Proposed retirement village ‘should be profitable’

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A proposed retirement village on Oamaru’s Hospital Hill should be profitable, Waitaki District Health Services chairman George Berry said yesterday.

Speaking at a meeting of the Waitaki District Council, Mr Berry said many other existing providers did a “very good job,” but they planned to give North Otago people a choice.

“There’s been a huge increase in health care for aged people and something has to be done to increase capacity in our community,” he said.

At the meeting, Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS) sought and gained approval from the council to establish three new charitable entities to manage the proposed village. WDHS is wholly owned by the council.

Also, the council agreed in its 2014/15 draft annual plan to include a possible $5 million loan towards the cost of building the village, meaning the public would be consulted on the matter.

The loan would help finance the village subject to its approval and agreement on the term, amount and security.

“We’re giving a clear signal to the community that we like it,” Cr Jim Hopkins said of the retirement village.

“We’ll be asking the community, do you like it too? That’s where it should sit. It’s not a done deal yet in my judgement.”

WDHS director Ian Hurst gave a run-down to council of a draft master plan on what was proposed.

He said the land purchase had been secured; Geotech work had been completed with a favourable outcome and a staged development was planned which would provide 80 carebeds, 12 apartments and single bed units interlinking to a care facility.

“The layout has been done to maximise vista corridors for each area where possible. Every north apartment has stunning views,” he said.

A further 21 penthouse style villas were proposed on top of the hill.

The village would have a “strong North Otago flavour”, Mr Hurst said, and would cover 3ha of the nearly 8ha site. Further independent villas could also be developed.

“The steps from now are to have the base plan peer reviewed by three other parties. After financial reporting has been done, we’ll look at working drawings, funding resources and going out for tender.”

Much discussion by council centred on establishing the three charitable entities – two companies to operate the facility and a trust to own the two companies.

Councillors were worried about accountability. However, Cr Peter Garvan said they needed to look at the record of the WDHS directors.

“They’ve got $5m cash, so if the council puts in $5m, they’ve got $10m equity. The crunch will be the business case later on.”

By CHRIS TOBIN