A major aged-care firm is planning to spend $130 million building Kerikeri's biggest retirement village.
The village, which will be built on what is now an 18ha orchard at the end of Hall Rd, on the fringe of central Kerikeri, will have up to 340 residents in about 200 villas and serviced apartments, and 60-80 care beds. More than 60 jobs will be created.
Auckland-based Arvida Group went public with its plans as soon as the land sale went through on Friday.
The news came on the same day the country's biggest Mitre 10 store opened at nearby Waipapa, at a cost of $13m, and within weeks of a series of major investment announcements around Northland. They include a $200m hotel in Whangarei and Seeka's $18m boost for the Kerikeri kiwifruit industry.
Arvida chief executive Bill McDonald said Kerikeri was an attractive retirement location with a shortage of care options, especially with the number of people aged 75-plus in the area expected to grow by 60 per cent in the next decade.
''It's a big investment but we've been taking our time looking at it and we really like the area. It's becoming a real retirement destination.''
The site was on flat land, less than 1km from the town centre and zoned residential. As well as independent living villas the development would include a care centre and community facilities.
He expected the village would create more than 60 jobs with many more during the construction phase.
Northland was once regarded as an economic backwater but McDonald said that had changed.
''It's a vibrant community and economy up there, and we think it'll continue to improve. We want to be part of it.''
One of the drivers was high land prices in Auckland but people were also realising Northland was a nice environment to live in, he said.
Planning would start immediately and take 12-15 months with construction expected to begin in 2021. The village would be built in stages because of its size relative to the town. No completion date had been set.
One of the factors in the site's favour was a plan by the Far North District Council to some day build a new road linking the area to Mill Lane, creating a bypass around the town centre. While the link road was put on ice in the council's latest long-term plan, which came into effect on July 1, he hoped the new development could spur the council to take another look.
He realised Arvida's plans could spark concerns about increased traffic on Hall Rd. The company was planning to liaise with local residents and would also make sure the design fitted in to its surroundings, McDonald said.
Arvida currently has 29 retirement villages around the country from Auckland to Timaru. Kerikeri will be the company's second greenfields development after Nelson, where earthworks have just begun. The firm has projects at varying stages at another eight sites.
Current retirement villages in Kerikeri include Metlifecare's Oakridge Villas, Quail Ridge and Kerikeri Retirement Village, which has 186 residents and is about to build a new apartment block.
Kerikeri Retirement Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter said Arvida's plans confirmed her view of Kerikeri as a prime location for the retirement and aged-care sector.
Aged-care providers in the Mid North weren't able to keep up with surging demand so the arrival of an extra provider was to be welcomed.
Arvida was a well-respected operator which would bring more retirement living options as well as significant economic benefits, Sumpter said.
Council critics, however, point out Kerikeri's infrastructure is already struggling to keep up with population growth.
Construction of a new, and long-overdue, wastewater plant is under way with triple the capacity of the current plant.
The new plant will cost $25.6m and be able to handle the 1090 properties connected to the existing sewage scheme plus an extra 350 central Kerikeri properties still using septic tanks and 350-400 new properties in the ''area of benefit'', which includes Hall Rd.
The extra capacity is supposed to cater for 10 years' growth but the new village could use up a significant proportion.
Far North Mayor John Carter said the council had set up a working group just last week to plan how to cater for growth in the aged care sector.
Kerikeri Retirement Village, Metlifecare and Kaitaia's Switzer Home were already involved; he hoped to get providers in Kaikohe and Kaeo on board, along with new players in the district such as Arvida.