The unique Holly Lea – A story of social change

When I was a child I used to visit a maiden aunt who lived in the genteel surroundings of Holly Lea. She was a farmer’s daughter who had too many male siblings and no husband to allow her to inherit any of the farms. She also lost her fiancé in the first war and having been raised as a ‘gentle woman’ had no occupation. After many years of  housekeeping on a farm for one of her brothers there was no need for her services after he married. With limited social support where would she go? Holly Lea provided a haven.

Holly Lea was established by Allan McLean via the McLean Trust as a “home for women of refinement and education in reduced or straitened circumstances”. My aunt was just one among many. Holly Lea serviced a very real need.

Over the intervening years societal change wrought significant changes for women. They became part of the workforce, owned property and gained many rights previously the preserve of men.

Holly Lea also operated in a different and increasingly changing and competitive environment. Governed by requirements of the charitable trust under which it operated, the tension between the original vision and the changed environment, cracks began to appear and earlier this year the media reported financial difficulties. Running a Retirement Village and Care facility wasn’t really the McLean Trust’s core business.

This evening I attend the event that heralded a new beginning. “Holly Lea and The Russley, Christchurch’s two exceptional retirement villages, join forces.” As one other attendee commented – “a knight in the form of Graham Wilkinson rode in on a white horse and saved the day.” Wilkinson, Director of Retirement Assets Limited, and one of the Directors of the Russley has had considerable experience in resurrecting or restructuring similar enterprises and has been rewarded by reinvigorated services. Not all has been achieved without controversy, Ranfurly in Auckland being a case in point. He has however been able to celebrate the success of that service when they were awarded NZACA Bidvest Excellence in Food Award for Care Homes and Hospitals. Wilkinson has now turned his attention to Holly Lea.

In joining forces with The Russley the previous team at Holly Lea have been able to confidently pass over the reins to proven providers. Residents concur. I spoke to several who are very enthused about developments and are confident that the new direction under the governance of Retirement Assets Limited will benefit them. 

It appears too that the new arrangements, and financial restructuring will free up the McLean Trust enabling them to their pursue the aims of the Trust in a way that has relevance to the contemporary environment. It seems to be a ‘win win’ for everyone.

About Eleanor Bodger

Eleanor Bodger
Co-founder and visionary leader of Eldernet.