Ryman Healthcare's plans for a new Australian retirement village in Victoria have been rejected by a territorial authority but the NZX-listed business plans to fight that decision.
A company spokesman said today its application to develop a big new village at Mt Eliza, near Melbourne, was rejected by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.
"We intend to take an appeal to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal, the appeal authority for council planning decisions. We were not surprised by the decision as councillors and staff have foreshadowed its opposition to the proposal, and we look forward to taking our application to VCAT to consider," he said.
• Submissions closing on Ryman Healthcare's Mount Eliza plans amid environmentalist unrest
• Ryman downsizes Australian plan: Mount Eliza environmentalists fear for koala, growling frogs, possums
"We know we have strong support from retirees on the Mornington Peninsula and want to live on what would be a fantastic site in a peaceful location overlooking Port Philip Bay.
Ryman originally planned 300 apartments but cut that back to 217 places to address community concerns.
"We have consulted widely with locals about our plans to build a village on the Mt Eliza site, and we have amended our original plans to reduce the scale of the project and increase setbacks," the spokesman said.
One local expressed delight about yesterday's decision.
Brett Hardy said: "There is rising community animosity towards this development as the corporation appears to use its significant resources against the neighbourhood. Even the term Kiwi koala killers has been bandied around and the resident stakeholder image of the Ryman group is at an all-time low."
The Ryman spokesman said the Moondah site was used as a residential university campus for almost 60 years, from 1957 until 2016, when Ryman bought it from the University of Melbourne. It includes student accommodation blocks for 95 students as well as staff accommodation and teaching space.
"We think transforming the campus into a retirement village with integrated care including dementia care will turn it into as great amenity for Mt Eliza which will meet an important social need," the spokesman said.
"We'll also carry out a significant restoration of the main building, the mansion built by James Grice in 1888, and building a place of worship for the residents and the wider community," he said.
The Grice family turned it into a social hub for the Mt Eliza community, and the mansion was later turned into a hotel before becoming a campus for the Australian Administrative Staff College, and then the Mt Eliza Business School.
The Mornington Peninsula has an ageing population "and our research shows there is a shortage of living options for retired people in the area. We already have strong interest in the village, with 350 people on our database," the spokesman said.
But Hardy said the rejection was "a major investment fail for Ryman on a property that can never be capitalised the way they intended at purchase".