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HIGH COURT HEARING: Te Whatu Ora committed to remedying hospital defects

Wellington High Court has heard Te Whatu Ora intends to remedy substantial seismic defects in Wairarapa Hospital.

In opening submissions in a four-week hearing that started on Monday, counsel for Te Whatu Ora, Tiho Mijatov, said the public health agency wants to repair the damaged building.

Te Whatu Ora [formerly Wairarapa DHB] has claimed almost $90 million in damages against Masterton District Council to remedy defects in the hospital building, plus interest and costs. The plaintiff’s allegations relate to the design and inspection process, construction defects, and the issuing of a code compliance certificate, among other things. Masterton District Council is defending the claim.

The court was told almost 3000 structural defects have been found in the building, which does not comply with the building code.

On Monday, lead counsel for the plaintiff, Les Taylor KC, told the court the hospital is at risk of failure in a major earthquake.

Mijatov said demolition and rebuilding the hospital is estimated to cost about $130 million.

“One of the principal purposes of code compliance certificates is to provide assurance to building users that the building was built properly and so did not have hidden defects,” he said.

He said Te Whatu Ora is seeking the cost of the repairs in damages, not the cost of a rebuild.

“There is an intention to repair,” he said, adding a new standalone structure very near to the current hospital is intended to be built to the correct building standard.

In addition, some refurbishment of the existing hospital structure is part of the repair scheme.

Mijatov said it is reasonable for the plaintiff to repair the hospital.

“The plaintiff needs a regional public hospital in the area which is able to survive a serious seismic event,” he said.

“The significant cost of some $89 million, in my submission, isn’t an indication of lack of reasonableness. It is actually just an indication of the reliability of a realistic costing which takes into account the complexities and thus the additional cost of having to repair a major operational hospital – in an environment where it will continue to serve the health needs of the people of Wairarapa.”

Mijatov said the evidence will show the cost of rebuilding to be more than the estimated $89 million cost of repair.

“The plaintiff’s quantity surveyor will say he has calculated what a rebuild of the original hospital would cost today, and that comes out to about $130 million.”

The court heard the estimated repair cost is the minimum of what is needed to fix the problems.

Mijatov listed the uniqueness of the hospital facility and the fact there is no intention to sell the building as further relevant factors in calculating damages.

“Te Whatu Ora has a statutory responsibility to provide healthcare services. There needs to be a hospital that is free of these defects. The hospital has very limited uses, albeit very important ones,” Mijatov said.

“To state the very obvious, Te Whatu Ora is not in the business of constructing hospitals to sell them at a profit.” – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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