Retirement village builder says it is under-represented in growing Auckland market.
Ryman Healthcare will invest $690 million in Auckland, building five of eight new villages in the city including one $210 million project.
Chief executive Simon Challies yesterday revealed details of the push into the city after an NZX announcement outlining Ryman's plans in response to demand at existing villages and the ageing population.
One of the five properties is a big Birkenhead block on the corner of Verrans Rd and Rangatira Rd. The Fernz Lodge and Conference Centre operating on the site will shut around September.
Challies said Ryman was under-represented in Auckland.
"Auckland is the biggest market in New Zealand and it's growing strongly. The total value of the investment in Auckland is about $690 million. The biggest village will be worth about $210 million," he said.
"This will free up about 2500 Auckland houses as older people leave their homes for the villages. Getting 2500 homes on to the market may be a good thing for Auckland."
Ryman has four Auckland villages: Howick's Bruce McLaren, Remuera's Edmund Hillary, Orewa's Evelyn Page and St Helier's Grace Joel.
"People have asked why we're concentrating on Auckland and I say we have another 10 to 15 communities we're not servicing yet. In Christchurch and Wellington we've got much better coverage than we have in Auckland," he said.
"There are many Auckland suburbs we don't have any presence in. We started this process three years ago, approaching land owners directly. The properties were not for sale.
"We work on the basis that we know the areas we're interested in and we search where there's the potential for development."
Ryman has no villages on the North Shore where rival Metlifecare has a big and expanding presence.
NZX-listed Summerset plans to spend $500 million in Auckland, including $120 million on a Hobsonville village with 225 villas and apartments and a 90-bed rest home.
Ryman has no presence in the fast-growing west of Auckland.
Apart from Birkenhead, Challies is refusing to say where Ryman will be building. The company has acquired 25ha of land in total.
By the end of this year, more than $100 million will be invested in eight new sites across New Zealand where about 4000 people will live.
Macquarie analyst Daniel Frost said Ryman had raised the wages of carers by 5 per cent for the second year running and intended investing more operating expenditure to raise the quality of care, via increasing staffing ratios, training and clinical staff oversight.
Auckland push Ryman Healthcare:
* 26 villages, only 4 in Auckland.
* Developing 5 out of 8 new villages in Auckland.
* North Shore, west and south could be focus.