A retirement village boom in Kerikeri with no corresponding increase in care beds for residents who become ill or frail is breaking families apart, a village operator says.
The not-for-profit Kerikeri Retirement Village operates the only care facility in town — but it doesn't have enough beds for its own residents, let alone those from the town's three other retirement villages.
The care centre is legally obliged to take people from other retirement villages if they are no longer able to look after themselves.
However, that depends on beds being available, which is often not the case.
As of last week 123 people were on the waiting list for the 66-bed facility.
Kerikeri Retirement Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter said if no care bed was available and the person couldn't stay home with extra support, there was no option but to send them to a care centre out of town or even out of the district.
That meant couples who had been together for decades could be split up.
By that time in life many residents were unable to drive so they couldn't visit each other without help.
''Our concern is the number of people on our care facility waiting list whose needs we can't fulfil because none of the other operators have built their promised care facilities.
"It's desperate. It's breaking up families and it's causing daily distress,'' she said.
Retirement village operators are not legally obliged to provide care beds but they do have to tell prospective residents what provisions are available, if any, for care.
Sumpter said regulation may be needed to force companies to provide care beds when building retirement villages.
The requirement could be built into council planning processes, she said, with resource consents for new villages requiring owners to provide, for example, 10 care beds for every 60 independent living units.
''Any commercial operator will defer building a care centre as long a possible because it's so costly and so hard to make it financially viable,'' she said.
There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel. One of the three other operators lodged a resource consent just last week to build a care facility.
The other villages say they are committed to building care centres but have no firm dates.
Swedish-owned Metlifecare, which operates Oakridge Villas, bought the neighbouring Kerikeri RSA site in 2019 with the stated intention of building a care centre but has made no visible progress since then.
On September 20, however, the company applied to the Far North District Council to build another 34 villas on the RSA site plus a care unit with up to 65 beds.
Metlifecare general manager development Matt Wickham said the timeframe for the premium care home would depend on the consent process.
''However, we would intend to commence construction once all consents have been received,'' he said.
Todd Jenkins, chief executive of Quail Ridge Country Club, said a care facility was planned but no date had been set.
Construction of a club house would start in March 2022, all going well, with the care facility to follow.
''We want it sooner rather than later. The ideal scenario would be to build the club house and care centre at same time.''
Jenkins said tentative plans had been drawn up for a 40-bed unit but he preferred 60-80 beds given the Far North's large retiree population.
The village website promises a state-of-the-art care facility providing aged, hospital and palliative care.
The town's newest retirement village is Arvida-owned Te Puna Waiora.
The first 16 villas have been finished and work is under way on the next 26. Two couples have moved in and four more are due to follow this week. Once complete it will house up to 340 people.
Arvida spokesman Tristan Saunders said the company planned to build a clubhouse first, then a 70-suite care facility which included a dementia unit and hospital-level care.
Construction of the club house was expected to start in mid- to late-2022.
He could not give a date but hoped the care centre could be accelerated.
The nearest alternative care facilities when Kerikeri Retirement Village is full are in Kāeo, Kaikohe, Haruru, Kaitaia and Whangārei.
Consumer NZ urges aged care investigation
A consumer rights group has lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission urging it to investigate aged care claims by the retirement village sector.
Consumer NZ alleges some retirement villages make misleading claims about the care available to residents no longer able to look after themselves.
Chief executive Jon Duffy said a major selling point for many retirement villages is the rest home facilities they provide for residents who can no longer live independently.
Villages' advertising and marketing could create the impression that care was guaranteed but that often wasn't the case.
Retirement village contracts reviewed by Consumer NZ found they failed to give any assurance aged care would be available when needed.
"Contracts typically state residents may be given priority for access to care beds but there's no guarantee you'll get a bed if you need it," Duffy said.
"Consumers should be able to rely on claims made in villages' advertising. However, residents are being placed in situations where villages' promises of healthcare aren't being fulfilled," Duffy said.
In a Consumer NZ survey of retirement village residents last year, 50 per cent of respondents said access to aged care services was a key factor in their decision to move into their village.