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Auckland dental facility on time and under budget

Tuesday 18 February 2020 10:21pm

A simulation clinic in the University's new Auckland dental facility.

Construction of the University of Otago’s Auckland dental teaching facility has come in ahead of time and under budget.

In anticipation of the official opening later this year, the construction team are celebrating a job well done.

“It’s extremely satisfying,” says Project Director Jamie Cargill. “It’s been a really good outcome.”

The University of Otago and the Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2014 to achieve mutual goals of dental education for Faculty of Dentistry students and to provide dental services to patients of Counties Manukau.

The $28.2 million, two-storey, 32-chair building has been built adjacent to the Manukau Super Clinic on Great South Road. It will help to meet high health needs in the area while providing fifth-year students with wide-ranging learning opportunities.

The facility, made possible by a $10 million donation from businessman Graeme Hart and his wife Robyn, was completed more than a month early on 31 January.

With the University’s project team managing the build remotely for the most part, it was crucial to have strong collaboration across all teams.

“There’s the partnering culture that we try and set across the wider project team, and then there’s the culture that the builder (Savory Construction) controls for the site, both have been excellent, which is why we have had such a great outcome,” Mr Cargill says.

“Everybody has put the project first and we have been able to quickly address anything that cropped up.”

It was also pleasing to bring the project in under budget, he says.

The reception desk is one of many areas incorporating a cultural narrative.

Through a partnership with the Te Ākitai iwi, a cultural narrative has been woven into the facility under the guidance of notable artist Johnson Witehira.

The narrative has been incorporated into the overall architecture and features such as the timber fins for the entryway, a balustrade on the bridge leading to building, the reception desk and a sandblasting pattern for the concrete footpath using repeating patterns of nihoniho (small teeth) and nihotaniwha (taniwha teeth).

Te Ākitai has kindly gifted the building two large stones (kōwhatu) which represent the local volcanos Matukutururu and Matukutureia and act as the first threshold of entry to the building.

The blessing of two large kōwhatu (stones) gifted by Te Ākitai.

The clinic will operationalise in stages with an initial group of students in the first semester ahead of its official opening, Dr Peter Cathro explains.

“We want to embed good processes and will be ramping up to full capacity in 2022.”

The aims of the clinic are simple: “Providing good quality dental service to the community while training professionals of the future.”

The University of Otago has been home to New Zealand’s national centre of dentistry since 1907.

The Faculty of Dentistry in Dunedin carries out about 76,000 treatments annually in the city for the public from around the lower South Island and this service will now be extended to South Auckland.

“This is a win-win between Counties Manukau Health and the University of Otago and that’s really where we have great synergies.

“There’s a large amount of unmet dental need in that community and we’ve worked hard with Counties Manukau Health to target certain groups.”