Te Tai Tokerau Northland Radiation Oncology Facility
Removing barriers to accessing comprehensive cancer treatment for the Northland region
|Client||Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) Te Tai Tokerau Northland|
|Sector||Health & Science|
|Discipline||Architecture, Interior Design, BIM Management|
|Status||Due for completion 2026|
|Design Collaborator||Te Ahi Kāa, ĀKAU, HDR|
Connecting people to the therapeutic benefits of nature in an uplifting environment
Part of the wider Whangārei Hospital masterplan, the new Radiation Oncology Facility will provide much-needed radiation treatment services for cancer patients in the Te Tai Tokerau Northland region. The project aims to remove geographical and socioeconomic barriers to accessing high-quality, comprehensive cancer care.
Extending the existing Jim Carney Cancer Centre (JCCC), which includes outpatient cancer, chemotherapy and blood services, the new facility will include state-of-the-art treatments rooms, two of which have been designed to accommodate linear accelerator (LINAC) machines, which target radiation at tumours, and a third containing a CT scanner. Jasmax is working with Australian health design specialists HDR to ensure these technically complex environments reflect international best practice. Balancing technical requirements and the patient experience, the design seeks to create a soothing, human-scale environment that ensures long journeys and extended stays away from home will no longer be an impediment to treatment for isolated and remote communities.
Working closely with Te Whatu Ora’s stakeholder groups and Te Ahi Kāa, the design team has approached the project with a focus on enhancing wellness and demonstrating empathy for both vulnerable patients and hard-working staff. The design balances practical design considerations with a generosity of space and connection to the whenua as part of the healing process.
It focuses on four key principles: functionality – drawing on the latest innovations and best practice radiation and oncology design; refinement – including a sophisticated expression of waiora as articulated through the fluidity of the architecture and health planning; the prioritisation of mana whenua values and human scale, both expressed in a welcoming and restful interior that is designed to reduce anxiety.
Entry to the new three-level facility is located on the top-floor via the JCCC, where the two buildings are linked by a bridge. The upper level includes reception, consult and waiting areas for whānau. Staff workspaces and amenities are located on the mid-level and the partially underground lower level includes Linear Accelerator Treatment Rooms, wrapped in thick walls and a roof of concrete up to 2m thick. Externally, the building features perforated metal screens with an elegant, fluted profile. These are designed to maintain privacy while also filtering natural light to create a softness to spaces that staff and patients spend time in.
The facility is also targeting a 5-star Green Star rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council.
Reflecting the values of mana whenua, healthcare workers and whānau
There is a profound need for health services across Aotearoa New Zealand to engage with and acknowledge the real needs of Māori. In Northland, the barriers to treatment for cancer patients are starkly reflected in intervention statistics for the whole community and especially Māori where the radiotherapy intervention rate of 33.6% is significantly lower than 37.8% in metropolitan Auckland. Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) is seeking to address and change these statistics by approaching care models for new projects in a way which directly reflects community needs.
Te Ahi Kāa, representing iwi and hapū from Northland, have developed a set of guiding cultural design principles for project Pihi Kaha, which are now used exclusively across the Whangārei campus for all project design considerations.
Jasmax engaged specialist consultants, Kaikohe-based ĀKAU, to facilitate inclusive kōrero with mana whenua, healthcare workers, patients and whānau in Papamahi workshops, where participants were invited to draw ideas from the Pihi Kaha principles and to share their stories and project aspirations.
The themes that emerged from these workshops formed a distinct picture of the fundamental desires of attendees and are interpreted as kākano (seeds) that are inherently interwoven throughout the design and hold within them many meanings and expressions. These overarching kākano were for patients to feel connected and nourished (Te Taiao), cleansed (Waiora), protected (He Korowai), and welcomed (Pōhiri).
“We want them (patients) to come inside to the realm of Tāne, where it is safe and secure”
— Papamahi participant
The intention of the design is to compliment and connect with the natural landscape though generous double-height glazing providing views to awa and moana located to the south and west and overlook landscaped gardens with potential for rongoā (medicinal) planting. To further demonstrate a generosity of welcome, the design is easily navigable throughout. A wai whakanoa has been designed at the entry point, not only for patients and visitors but “…for staff also, to leave raruraru (problems) at the door” – Papamahi participant. Treatment and procedure spaces designated tapu (sacred) are spatially separated from activities considered noa (unrestricted), with opportunities for cleansing when moving between these realms.
Overall, the new facility will provide its communities with greatly improved access to the latest treatments in a welcoming, non-institutional setting designed to reduce anxiety and support healing. The aim of helping patients and whānau feel more comfortable and at ease will significantly improve the care experience for all, leading to more equitable outcomes.