significance of the buildings.

"They are rare surviving examples of hospital buildings from the 1930s and representatives of the wider 1937 hospital complex, now lost."

The trust planned to work with the health board to find a use for the buildings.

The health board had been planning to accommodate a teaching and skills laboratory in a joint endeavour with Otago University.

Southern District Health Board executive director of nursing and midwifery Leanne Samuel said the board had received the report and was "considering it".

Nearly 70 staff were moved out of the buildings after the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 because they were identified as being unsafe, the decision said.

The report said the buildings were then locked, fenced off and access was restricted.

Concerns about the instability of the buildings impacted on the use of other hospital buildings, with four rooms in the inpatient mental health service unit unable to be used because they were identified as a "debris fall zone".

During the hearing, panel members were told a quantity surveyor was contracted by the health board to estimate the cost of upgrading the buildings but he stopped when the estimates reached $5 million.

The report said the health board had explored other options for the buildings but nothing had come to fruition.

"Demolishing the administration building and nurses' home removes identified unsafe buildings from the hospital site providing a safe environment for staff, patients and the wider community and taxpayers health dollars will not be wasted on refurbishing, remodelling and reworking of buildings and supporting infrastructure that is no longer fit for the purpose and able to meet the needs and health and safety requirement of a safe working environment," evidence tabled at the hearing and included in the hearing decision said.

The Southland Times