Twenty-two years ago Ross Townsend bought Virginia Lodge Rest Home as a going concern and turned its fortunes around.

He restored the old villa, making vast improvements and much needed extensions. In 2013 the rest home achieved a rare four year audit pass.

Exactly 22 years after buying it, to the day, the husband and wife partnership of Ross Townsend and Marilyn Williamson sold the St John's Hill establishment to engaged couple Phil Tebbutt and Chris Findley. They took over on Friday, April 1.

Chris is from Whangarei and has a history in hospitality, horticulture, farming and caregiving.

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"A very varied background," she says.

Phil had a survey practice in Australia and moved to Pouto, a small place south of Dargaville. "I bought a farm there and met Christine. And now we're together," he says.
The couple farmed for five years but were looking for a change.

"Chris has been in the hospitality industry and I've imbibed in the hospitality industry," says Phil. "We've been on different sides of the bar, but we both get on well with people and old folks in particular."

"It was this [Virginia Lodge] that brought us to Whanganui," says Chris. "We looked at a lot of various things online, but when we came down here we just fell in love with it. It felt like home."

"They made us feel so welcome," says Phil.

As part of the sale conditions a full provisional audit was done and Virginia Lodge achieved a 100 per cent pass rate.

"They were trying very hard to find something wrong," says Chris. "We have a good recipe so we don't want to change anything."

Marilyn will stay on for a while as nurse manager to ease the transition. She says that with the provisional audit results the home is in a good space.

Last Friday Virginia Lodge held a meet and greet for Phil and Chris and a "farewell" for Ross and Marilyn. Residents, family members, staff and all enjoyed the hospitality in the grand old building.