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If there's one word to describe Cardrona Alpine Resort, it would be family. Steeped in tradition and led by values, Cardrona takes caring for their people, ngā tangata, very seriously. From encouraging staff to take ski ‘ride breaks’ to partnering with Southern Cross Health Society, this ethos is what keeps visitors coming back and staff never wanting to leave.

Who could have imagined that on 19 March 2020 all borders would be closed to international visitors? Not Cardrona Alpine Resort who were gearing up for a full mountain of activities with up to 5,000 visitors a day projected, along with planned international ski and snowboard events.

But when the tough calls were made, the leadership team never even considered cutting back on health insurance for permanent staff. “Making staff feel secure was absolutely critical during this period, so holding onto that partnership with Southern Cross was vital to keep our staff feeling safe, comfortable and happy,” explains General Manager, Bridget Legnavsky

In such unprecedented times, this aptly demonstrates what Cardrona is all about. "We have a very strong understanding of manaakitanga or caring for the wellbeing of people's mana," says Bridget, "We expect our staff to look after our guests and they can only do that if they look after themselves. We can’t gift to our guests if staff aren't comfortable. So, as a leadership team our job is to deliver this.”

Three generations of family-thinking

Cardrona Resort and Treble Cone are part of the Wayfare Group, the well-established Real Journeys Group originally founded in 1954 by tourism and conservation pioneers Sir Les and Olive Hutchins. The group has partnered with Southern Cross for over 30 years, so bringing Cardrona staff into the scheme just made sense.

When you’re very clear with your values and what you’re trying to achieve as a business, decisions like choosing health insurance are really easy. It’s not a financial reason - we had to think about how we were going to look after our staff. So, our reason and our decision making for that and getting health insurance was simply about doing that.

One person instrumental in bringing Cardrona on board was Laura Hedley, Head of People & Performance. “I knew it was of benefit to people and I also knew that it was quite a hard thing for people to afford.” Being on an insurance plan, she believes, makes it easier to seek help. “If they get sick or just want to make sure about anything they can go see the doctor* when they need to, or the physio* when they need to, and it not be a huge financial burden for them.”

With staff through day-to-day and major medical challenges

Phil Waddell, the digital and marketing specialist at Cardrona, sees the value every day. "I did all of my dental treatment* through Southern Cross. It’s just a case of taking a photo of the claim, uploading it to the app and you’re away."

Then there are the long-time staff like ‘Spy’ Dunbar, who is Events Manager at Cardrona. “Last year he was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” reflects Bridget “we were running multiple World Cups. What we needed to do was to look after him first and foremost but also in terms of his wellbeing, keep him connected to his work. That was a really big thing. He didn’t have to worry about if he could pay for it or when his surgery would be because all of that was taken care of by Southern Cross.”

Meanwhile, down in Rentals, Jo Beacham has just come back to work after a long battle with coeliac disease and endometriosis. Says Jo: Why I think Cardrona offers Southern Cross is the same reason why I have Southern Cross health insurance for my family. They’re all about the family dynamic, what can we do to help them and that’s why they are offering Southern Cross health insurance. Just like I have it for my family.

A partnership borne out of mutual respect

As a values-based organisation, Cardrona chooses any partner carefully. “We always check, thoroughly, on their values. For us, our values are absolutely everything. I think when a business is not for profit, they have a whole different reason for being there and generally it comes down to caring for their purpose, rather than caring for any commercial reasons. So not-for-profit was a massive reason for us to choose to go with Southern Cross," says Bridget.

Hardly surprisingly, the business wanted to involve staff in the decision-making too. We’ve bought the Southern Cross team up to Cardrona and they’ve actually spent time making sure that the team that was getting this benefit, knew what they were getting and they knew what else they could get on top of it and so they spent a lot of time with them, adds Laura.

That was time well spent. “We certainly felt like that as soon as we started working with the people from Southern Cross - that they walked in and were part of us."

In the South, that’s the way people do business and, in the end, when you take care of your staff, business remains healthy too. New Zealanders paid back the trust and aroha earned by Cardrona, supporting the mountain massively after lockdown to the point where the ski field was run off its feet. “This is our closing week and it’s going to go out with a bang. 40 years of Cardrona. We actually made it to our 40th, which is a good feeling.”

*GP visits, physiotherapy and dental treatment are not covered by all plans. Cardrona Alpine Resort subsidise Wellbeing One plan. For full policy terms and conditions go to www.southerncross.co.nz

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