Tokanui Psychiatric Hospital
Tokanui Hospital was opened in July, 1912, and was closed in March 1998. The first patients travelled from another psychiatric hospital in Wellington by train. The hospital was self-sufficient in its early days, with its own farm, bakery, laundry, and even a sewing room where patients clothes were made. At its peak there were over a thousand patients living in the hospital, but by the late 1960s the beginning of the end was coming. In 1974, the government decided no more buildings were to be erected in the large psychiatric hospitals, and small psychiatric wards began to be opened attached to general hospitals in urban areas.
The world wide move to deinstitutionalisation and community care gathered momentum in the 1980s, and the government produced another white paper on deinstitutionalisation, and the Principal nurse of the time travelled overseas to look at facilities in the UK. Many staff found it impossible to believe that the hospital which had been a major employer in the rural area, and provided jobs for entire families over generations would ever close. Opinion was divided as to whether it should stay open, with some staff strongly believing it ought to, and others thinking it was time for a different way of doing things.
Patients who had lived for years of their lives at the hospital were thoroughly institutionalised and saw the hospital as home, other patients who came for shorter periods suffering from clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, etc., felt isolated and missed their families and friends. The catchment area for the hospital extended to New Plymouth on the west coast and Gisborne on the east coast, and up towards Auckland, and across to the Bay of Plenty. Patients from these areas found it difficult to maintain contact, and over time became isolated from their families.
The Hospital Board was forward thinking and put aside money in the early 1990s to set up residential services in the community for both intellectually disabled and chronically mentally ill and two trusts were formed to develop these services (Rakau Ora, now called Pathways, and the Waikato Community Living Trust). The move towards closure gained momentum, and by March 1998 the last long stay patient had left the site for "Community care".
The land had been taken originally under the Public Works Act for the hospital, and has since been land banked with the Office for Treaty Settlements to revert to its original owners (the local hapu and iwi). Many of the buildings remain intact, although the Nurses Home, G Ward, and H Ward have been demolished.
There is a cemetery on the old hospital farm which contains the remains of over 500 patients, both Maori and European, buried there between 1912 and 1968. After this time pauper patients were buried in the local Te Awamutu cemetery. The farm is now run by Ministry of Agriculture, and there is a Memorial stone at the cemetery site..
The hospital farm was handed over for agricultural research in the 1970s. The hospital buildings remain derelict, and the site is not used, though parts have been fenced off for grazing. The fifty or so staff houses are rented out, and the sewerage system which used to be run by the hospital is still in operation to service these homes, managed by Waikato District Health Board.
While most valuable items have been removed, large amounts of copper spouting remains on some of the buildings. Other materials which may be attractive to thieves are still in place, as none of the buildings have been demolished. Health hazards also exist, namely asbestos insulation. Because of this, Waikato Security Services security guards watch the area 24/7.
It is currently used as a venue for Airsoft New Zealand games.