JUDE BARBACK  traipses down the road to visit the new addition to a growing village.

One of the many perks of living in the Bay of Plenty – aside from the beach at my doorstep and the abundance of sunny days – is that everything is relatively easy to get to. Of the things I miss about my time spent in Auckland and Oxford, sitting in traffic is not one of them. So when I received an invitation to attend the opening of Pacific Coast retirement village’s new Summerhouse, I accepted immediately, smug in the knowledge that it would take me a mere five minutes to get there.

I was already familiar with Pacific Coast. Almost a year ago, having just taken on the editorship of INsite and relatively green about retirement villages and aged care, I visited the fledgling village, situated on the stretch of coastal road between Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. Pacific Coast is the result of a partnership between the land owners, The Mangatawa Papamoa Incorporated and RAL, a private

New Zealand company, which is also involved with other village developments in Christchurch and Auckland.

I remember being impressed with the village on my first visit. The houses built so far were modern, upmarket and immaculate, and the plans for expansion were exciting. Yet growth appeared slow – a product of the stagnant housing market, so explained manager Mike Flattery. People were waiting for the right time to sell their family homes before moving to a village.

However, on my many trips past Pacific Coast village over the subsequent months, I began to notice signs of growth; construction was taking shape on one of the promised components of the village: the Summerhouse, a community complex in which the residents could socialise.

From the road, at 60km/hr, the building looked impressive, but I was eager to see inside.

And so it happened that on a beautiful sunny day in November, I joined a crowd of current and prospective residents and curious others to watch RAL ambassador, Judy Bailey, chair the opening of the new Summerhouse.

Always a sucker for sentimentality, I was moved by the way the first residents were invited to join Tauranga City mayor

Stuart Crosby in collectively cutting the ribbon to the striking new addition to their village.

The whole thing, from the dulcet and familiar tones of Judy Bailey, to the cute ribbon-cutting scene, to the input from the local iwi, to the sun on the backs of those watching, was beautifully and perfectly executed.

It was a reflection of the village itself; although a long way from completion, everything about Pacific Coast – including the promise of facilities to come – shouts ‘quality’.

“What we are trying to do here, is to build the first real beachside retirement village; a kind of ‘Gold Coast without leaving home’,” says RAL director Graham Wilkinson.

Wilkinson’s vision for Pacific Coast certainly seems achievable.

Through collaboration with local iwi, plans are well advanced to build a boardwalk across the sand dunes, allowing residents easy access to the beach.

The proximity to the beach is a major drawcard for many residents. Prospective resident Sue Hatchwell says living by the beach is a big attraction. The proposed boardwalk will be “a wonderful addition” to the village, she says.

Hatchwell believes the communal facilities are also an important consideration when deciding where to live.

In addition to the new Summerhouse, an international-size bowling green will commence early this year, followed by an indoor swimming pool and gym.

Eventually, the village will also include an aged care facility. The current residents are spritely and independent, and the need for a care facility on site hardly seems a priority. Yet, Wilkinson maintains this is an important component for retirement villages.

“At Auckland, we have started with the aged care due to the catchment of the village, while down here in Tauranga, we are doing it the other way around.”

Joan McFetridge, a new resident of Pacific Coast, agrees. She acknowledges that while the need for aged care is not a factor now, in the future it will be good to have direct access to a facility that provides the care she may need.

Originally from Wellington, McFetridge and her husband looked at many villages throughout the North Island before settling on Pacific Coast. They recently moved into their new villa and are thrilled with their decision. “We love it,” she says simply.

The McFetridge couple occupy one of the first stage villas on the site with several more under construction as units are built generally to order. The attention to detail and focus on quality is apparent in the design and interiors of the villas, which sell from $450,000.

The same emphasis on quality has been given to the new Summerhouse, designed by Sumich Chaplin Architects. The decor is beautiful, luxurious; the bar, lounge, library and barbecue facilities all look so inviting.

While it is a major step for Pacific Coast, the village clearly has a long way to go until RAL’s vision is complete. However, as the growing number of residents appear to be awaiting the arrival of the bowling green and swimming pool more eagerly than the care facility, perhaps it can afford to take its time in developing.


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