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New build sets standard in health care

Gemco Construction project manager Graeme Johnson takes huge satisfaction in the completion of Stage 1 of Kaweka Hospital, knowing that it’s a vision of an idea by Hawke’s Bay people, built by Hawke’s Bay people and ultimately improves the health of Hawke’s Bay people.

“It’s going to change people’s lives and when we first heard that vision from Colin Hutchison, it was something that the team at Gemco wanted to be part of.

Graeme says a previous medical facility project, the new endoscopy facility across the road at the regional hospital helped pave the way for Gemco to secure the Kaweka Hospital build. It’s there that Graeme started a formidable partnership with project manager Nick Ward of PML which progressed to securing the construction of Hawke’s bay’s newest private hospital.

“We (Nick and I) formed a good working relationship on the public hospital project and that has continued here. Nick makes our job so much easier from chasing all the council documentation but also in a role that’s part lawyer, accountant and manager.

“He takes some of the pressure off me and our team, so that we can focus on what we do best – building. The Kaweka project started in March 2019, just as COVID-19 was arriving into the country and the initial four week setback from the enforced lockdown of the country.

However as Graeme looks back at the journey to complete Stage 1 and to commence Stage 2, a three-storey building, the delays in what has probably been the most difficult environment to build in, have been relatively minor.

He adds that one of the earliest challenges was the discovery of “rubbish” in the way of discarded and buried metal, wheels, car bodies and engines under the previous building on the site. During exploration and testing of the site to understand what was below the surface didn’t reveal the more than 3600 cubic metres of waste, as it was under the existing building.

“That was a big surprise as usually you wouldn’t expect anything under a building, it would have already been excavated back then, but that wasn’t the case here, so that added unexpected time and also cost to the project.

“We also had building material delays due to COVID but the other big delay was specialist medical equipment that was held up in Europe. But when you look back over the last two years, we ended up only being 8 weeks over the deadline, so that’s a big achievement for everyone involved.

Graeme and his team are now well underway on Stage 2, a 7000m2 complex that is set for completion late 2024-early 2025. A feature of the new building is technology that will see the building be one of the most earthquake proof in New Zealand. For Graeme, the start of Stage 2 and the introduction of base isolators, the technology that will ensure that the building is still operational after a major earthquake, is part commencement of another exciting new build project but the next stage of what will end up being over 5 years on a construction site.

“I think a new build best suits my skill base and I really enjoy starting something new, discovering what lies beneath the ground and then setting about building a new structure and then bringing it to life. Overall the entire Kaweka Hospital project is only about one third complete and after Stage 2 is complete, Gemco will move back to the Stage 1 building to build on the connectivity between the two buildings.

“Yeah we’re here for some time yet. The hospital will be a huge success in what it offers the community, so no doubt there will be additional builds as it grows.