Hohepa Canterbury was established on 30th August 1965, in a large gracious home on the slopes of the lower Port Hills, overlooking Christchurch City and its environs. Initially the organisation started as a Home School for nine young children with Margaret Farrow recruited from England as the first Principal.
In 1967 the Barrington Street site of 2¾ acres was bought along with its original 1910 two storey family home. Several residences and a day centre were built on the site over the following years, while in 1984 a 40 acre farm near Halswell was purchased, largely financed by the late Sir Lewis and Lady Harris.
Hohepa Canterbury, although part of the wider Hohepa Homes Trust Board, is semi‑autonomous and thus undertakes its own strategic planning. The focus is on being a quality provider with sustainable services, such as living options, community participation, and therapies inspired by anthroposophy. Currently the community has grown to support 130 people, on the two main sites at Lower Cashmere and Halswell, with some houses situated close by in the wider community.
Administration, the Artemis Activity Centre and the Hohepa Hall all operate from the Birchfield campus, nestled at the foot of the Port Hills amidst a setting of lawns and gardens, complemented with a boundary stream and the occasional sculpture.
Nine kilometres away at Halswell, the campus supports the Gaia Activity Centre and a mini farm garden called “Maara Hua Whenua” (fruit from the soil). This offers a social therapy environment, where residents and day attendees can enjoy hobby activities such as planting vegetables in the wheelchair-accessible raised garden beds and potting up native trees – all for the sheer enjoyment of getting their hands dirty!