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Morris Adair Building Commemoration


Monday 2 March is the beginning of the end for Gisborne Hospital's Morris Adair Building. That is the day a 4-month project to demolish the building will begin. The building was opened as 60-bed Maternity Unit in 1969 with nurses accommodation on the top 2 floors. In its time many Tairāwhiti babies have been born, many loved ones pass on and many people have developed their careers within its walls.

Remembering of all those whose significant life events have played out in this building, a remembrance event will be held at 10 am on Monday 2 March in the Kiwiani’s garden next to the building. Use gate 2 entrance at Gisborne Hospital. All are welcome.

If you know of someone who used to work in the building or someone who has an attachment to it and would like to say goodbye, please let them know, says Hauora Tairawhiti Communications Manager Toni Lexmond. “All are welcome.”

I would like to express my thanks for the 50 years of work that has been carried out in that building, says Hauora Tairawhiti Chief Executive Jim Green. “So many staff have used its protection and comfort to serve the people of our community. I particularly think of the many joyous and happy times in that building, as well as the sorrow of parting.”

“It is a sad ending for a building designed as a place of care, that has served the community so well, to come down as it is no longer a safe place for people to be in.”

Hauora Tairawhiti chaplain Rev. Patsy Ngata-Hills has conducted karakia/prayers throughout the building to clear the way and staff have now removed things stored in the building.

The project will involve the removal of 500 truckloads of demolition material. “As much material as possible will be recycled. While there is an environmental plan to minimise the effects of the demolition on staff and the people we care for, there will be some disruption. There will be noise from concrete sawing, loading concrete onto trucks etc and some car parking close to the building will be lost.

Morris Adair Building Timeline

11 March 1969

The building opened as a 60-bed Maternity Block with accommodation for nursing staff on the top floors. The Maternity Hospital was the first building for patients to be built on the current Gisborne Hospital site. The laundry, kitchen and boiler house were built a couple of years earlier. At the time most hospital facilities were located at Cook Hospital on Hospital Hill.

It was opened by the Minister of Health, Mr D. N. McKay and brought together most maternity services in the district after the gradual closing of other small maternity hospitals. Each mother and her new baby had their own room and many stayed in the hospital for 10 days or more.

As reported in the 1969 Photo News "all services in the hospital are streamlined to the 'nth degree to ensure every care for patients."

Sister P. M. Swarbrick was in charge of the Maternity Home and she lived in her own flat on the fourth floor of the building which housed other nursing staff.


Elderly people requiring hospital-level care moved into the new Geriatric Ward in the building. This was located on the top 2 floors where the nurses' accommodation had been previously. At the time Health Boards provided aged residential care. The new facility was right next door to the Memorial Home.

13 February 1980

The Foundation stone was laid and building work began on the rest of the new Gisborne Hospital

15 June 1985

Gisborne Hospital was officially opened by the Governor-General Sir David Beattie


Kiwanis Club Garden was opened next to the Maternity building for whanau staying in the maternity building to use. The project was funded through donations from Gisborne businesses and community.


Health boards stop providing aged residential care. Community aged care providers start providing hospital-level care and the geriatric ward is closed.

3 December 1998

Puawai Aroha Gisborne Maternity Unit is opened by Mrs Peggy Kaua. By 1998 the numbers of babies born in Gisborne had significantly reduced from 1960’s levels and mothers were spending less time in hospital after birth. There was a need to have Maternity located closer to the theatres and other facilities so a new, smaller integrated facility was built as part of the main hospital complex.

17 December 2003

Funds left in the dwindling Morris Adair fund was used to refit (and rename) the maternity building.

Hospital rooms were turned into offices and the building was used as a community health hub. A variety of services were collocated there including:

· Cancer Society

· Alzheimer’s Society

· Heart Foundation

· Public Health

· Planning and Funding,

· Community Mental Health


Seismic evaluation of the buildings early in 2012 identified issues with the older buildings on the Gisborne Hospital campus. As a result, everyone was moved out of the Morris Adair Building. 100 staff were moved into Tangata Rite in Peel Street while planning for the future was done.


After a series of reports and investigations, the Hauora Tairāwhiti Board confirmed the building was uneconomic to repair to above the required minimum of 63% of new building standards. Options to remove stories in an effort to retain some capacity on-site were considered. However, the costs of this remedial work were far in excess of a new build. Accordingly, the building was declared surplus to requirements.

Later in 2019, the government provided funding as part of a programme to address deferred building maintenance in hospitals across the country. This has allowed for the cost of demolition of the building to be covered. Hauora Tairāwhiti is allocated $3m for this project and others on the Gisborne Hospital site including lift replacement and installation of air conditioning in the ward areas of the hospital.

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