Iwi-led low-cost health centre for South Dunedin

9:39 am on 19 August 2016

A major new iwi-led health centre is being launched to bring low-cost health care to South Dunedin, one of the most deprived areas in the country.

A major new iwi-led health centre is being launched to bring low-cost health care to South Dunedin, one of the most deprived areas in the country.

Te Kāika establishment board member Albie Laurence, left, and its chair Peter Crampton of Otago University which is investing in the project. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

It is being called Te Kāika, te reo Māori for "the village".

The resource consent application for the project is being lodged with the Dunedin city council on Monday.

Albie Laurence is a third year medical student at Otago University.

But for 18 months he has been working up a vision for an Ngāi Tahu-led state-of-the-art health service for South Dunedin.

Mr Laurence said the idea was to create a place where whole families could be treated in a holistic way.

Working and living in the area, he said he knew there were many people, including himself, who avoided going to the doctor because they could not afford it.

But a GP clinic was never going to be enough, he said.

"The idea was always to have a GP clinic with other services, sort of one-stop-shop for families, where the main focus is always on that low-cost."

The now disused Caversham Primary School is to be transformed into a centre which will have doctors', physiotherapy and pharmacy clinics, as well as the Māori health provider Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora and other social providers, all in one place.

It is a popular model in the North Island, but only the second iwi led low-income centre in the South Island, after one started in Invercargill last year.

Mr Laurence said he grew up in Kaitaia and there was an integrated health centre there that inspired him to go on and study medicine.

He said it was time Dunedin families have the same opportunity.

The centre's co-founder, the chair of the Ōtākou rūnanga, Donna Matahaere-Atariki, said the project was a big deal for Dunedin and for Ngāi Tahu.

"We're pretty much the shareholder, but it's actually open to everyone.

"So this is about 'how does Ngāi Tahu put its footprint back on our landscape here', and how Ngāi Tahu responds to the needs of their broader community," Ms Matahaere-Atariki said.

The project was started with a $500,000 grant from the government's Whānau Ora's programme.

Another partner is Otago University, which is investing in the project.

The chair of Te Kaika's establishment board is the university's Pro-Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences, Peter Crampton.

He strongly supports the Whānau Ora philosophy, and also sees a perfect opportunity for teaching and learning.

He said the university would put four dental chairs at the centre, and also send its medical, pharmacy and physiotherapy students through for training in a real-world community setting.

The project has got some big business support too.

Dunedin's Mitre 10 Mega store is doing the full refit of the old Caversham Primary School for free as a community project.

So long as the resource consent sails through, the plan is for Te Kāika to be open by the start of next year.

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