Riding group’s life in limbo continues
A long list of Riding for the Disabled clients and caregivers are holding their breath month by month while the charity continues to look for a new home.
The old Porirua Hospital site, at which the Wellington branch has operated since 1985, was sold at the end of last year.
The group have been able to continue using the site, but the lease is reassessed each month.
RDA vice-president Donna Kennedy says the group deeply appreciates the support it has had from the previous land owners, Capital & Coast District Health Board, and current owners, the Crown Health Authority (CHA) and the Office of Treaty Settlements, who are not charging RDA for lease.
‘‘But we’re still looking for land, still homeless. It’s a bit stressful – you never quite know what’s going on.’’
More than 50 clients use the service, though more would like to take part, and there’s a long waiting list. Most clients are school-age and are living with physical or intellectual disabilities, including autism, down syndrome and epilepsy.
‘‘The benefits of therapeutic riding are just huge.
‘‘These are some of the most vulnerable people in society, and it’s a cheap therapy and a proven therapy, and it works, and they just can’t afford to lose it, these kids can develop so many life skills from riding – riding bikes, feeding themselves, that all comes from riding with us.’’
Two new programmes were recently introduced – an Equine Assisted Therapy programme, and a Mental Health Riding programme, which combine counselling with riding and animal care to help develop physical, social and life skills.
The group needs about 10 to 15 hectares of grazing land, as well as flat land for an arena, offices, and stalls.
‘‘We’re looking for something long term, we would want to invest a substantial amount – a couple of hundred thousand,‘‘ she says. ‘‘We’ll cut our cloth to fit. We’ll just have to work to what we get.’’
Ms Kennedy is confident that once suitable land is found RDA will be able to build its facilities up again through community grants.
Since the organisation first made a public appeal through Kapi-Mana News last October, it has had several offers of leases. Unfortunately none have been suitable, she says.
Office of Treaty Settlements director Peter Galvin says some of the land used by the RDA is part of 42.27 hectares of the former Porirua Hospital purchased from the C&CDHB for potential use in treaty settlements.
‘‘The property is in the core of Ngati Toa’s rohe [traditional boundaries], and is currently being held in the OTS landbank as part of the ongoing negotiations with the iwi.’’
The OTS will retain ownership of the land until after any settlement legislation is passed, which is not likely to be until next year, when the iwi would have two years to decide whether to purchase it, Mr Galvin says.
CHA spokesperson Tracy Lloyd says the organisation owns the other block, which it plans to sell, and says both blocks were originally sold as they were not needed.