NZX-listed Summerset Group, with 28 villages throughout New Zealand, has scaled up pandemic responses by posting security guards and further restricting access to its network of homes and hospitals for the elderly.

In an announcement this morning, the business which accommodates thousands of residents said its measures included "posting of security staff and closure of physical gates to restrict and screen visitors".

It is now screening those who can come in, has activated mandatory declaration processes and said it has automatic gates on all its road and pedestrian entrances to villages which provided robust security and protection.

Summerset's move follows New Zealand's biggest retirement business, the 36-village Ryman Healthcare, introducing thermometer checks for all those seeking to enter its villages.


Summerset Group profit drops 18% after retirement unit delivery rate falls
Coronavirus in NZ: Retirement villages in restricted access mode, visitors asked to stay away

The World Health Organisation says those over aged 80-plus suffer mortality rates of 20 per cent.

Summerset also hinted at potentially reduced demand from new village residents due to the pandemic. Not having a huge unfinished group of projects suddenly seems like a plus in the sector, which pre-virus rated villages on their new development workloads.

"Construction of villas typically involves staged construction contracts of three to six months in duration. This enables us to respond quickly to changes in customer demand and actively control our investment cashflow," it said.

On a brighter note, it issued a reassurance about its debt levels, saying it had $225m of retail bonds and a $750m bank facility. It had around $400m of unutilised capacity available from the bank facility to help operational and investment cash flows if that was needed.

Last week, Ryman said non-essential visits should stop: "We are adding a security check-in at our village gates in addition to the reception check. Once these are in place, all visitors will be required to check in at the gates and reception, including having temperature checks."

Brien Cree, Radius Care managing director, sent a letter out this week advising of restricted access mode.

Retirement Villages Association members are meeting every Tuesday to share information and discuss events around the pandemic.


John Collyns, association executive director, said the group was Ryman's Gordon MacLeod, Metlifecare's Glen Sowry, Oceania's Earl Gasparich, Generus Group's Graham Wilkinson, Arvida Group's Bill McDonald, Summerset's Julian Cook, the Aged Care Association's Simon O'Dowd, a representative from the Alpine Retirement Group and Bupa New Zealand's Maggie Owens.