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Vision to reality

Childers Road site sold to Matai Medical Research Institute.

Gisborne will be home to one of the nation's “pre-eminent research centres” under ambitious new plans from Mātai Medical Research Institute Trust.

Trust chairman John Pittar today confirmed Mātai had bought the Gisborne Holdings Ltd (GHL) Childers Road site to develop a campus supporting medical imaging research, medical sciences, and biotechnology.

“The trustees are very grateful for the wonderful support we have received from GHL, who have embraced our vision to build a campus facility and centre of imaging excellence that will position Mātai as one of the pre-eminent research centres in New Zealand.”

Gisborne Holdings Ltd is the district council's commercial arm.

It purchased the 2.5ha site, which formerly housed St Mary's School, in 2018 and had originally proposed 30-section housing subdivision before putting the property up for sale.

The site had a rateable land value of about $1m in 2018 but the details of boteh that sale and the latest one remain commercially sensitive.

GHL chairman Dave Mullooly said following a tender process, the board and management of GHL were pleased Mātai Medical Research was the successful purchaser of the site and wished Mātai every success.

“We are excited by the community advantages this facility will bring, not only to Tairawhiti but also to the country as a whole.

“The research and education opportunities provided by Mātai will bring increased generational health and wellbeing benefits, significantly enhancing the social, cultural and economic aspects of our district.

“The fact that this site will continue its role as a place of education and learning has not been lost on GHL in the significance of this purchase.”

Mātai director Dr Samantha Holdsworth thanked GHL “for enabling us to purchase the land for our health-related discoveries and new educational opportunities for our local community”.

“The Childers Road site ensures we have space for future expansion to develop our vision of a broader campus/ including a research facility, education and training, collaborative spaces for students and the public, accommodation and community gardens.”

The development will be led by Shane Kingsbeer of Kingsbeer Architecture, which has provided support in the design and concept phase.

The establishment of Mātai, a non-profit medical imaging research and innovation centre, was made possible through Provincial Growth Fund seed funding administered by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, with additional support from Trust Tairāwhiti, the University of Auckland, JN Williams Memorial Trust, HB Williams Turanga Trust, Pultron Composites, Dame Bronwen and Dr Peter Holdsworth Trust, Fred Lewis Enterprise Foundation and many others.

The Mātai centre working on enhancing the capabilities of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) through research and development into advanced medical imaging software and machine learning.

“Through collaborative partnerships with our community, iwi health providers, pakeke and the ongoing important relational development kōrero with local iwi, Mātai is well placed to uplift our people in the research, science and technology spaces to provide Māori-led responses to health and well-being, and transformational change in health equity,” Mātai chief operating officer Leigh Potter said.

[Include images] Long-term concept for Mātai development and site overview, by Kingsbeer Architecture.

RESEARCH FUTURE: A Long-term concept image of the Matai research centre to be built on the old St Mary's School site on Childers Road. Image by Kingsbeer Architecture
SOLD: The former St Mary's School site has been sold and is to become a campus facility and centre of imaging excellence for Matai Medical Research Institute . Picture by Ben Cowper
Long-term concept for Mātai development and site overview, by Kingsbeer Architecture.
Long-term concept for Mātai development and site overview, by Kingsbeer Architecture.

  1. Pete says:

    What a fantastic use of this site, putting Gisborne at the forefront of medical research

  2. Clare Robinson says:

    This Prime site was offered for tender over a very short time frame, 19th August to 9th of September!
    When I have made enquiries about the site to GDC a few years ago, I was led to believe it was earmarked for housing, with affordable housing included.

    I also know that a submission was put forward that the site would be ideal for the Olympic Pool replacement, alongside other sporting options. Centrally located, near schools and more accessible for residents.

    Whilst not taking issue with a Research Institute Centre being set up in Tairawhiti, this usage of prime, central real estate is quite frankly, a waste. Surely a research centre would be better located in the Industrial area perhaps?

    Oh GDC, seems rather questionable at best.

  3. Antoinette K says:

    Whenua use granted for churches/schools, then appropriated in “ownership” by Councils, and onsold to developers, has happened too many times.
    We have several medical imaging businesses already with recently upgraded facilities and state of the art equipment Coastal Ultrasound, TRG imaging and theres also the hospital…
    We are not screaming out for this type of business, housing should be prioritized and council are at fault for approving this but more so for being deceptive to the communties they serve.

  4. Steph Temple says:

    GHL, you got it wrong!
    Oh the irony! “Matai — which means to investigate or examine — is a medical imaging research and innovation centre that will focus on improving the diagnosis and treatment of mild traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular disease, a unique child wellbeing study, and other health issues that impact the Tairawhiti community.”
    As a well-educated middle class citizen, I have found myself “victim” to the Tairāwhiti housing crisis these past 2 years. And boy what a learning curve it has been!
    I have never considered myself unlucky: brought up lovingly, empathetic with parents who both worked in education, we didn’t fare too badly. I went on to study Applied Linguistics at uni, not really that invested in it, but driven by something . . . I have since discovered it was He tangata He tangata, The people, the people that drove me. My life journey randomly led me to Te Tairāwhiti in 2001, having fallen in love with a very down-to-earth Gizzy local, who happened to be on his OE in London. Choosing not to enter the qualifications accreditation process straight away, I found myself working many different seasonal jobs, interspersed with teacher aiding at the special needs unit. I then took the luxury to “attachment parent” my 2 feisty glorious girls, now aged 8 and 11. Money wasn’t ever at the forefront of our decisions… As it turns out we were so damned privileged! To live modestly + full-time employment (husband) + an owner-occupied house over our heads: all our basic needs were met, so we could be creative and make it work. Two years ago, my husband and I very amicably decided to go our separate ways, wanting the very best for our children. A seemingly logical decision after quite a few years of emotional disarray. At this point, life should have been pretty straightforward. Split up, move on. But it was not.
    So even though I might have had the talent or skill set, research proves I had the odds stacked against me to “succeed”.
    Lack of secure housing heavily affects our ability to function healthily, ie contribute effectively to society. I became a scattered parent, a useless friend, a needy and anxious employee. The stress of being so dependent on others affected my mental and physical health and no doubt that of my children. I found myself wanting to escape in alcohol all the time, frequenting my GP, seeking counsellors’ support. Yet, it doesn’t need to be like this. To have safe and secure shelter is a basic human right. It is somewhat understandable from a right brain/left brain perspective that the people making economic decisions might find it a little hard to envisage what it is like to be stuck in the midst of this crisis, but that still is no excuse. We have a moral obligation to prioritise anything that can get those basic needs met sooner rather than later. Money and morals don’t seem to mix…
    Don’t get me wrong, Matai Research is an exciting, innovative vision for our rural Te Tai-rāwhiti. I am in awe of the passion that lies behind it (passion only properly able to be acted on because none of the people lack any of their basic needs). Even so, it should never have been granted a space that was so clearly marked out for housing. Behind each of the near 600 families in emergency housing and the many that have bridged years without emergency housing (like myself and my girls) lie employers, schools, GPS, mental health providers, etc! Adults and children with as much of the talents and potential needed to become successful in life, are not getting the chance to because they are “unlucky”. No one seems to place any true importance on the actual people (the real subjects!!!) The real irony is that the longer we leave it, Matai’s brain research and children’s wellbeing study will grow plenty of traumatised subjects to choose from. And so the cycle repeats itself. Emotion and logic don’t ever seem to match up very well. Can we seriously not rid ourselves of sayings such as ambulance at the end of the cliff/ the rich keep getting richer??? The below article suggests that if we are to turn things around, we start investing in all individuals, not just the “successful” ones.