Building on a long and rich history of care, construction has begun to transform Ranfurly War Veterans’ Home and Hospital in Auckland into a substantial retirement village complex offering a full continuum of care.

Few New Zealanders will have heard of Uchter John Mark Knox Ranfurly but almost everyone is aware of the shield he donated to the NZRFU in 1902 – still this country’s premier rugby trophy.

Lord Ranfurly, as he was better known when the 13th Governor General of New Zealand, was a man of considerable compassion and vision. He developed Ranfurly House on eight acres of the then outer Auckland suburb of Mt Albert.

Originally built for ailing veterans of the New Zealand Land Wars and the returning soldiers of the South African (Boer) War, the two-storey colonial-styled house slowly grew additions and today comprises separate rest home, hospital, and dementia facilities.

Like many historic buildings, time has not been kind to Ranfurly War Veterans’ Home and Hospital, as it is currently known today, and in addition the number of veterans has slowly dwindled, which caused its owner, The Ranfurly Trust, to review its future. The dilemma the Trust faced was the need for urgent and substantial renovations, without any major funding base in difficult economic times.

After considering a number of proposals, the Trust settled on an arrangement with Christchurch-based Retirement Assets Limited (RAL), a retirement village operator of almost 20 years’ standing. Under the terms of the partnership, RAL secured resource consent for a substantial village complex designed for, and available to, the entire Auckland market. The complex will include a new aged care facility, a fully renovated Ranfurly House as the village community centre, and multiple retirement units in eight separate apartment buildings.

The Trust gains an ongoing income from a share of the deferred management fees, and sees a new aged complex developed that can continue to look after its constituency, while their iconic Ranfurly House receives the attention it requires and deserves.

Despite being heavily involved in retirement villages, assuming the existing Ranfurly aged care operations late last year was a new experience for RAL. Director Graham Wilkinson explains that it was partly due to recognition of the essential part aged care would play in their retirement village development strategy.

“While we have previously been involved in solely lifestyle villages, we recognise that having the full continuum of care is becoming essential and we wanted to learn the critical success factors before development of similar facilities at our Christchurch and Bay of Plenty projects,” says Wilkinson.

To overcome that lack of expertise, RAL sought out experience, including appointing as general manager of the complex, Helen Martelli, a registered nurse and more latterly a regional manager for a large corporate aged care provider.

“Although I loved my old job, the opportunity to be involved in a development of this size and significance with its proud heritage was simply too good to pass up,” Martelli explains.

“Ranfurly Trust has previously earned an unrivalled reputation for care and we are conscious of the need to both recognise and build on this going forward, even if the number of veterans has gradually diminished and admissions by the general public now dominate,” she says.

Already several changes have occurred since RAL, under the name of Ranfurly Care, have assumed ownership of the existing 69-bed rest home, 35-bed hospital, and 24-bed dementia facilities, including enhanced activities and physiotherapy services and installation of modern technology in readiness for the introduction of a computerised care system. In addition, the Ministry of Health and Ranfurly Care have agreed on converting 35 existing rest home beds to hospital beds due to demand characteristics.

“The ability to swing these beds will enable us to accommodate more residents who require the hospital care Ranfurly is well known to deliver and enable us to maintain the skill base of staff, the majority of whom have worked at Ranfurly for over five years,” says Martelli.

The first stage of development, involving the construction of the new 60-bed aged care facility, is well under way and will open later this year. At that stage, 60 residents will transfer from the old to the new facility, which will allow for sufficient existing buildings to be demolished for the first stage of 27 retirement apartments. A second stage of 36 apartments and renovation of Ranfurly House will start as stage one nears completion. Eventually approximately 180 units will be developed.

Another veteran – but of retirement and aged care rather than the armed forces – is newly appointed marketing manager Annette Senton. Also a registered nurse, Senton started her retirement village career with RAL in 1995 and is looking forward to the new challenge offered at Ranfurly.

“The location is superb, being both close to Auckland Central and one of Auckland’s highest profile corners with over 30,000 cars passing every day,” says Senton. “Having a refurbished heritage building like Ranfurly House as the village community centre is a real point of difference and the size of the site allows for full facilities such as a bowling green, swimming pool, and the like.”

Already there have already been sufficient unsolicited enquiries for retirement units to cause RAL to bring forth the appointment of Annette and start the marketing campaign in the second quarter of this year.

As with other RAL projects, design and landscaping will figure prominently at Ranfurly. Auckland architects Sumich Chaplin, more usually known for upscale residences and resorts such as Huka Lodge cottages, have been commissioned to ensure the retirement units are both timeless and complement a refurbished Ranfurly House.

Wilkinson believes that Ranfurly Village will be a good example of the defining difference between his small private company and the large public corporates.

“We are fortunate to be able to take a long-term view. We look to see what is most appropriate for the location and site and rather than seek to maximise the development output now, look to build an enduring village that will stand the test of time and be as attractive in 100 years as it is today,” he says.

Lord Ranfurly was known for his strong sense of duty and dignity. The village that bears his name will enter its second hundred years serving all Aucklanders while still retaining its history of dignity and respect for those lucky enough to live there.


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