Plans to build a $150m ‘state-of-the-art’ facility for its Christchurch health research staff and laboratories has been announced by the University of Otago as part of the post-quake Health Precinct.

The six-story building will be in the same block near Christchurch Hospital as the newly opened Manawa building which is a joint teaching and research facility between the Canterbury District Health Board, Ara Institute of Canterbury and the University of Canterbury.

Otago Vice Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said it was hoped to have the new building completed by 2022 in time for the 50th anniversary of the University of Otago’s Christchurch campus which is home to about 1000 medical and postgraduate health science students as well as medical school staff and researchers. The university would then redevelop its existing eight-story building on the Christchurch Hospital campus to be used mostly for teaching activities and clinical research projects involving Christchurch Hospital staff and patients.

Hayne said the new building would enable the growth of the Christchurch campus’ health science research and education programme and provide new opportunities for collaboration with other important partners in the Health Precinct. “This investment shows our commitment to the campus, to the Health Precinct, and to the city’s rebuild,” he said.

Artist’s impression of planned University of Otago, Christchurch, building.

The Te Papa Hauora Health Precinct was set-up in post-quake Christchurch as a strategic partnership between Canterbury DHB, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, and Ara to create a hub for health education, research and innovation that brings together researchers, students and clinicians in a central space.

Hayne said Otago’s new Oxford Terrrace building, approved by the University Council this week, would house its Christchurch campus laboratories and most of its health research groups. It will also house specialist radiology equipment such as the MARS scanner, co-invented by a University of Otago, Christchurch Professor, and MRI machines for studying neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and groups commercialising their health science discoveries, such as Upstream Medical Technologies.

Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, Professor David Murdoch, said the new building will create a true campus feel for staff and students, with the Oxford and Riccarton buildings less than a minute’s walk from each other.

From Monday the Manawa facility will be home to Ara nursing students who will be joining Ara’s midwifery and medical imaging students who have already moved into the new building in the Health Precinct block. About 1800 Ara students will have their training hub at Manawa that is also home to University of Canterbury postgraduate researchers and the DHB’s training programmes for health professionals with the DHB’s clinical skills unit and ARA clinical practice staff working alongside each other including the shared simulation centre.

Otago’s Christchurch announcement follows plans being released for a new dental facility at Counties-Manukau DHB in Auckland. Otago also has underway a $130 million project to rebuilding its dentristry school in Dunedin.

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