DICK WILLIAMS of the Retirement Village Residents Association urges residents to sit up and take notice. 

The history of retirement villages began in New Zealand over 40 years ago, when church and trust organisations began building villas to enhance existing rest home and geriatric hospital services. Over time, commercial operators became involved and increased the facilities offered in stand-alone villages.

Private enterprise flourished and the owners/operators established the Retirement Villages Association (RVA) to which most villages now belong. They have set guidelines to which villages must comply in order to remain members of the Association. The Retirement Villages Act 2003 and the subsequent Code of Practice 2008 had input from the RVA. The legislation passed was influenced by them and has resulted in the terms of the Act and the Code being weighted in their favour.

The most common reason to move to a village is companionship. Most of
New Zealand’s now 30,000 retirement village residents are over 70, widowed and women. The sheer weight of numbers is on the side of retirement village operators. The number of people aged over 65 will actually double by 2025 and there will be 1.2 million over-65s in 2036 – a quarter of the population, according to latest Statistics New Zealand population projections.

Retirement villages a prosperous industry

Stock market listed retirement villages such as Summerset, Ryman and Metlifecare have barely paused for breath during recent years, with Ryman the fourth largest of all residential builders in the country. Statistics New Zealand began tracking new retirement units in 2009 after it noticed an upwards surge. Since then, developers have built almost 2,000 new units, worth a combined $263 million. Half of them were built in the last year and, in some months, every new apartment built in New Zealand was for retirees. Baby boomers will likely take to retirement villages in the same proportions as the generation before them and the operator sales pitch is firmly on.

We do not realise just how large and prosperous this industry has become and how much it will boom in the next few years, as operators turn golf courses into large retirement villages. The residents are the largest stakeholders in this industry, financing the operators to quickly increase their assets.

Residents need to have representation at the national level.

Establishment of the Retirement Village Residents Association

The RVA had a strong influence on the formulation of legislation that was affecting the residents of retirement villages. It was strongly considered that the residents were suffering as a result. From this situation arose the hope that ultimately a national association of retirement village residents would be formed.

The Association of Residents of Retirement Villages (ARRV) was established in the Bay of Plenty region in 2006, as an independent advisory body with power to represent member residents regarding matters of common concern. Bob Nicholson, the original chairperson, is one of the ‘first fifteen’ founding members of RVRANZ Inc. The region covers the Bay of Plenty area of Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane. Because of the desirable climate and lifestyle offered here, there is a heavy population of retirement villages.

In August 2007, 11 interested Auckland retirement village residents met in the Waitakere Retirement Village. Their interest had been aroused by the establishment of the Bay of Plenty ARRV. The Auckland group had further discussions over the next 18 months, mostly by phone and email. The inaugural meeting of ARRV Waikato was on 18 July 2008 at Perrin Park Retirement Village, Hamilton. Residents came from Tauranga, Thames, and Rotorua, as well as many people in the wider Hamilton area. The inaugural ARRV Taranaki meeting was in March 2012. This was attended by representatives from nine retirement villages, all of whom agreed to join the new Taranaki ARRV.

At this point a national organisation was being considered and it was hoped that all residents would see the worth of joining a national body. It was generally accepted that through strength of numbers in a national incorporated association, it would be possible to influence government and therefore future legislation.

At a later joint meeting in 2013, a working party of representatives Rob Wilson (Auckland), Elizabeth Jones (Waikato) and Dick Williams (Bay of Plenty) was established, with the purpose of putting together a constitution to register a national association as an incorporated society. A constitutional lawyer was engaged and on 10 September 2014 the Certificate of Incorporation was issued in the name of the Retirement Village Residents Association of New Zealand Incorporated (RVRANZ). The name change followed the establishment of the Retirement Village Residents Association of Australia, which had been established in New South Wales.

The inaugural RVRANZ (Inc) Annual General Meeting was held at Hamilton Gardens Rotary Lounge, Hamilton on 24 June. The meeting was attended by 66 people, many of whom had travelled a considerable distance from such areas as New Plymouth, Taupo, Whakatane, Wellsford and points in between. Further interest is now being received from residents in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch.

Since this time, the RVRANZ has been associated with:

  • the Retirement Commissioner over a review of the disputes process
  • the Registrar of Retirement Villages over non-registration of villages
  • the RVA over the definition of a village manager
  • MBIE, constantly seeking a review of the Act and the Code.

Further information is available on the RVARANZ website: www.rvranz.org.nz.

Residents should be free to enjoy their chosen lifestyle

It is always hoped that people who move into a retirement village are happy with their decision and enjoy the lifestyle. However, there are anomalies within the Act and the Code and its implementation, which can result in injustices and can disadvantage residents. The interpretation of the Act and the Code varies from village owner to village owner.

It is therefore essential that residents of retirement villages recognise the importance of the RVANZ to monitor such matters and other concerns that arise from time to time. Their support is necessary.

A united voice always has greater strength when the need arises.

RVA response

JOHN COLLYNS, executive director of the Retirement Villages Association (RVA) responds.

The RVA welcomes the creation of a national Residents’ Association because it is useful that residents have a voice to raise issues of concern, such as amending the Rates Rebate Act. We meet regularly with the existing regional associations and we believe these meetings are both constructive and beneficial for both parties.

However, in our view it’s important that their spokespeople have a genuine mandate to speak on behalf of the resident body rather than pursuing issues of importance to the individual raising them, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on matters of mutual interest.

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