$70m 'act of faith' by sisters to care for elderly

19:01, Jun 30 2013
Nazareth House
NAZARETH HOUSE: The chapel at Nazareth House in Brougham St may be demolished.

After over 100 years in Christchurch, the Sisters of Nazareth will continue their presence in the city by building a $70 million aged care complex.

The Catholic order lost their Sydenham convent, chapel and Nazareth House rest home in the earthquakes.

When the 80 elderly residents were rehoused around New Zealand, the sisters stayed on site in a temporary convent and have agreed unanimously to rebuild.

nazareth house
AMBITIOUS PLANS: An artist's impression of the new $70m Nazareth House aged care complex.

They have now released plans for an ambitious development on their 8-hectare Brougham St site. The plans include an 80-bed care hospital and rest home, plus a dementia unit, convent and chapel, and a 62-unit retirement village.

The sisters hope to start building in October.

"This is a very big act of faith, because the insurance will only cover a third of the cost," says Sister Dominica Cooper, the order's Melbourne-based regional superior. She hopes a fundraising appeal will help reduce the shortfall.


"But we believe we will get there. This is something coming out of the rubble; something like this gives a sense of hope and we need that in Christchurch. Nazareth House will rise again."

The Nazareth House name dates from the order's early 1900s orphanage and later rest home, rebuilt in the 1980s behind the original three-storey complex.

Cooper said the retirement villas, built for residents who buy licences to occupy, would help fund the rest of the development.

The four remaining sisters will be joined by 150 staff, including part-timers, compared with 100 employed in the previous home. Some residents and a few staff have already expressed a desire to return.

Cooper acknowledged the order would be in a competitive retirement village sector, and hoped the model would be a "flagship" to copy in their Australian retirement homes.

The new Nazareth House will have residents' rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, plus a cafe, cinema and shop. The site will include woodlands alongside a stream.

"We hope it will have the wow factor, but also create a feeling of peacefulness."

The chapel will reuse artefacts salvaged from its predecessor, including a marble altar and stained glass windows.

Resource consent applications for the retirement units go in in August, and the first residents could be in by March. The staged development is due for completion in three years.

The complex will be run by Nazareth Care, the operating arm of the Sisters of Nazareth, and will be open to people of any faith.

"For the sisters, it's been 2 really hard years, seeing history being demolished and the residents have to leave," Cooper said. "This new step is very exciting."

The Press