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The site where the South Canterbury District Health Board’s (SCDHB) administration building once stood has been cleared, and a proposed helipad is being sized up for the area.

An estimated $100,000 to $200,000 could be spent on the project, which is part of the SCDHB’s site redevelopment plan.

Patients transported by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to and from Timaru Hospital now arrive via the botanic gardens, an area accessible to the general public.

However, only hospital staff and the helicopter crew would have access to the proposed new site in High St.

The helipad, which would be at ground level, is favoured by emergency rescue helicopter staff, including pilot Stuart Farquhar.

“It’s all about safety for the helicopter,” he said.

One of the safety concerns in the botanic gardens was the trees, which made the approach to the helipad more difficult because of their size, he said.

To meet improved standards, lit windsocks were also favoured.

Timaru’s present helipad was not the only one causing concern, Mr Farquhar said.

“Emergency response helicopters [are] trying to improve helipads that we land at [across Canterbury].”

Among those setting good standards for others to follow were Dunstan, Wanaka and Oamaru hospitals, he said.

“They’ve all got good helipads to land at. Canterbury is a bit behind the eight-ball, so we’d like to do a bit of a catch-up.”

Timaru Hospital is serviced by the Canterbury Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter.

Work to clear the former administration building site in High St, along with Kowhai House, which were declared a seismic risk, has been completed.

SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor confirmed a helipad would potentially be built on the administration building site, while the land where Kowhai House once stood would be used for car parks until further site redevelopment.

The helipad project was still in the planning and development phase but was a priority.

“Currently, when helicopters deliver patients to our hospital they need to land on the grass in the botanic gardens,” he said.

“The DHB does not own this space and while there has never been a conflict with visitors to the park, we are aware that we are unable to make the space secure for the helicopters to land.

“The idea behind the project is to investigate the option to bring the helipad to a secure area on site.

“At the moment the strongest proposal is for the helipad to be placed where the previous administration building was. This area has clear flight paths and can be secured.”

There is also an existing covered walkway between the area and the hospital. The current site has a concrete pathway, but it is not covered.

The project has been on the drawing board since 2015.

“It is essential that the helipad site fits within the overall long-term site redevelopment plan,” Mr Trainor said.