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A special home with a rich

26 November 2015

2626 views comments • Tagged as Community Connections Care Staff Stories Nelson Marlborough

Maureen Hemi has worked at Otumarama for 25 years

Sara Meij, The Nelson Leader


Helen Thawley remembers watching what would become her workplace for 25 years burn to the ground. The healthcare assistant at the Otumarama rest home in Nayland Rd had an unusual connection to the property that has a rich history.

Originally built by Charles John Rayner in 1892 as a house to retire in, it was later converted to flats and then bought by George Middleditch from Wellington in the 1980’s. In what appeared to be a controversial decision in the late 1980’s, George offered the old house to the volunteer fire department to burn down as part of a training exercise. 

“When George bought it, my husband was in the fire brigade at the time, and I remember standing in the school paddock watching it burn down, not for one minute thinking I was ever going to work there.”  Says Thawley. “I remember him saying to the fire brigade he wanted it done ‘yesterday’ sort of thing. And then he started building up straight after that.”


Middleditch rebuilt Otumarama as a hospital first and later a rest home for the elderly, incorporating some of the old fittings from the house post-burning. Years later it was sold to Eldercare which became part of Oceania Healthcare in 2008. The home sits between two schools, at the end of a long drive way, in a peaceful setting among trees.  Currently it houses 36 residents, but it has space for up to 50 people.


Thawley began working at Otumarama house, then a hospital, on September 4, 1990. “I actually came with a friend before it was finished building, she came in for an interview," she says. Thawley’s friend put her name forward while she was at Otumarama. “Next thing I know I had an interview too. I hadn’t actually really thought about it," she says.


Maureen Hemi started one day after Thawley on September 5 1990. “I’m a kitchen assistant now, but when I first started I was cleaning and then I was in laundry for many years," she says. All the different types of equipment they have these days makes life a lot easier, says Hemi. “Twenty-five years ago, there were a lot of things they didn’t have, like hoists and what not. So it is really different.”


Even after such a long time working at the homestead, Hemi’s still not bored with it. “I love to keep busy, it’s always busy.  There is always something to do, every day is different," she says.

Thawley says the thing she loves most about her work is the people she works with. “We’ve always had a really good team here; we sort of keep the same people for a long time. We know each other and there’s not a high turn over," she says. “It makes a difference, there’s nothing worse than to have to work with a whole lot of new people all the time. And a lot of our residents stay for a long time."


“We’ve got a couple of residents that have been here 12, 13 years. We’re their family and they’re our family."


Find out more about Otumarama Rest Home 


0800 333 688

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