JUDE BARBACK takes a tour of Summerset by the Sea in Katikati.

Summerset by the Sea is the first Summerset village I have had the pleasure of visiting.. Not for lack of invitation, mind you – former chief executive Norah Barlow was always quick to extend a welcome to their various facilities as they shot up like mushrooms. In the three and a half years I’ve been with INsite, I’ve witnessed the company’s change of leadership, the decision to go public, and the staggering rate of growth. They now have 20 villages and there are more on the way.

It is a beautiful Bay of Plenty cusp-of-spring day as I drive to the outskirts of Katikati to the grand entrance of Summerset by the Sea, which is set on six hectares of coastal land. The village Leisure Centre opened in November 2014 and has all the finesse and sparkle I’ve come to expect from large retirement village operators. With size on their side, large operators know what works in terms of layout, interior design choices, landscaping, even background music.

With construction of the new care apartments, care facility and stage three of the retirement villas underway, I’m not seeing the finished product – something village manager Sue Hough is slightly apologetic about – but I am pleased that Summerset has allowed me to see a work in progress.

Newly opened

In fact, the builders and workmen are barely noticeable – they seem to work noiselessly and on the peripheries of the site. I do sense I’ve caught the village at a busy time, however, with the care apartments and care facility due to officially open on 18 September – less than three weeks away at the time of my visit.

The village is expected to be fully completed in 2018. The 10 care apartments and 30 care beds opening in September will eventually increase to 20 care apartments and 49 care beds. At present there are 47 independent villas, but this number will increase to 156.

Sue Hough is no stranger to opening new villages. In her six years with Summerset, she managed the opening of the Warkworth village. At present she lives on site to attend to residents’ needs but she will no longer need to do so once the care facility is up and running.

Sue gives me a tour of the village on a golf buggy, for which, given my inappropriate choice of footwear, I am grateful. We cruise around the 47 villas, 10 of which are two-bedroom, 18 are two-bedroom with a study, and 19 are three-bedroom.

Along the way I get the opportunity to inspect one of the nine two-storey villas, with its magnificent views across the harbour. It is spacious, modern and new. Sue says the upstairs bedroom with ensuite is often used by residents as a guest room.

It is so tranquil and lovely with its sea vistas I feel like I wouldn’t mind staying here for a holiday. Sue says they’ve used one of the apartments for that very purpose, as a ‘motel unit’ for residents from other Summerset villages who might fancy a short break in the Bay.

High demand

She admits that it is unlikely they will be able to continue this practice in the long term, given the demand for villas. Just three villas are yet to sell.

There is already demand for the apartments, Sue says, and she anticipates they will be highly sought after as people from the Katikati region often like to stay in the area close to family and friends. The new care centre will bring the arrival of 23 new staff including registered nurses, enrolled nurses, caregivers and housekeepers.

Sue believes firmly in not keeping the care residents separate from those in the villas and intends to encourage everyone to mingle. The positioning of the communal lounge reflects this, with access easily obtained from both the care facility and the main lobby entrance.

The village has all the bells and whistles you would expect: a café, bowling green, spa pool, hair salon, gym – and plans for a heated outdoor swimming pool are in the pipeline. An activities manager starts soon, but under Sue’s management there has been plenty for residents to get involved with. She reels through some of the activities: movie nights, lunches at local restaurants, girls’ shopping trips to Tauranga, boys’ trips to the Fieldays, concerts, summertime barbecues, welcome evenings for new residents, and so on.

I don’t see many residents on my tour, which is a shame, but I expect they are out enjoying the sunshine. It will be interesting to visit again when the village is complete and witness the difference the extra villas, apartments and care facility make.

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