The death of an elderly resident at a Hawke's Bay retirement village who was not discovered for several days has raised concern.

It is understood that Havelock North resident Richard Porter passed away at Mary Doyle Lifecare Complex several days before his body was discovered on September 19.

Police were called to Mary Doyle on September 19 for a "sudden death". A spokeswoman said they deemed the death as non-suspicious, but could not confirm when Mr Porter had died as the matter had been referred to the coroner.

No date of death was stated in his memorial notice, published on September 23.


Mr Porter did not have family in Hawke's Bay, but is being remembered by his friends as an avid bird photographer, keen trout fisherman, and former employee of the DSIR Havelock North.

The Havelock North Mary Doyle complex offers around-the-clock care in some areas, but also provides independent retirement or serviced living options in villas and apartments - such as where Mr Porter lived.

Although he lived independently, questions have been raised over why there no checks at the facility to ensure his wellbeing.

A woman whose parent lived in the same unit as Mr Porter, and did not want to be named, said it was thought Mr Porter had died several days before he was discovered.

"A staff member finally realised after five days that his papers were accumulating and went to investigate and opened the door... and phoned the police," she said.

"The reason you put your parents in a place like that is they can be kept an eye on and sighted. I don't know if they have any sort of policy for independent living but its not good enough, for someone to lie there for five days independent living or not."

Havelock North Age Concern chairperson Wayne Bradshaw said it was unfortunate this had happened, and hoped there was a practice put in place to ensure there were daily, regular checks on residents.

"That's one of the benefits of being in a village that actually people are looking after you and there is some pastoral care element to it. That should be the minimum in my view."


He said nothing could undo what had happened, but wanted a guarantee that there was a process in place to ensure nothing like this would happen again.

The facility was owned by Hurst Lifecare, but was recently sold to Arvida Group.

Given the complex did not formally pass into Avida's ownership until next week, Arvida chief executive Bill McDonald said he was not able to comment on the specifics of the man's death.

It was not known exactly when Mr Porter had died, but was thought to be around September 15.

Mr McDonald said he understood staff and residents at the complex were upset about the incident. He thought that as soon as they realised Mr Porter had not been seen for several days they checked on him.

He said Arvida Group had full confidence in the management of the Mary Doyle team. He stressed the difference between the independent living area of a retirement village and the lifecare area, "where it's 24/7 care".

For those living independently, staff tried to allow residents to retain as much independence as possible, he said.

"That means that occasionally incidents like this occur but from an industry perspective it's something which we take really seriously and ensure we have best practice procedures in place, and I'm absolutely confident these were in place at Mary Doyle."

He said when Arvida took ownership of the complex it would be reviewing the processes in place.

Hurst Lifecare did not respond to requests for comment. Mary Doyle general manager Diana Triplow said she did not want to comment.

Friends of Mr Porter also said he was a private man, who valued his independence and would not have wanted to be monitored.

The friends Mr Porter usually visited both happened to be out of town around the time of his death.

"His normal support crew that lived beyond Mary Doyle just weren't there at that time," friend John McLennan said.

"For me there's no reflection on Mary Doyle because Dick was a private person in general, he would have not wanted somebody to come in and check on him every day. I think the staff there respected that."

He had worked with Mr Porter at the former DSIR in Havelock North. The two had a shared love of wildlife, and Mr Porter had an extensive knowledge of New Zealand birds and animals.

"He always had an interest in photography but he really developed that to a fine art in retirement. He became an outstanding wildlife photographer and a lot of his photographs are now down in the Dominion museum. That's his legacy really, his photographs will be valued for years to come."

"We are feeling the loss of a good friend, and I think his wildlife photography will live on well beyond him. We just feel sad, he had a lot more living to do, and a whole lot more giving to do."

Another friend, Daryl Moat, had known Mr Porter since the 1970s but it was not until the two bonded over model railways that they became close friends.

As well as his love of photography, Mr Porter had also been involved with the Cape Sanctuary project.

Mr Porter's death notice stated he was "loved by his sister Susan, nieces Jo and Debbie, and their families in England.

He was a "respected and good friend of the McLennan, Clapperton/Lo, Moat and Lowe families".

A memorial service for Mr Porter was held on September 29 at the Havelock North Community Centre.