Brigadier James Bray, Social Services Secretary in 1906 promoted the idea of using the isolation of the island as a treatment centre to assist those afflicted by addictions. The success of this vision is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Rotoroa Island was one of the few Salvation Army institutions in New Zealand that delivered a continuity of programme for 95 years.
In recent years the island’s operation was reviewed. Driven by looming infrastructure costs and a change in the treatment model and funding, it was decided to close the island as a treatment centre in 2005. The treatment program was transferred to the mainland where the resources have allowed the opening of two very successful community-based programs.
The Salvation Army has retained ownership of Rotoroa Island, which is now administered by the Rotoroa Island Trust. The trust plans to turn the island into a conservation estate, covered in native trees with walkways and a visitor centre telling the island’s story. Public access to the island will be allowed and some facilities will be retained for holiday and educational use. It is hoped that in this way the tranquil healing atmosphere of Rotoroa Island will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.