Baby boomers changing the landscape for small towns

A retirement village in the centre of a small town seeking to bring the village and community together could be a blueprint for regional New Zealand.

Currently under construction, The Oaks on Neville (“The Oaks”) will be the first apartment style retirement village of its kind in regional New Zealand.  The village sits right in the middle of Warkworth, a small but fast growing town 64 kilometres north of Auckland.

With around 5000 permanent residents, Warkworth also acts as a catchment for a number of wider farming communities.

Real Living Group, one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned retirement village operators, is behind the project. 

Directory Kevin Murphy says The Oaks on Neville is designed to meet the changing expectation of what retirement living offers.

 “This is the first retirement village that's actually been built into a little township, everything that central Warkworth offers they'll have at their fingertips. “

Within walking distance of the village will be a medical centre, supermarket, pharmacy, bowling club and local RSA.

Alongside this The Oaks will include a gym, pool, café and library.

With an estimated village resident population of 350 people when completed, The Oaks will have 180 apartments and around 30 rest home or hospital rooms providing a welcome boost to the local economy.

“The beauty of this village is they are going to have people living centrally and shopping on a daily basis, so the injection of money into Warkworth businesses is quite phenomenal,” Mr Murphy says.

Building boom

Funding the development was unique as the site and location were not what ANZ would typically see in the sector, including the renovation of a historical building, ANZ Commercial & Agri General Manager Penny Ford explains.

Layered over these challenges, the demographic profile and apartment style living meant careful assessment was needed to understand the demand for this type of village.

“We used our sector knowledge and looked at the retirement trends we were seeing in city locations,” Penny explains.

ANZ also worked with the owner to ensure they were able to use local contractors.

With construction well underway Real Living Group have worked with the contractor to use local trades,  employing a local electrician, steel manufacturer, scaffolding company, excavation and concrete supplier.

“We are keenly involved in our communities, so we were delighted to work together with the owner to help local business people get involved.

“In smaller communities the dollar goes a lot further and the benefit of an investment of this kind into regional New Zealand is a great growth story,” Penny says.

Demanding numbers

According to CRBE, New Zealand has almost 36,000 retirement village units and we estimate retirement villages are now home to 39,000 older New Zealanders. 

And it continues to grow with around 50 units built per week.  In the 40 weeks from December 2016 to October 2017, 1,924 units were added to the retirement village stock, and the capital value of the sector also rose by some $820 million from $12.64 billion to $13.46 billion over the same time.

Recent research by Forsyth Barr into the aged care sector shows growth in the over 75 year old age group has started to accelerate and is expected to grow by around 15,000 per annum over the 2017 – 2027 period.


Retirement village living is increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice, with 13.5% of over 75 year olds in retirement villages in 2017 compared with 9.8% in 2008.

The Oaks on Neville shows one way the sector is evolving to keep up with changing expectation of what a retirement village should offer.

“There is a lot of demand for increased retirement villages across New Zealand,” Penny Ford says.

“With the increased demand, and improved wellbeing, people want more options to choose from.  I think what you are seeing now is a real variety in developments, and that’s what is so exciting about The Oaks on Neville.

“It really differentiates and gives people a choice away from the norm of retirement villages.”

Real Living Director Chris Murphy agrees.

“We intend to create an environment where once they move in they can stay, this will become their community, and they’ll form friendships. 

“And if their health needs change they can stay part of that community.”