Too few for resthomes

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The private sector offers no immediate alternative to Queenstown old folk being sent to Dunedin or Invercargill for final days in hospital care.

But does the Wakatipu fare in two other aged-care aspects: retirement villages and resthomes for the more frail?

Ryman Healthcare owns 21 retirement facilities from Whangarei to Invercargill. Boss Simon Challies told BizScene the Wakatipu still has too few elderly to attract the firm. Typical Ryman residents are in their 80s.

“Most of our villages are in old, established communities, with good public hospital infrastructure.”

Centralised, in-house design and project management enable Ryman to economically build resthome and hospital facilities with its villages.

Besides village units, its new Orewa project on Auckland’s Hibiscus Coast has a 110-bed facility providing resthome, hospital and dementia care.

Nationally, resthome occupancy has risen to near 95 per cent in the past three years and Ryman seems alone in creating new resthome beds.

Land prices don’t keep Ryman out of Queenstown, Challies said.

“The difficulty for us is scale. We could potentially do a boutique village but it would be a very small one.”

This would have care facilities.

Ryman has room to expand for years in Auckland alone, however. Then there are warm localities with big elderly populations such as the Kapiti Coast. The Australian market also looks attractive.

The charitable sector that once provided aged care has shrunk.

A survivor, Presbyterian Support Southland, runs the 36-bed Wakatipu Home for the Elderly adjoining Frankton’s public Lakes District Hospital and the 18-cottage Frankton Village.

PSS marketing manager Noel Hassed says these meet demand at the moment.

Most district health boards have also withdrawn long-term aged-care hospital beds.

It’s snow go

Water that fell as snow last winter has been coming down early as rain, hence the high rivers, says Met Service “weather ambassador” Bob McDavitt.

In his view, this may wash out Moon weatherman Ken Ring’s forecast of cold weather for the southern ski season.

La Niña, the Pacific ocean-atmosphere phenomenon, is fading early this year. This is causing storms before the ski season and high rivers in the South Island. Last year La Niña faded later, causing July storms that dumped snow rather than rain.

Ring told BizScene a month ago that he expects a long, cold winter for the Wakatipu, with the Shotover River likely to freeze over in July. Ring bases his forecasts on 18- and 20-year Moon orbit cycles.

Yet McDavitt reckons a Philippines volcano’s ash may have distorted weather at the corresponding time of the last cycle.

Regardless, snowmaking equipment has reduced uncertainty about the ski season.

Kingston Flyer

Sale discussions are understood to continue slowly on the Kingston Flyer train, rail line and land despite the bankruptcy of Dan McEwan, who owned just under 50 per cent of the asset-owning company. Initially, the asking price was $3 million.

Phil Kerr of Kingston and Ian Caldwell of Queenstown own Kingston Flyer Steamtrain Ltd, which leases the assets and runs the train. Manager Kerr tells BizScene the season which has just ended was “quite reasonable under the circumstances”.

A few charter trips continue this week. The train will resume regular service about October 1.

Neill Birss will chase up your biz tips: neillb@maxnet.co.nz