Ministry rejected hospital car park building

The occupants were taken to Christchurch Hospital. PHOTO: FILE

A plan for a 700-space car park near Christchurch Hospital was rejected two years ago, after a Ministry of Health group decided there was “not expected demand for it.”

But the Canterbury District Health Board and NZ Nurses Organisation disagreed at the time, saying car parks would be needed.

It comes as parking problems around the hospital have reached crisis level, with patients missing appointments and at least two hospital staff assaulted this year while walking to their cars.

The Ministry of Health wrote to the CDHB in June, 2015, saying it was taking over responsibility for earthquake rebuild projects, including “proposed car parking projects”.

It said they would become the responsibility of the Government-appointed Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group, and contracts for the projects would be managed by the Ministry of Health.

In December, 2015, the HRPG commissioned Deloitte to carry out a review of car parking need around Christchurch Hospital.

It looked at a range of options including building a 700-space car parking building, but rejected the idea, saying “there is not expected demand for it in the next five years and future demand and supply beyond that is uncertain.”

It concluded existing car parking in the area was enough to meet demand in the short and medium-term.

However some of the carparking it expected to be available in the area was not built.

That included parking on the site of the demolished former hospital parking building on Antigua St. The report predicted 67-90 car parks would be available there, but the site has been used instead for construction equipment for projects being built around it.

An attempt to find a private developer to build a 700-900 space parking building in the area had been unsuccessful, because the developers had wanted the CDHB to underwrite the risk of building it and pay an inflating amount per year for parking.

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates confirmed to The Star he wrote to the Ministry of Health disputing the car parking demand estimates in the report.

But he refused to talk about what he wrote or the Government’s response afterward, saying he did not want to “criticise another agency”.

Health board member Andrew Dickerson said the CDHB had been left with its hands tied because responsibility for car park decisions had been taken away.

“There was considerable concern that Deloitte had significantly underestimated the future demand,” he said.

NZ Nurses Organisation organiser Lynley Mulrine said the need for more parking near the hospital had been raised regularly for at least a decade, but the Government was “not listening”.

“The DHB is in a position where their employees are unsafe and our members are unsafe because the Ministry won’t recognise the problem, so if they’re not going to make decisions about parking then they need to let somebody else make them.”

HRPG chairman Evan Davies did not respond to questions from The Star.

But Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman said he still had confidence in the HRPG.

“I acknowledge there are short-term pressures on parking. I support the measures taken by the DHB and other local authorities to address these,” he said.

“I am confident that in the long-term car parking will be catered for in a new car parking building which the HRPG is looking for a private developer to deliver, and a car park in front of the new Acute Services Building.”

Mr Meates wrote to the Ministry of Health again this month requesting a review of car parking around the hospital.

But the CDHB would not release a copy of the letter until it had been put to the health board members at a meeting this week.

The CDHB, city council and Otakaro Ltd held a joint meeting this month to discuss the parking problems, and plan to work together on long-term solutions.