New Zealand will invest more than NZ$500m ($400m) to redevelop Canterbury District Health Board’s (DHB) earthquake-damaged hospitals following the cabinet’s approval.

The redevelopment project will involve restoring earthquake-hit healthcare centres, expanding departments and constructing new operating theatres.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the project is expected to cost more than half a billion dollars, with a final price tag to be confirmed in December 2012.

"Cabinet has approved $10m initially to develop the final business plan and also to fast-track the design and begin work to redevelop Burwood Hospital."

"Cabinet has approved $10m initially to develop the final business plan and also to fast-track the design and begin work to redevelop Burwood Hospital," Brownlee added.

New Zealand Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said Canterbury DHB’s facilities must be redeveloped to meet current and future needs.

"Canterbury DHB has been planning a redevelopment of its health services since 2008 but that process was interrupted by the series of destructive earthquakes in 2010 and 2011," Goodhew added.

"The final business plan will establish the best option to build additional operating theatres, replace around 500 beds including purpose-designed space for children, an expanded intensive care unit and emergency department at Christchurch Hospital and a new hospital for older people’s health at Burwood."

The project is expected to take up to four years to complete.

Many Canterbury DHB facilities were damaged by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, with around 106 beds lost due to the closure of two floors in the Riverside Block at Christchurch Hospital.