The Village told neighbours about its plans at a series of community meetings this week. It said it wanted to grow “reasonably rapidly” but didn’t have any firm time-scales.
“We are promising neighbours that we will act with utmost integrity and have no intention of putting the hard word on anyone to sell,” said Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter. “We will simply be there as a willing buyer if and when anyone in our area of interest wishes to sell.”
That area includes Wendywood Lane, Stella Drive and the southern and western sides of Hawkings Crescent. The Village would pay fair, competitive prices for properties here, Ms Sumpter said, but it would not pay over the odds. It had an obligation to its residents to act with prudence.
It would use the land for low-maintenance villas in varying configurations and several apartment units like the one being built on Kerikeri Road. She said some intensification was inevitable but that the Village’s vision was of a “naturally occurring retirement space”, integrating seamlessly with the wider Kerikeri community
Globally, demand for aged care and retirement accommodation is escalating quickly. Demographic modelling by the Far North District Council predicts a 52 percent growth in over-65s living in the Far North in the next 10 years, with a quadrupling over those over 85 in the next 20 years. Both rates exceed the national average.
“It’s time we as a community had a sensible discussion about how we’re going to manage this demand,” Ms Sumpter said. “The clear expectation in the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Ageing Strategy of December 2016 is that aged care providers and local government will meet the need for retirement accommodation and aged care.
The ‘and local government’ part was important, Ms Sumpter said. The Village was urging Council to bring some focus to the issue quickly before it started to overwhelm community infrastructure. She said mayor John Carter had initiated preliminary discussions with stakeholders but urged Councillors and Council management to ensure that staff were aware of the pressing nature of this issue and empowered to work with the sector to put the necessary plans in place.
“We are playing our part with the vision we are outlining this week. But we cannot be responsible for the demands and pressures that looking after our community’s elderly will inevitably put on this District’s infrastructure. That is clearly Council’s statutory obligation.”
Ms Sumpter said there was significant social and economic upside to this “silver tsunami” for the Mid North if it could be properly harnessed. Every 100 independent retiree living units were supported directly and indirectly by 64 people so growth in the aged care sector meant job creation, more education and training, and GDP growth from construction and an expanded population base.
“How will our town and our District react to this tsunami? Will we ‘mend and make do’ simply to survive the wave? Or will we surf it and make the most of the ride?”
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