Mon, Jan 29, 2024 12:25 PM

First residents move into new Blenheim retirement village


Maia Hart

Ria, 83, and John van der Burgh, 85, aren’t “getting any younger” - so they jumped on an opportunity to move into Blenheim’s newest retirement village.

The pair officially get the keys to their villa at Summerset Blenheim Retirement Village home today, with their moving van booked to shift their big items on Wednesday.

Their current home is just down the road, so they have been shifting a carload of items each day to make the move easier.

They are the first to move into the village, which downsized its original building plans in July 2023.

“Really the main thing is, moving here, when one of us passes away, at least you will have company,” Ria says.

“And if I go before John, at least he can eat somewhere.”

However, the pair still lived an active lifestyle and look forward to enjoying the village together - which, in time, would include a café, library, pool and other recreational areas.

In fact, John still walks 10km a day - 5km in the morning and 5km in the evening - and sometimes they cycled too.

“We don't smoke, we walk, we still bike,” Ria says.

“We have no pills from the doctor, never in our life. All we take is a fish pill and a zinc pill, every day.”

Welcome home: Village manager Jo Neuhauser, left, with the van der Burghs outside their new home. Photo: Supplied/Stuff

Summerset Blenheim opened its first 13 properties to the market last year.

The organisation had 28 villages across across New Zealand, and some in Australia, and more than 7500 residents.

Last year, the organisation changed its plans from a 15m high, multi-storey main building consented in 2021, to only single-storey buildings.

Initially, the consented design of the main building was going to be twice as high as what the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan allowed for, following a decision from an independent commissioner.

The altered consent meant the number of independent living units dropped from 224 to 180, while the number of care bed spaces was reduced from 43 to 30.

The van der Burghs, who immigrated to New Zealand from Holland about 50 years ago, said they had been looking at different retirement villages in New Zealand.

But in 2020, they decided to move to Blenheim from the Kāpiti Coast, which meant they were closer to one of their children who lived in the region with his wife and two children.

“[It’s] fantastic, we love the wineries, we go twice a week,” Ria says.

“We have done all of the tastings, and now we walk in, and they say, ‘is it the usuals?’ and we say ‘yes’.”

She said they intentionally chose their three-bedroom home because it had some shade when it got too hot.

They hoped to walk to get their groceries at Pak’nSave Westwood, and wanted to get involved with village activities too.

Summerset Blenheim will eventually have 180 independent living units. Photo: Supplied/Stuff

The new single-storey main building would house hospital beds as well as shared recreational spaces and was expected to open at the end of 2026. A temporary recreation centre would open in the interim.

The main building would be surrounded by independent villas, with onsite parking and internal roads connecting to Old Renwick Rd. Onsite rest home and hospital-level care would start once certified by Te Whatu Ora.

At a pre-sales event held in October, Summerset announced that prices for their 72m² one-bedroom cottages, each with an allocated car park, would start from $615,000.

The 112m² two-bedroom villas started at $750,000 and three-bedroom started at $879,000. That sum paid for a licence to occupy, with a $167 weekly fee for services such as maintenance, exterior cleaning, rates, and village management paid on top of that.

Summerset Blenheim Village manager Jo Neuhauser, who relocated to Blenheim for the role, says the second residents were expected to move in to the village in February.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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