Save camp ro­tunda

Kapiti News - - News -

Di Buchan gives her opin­ion about Stand Chil­dren’s Ser­vices de­ci­sion to re­turn its prop­erty at O¯ taki Beach to the Crown

I think it is a real shame that Stand has de­cided to walk away from the fa­cil­ity in

O¯ taki which they have run for the past 20 years. It is not only a shame for Stand who have put a huge amount of ef­fort into main­tain­ing the fa­cil­i­ties and up­grad­ing the ser­vice pro­vided over their ten­ure, but it is also a real shame for the chil­dren in the catch­ment area who will no long have this place by the sea to get some respite and care. It is also a shame for the town of O¯ taki it­self. This fa­cil­ity is an in­te­gral part of the town’s his­tory. The Otaki Health Camp was the first per­ma­nent chil­dren’s health camp in the coun­try and over the years the peo­ple of O¯ taki have kept it go­ing through their labour, paid and un­paid, and do­na­tions of all de­scrip­tions and this has con­tin­ued to the present day.

The fa­cil­ity is now be­ing handed over to the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion to care for un­til an­other or­gan­i­sa­tion can be found to man­age the place. Hope­fully one will be found soon, if not it will be of­fered back to the de­scen­dants of the peo­ple who do­nated the land in the 1930s.

There is no doubt in my mind that a fa­cil­ity that pro­vides short-term respite and sup­port, care and nur­tur­ing to chil­dren in dif­fi­culty, for what­ever rea­son, is needed now as much as it every was. There are par­ents, es­pe­cially solo par­ents, who also need respite — a break from their chil­dren when they are at the end of their tether and have no one to turn to. The health camp was al­ways used for this pur­pose for a few of the chil­dren at­tend­ing and no doubt by pro­vid­ing that form of sup­port, phys­i­cal and emo­tional abuse from par­ents who were not cop­ing was averted.

Since the pub­li­ca­tion of my book Sun, Sea & Sus­te­nance: the Story of the Otaki Health Camp I have been asked by groups from Levin to Welling­ton to give talks on the health camp. So far I’ve spo­ken to 28 groups, each fin­ish­ing with a dis­cus­sion about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with the O¯ taki camp and the need for the fa­cil­ity to con­tinue. Al­most al­ways there is some­one in the group who went to the Otaki camp or one of the oth­ers (there were seven al­to­gether) and who re­mem­ber their time there with grat­i­tude. Al­ways peo­ple say that the need is as great now as it was in the 1930s when the O¯ taki camp was es­tab­lished.

While DoC tries to find an or­gan­i­sa­tion that can take over the fa­cil­ity for the pur­pose it has been des­ig­nated, my im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity is to save the health camp ro­tunda build­ing which has not been used for about 25 years. This is a very im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal build­ing — not just for O¯ taki and the his­tory of heath ser­vices in New Zealand but also for the coun­try as a whole. It was the first build­ing in the first health camp and any­one¯who has stayed or worked at the Otaki camp re­mem­bers that build­ing with its un­usual, out­stand­ing ar­chi­tec­ture and the ac­tiv­i­ties that have gone on there over the years. It is a New Zealand ar­chi­tec­tural icon.

Orig­i­nally there were two of these build­ings but at the end of the 1980s one was de­mol­ished and carted off to Welling­ton with­out a whim­per from any­one as far as I know. We can’t let that hap­pen to the re­main­ing build­ing. It could be a beau­ti­ful fa­cil­ity, a real as­set for the whole com­mu­nity.

The his­to­rian Jock Phillips and I have joined forces to get the build­ing saved and re­stored. So far I have met sev­eral times with Her­itage New Zealand to gain their sup­port and they have given this whole-heart­edly. I have also met with Ian Bow­man, the her­itage ar­chi­tect who did an as­sess­ment of the build­ing about 20 years ago. He has done an­other in­spec­tion and con­firmed it is still re­stor­able.

From the talks I have been giv­ing as well as re­sponses from peo­ple who have read my book, I have gath­ered the names of over 20 peo­ple who want to be in­cluded in any group that might be set up to get the build­ing re­stored. So Jock and I are feel­ing en­cour­aged and heart­ened by all this en­thu­si­asm. Re­cently we met with our lo­cal coun­cil­lor James Cootes and coun­cil staff to ad­vise them of what we were do­ing and they are also keen to get in­volved and sup­port this project.

We are cur­rently wait­ing for Stand or DoC to agree to sell the build­ing — an as­sur­ance we have al­ready re­ceived ver­bally. We are also in the process of es­tab­lish­ing an in­cor­po­rated so­ci­ety which can be reg­is­tered as a char­i­ta­ble trust. Once that is done we can call the peo­ple to­gether who want to get in­volved to de­cide where to from here.

If any read­ers want to join the group they would be very wel­come. We will need many hands on deck for a wide va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing set­ting up a web­site and news­let­ter, fundrais­ing, writ­ing sub­mis­sions, etc.

Con­tact [email protected] DoC con­tact is Ken Ste­wart, prop­erty man­ager head of­fice, 0274083343.

Di Buchan

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