Canterbury-West Coast Cancer Society seeks new home
The Cancer Society’s Davidson House was demolished following the Canterbury earthquakes. Photo / Supplied
The Cancer Society of Canterbury-West Coast is embarking on a search for the perfect piece of land to build a new division facility with the assistance of Paul Vining and Jonathan Lyttle of Savills Real Estate.
Vining says the eventual construction of the new facility, will bring the division’s administration, patient accommodation and support services together under one roof for the first time since before the Canterbury earthquakes.
“This will result in a more efficient, improved service for cancer patients and their families, in a purpose-designed, modern building in attractive surroundings.”
Vining and Lyttle are appealing to owners of land located close to public amenities such as parks, shops and cafes - ideally within five kilometres of Christchurch Hospital - to consider selling and help the organisation realise its dream.
“We want people who might be sitting on a piece of land and wondering what to do with it to get in touch. Their unused land could help the Cancer Society, which has helped so many New Zealanders and their families, to provide an even better service from a bespoke new facility,” says Vining.
Elizabeth Chesterman, chief executive of the Cancer Society’s Canterbury-West Coast division, says the organisation has been spread across three separate sites – two accommodation facilities and an office building – since losing its previous home, Davidson House on Cambridge Tce and the adjacent centre at 246 Manchester St, to the earthquakes.
“We want to build a new, larger facility that brings all our people and services together again. Over the past few years it has become clear that our existing buildings are not fully meeting our needs, especially as we are facing increased demand for our services.
“To have all our services on one site again will help us be much more efficient, while ensuring people get the support they need – across the full range of accommodation, group support programmes and administration functions.”
A key part of the Cancer Society’s service to patients is providing free accommodation, with patients from a large geographical area north of the Waitaki Valley, including Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast receiving treatment at Christchurch Hospital.
Currently, this accommodation is provided in two former motel properties in Merivale and Riccarton, however constructing a purpose-built facility with enough rooms to meet growing demand is the ultimate goal, says Chesterman.
“It’s all about providing comfortable and welcoming facilities to help people cope with their treatment. Patients often find that being able to share their journey with others going through the same thing really helps.
“In our accommodation, they have the opportunity for companionship when they want it. Simply not facing their treatment alone goes a great way towards helping with patients’ social and emotional wellbeing while they are staying with us.”
The Cancer Society’s accommodation services are consistently fully booked, with 723 South Island people receiving cancer treatment staying in Cancer Society facilities last year, Chesterman says.
“Unfortunately, current facilities are not adequate for the number of referrals received. Staff and volunteers are constantly challenged to find suitable alternatives for out of town patients and their families.”
The Cancer Society wants to build a facility that will be attractive, welcoming, purpose-designed and large enough to meet the needs of an increasing number of patients undergoing treatment, she says.
“We would like to buy land as quickly as possible. It would be fantastic to head into the Christmas period with a site purchased and plans underway for starting construction of our new facility during 2018.”
The Cancer Society’s Canterbury-West Coast division chair, Kate Reid, says the new facility is likely to include around 50 studio units as well as communal areas, library, community rooms and administration areas.
Ideally the site will have access to convenient parking and be located in attractive surroundings with easy access to the hospital, she says.
“The most important consideration at this stage is the location. We’re looking to provide a place that enhances wellbeing in an environment that is conducive to good health. Ideally this means an established suburb with plenty of trees, near a river and/or park, with some useful amenities like a supermarket and café nearby.
“Patients might be with us for up to six weeks while having treatment, so a location where they can go for a walk somewhere nice, go to a café, or sit in a park or garden to help fill up their day is very important. Likewise, it must be convenient for local people to drop in and access the full range of free Cancer Society services.”
Strong support from the community is enabling the Cancer Society to embark on its property project, Reid says.
“We’re fortunate to have a history of amazing support from the community and our donors who include individuals, local businesses, community foundations and organisations. Their generosity enables us to embark on this project. The decision to build a new property is therefore very much community-driven rather than a board directive.”
The Cancer Society has 87 years of history in Canterbury. In the 1960s, the organisation purchased a villa on Manchester St and named it Davidson House. When this became too small, it was replaced by a new building to house accommodation and administration services.
In the mid 1990s, the third incarnation of Davidson House was built on an adjacent site on Cambridge Tce. To meet a growing demand for patient accommodation, Daffodil House on Papanui Rd was purchased in 2008. Davidson House, which was on East Frame land, and the centre on Manchester Street, were demolished following the Canterbury earthquakes.
The Cancer Society was homeless following the earthquakes so was forced to use two rooms at Daffodil House, in Papanui Rd for 11 months. Office space was then procured in Moorhouse Ave and provided a temporary base until the current leased office space on Fitzgerald Ave was secured. An additional motel complex in Riccarton Rd was purchased in 2013 to compensate for the loss of Davidson House.
The Cancer Society endeavours to meet the supportive care, advocacy and health promotion needs of people from throughout the division by its dedicated staff and volunteers. This includes individual, group and educational programmes, an 0800CANCER freephone line, the distribution of free cancer information booklets, political lobbying, research funding and fundraising.
“A purpose built and accessible facility to meet all these needs is paramount,” says Chesterman.
Paul Vining and Jonathan Lyttle, Savills Real Estate