Construction of a multi-million-dollar communal home for elderly Māori is expected to begin within the next two months.
The home, designed by Opus Architecture and costing more than $2 million, is being funded jointly by Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga and Housing NZ.
It will be built on a site next to a children’s playground in Bristol Crescent, Flaxmere, across the road from the suburb’s shopping centre.
The Kaumatua Whare has been designed to provide safe, family-style accommodation for up to 10 residents, with a live-in housekeeper to provide them with two meals a day. Most of the work in and around the house will be done by volunteers, including residents.
The need for such housing has been supported by a recent report to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, which indicated 57 per cent of the region’s elderly people were at risk of malnutrition that could lead to frailty and illness requiring admittance to hospital. Māori were five times more likely to be among this group, living alone on a low income and not eating properly.
Taiwhenua chief executive Alayna Watene said the new home fitted well with her organisation’s philosophy and goals.
“This is a kaupapa Māori service. Our kaumatua target group are those who experience loneliness and whose only income is national superannuation,” she said.
The taiwhenua’s research had made it clear that kaumatua wanted to continue looking after themselves as much as possible, and they preferred a family-style alternative to retirement villages and resthomes.
“We took that research and set out to find the right mix of support and independence and community involvement for our old people,” Mrs Watene said.
The solution was found in the Abbeyfield concept, an international, not-for-profit movement in 17 countries. These homes provide companionship and affordable accommodation for elderly people in the form of a semi-flatting arrangement. Abbeyfield homes feature a strong component of volunteer assistance in their day-to-day running, including the residents, who also have a say in formulating house rules.
There are already 12 Abbeyfield Homes in New Zealand, the closest one to Hawke’s Bay being Roslyn House in Palmerston North.
Abbeyfield ticked all the boxes in terms of kaumatua needs, with its focus on retaining strong community connection, Mrs Watene said.
Each resident in the kaumatua whare will have a bedroom with en suite bathroom, and access to communal areas such as lounge, laundry, kitchen, entertainment and outdoor living areas.
The taiwhenua will apply to Hastings District council for building consent shortly, and put the project out for tender next month (JULY). Building could begin as soon as August and is likely to be completed by February next year.
The taiwhenua will begin compiling a list of volunteer helpers and accepting applications for residential places about December.
Mrs Watene said she had some anxiety about positioning the house next to Flaxmere Park because police had identified it as a favoured haunt for anti-social elements fighting, tagging and drinking there, particularly after dark.
However, the Hastings District Council had promised to do all it could to reduce that behaviour.
Planned measures included opening up views across the park, eliminating closed-in areas frequented by vandals, and making the park a more sociable place by providing facilities such as cycle paths and performance platforms.
Source: Press Release – Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga