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Our History

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift... which is why we call it the present.” - Bill Keane

Legacy of the great depression 1920's - 1930's

The revolutionary concept of an independent living village for the elderly, based around cottages rather than a hostel-type residence, was born out of the painful legacy of the Great Depression in New Zealand in the 1920s and 30s, followed by the growth and struggle after WWII.

The person who led the change was the original Missioner for the Auckland City Mission, the Reverend Jasper Calder. Practical and down-to-earth, Jasper was well aware that some of Auckland’s elderly were living in squalid and destitute conditions, and wanted to do something about it.

Rev Calder built up a number of highly successful programmes until he retired in 1946. However, Bishop Simkin wanted to keep the principles and operations of ‘Jasper’s Mission’ (as the City Mission became known) intact.

A young Vicar from Hokitika, Douglas Caswell, took over as City Missioner and moved his family to Auckland. They settled in Sale Street, in the centre of the City, within a stone’s throw of Freeman’s Bay’s slums (many of them occupied by older people). Caswell had a “flair for publicity, skill in managing and enthusing committee-men, the sense of timing and tactic of the lobbyist who has to engineer the support and consent of (as yet) unconvinced officials and Cabinet ministers,” according to Russell Stone in his history of the first twenty-five years of Selwyn Village, In the time of Age (1979).

Douglas Caswell developed a ten-year plan for the Mission within fifteen months of arriving.

As well as establishing youth hostels, the plan included accommodation for older people where they could spend the rest of their lives in comfort. It was this concept of elderly care which caught the imagination of the public and the eye of the media.

While Caswell was redefining care for senior citizens, New Zealand’s demographics were rapidly changing. In 1891, only 2.7% of people were aged over 60, and only 0.75% were aged over 70. However, this had changed to 10.4% and 3.6%, respectively by 1936. There was a desperate shortage of housing in Auckland after WWII, created by returning servicemen, post-war immigration and population growth, which meant some elderly people were under pressure.

An enduring vision 1940's - 1950's

The first residents arriving at the Village, 1954

Sometimes, an initial vision for a civic deed is so strong that it grows in size, quality and significance over the decades. Such was the vision for Selwyn Village. The idea was conceived by a small group of Aucklanders – who came from the clergy, business, local and central government and neighbouring areas – in the tough, defining years of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

When Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie laid the foundation stone of the main block on 22 April 1953, the NZ Herald quoted him as saying: “If this venture succeeds… it may well become the forerunner of others in all parts of the Dominion.”

The 1,300 people watching him that day probably didn’t anticipate just how far that vision and their enthusiasm would take them. They did indeed build a village, originally designed to support 70 people, but now housing some 500 residents on the same site. This same group also went on to redefine the model for care of older people in New Zealand for generations to come.

Cottages built to house 38 residents, 1959

On 22 May 1954, when the first building at Selwyn Village was formally opened, the vision of Auckland City Missioners to provide dedicated care and accommodation for older people in need finally became a reality. A village setting providing for the welfare of the aged was a revolutionary notion in the 1950s. The Selwyn Foundation has grown to the extent that it has some 600 staff, 1,400 residents, 800 day centre guests and 100 volunteers. A wide range of services are now provided to older people not only within the village communities, but to society as a whole.

1954 - Block A (Kerridge) at Selwyn Village opens offering 22 single bedroom units.

1959 - Government approval granted to build 11 blocks of cottages to house 38 residents.

Finding the money 1950's - 1960's

Nursing care in the sick-bay, 1961

The Government encouraged voluntary and charitable organisations to provide social solutions, but these were difficult times. Money was tight and Auckland City Mission launched an appeal in 1949.

Then Douglas Caswell approached Sir Robert Kerridge, the Managing Director of New Zealand cinema empire, Kerridge Odeon. The first donation of five thousand pounds was the beginning of an enduring relationship between Sir Robert and Selwyn Village. He later funded a documentary entitled “Indictment”, which looked at the squalid housing conditions in Auckland. Shown in his cinemas and touching the hearts of audiences, it helped to raise part of the $2million dollars needed to complete the Selwyn Village project.

Next, the City Mission considered sites for the development, including a parcel of land in Point Chevalier, leased as a market garden at the time. The site was bounded by a swimmable beach, was private but next to a housing and shopping area, and immediately appealed to the Mission.

Consecration of Christ the King Chapel, 1961

Although they were still short of funds, a permanent architect was appointed in1950, with a brief to design “an aged people’s settlement” with the majority of residents living in cottages. Using the plans as leverage, the Mission lobbied the Government for funding, and in 1952 the Minister of Health J R Marshall granted them £53,575.

Autumn 1952 saw bulldozing underway on the site, but there still wasn’t enough money available to meet the rapidly expanding vision for Selwyn Village. The public’s interest was fired up by a display of the architect’s model – including the cottages - in Queen Street, supported by a run of stories in the press.

Sir Robert stepped in again when the Queen came to visit in 1953, donating the gross takings from the Royal Command Cinema performance on Boxing Day to Selwyn Village. It was the princely sum of £10,650 and gave the development the impetus it needed.

Selwyn Village was finally opened by the Minister of Social Welfare, Hilda Ross, on 22 May 1954 in front of a cheering crowd of 2,000 people.

Growth and development 1960's - 1970's

A first visit of the mobile post office, 1962

Over the years, the original site developed to offer care and accommodation to a growing number of residents. The village’s biggest expansion came in the 1960s, and this decade also saw the village concept move beyond Auckland City to a second site, Selwyn Park, in Whangarei.

By 1966, the Selwyn operation had grown in size and complexity to the point where a reorganisation of all its activities and responsibilities was needed.

On 1 January 1967, a separate organisation was incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act of 1957, and ‘The Selwyn Foundation’ was created. Starting life with a settlement of approximately $2million, the Foundation was given control of the work concerning care of the aged, with the necessary social work supplied by the Auckland City Mission. With Canon Caswell as its first Director, the reorganised Foundation was the base for the growth that continued in the 1970s.

1964 - 24 November Christ’s Hospital at Selwyn Village opens.
1967 - The Selwyn Foundation is established. First residents move into Selwyn Park, Whangarei.
Lichfield Towers under construction, 1963

In the decades since, The Selwyn Foundation has expanded into one of New Zealand’s largest charitable providers of retirement villages, rest homes, dementia care and community services for older people.

Selwyn now owns or manages nine sites from Cambridge to Whangarei, most with both independent living accommodation and residential care facilities within the same integrated village community.

1970 - Selwyn Oaks opens in Papakura.

1983 - First ‘own-your-own’ units completed at Bambury Close.

1992 - First residents move into Hansen Close.

1993 - Lavender Cottage Dementia Day Care at Selwyn Village established.


The 1990's and beyond

Canon Caswell assists one of the first Lichfield residents to her room, 1965

With the number of people in New Zealand aged 65+ set to increase dramatically in the coming years, the Foundation’s charitable mission focuses on promoting the welfare of older people and helping those who are vulnerable or in the greatest need.

We believe that the most challenging social issues facing older people now are the shortage of affordable, good quality housing and the debilitating effects of loneliness, both of which have implications for health and wellbeing. That’s why Selwyn House, our innovative community living facility in Hansen Close, and our expanding network of over 40 community drop-in Selwyn Centres, are designed to bring comfort, help and social interaction to isolated and lonely elderly people in local neighbourhoods.

For example, by investing in the work of the National Dementia Cooperative, The HOPE Foundation, the New Zealand Association of Gerontology and The Selwyn Institute for Ageing and Spirituality, we contribute directly to a range of activities delivering practical help ‘on the ground’, as well as making provision for the health of older people in the long-term.

1991 Kenneth Small independent living villas open at Selwyn Village.

1998 Sarah Selwyn Hospital at Selwyn Village opens.

2000 - First of the Selwyn Centres opens in Papakura.
Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt, in the craft room after the opening of the Community Centre, 1972
2005 - Selwyn St Andrew’s, Cambridge, comes under the care of The Selwyn Foundation. Roskill Masonic Village, Hillsborough, purchased and renamed Selwyn Heights.

2006 – Bishop Selwyn Apartments open at Selwyn Village (the first of our independent living apartments)

2008 - Wilson Carlile, Hamilton, becomes part of The Selwyn Foundation. The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality established (now known as The Selwyn Institute).

The Selwyn Foundation is unique among aged care and retirement village providers in the way we resource such wide ranging initiatives. It’s a practical demonstration of our philosophy that, to care for older people, you have to care about them. This fundamental principal, founded in faith, defines The Selwyn Way.

We put the wellbeing of the ageing person at the centre of everything we do, and this drives us to deliver the best possible outcomes.

In 2008 and in partnership with Auckland University, we launched the first phase of the innovative 'Healthbots' programme. We worked with multidisciplinary research teams on trials to evaluate the potential use of robotics and other software technology within the aged care and retirement village setting.


Opening of Selwyn House at Hansen Close
2009 - Opening of the Randerson Apartments at Selwyn Village and McElroy Apartments at Selwyn Heights.
2010 - Sunningdale RSA Veterans Rest Home, Hamilton, becomes part of The Selwyn Foundation.
2011 – November 2011 saw the opening of the Gilberd Apartments and the Macdonald Centre at Selwyn Heights
2012 - Group Office moves to new premises in Grafton and Paterson Apartments and Harbourview Villas at Selwyn Village open.
2013 - Selwyn House Community Living, Birkenhead, opens as well as Gowing and Kay Hawk Apartments at Selwyn Heights and the Newman-Reid Apartments at Selwyn Village.

The Selwyn Foundation began a new programme to redevelop many of our villages and upgrade our facilities in 2014. We aim to build more independent living accommodation and industry leading care facilities as part of our 10 year Growth Plan. With contemporary new environments, modernised styles of care and sustainable growth, we will continue to support our residents and the communities we serve today and tomorrow.We move forward into the future with the same mission our founders first envisioned over sixty years ago.

Celebration of Founders' Day

2014 - Selwyn Village celebrates 60 years.

Selwyn Village remains an iconic site to this day, well known and held in great affection by the people of Auckland, especially those with family members who lived in the Village community and were cared for and supported in their later years.

Selwyn Village opened its doors on 22nd May 1954. Founders’ Day on 22 May each year celebrates the visionaries who made it happen, along with everyone who’s contributed to our achievements since then. As a token of our gratitude, Life Members and Companions of the Foundation are presented with commemorative medals, specially commissioned in bronze for the occasion, depicting the images of Bishop Selwyn and his wife, Sarah.

Chair of The Selwyn Foundation Trust Board, Kay Hawk, commented on the chosen design, saying:

“Not only is Bishop Selwyn our namesake, but both Bishop and Sarah Selwyn gave much of their time and resources to aid the impoverished. Sarah was perhaps less recognised at the time, but spent considerable time holding down the fort for the Bishop, whilst he travelled. For this reason, we felt they were the perfect symbols to represent the outstanding service given to the Selwyn community by those who have since followed.

“Along with the image of Bishop and Sarah Selwyn is an inscription: ‘For service of Heart, Hand and Mind’. For this, we must thank Warren Limbrick for his outstanding research. Warren discovered that this was Bishop Selwyn’s mantra used in many of his sermons and speeches over the years. We felt this had special meaning from both the historic perspective and the work of those who have followed in the Bishop’s footsteps serving those in their community.”

Founders’ Day is an homage to long-lasting traditions and honours those who shaped and enriched the Foundation, so that they will be remembered long into the future.


Indictment - 1950 City Mission

60 years and beyond

In November 2014, Lady Beverly Reeves opened the Reeves Apartments in memory of her late husband, The Right Reverend and Honourable Sir Paul Alfred Reeves.

The Right Reverend and The Honourable Sir Paul Reeves, Member of The Order of New Zealand, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Bachelor, Companion of The Queen’s Service Order, Knight of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, and Companion of the Order of Fiji – to name but a few of the honours bestowed upon Sir Paul, who was undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s greatest statesmen, over the course of his remarkable life.

