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Mission bucks trend to keep Wesleyhaven

By Christie Pearce

Late last year the Board of Wesley Community Action (WCA) decided not to sell its Hutt Valley retirement village, Wesleyhaven. The decision was driven by a desire to meet the needs of older people who do not fit into or can not afford other housing options.

The Wesleyhaven complex is home to around 100 people and has been on the market since 2002. The decision not to sell goes against a continuing trend. For example, the Salvation Army has abandoned elderly residential care in the face of chronic government under funding.

WCA director David Hanna says the decision was a difficult one and came despite the strong economic arguments against retaining Wesleyhaven.

“We are clearly stepping out in faith. Within Wesley Community Action we have many years of experience and knowledge that we want to ensure is used and added to for the next 50 years of caring for the elderly. It will be challenging given current levels of government support for aged care and we will need to strengthen our partnerships with many groups to make it work.

One of the first retirement villages in New Zealand, Wesleyhaven has been providing care for older people for over 50 years.

David believes WCA must now look at its pioneering forebears to find a vision for the future

“It is important to maintain our tradition of finding innovative ways to support older people. We looked at trends in society and we believe there is going to be an increasing need to support older people who cannot afford other options.

“Our decision not to sell is not just about staying with the existing services. We are committed to create solutions and work with others in the community and in local and central government.

“We have been very pleased with the developing relationship with the Hutt City Uniting Congregations. This will be crucial as together we explore what being ‘church’ means for the aged in today’s changing world.”

WCA is now developing a workable vision and exploring a range of options for the next phase of development. These include freshening up the existing resthome and hospital, investing in building more low-cost rental accommodation, and increasing work with elderly in the wider community. To achieve this, WCA will need to find or fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We will need to use our many strengths to achieve our vision: a beautiful peaceful setting with good views, a committed and experienced staff team, and an effective community based service,” David says.

Since opening, Wesleyhaven has been home for around 5,000 older people.

“Then, as now, the strategic focus for our organisation was on high quality services with a move away from ‘bricks and mortar’ to community orientated services. Any residential facility will be there to support our primary goal of helping people live in the community of their choice.

David says WCA would like to turn the village into a community hub where older people who continue to live in their homes can take part in education or other services that help them sustain a good quality of life.

In 2002, the WCA board, in keeping with a 1999 strategic realignment policy, put Wesleyhaven on the market.