Murphy’s Orchard on Reading St, Greytown, has been bought by developers to turn into a resthome. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

Orchard sold for retirement village

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

One of Greytown’s last remaining orchards is destined to become a retirement village.

Murphy’s Orchard, one of the few still operating in the town, has been sold.

Developer Craig Percy said the intention was to build a “world class” retirement community, known as ‘The Orchards at Greytown’, on the Reading St site.

As part of the project, the well-known row of tall pines fronting the orchard will get the chop.

A number of the orchard trees, however, are expected to remain on the site, which is directly across from Greytown School.

Percy said the facility would include a mixture of accommodation options, with independent villas, serviced apartments, as well as a rest home hospital and dementia care facility.

“It’s very exciting, but obviously there’s a lot subject to planning, consents, council approval, local submissions, and working closely with the wider local community.”

The development was in its “real early stages”, with construction anticipated to get under way in late 2019.

The project would be a joint venture partnership between Percy, a retirement village operator, and Tumu Group.

“We are still working on our concepts and a part of this will be developed through community engagement,” Percy said.

“We respect that Greytown is a very sophisticated, close-knit community, and we want to work very closely with it.”

The orchard was bought by the Murphy family in 1979.

Back then it was a berry farm, and before that, a market garden.

When Heather and Andrew Murphy took over, they converted it into what it is today, a stone fruit orchard.

Heather Murphy said her husband had grown up on the site, where his parents worked as the managers for 38 years.

She and her husband were nearing retirement age, and it was time for a change.

“We’ve become surrounded by subdivisions and there was interest expressed from purchasers.”

Murphy said she and her husband were very sad to say goodbye to the orchard, which had been their home for decades.

The couple had downsized the orchard in recent years to make it more manageable, so “it was never going to sell as an orchard”.

She said the pine trees were more than 100 years old.

They had been “an amazing asset” to the orchard for shelter, “but they absolutely have to go”.

In 2011, a Greytown couple were injured after being struck by a falling branch, brought down by high winds.

Percy said when the pines are chopped down, there was potential for a firewood drive for Greytown School’s PTA.

He confirmed that arsenic contamination was not an issue on the land, as it had been for other former orchards in the town.

Greytown School principal Patrice O’Connor said Percy had been proactive in informing her with the plans.

“If anything, it brings a lot of opportunities for our children to have ever more people in their community that they can learn from.”

The resthome would be another resource for the school, and a possible partnership between the two had already been talked about “that would benefit both sides”.

O’Connor said she was impressed with the plans, which exhibited a “top end” facility.

More green space lost

Losing the heritage orchard would be “a huge loss in green space” for the town, says a resident.

Frank Minehan, a resident living nearby, said he was concerned infrastructure would not be able to cope with the increase in population that the new village would bring.

Losing the heritage orchard would also be “a huge loss in green space” for the town.

Minehan said the old pines also served as a bird sanctuary, and he would miss the wildlife.

He hoped there would be a notified resource consent to allow members of the public to make “reasonable” submissions.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said the proposal would benefit the whole of the district.

Limited facilities meant older residents needing aged care were forced to move out of the district.

This concern had been raised numerous times.

“We’ve had pressure over a number of years to make sections smaller, but this village will be good, offering different living options.”

Percy said the village would bring a lot of full- and part-time jobs to the town, and encourage permanent residents over holiday-makers.

It would also help free up family homes as older people moved into accommodation that suited their needs.

He said a “severe lack” of retirement and aged care services in South Wairarapa was compounded when Ultimate Care Group’s resthome in Greytown closed last year.

Percy said 21 per cent of the Greytown population was over the age of 70, compared with 10 per cent nationally.