Kimberley was once the largest hospital for the intellectually handicapped, in the Southern Hemisphere before it closed in 2006, and is now owned by Horowhenua developer Wayne Bishop, who plans to turn it into a sprawling 500-home estate.
What was once a thriving community for the intellectually disabled, the Kimberley Centre is now an empty shell tarnished by the troubled tales of its past.
The site fell into disrepair after its closure by the Ministry of Health in 2006, as society began to favour a community-based care solution for the intellectually handicapped.
For some patients, Kimberley had a somewhat grim reputation. It began as a home for delinquents, then was used as an air force training centre during WWII.
In the 1940s it become a farm and “mental deficiency colony” for intellectually handicapped boys and was renamed Kimberley Hospital in the 1970s.
At its peak it housed 700 patients, but at the time of its closure there were just 250.
- 1906-1939: Werarora Boys Training Farm, New Zealand’s principal institution for juvenile delinquents.
- 1939-44: The RNZAF Station Levin was operational for pilot training.
- 27 July, 1944: 42 young men and three male escorts arrived from Templeton to Levin Farm and Mental Deficiency Colony
- 1957: Gazetted as a hospital, Levin Hospital and Training School.
- 1961: Psychopaedic Nursing School set up on site.
- 1961: Education Department set up special school on site.
- 1967: National Training School for Training Officers
- 1972: 660 residents, 400 under the age of 18, transferred under control of Palmerston North Hospital Board.
- 1977: Renamed Kimberley Hospital.
- 1988: Renamed Kimberley Centre.
- 1991: Final nursing graduation.
- 2006: Closure.
On November 6th 2016, I visited the centre in the hopes of taking a few photographs. What I initially thought were the front gates, were padlocked solid on my arrival. I rang the security firm listed on an old metal sign hanging on the rusty fenceline. Unfortunately, they didnt seem to know too much about the place and told me they were really only there for on-call security. I was told to try calling the owners. Having no contact phone number or name, I was about to give up and head off, when soon after, on the other side of the fence a man was ambling along the roadway walking his dog. I yelled out to him asking if he worked there and would I be able to come in to snap some quick photos. He smiled a rough beardy smile and said ”sure mate, just drive your car down the road a bit to the main entrance, but be careful”. This lead me to the construction entrance. Not wanting to be in the way, I parked out on the main road, grabbed my camera and spent the next hour wandering around some of this vast building complex.
Some more photos sent in to us, taken by Lisa Rowarth
I worked at Kimberley for 36 yrs and loved it – however I was also part of the ‘DI Team’ ,(a small group of Nurses in conjunction with a Doctor who wrote medical summaries for the people moving into the community). I found that onceI moved out to work with them in the community hardly any of the medical summaries we did saw the light of day and most of the staff that were and still are employed today have no idea about the physilogical, intellectual disability that the person has. I truly think on reflection that it was a huge mistake. As a consequence there are untrained staff administering insulin and other medications they have no idea of the side effects and ramificationsthat can follow.
… THANKS for the information and pictures … I now know know more clearly what it meant when My Fathers military records showed that he went to the WW1 from the Levin Training farm .. THANKS
My Uncle trained as a pilot at this site but was lost over the English Channel so I never knew him but felt like I was walking on hallowed ground when I worked there for thirteen years.
i didnt worked at kimberly, however, almost all my family did. As a child i heard alot of what was happening out at the kimberly centre and not many stories were at all happy. I have worked in alot of the community based homes from Palmerston North, Levin and Paraparaumu.
Going through alot of the ex-kimberly residents I have come to think that most of the friends i met and supported throughout my short career as a Mash worker are better off where they are now than where they were before.
Looking or supporting others is a life time passion, a purpose in my life and the dignity of a people sometmes rest in the hands of the carer of the time. Each year we learn more and more about alsorts of peoples in our community and each year we as a person need to learn more of each other, learn more of our enviroment and cultures within our own areas so as to assist in a greater picture of dignities to ourselves and others….lets continue to go forward, learn from the past and push on through to the future.
‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata e…..is where our dignity lay