It wasn’t the most conventional start for Neville Parkinson in his new role as Village Manager at Ryman Healthcare’s Linda Jones Retirement Village.
With his official start date at the Flagstaff village being 1 April, it meant Neville and his wife Karen had to make the move to their new life in Hamilton after the rest of the country had gone into lockdown.
“We travelled from Gisborne as an essential worker when we moved to Alert Level 4. It was pretty unsettling to say the least.
“While we had settled on our new home earlier our furniture went into lockdown until Alert Level 3, as did our cat!”
Neville was excited to try something new after more than five years as village manager at Ryman’s Gisborne village, named after opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa.
He smiles when he talks about the team he built there and the work they achieved.
“That’s what I’m proudest of is our reputation there. Our care centre became the place to go to and we had built quite a waiting list for our independent units.
“That’s what led me to move really. We’d finished building the village, occupancy was full, the reputation was good, our Net Promoter Scores were in the top 10 for the country, we’d earned a four year certification and there was a really stable team in place.
“It felt like a good time to move to a bigger challenge!”
While Neville hails from Gisborne, he spent 21 years working for AMP and AXA away from the east coast town including a stint in Melbourne.
On moving back, he ran his own business with Karen for 15 years, a bookshop with a post office which serviced the whole town and included a sizeable Kiwibank branch.
“It taught us and our four kids a lot about looking after customers well and building a reputation, but eventually competition from online alternatives meant it was time to move on.”
It was after he sold the business that he saw the ad for Ryman. Neville applied for the job and soon found himself meeting the then CEO Simon Challies.
“I was really impressed that the CEO would take the time to interview the village manager and it showed me that they treated those roles with a high degree of importance.”
That importance was certainly underlined when Covid-19 hit and older people were identified as being most at risk from the highly infectious disease.
Ryman quickly put strict measures in place to restrict visitors coming into its 36 villages and redeployed staff to deliver groceries, mail and a few surprises to the doors of its locked down residents, including Happy Hour goodies in a bag.
“I have been really impressed with the generosity of Ryman through the whole Covid-19 experience.
“The effort Ryman made to make sure everyone was safe was huge and all the residents here tell me they have been showing off to their mates,” he laughs.
With 127 residents already calling Linda Jones their home, Neville is looking forward to welcoming many more to the village and building those relationships again.
In the meantime there are lots of milestones on the Linda Jones calendar to look forward to, not least the daily progress being made on the rest of the construction.
“It’s really cool seeing the progress every day and watching the village grow.
“We will soon have our village centre open which means we’ll be able to host our own functions and our residents will be able to enjoy all the benefits of being in a retirement village.
“I’m really looking forward to that.”