I am vice chair of New Zealand Riding for the Disabled and I am also an instructor at Totara Park.
Your article was a good one and brought to light some issues that riding for the disabled groups in New Zealand have been struggling with for a while.
Thanks for giving riding for the disabled some good publicity and for pointing out to your readers how difficult it is to get passed the politics and private agendas of some of these community boards.
I do have one comment which I think is very relevant to your article. Your headline talks about riding being a pleasure for people with disabilities. Actually it is much more than that - it is a unique therapeutic programme which can change people's lives and enable them to achieve essential living skills. It is also a very successful educational tool which can benefit children with problems such as autism.
Horses are great teachers and we are also starting to use them to help people with mental problems and issues.
I could go on for ever about benefits of riding for the disabled - but just wanted to let you know what a large part of people's lives it can impact on.
While indulging in emotive name-calling, councillor Colleen Brown deliberately left out the fact that the Manurewa Community Board already has a Community Advocacy Plan, which sets out our priorities for the Manurewa ward during this triennium.
The board has been forced to make a difficult but necessary decision. We have to back those projects in the advocacy plan, starting with the multi-sport facilities at Mountfort Park, and the revitalisation of the Manurewa Netball Centre at Browns Rd.
Both projects will not come cheap, and hundreds of thousands of dollars will need to be spent on the fit-out of both facilities. We need to future-proof those premises to meet the needs of clubs and groups that cater for literally thousands of Manurewa youngsters.
Unlike city councillors who earn good money and who can afford to exercise significant personal choice, many Manurewa sports clubs do not have the financial means to fund the development of services necessary for growing the membership. That is why the board backed the multi-sport facilities.
Councillor Brown's preference for selective arguments and emotion fatally undermined the applicant's quest for funding. That said, the board was still able to allocate $50,000 for the Totara Park Equestrian Trust Board, which equates to a $2000 subsidy for each disabled rider from the Manurewa community.
Manukau City councillor for Manurewa
Thank you for your article on the difficulty of the Totara Park Equestrian Centre in Manurewa in their quest to raise money for their expansion to enable all-year round activities for both their able and disabled members.
There are some key issues I wish to highlight.
I along with councillor Colleen Brown supported the Totara Park Equestrian Centre. We knew they would not be able to get their full amount of funding but we never envisaged the organised opposition that occurred from within the Manurewa Community Board to their application.
When the Totara Park Equestrian Centre approached the Manurewa Community Board at the July meeting the Community Board resolved to decline their application for Community Facilities Partnership Scheme funding. I was representing council at another meeting, but councillor Colleen Brown, Tom Vanderlaan and Michael Bailey did not support declining this application. Although the facility is in the Manurewa Ward, the Totara Park Equestrian Centre services the whole city, and their application attracted funding of $40,000 from Botany and $10,000 from Papatoetoe Community Boards. The matter was put before the Manurewa Community Board again in September.
To understand the availability of funds, at present the Manurewa Community Board has $511,000 to distribute in its Community Facilities Partnership Scheme. If the two other sports clubs, as we have been informed, apply for funding then there should be over $100,000 remaining. The amount of $100,000 would certainly have helped the Totara Park Equestrian Centre fulfil its dream, as well as absorbing the cost of another pony club that is being relocated from Mountfort Park to enable council to further develop sports-fields. It is within normal expectations that a community board would make some financial allowance to assist the new host club for such council-enforced extra costs.
When the chair Mike Bailey recommended $95,000 be allocated to the Totara Park Equestrian Centre, it was virtually halved by Alan Johnson, to $50,000. Those community board members who shed crocodile tears in the media about being upset that they had to choose between one community group over another are being hypocritical. Why punish a group that is servicing the disability sector? There was enough money to distribute fairly between this sole applicant for Community Facilities Partnership Scheme funding and the other two `anticipated' sports club groups, and well they know it.
Then these same people voted to impose the condition to have the length of time (nine months) for the club to raise all of its funds for the planned undercover arena or lose their $50,000. The community board members who supported councillor Daniel Newman were Alan Johnson, Angela Dalton, Phil Palfrey and Angel Cunningham. They were informed by me and councillor Colleen Brown that the motion was against the intent of the council policy but they would not listen. This recommendation was subsequently overturned by a council committee. Thank goodness. Never before in the history of this policy has a community board placed such a restriction on a community group.
As two experienced Manurewa councillors, Colleen Brown and I fought to get the multi-sports complex at Mountfort Park moved forward in the council's long term plan. It is worth millions of dollars and will be a huge asset to our community. We will also be supporting additional money for the outfitting of the sports clubs to allow many able sportsmen and sportswomen to enjoy their chosen fields of activity. The actions of members of the Manurewa Community Board against the Totara Park Equestrian Centre has been shameful and discriminatory. I am also pleased integrity and common sense prevailed at the council committee that overturned the unethical condition imposed by some of the community board members.
Manurewa ward councillor