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End of era for rest home

The Wharekaka eldercare facilities in Martinborough are now operating under new management.

As previously reported by the Times-Age, Wharekaka Trust Board had struggled for some time to provide rest home and other services against a backdrop of rising costs and a staffing crisis exacerbated by the covid pandemic.

Late last year – after an Extraordinary General Meeting and public consultation– the decision was made to pursue a merger with Masonic Villages Trust, well known in the region for its villas and aged-care facility in Masterton.

With an agreement on February 28, the merger process was completed by the end of last month.

Although Wharekaka Trust Board chair Joy Cooper described the need for the move as “tremendously sad”, she is pleased accommodation and other facilities for the elderly are expected to continue as a result of the deal.

“We couldn’t afford to keep going,” Cooper said. “It was either bankruptcy or merge with another entity.”

The Trust has gifted the business to Masonic Villages.

“We basically handed over a loss-making business. No money changed hands,” Cooper said.

However, the Wharekaka rest home – which was shuttered in March last year – will not reopen as it is “uneconomic”.

“The funding [for rest homes] has not grown with the costs. It is very difficult to make ends meet,” Cooper said.

“Many small rest homes have closed in the past few years. The direction of public policy is for people to be taken care of in their own homes.”

With that facility closing in Martinborough, people needing rest-home-level care will now be looking at facilities in Greytown, Carterton or Masterton.

 However, Cooper said the outcome is positive overall.

“The Trust Board is delighted Masonic shares our values and is committed to maintaining and developing Wharekaka as a resource for older people in Martinborough,” she said.

She said Wharekaka’s 12 supported villas will continue to operate now, as will Meals on Wheels and daytime social activities like pilates and bowling.

Masonic Villages Limited chief executive Warick Dunn confirmed the rest home won’t be reopening, but said the organisation is committed to continuing the work of the Trust.

“It is a privilege for us to be entrusted with the assets of Wharekaka that have been built up over a long time. We want to assure the community they are in safe hands.”

Dunn said the organisation will focus on the housing needs of older people, especially rental accommodation.

“We understand there is a need for rental accommodation for older people who have reached that stage of their life with no capital but need to have a safe place to live,” he said.

The organisation hopes Martinborough will continue to be a place older people can find not only accommodation but also social networks and support.

Dunn said it is early days, with the new ownership structure only in place for a matter of weeks, but gave an assurance the community will be consulted before any decisions are made about Wharekaka’s future. 


  1. That’s very sad. My wife, Carolyn Kenyon, was the matron in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. There was a great staff and a much valued community.

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