Richlister and Ryman Healthcare co-founder John Ryder is expanding a new $750 million national chain of retirement villages in a business which has just bought further land for a new $160m project.

Christchurch-headquartered Qestral Corporation, whose shareholders include Ryder along with brothers Simon and Jeremy O'Dowd and private equity firm Direct Capital, today announced it had bought land for a $160m retirement village at Halswell, Christchurch.

That adds to projects in Northland, Hamilton, Nelson and Burwood in Christchurch where Ryder said villages with a projected end value of $750m would be built.

"Christchurch-based retirement village developer and operator, Qestral Corporation, is buying 12 hectares of land in Halswell, between Milns and Sparks Roads, to develop a new retirement village called Banbury Park," a statement said.

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Ryder formed Ryman with Kevin Hickman many years ago and their surnames were merged to invent the company name.

Qestral said it planned 200 independent and serviced villas, 60 rest home and hospital suites, 20 suites for dementia care and 40 serviced apartments at Halswell.

The company, whicg was founded in 2012, already owns Alpine View Village in Burwood and is developing the Burlington Village in Redwood.

O'Dowd indicated the retirement village market was changing, hence Qestral's expansion: "Increasing government funding constraints are leading to elderly people looking at extra services in the private village market. Qestral is making a mark in the city, providing excellent and well-run care facilities, and creating vibrant communities with loads of activities."

John Ryder, planning a new $160m project. Photo / supplied
John Ryder, planning a new $160m project. Photo / supplied

Other members of the Qestral board are Kerry Mason, Wendy Fleming who is the honorary vice president of Alzheimers International, Direct Capital chief executive Ross George and lawyer John Strowger.

The directors are major shareholders, along with leading private equity fund manager Direct Capital, the statement said.

Ryder said he sold his Ryman shares in 2002 and joined Qestral in 2012. Asked if the business would compete with Ryman, he said: "First, we see ourselves as being in a different part of the market. Secondly, it's a huge industry.

"But we will be different because we won't usually go above two storeys," he said, referring to Ryman's more high-rise model.

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"We try to make our villages non-institutional. Every one of our sites is at least 12ha and we have Kerry Mason of MAP as the architect. He's former managing director of Warren and Mahoney in Christchurch. I see the next revolution in retirement villages as being architectural. When you compare [existing villages] to Millwater [near Wanaka] and Clearwater here in Christchurch, retirement villages are way behind those concepts and it's going to move towards those upmarket places."

A deferred management fee of 25 per cent will be charged over four years, under Qestral's model.

Ryder indicated he was more comfortable with Qestral being private and there were no plans for an NZX listing anytime soon.

"Under the public equity situation, you have huge obligations to shareholders and so it's a privilege to be in the private sector and build for ourselves rather than a wide range of shareholders. We don't have the same constraints as a company listed on the NZX."

Qestral's villages were at various stages of development: around 300 people were living at the Burwood village, Ryder said, while other projects had not yet started.

"We're developing in Nelson on a very difficult block of land in the Tahunanui Hills in a vaelly now completely flattened, a 12 ha site and we're about to start building there. In Northland, we've signed an agreement to buy land but it's confidential. We've purchased a 17ha site on the riverside in Hamilton and we're planning a village there. We have six sites and the villages will be completed in the next five years."

Direct Capital has 16 per cent of Qestral, Ryder said.