Keeping it in the dental family

Arun and Alar Velusamy with Mary Jo and Michael Holdaway outside the dental practice that has passed from one pair of safe hands to another.
Photo Linda Clarke


Michael Holdaway will have to get permission from the boss next time he takes annual leave.

Luckily, he won’t have to look far.

The Ashburton dentist has sold his practice to a colleague he has been mentoring and Arun Velusamy took over the reins on Friday.

Michael will continue to work as a dentist for three days a week, continuing to develop his interest in implant supported dentures while also following a long-held calling to be a local priest in the Anglican Church.

He will work under Bishop Peter Carrell and Mid Canterbury archdeacon, Reverend Joan Clark, with his wife Mary Jo.

The couple took time away from their practice, Dentistry on Parkside, last year to train at St John’s theological college in Auckland.

Michael said he wasn’t quite ready to leave dentistry but there was an opportunity to join the church that he couldn’t refuse.

And that in turn, had presented an opportunity for Arun, who joined the practice as a dentist eight years ago.

Arun said the practice had been expanding when he arrived and he saw Michael as a forward-thinking clinician, who became his mentor.

The rural practice provided plenty of variety and he and his family, wife Alar and children Desna, 8, and Arjunn, 5, had grown to love Ashburton.

“The aim of the practice, in the past, present and future, is to have all the services under one roof so people don’t have to travel, and trying to be up to date while keeping dentistry affordable.”

While Michael was on study leave last year, he committed the practice to a day of free dental care for people struggling financially.

He intends the free dental day, part of a nationwide programme by dentists, to become an annual event at Parkside.

Michael says Arun’s feel for his community and family values made it an easy sale.

“That has been an important aspect of Dentistry on Parkside and we wanted to pass it on.

“It is a different ethos to the corporates, I wanted it to remain a local family-owned business.”

Michael came to Ashburton in 1990, purchasing the practice from Alan McIntosh and working with well-known dentists Harry Hill and Ted Wood.

Michael worked from rooms opposite the Ashburton Police Station then at Ashburton Hospital, before buying a house on the corner of Havelock and Park streets and converting it into dental practice rooms.

Thirteen staff currently work there, including three dentists and an oral therapist.

Michael said he grew the practice with the aim of providing for every dental need in Ashburton, so people wouldn’t have to travel for specialist services.

“That led to us doing extra training for surgical placement of implants and Arun developing a special interest in orthodontics and intravenous sedation.”

The increasing use of the latest dental technology has also been important and Michael said advances over the past 30 years had improved the outcome for patients.

“Dental materials especially have changed, particularly regarding the ability to bond to teeth more effectively. We really can do that quite well.”

He said a big pleasure over that time, in one practice, was also the friendships he had formed with patients.

– By Linda Clarke