Retirement villages review

15th March 2018

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 15:05 ): My question is directed to the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation. Given that the Greiner report into retirement villages was finalised and delivered to the Government in December, and given the high level of community interest, when can we expect to see the report's recommendations and the Government's response to the report?

The SPEAKER: Order! I warn Opposition members to reduce the level of noise in the Chamber.

Mr MATT KEAN ( HornsbyMinister for Innovation and Better Regulation) (15:06): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his interest in this important question on retirement villages, a subject that will affect every member of our community at some stage. Making sure that the senior members of our society—our parents and our grandparents—live out their days in peace and security is a concern of every member of this place. We have all heard the horror stories of older people moving into a retirement village only to have their hopes of a happy next chapter shattered. Often, the cause of their anguish is confusing and complex legal documents, exorbitant maintenance fees, hidden fees and charges, poor dispute resolution and extreme difficulty in onselling properties.

I am sure everyone in this place will have heard such stories firsthand, and I share the Government's concern. On the flipside, there are lots of positives to a well-run retirement village, which is an increasingly popular choice in people's later years. When it all goes right, retirement villages provides the best of both worlds—a degree of independence, with background support, and ease of living. We are determined to do all we can to ensure our senior citizens, who choose retirement village life, have the happy, stress-free existence promised in the marketing material. As part of our commitment to this important and growing sector, the Government asked Kathryn Greiner to conduct an inquiry into retirement villages.

The Government has received Ms Greiner's report and is considering all its recommendations. Suffice to say, it is a comprehensive report that makes practical and sensible suggestions to address the concerns raised by residents and their relatives. The report and the Government response will be released as soon as possible. Among other things, Ms Greiner was asked to investigate concerns about the following issues: marketing to see if it was transparent and fair; costs, fees and charges to see if they were clear and understandable for prospective residents and their families; dispute resolution to see if there were systems in place to ensure just, quick and cost?effective outcomes for residents and operators; and onselling retirement village properties once they were no longer required.

As the population of New South Wales ages, the retirement village industry will play an increasingly important role in meeting the housing needs of seniors seeking a safe, secure and low-maintenance lifestyle. When things go well, moving into a retirement village enables seniors to access some cash by selling their home; to enjoy accommodation that is the right size; to access additional support services as they age; and to be part of a special community. The sector is facing an increase in the volume of potential residents with the first of the baby boomers now reaching retirement age. Changes have been made over the years in a bid to make this very important sector function as well as possible.

Minister Roberts did some great work in introducing a standard contract in 2013, and the standard fees and charges table was introduced into the disclosure statement in 2017, coinciding with the launch of an online retirement village calculator. These changes were designed to increase transparency because no-one likes complex documents at any stage of life, let alone in their senior years. There is more to do and, with the guidance of the Greiner report, it will be done. I know that Ms Greiner had extensive discussions with residents, their advocates, families and friends, and operators in the retirement village sector.

More than 500 people attended community forums held across the State, from Ballina to Wagga Wagga, and throughout metropolitan Sydney. The inquiry received more than 300 online submissions and more than 150 written submissions, and Ms Greiner led three roundtables with peak residents and operator organisations to discuss the issues set out in the terms of reference. The inquiry also consulted with other jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand to understand different approaches to the regulatory framework for retirement villages. I thank Ms Greiner for her work, and I look forward to sharing the results with the member for Lake Macquarie, and others, before too long. I take this opportunity to remind the member for Lake Macquarie that our focus is on making life better and fairer for every single resident in a retirement village and for those looking to move into a retirement village. That was the focus of the inquiry and it is exactly what I hope the outcome will be.

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