As Bishop of Auckland, Sir Paul was President of the Foundation during a time when Selwyn first ventured into the business of providing independent living accommodation for retired people, when it opened a development of what was then termed ‘own-your-own’ units at Bambury Close, Selwyn Village, and which were dedicated by Bishop Reeves on 31 March 1984. Sir Paul officiated at a number of events marking the Foundation’s expansion of services and, notably, in July 1981, as Archbishop, he spoke during the eulogy for Canon Douglas Caswell, former Auckland City Missioner and Selwyn’s founding father.

2014 - After 50 years of service, the much loved Christ’s Hospital at Selwyn Village closes.
2015 – Celebration of the 15th anniversary of our Selwyn Centre parish partnership programme.
2016 – Betty Pyatt Apartments at Selwyn Village and Caughey Apartments at Selwyn Heights open.

Haumaru Housing launches 1 July 2017, a joint venture between The Selwyn Foundation and Auckland Council to provide tenancy and asset management services for the council’s portfolio of homes for older people - this new partnership is as much about securing the futures of older people and enhancing their wellbeing, as it is about housing. It goes to the heart of the Foundation’s charitable purpose – improving the lives of the more vulnerable, aged members of our society.

2017 –1 December 2017, marked the beginning of a new era for the Foundation, with the opening of a new care suite within the Moxon Centre at Selwyn St Andrew’s. The first manifestation of this new model of care, where communities are based around small clusters of resident ‘households’ within the larger care community. The Moxon Centre also includes independent living Apartments and community amenities for all the village to enjoy. Named in honour of, and opened by Archbishop Emeritus Sir David Moxon KNZM, previously the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See and Director of The Anglican Centre in Rome.

2017 - No longer fit for purpose, Butland at Selwyn Heights was closed down and residents moved into the upgraded Eliot and Stella Davis Memorial Hospital.
2018 – The Lees Centre at Selwyn Oaks, Papakura opens, also providing the new household model, followed closely by the closing of the old resthome.
2018 - The Selwyn Foundation acquires Sprott House on 1 October 2018, now known as Selwyn Sprott Village
2018 - on 23 November the 90-room Ivan Ward Centre opens at Selwyn Village, providing a new home for 18 residents from our memory support unit Brian Wells Lodge while also opening 7 new residential care households.

Returning to our roots 2020's

2020 - The commissioning of a Strategic Review

In 2020, The Selwyn Foundation Board commissioned a Strategic Review and took time to reflect deeply on its Mission and purpose. Guided by the Constitution of the Foundation, and the original indictment to care for our vulnerable senior citizens, this review exposed many shortcomings in the provision of support across our society for those who are disadvantaged, and especially for the most vulnerable seniors in our country. This need was exacerbated and made more urgent by the impact of the COVID -19 pandemic.

The Strategic Review reaffirmed our priority areas – combatting loneliness and social isolation, supporting older people experiencing hardship and providing affordable housing. It challenged us to think about how we might serve more seniors beyond our retirement village environments, including upholding Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pasifika principles. The review also highlighted the importance of our guiding ethos - the Selwyn Way - which acknowledges that ‘to care for older people, you have to care about them’, putting the individual at the centre of everything we do and with the wellbeing of any person we connect with.

2021 - Board announces its decision to sell the majority of its retirement villages to Metlifecare

As a result of the Strategic Review and after a very carefully considered process, on 25 November 2021 the Board announced its decision to sell the majority of its retirement villages to Metlifecare, keeping the historical Selwyn Village and affiliated Hansen Close. The sale includes Selwyn Park, Selwyn Heights, Selwyn Oaks, Selwyn Wilson Carlile, Selwyn St Andrew’s and Selwyn Sprott villages in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Cambridge and Wellington, and the Auckland based commercial laundry.

The proceeds of the sale are to be invested in line with our values and will enable us to increase our charitable giving target from $10 million in a decade up to $100 million over the next 10 years.

Helping vulnerable older people in our community.
2022 - Caswell and Puckey Apartments at Selwyn Village welcome new residents in January 2022
2022 - Selwyn blesses the new dementia care facility at Selwyn Heights on 22 February, symbolically handing it over to Metlifecare
2022  - On 1 March Metlifecare assumes ownership of the villages sold and the commercial laundry.