Topic: Somervale’s 30th anniversary by Alison Carey

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A speech given by Alison Carey, Immediate Past President of Somervale Unit Residents’ Association, at the Somervale 30th Birthday celebrations on the 6th of May 2015. Thanks to Rhonda Howie, manager of Metlifecare Somervale for her assistance with photography.

Alison Carey

Looking strange? see an archived version here

Good afternoon everyone and Happy Birthday!

I have spent most of my life in the Wellington region and in recent years my idea of a good day out was to go to the National Library in Molesworth Street and “fossick about”. News of Somervale’s approaching 30th anniversary sent me fossicking in Tauranga. I was particularly interested in finding the origin of the name, “Somervale”.

Firstly I visited the City Council who gave me an aerial photo of this block in 1977. Apart from a few houses in Grenada Street the area bounded by Girven and Gloucester Roads and further east, consisted of grass, trees, fences and a few sheep. The Tauranga Library had scrapbooks of cuttings, mainly from the ‘Bay of Plenty Times’ and these provided some history of ‘Somervale’.

The land now occupied by Somervale, bordering Gloucester Road, was sold by the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton to a Christchurch-based firm of developers, Paynter and Hamilton. They had been granted planning consent by the Mount Maunganui Borough Council in November 1983. It seems as though prior to the transfer of title to them, they had agreed to sell to the United Building Society. In any case, details of the sale were finalised by mid-1984 with United Building Society as the owners.

The name Somervale first appeared in correspondence at this time. A subsidiary company of UBS, United Lifecare, was set up expressly for the creation of retirement villages. Somervale was the first United Lifecare village and was developed by the Paynter Group of companies.

By August 1984 building was in progress and in September that same year the Minister of Social Welfare Mrs. Ann Hercus opened two display units [currently Units 11 & 12]. The estimated costs for units when available were $69,500 for a one bedroom unit and $79,500 for two bedrooms. Esma Douglas was the first resident at Somervale.

Between 1984 and 1989 United Lifecare built three other villages. They were Highlands and Crestwood in Auckland and Oakwoods in Nelson. Somervale was the first of these and they attracted great interest, being the earliest of villages built solely by private enterprise. With their four villages built, United Lifecare announced that it was “the country’s largest developer of residential village communities”.

With the 1987 share market crash and United Lifecare’s financial difficulties at the time, the State Bank of South Australia took over the group in 1990. It in turn faced similar difficulties and Metlifecare bought the group in 1993.

Somervale Snippets by Alison Carey

The ‘Bay of Plenty Times’ interviewed resident Mrs. Mary Paton in 1986 and these are two of her quotes from that interview. “You can do almost anything you like with the unit so long as you don’t make any structural alterations”. “When the time comes to move into fulltime nursing care in The Lodge, United Lifecare promises residents that they can sell their units back to the organisation for no less than the original purchase price”.

Some of the statistics have changed dramatically between 1986 and the present. In 1986 the ages of residents ranged from the mid-50s to late 80s, while the gender balance was roughly equal at nine men for every eleven women. In 2015, the age-range of residents is from the late 60s to over 100, while just 20% of residents are male, to 80% female.

Dinner at the dining room cost $4 back in 1986.

Bayfair shopping complex has been an enormous asset to us. Remarkably, it opened just two days after Somervale, on the 8th of May 1985, Somervale having opened on the 6th of May 1985. Maxine Armstrong said at that time that “among the facilities [at Bayfair] there are a huge supermarket, a big array of shops, a Post Office and a hotel. The hotel being so near is marvellous. It’s a great place to take people for dinner.” [This was the DB Hotel Mt Maunganui on the site of the present Imbibe Cafe.]

It is very special to have Mr. Wayne Moultrie with us today. Thirty years ago, minus two days, as Mayor of Mount Maunganui, he was opening Bayfair. Because Somervale is so closely connected in this way with Bayfair, we have made a card for them and Jeanette, our president, and I shall deliver it to the Manager tomorrow. I have made some progress towards determining how Somervale got its name, and will tell you all when I have an answer.

Somervale Snippets by Alison Carey

My son Ross who is here at present has written a haiku (a short Japanese poem) about retirement villages:

Not ‘old folks’ homes’ they’re
‘Retirement lifestyle’ options
For savvy seniors

But Somervale residents are more than savvy. This village allows you to be yourself. People are resilient but also caring and this seems to have been the pattern from the very beginning. Somervale is a good place to be. Mary Paton put it rather well: “We’re very private, But very much together.”

Long may the spirit of Somervale prevail!

Somervale Opening Plaque (6 May 1985)


Two incidentals of interest:

  • The Church of St. Thomas More was consecrated on the 7th of June 1987.
  • Greenwood Park opened on the 3rd of December 1988.

Two individuals who kindly helped with information:

  • Mr. Greg Schmit, CEO Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.
  • Mr. Kelvin O’Hara, former Mayor of Mt Maunganui involved in the development of Somervale.

This page was archived at Perma cc March 2017

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Somervale’s 30th anniversary by Alison Carey