Retirement villages urge Council re-think on District Plan

Representatives from the Retirement Villages Association (RVA) and four Mid North retirement living and aged-care providers have expressed concern to the Far North District Council (FNDC) that the Far North District Plan currently under consideration does not adequately take into account the needs and impact of the growing number of elderly here.

The five organisations recently hosted a tour of local retirement villages so FNDC planning and consenting staff, and elected representatives, could see for themselves how villages are designed, built and operated. They were shown how the current FNDC planning and consenting regime does not cater for the growing pressure placed on local infrastructure and on local retirement accommodation and healthcare providers by a rapidly-approaching ‘silver tsunami’.

The presentation included the RVA’s new research report from PwC showing how retirement and aged-care villages directly benefit local economies. 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.

“The message was that we need to do retirement living properly in our District, and that if we did so there would be real and substantial economic outcomes that the entire community could benefit from,” said Kerikeri Retirement Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter.

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.

But there is currently nothing in the draft Far North District Plan that recognises the pressure this will place on the Mid North’s resources and infrastructure, Ms Sumpter said.

Kerikeri Retirement Village’s submission to the proposed Far North District Plan makes four recommendations:

  • that Council expressly acknowledges the role registered retirement villages can play in providing essential, affordable and purpose-built accommodation for older people, as one of the solutions to the housing challenges the District faces.
  • that explicit provision is made in the Far North District Plan for “registered retirement villages” as a Permitted activity in the Residential Zone, and that it specifically allows for the continued development of Kerikeri Retirement Village by re-zoning the Village and surrounding streets as a retirement zone.
  • that Residential Zone objectives and policies be amended to acknowledge that retirement villages are a residential use, and that their development is actively supported in the residential zone. Existing registered villages should be provided with an overlay which would permit a greater degree of development and redevelopment either without the need for consent, or alternatively for a more certain activity status such as a controlled activity.
  • that the built form standards applicable to the permitted activities in the residential zone be suspended for retirement villages and Council officers work to develop a more practical set of standards for villages that meet operators’ and residents’ needs while fitting into the residential environment.

“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 Aging 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, she said. Council needed 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 for growth that we outlined at the back end of last year. But we believe it’s Council’s obligation to manage the demands and pressures that a growing number of elderly will inevitably put on this District’s infrastructure.”

Kerikeri Retirement Village last year unveiled plans to buy as many as 42 neighbouring properties to build retirement accommodation for the growing number of elderly in the area. It wants to build 200 more independent living units for up to approximately 250 retirees and expand the number of beds in its care facility from 66 to 100.