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From King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for Children to Te Wao Nui Child Health Service

Incredible stories of skill, courage and compassion unfold at Wellington Regional Children’s Hospital every day.

The original King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for Children opened in Wellington on 13 March 1912 following a hugely successful public fundraising campaign, and has a proud history as New Zealand’s first ever purpose built children’s hospital.

In that same tradition of community support, 110 years later the stunning new Te Wao Nui Child Health Service opens its doors in the Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood Building to future generations of kiwi kids across the central region.

Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood

In 2017, following an initial approach by Bill Day Chair of the Foundation, local benefactors Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood announced an extraordinary gift of $50 million to build and donate a new world-class children’s hospital to our region.  This unprecedented generosity is deeply appreciated and ensures a brighter and healthier future for thousands of kiwi kids.

Without Mark and Dorothy’s support, a new children’s hospital would have been many decades away, and sick children, their families and our hospital’s medical teams would have continued to struggle in a building that was unfit for purpose.

The unique philanthropic model has allowed our paediatric teams to be involved in every step of the design and build process.  Working alongside the architectural team at Studio Design and Architecture and builders McKee Fehl, they have created a hospital with children and their families at its heart.

In 2018 Mauri stones from Rangiatea, Whakarongotai, Taranaki Maunga and Porirua were laid by iwi representatives to mark the beginning of the new build.  Pictured Mark Dunajtschik and children’s hospital patient Eddie Writes. 

On 4 March 2021 it was announced that the new Child Health Service would be known as Te Wao Nui – ‘The Great Forest of Tāne’, and the new hospital building would be known as the Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood Building in honour of their tremendous gift.

On 7 July 2022 Mark was recognised as a Wellington icon at the Wellington Gold Awards, where he also took the opportunity to announce that he and Dorothy have donated another up to $50 million for a new mental health centre in the Hutt Valley.  The modern 34-bed adult mental health facility on the Hutt Hospital campus will replace an old existing 24-bed unit. Opening in mid 2025, the Mark Dunajtschik Mental Health Centre, will be a much needed facility for a service which is currently under enormous pressure.

This is the greatest of legacies the likes of which we have not seen before.

Te Wao Nui total cost

The total cost of building works, including furniture, equipment and fittings, is approximately $110 million. Financial contributions to the hospital include:

  • Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood – $50M
  • Wellington Hospitals Foundation – $10M to outfit and equip the interior.
  • Government – ($25M to the build, $21M initial site clearance)
  • The former Capital and Coast District Health Board – $4M

Te Wao Nui – a new integrated Child Health Service

Wellington’s Child Health Service is a critical part of the national children’s specialist network.  As a tertiary level hospital with a large catchment area, the service provides exceptional high level healthcare to tamariki aged 16 years and under across central Aotearoa. There are more than 87,000 young patient visits to Wellington Regional Children’s Hospital every year as critically and chronically sick children are referred from around our region for major operations, for specialist consultations and when lifesaving emergency and intensive care treatment is required.

Now, for the very first time, a full range of paediatric services can be brought together under one roof.  As well as inpatient medical and surgical wards, Te Wao Nui includes all outpatient children’s clinics and speciality services as well as Allied Health and Child Development Service clinics.  This allows for much easier collaboration across different paediatric specialities for those children with complex or multidisciplinary needs.

The name Te Wao Nui was chosen after careful consultation with key stakeholders and acknowledges the cultural significance and life-giving properties that Māori associate with the forest.  Māori revere the forest for its beauty, spiritual presence, and bounty of food, medicines and building materials; and it is fitting that the protective spirit/mauri of the forest is reflected in the name and theming of our new hospital service.

Work by Weta Workshop brings Te Wao Nui to life, through murals and theming throughout the hospital that reflect the different layers of the forest ecosystem – canopy, forest floor, and treeline – in a way that is both playful and fun for kids and families.  An iconic ‘Tree of Life’ and spiral staircase connects levels 2 and 3 of the building.

View a short introduction to Te Wao Nui’s name, its story, and some of Weta’s magical interior concepts for the new hospital.

Kaitiaki – Gaurdians of the new hospital

Drawing on features of New Zealand’s flora and fauna, a whānau of nine kaitiaki characters have also been developed to help children and young people feel supported and cared for during their hospital journey.   You can meet the new kaitiaki HERE

The Governor General visits the site

In August 2021, we were pleased to host the former Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy through the new hospital. As the hospital’s immediate neighbour, Her Excellency took a keen interest in construction and it was a lovely opportunity to show her around the building as she came to the end of her term.

Handover of the new hospital building

On 31 March 2022 we celebrated a special milestone as Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood formally handed over the building to the former Capital & Coast District Health Board.

Watch highlights of the formalities HERE

Opening date announced

Another milestone has been reached with two levels of the new hospital opening to the first of its patients on Monday 17th October.

There will be a staggered transition to the new hospital building with the outpatient service and surgical ward opening in October.  However, because the building was designed in a pre-COVID-19 world, the upper medical ward will open to patients in mid-2023 to allow for the hospital to complete additional works to enhance the building’s isolation and air management systems.

We still need you

Bricks and mortar are only part of the journey to deliver a high quality, well-resourced health service for the children and young people in our region, and we still need you.  With your continued support we will reach our goal of having a child health service that we can be proud of now, and into the future.

Anyone who has had a sick child knows how devastating this can be.  Knows how worrying and challenging the road to good health can be.  Anyone who has had a child or young person struggling with anxiety or depression knows how heart-breaking and devastating the impact of a mental health diagnosis can be.  And COVID has reminded us all how precious good health is.

The sad reality is that there are many competing national priorities on the stretched health dollar.  So we continue to work closely with our paediatric medical teams to help bridge this government funding gap.  To keep pace with the latest medical equipment, technologies and treatments, to attract and retain the best and brightest staff, and to provide other resources, care and comfort items that are an integral part of a young person’s journey to good health.

Thank you.  It is a privilege to represent the donors we serve – from Mark and Dorothy, to the children gifting their pocket money, along with the thousands of individual donors, schools, small businesses, charitable trusts and our corporate charity partners.

The mauri/spirit of our new children’s hospital will reflect the extraordinary generosity, aroha and goodwill of our caring community.

View the latest images HERE

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