Port of Tauranga has given Tauranga's Riding for the Disabled the best Christmas present it could hope for - a new pony.
The port gifted $4000 to the Welcome Bay-based equestrian centre instead of sending Christmas gifts to customers.
The money was the same amount Tauranga Riding for the Disabled (RDA) needed to buy a new pony named Kato from a former volunteer at Te Puna Pony Club.
Tauranga RDA chief executive Kat Macmillan said the timing could not have been better.
"It's absolutely fantastic. We couldn't do this without our full team of 12 and we've had to retire two or three [horses] so he's one of the horses we needed to get," Ms Macmillan said.
"We had two weeks' trial, we decided we would really have to buy him. Then the Port of Tauranga came and basically said to us they would purchase him for us. We are over the moon with that because it's very hard to fund that kind of money."
The $4000 was left over in the port's Christmas customer fund after it donated $6000 to the Tauranga Foodbank, as reported on page A1 today.
Port chief executive Mark Cairns said the past two years had been tough for many people in the regions so the port had decided to give the money to charities.
"We told the customers what we were doing and got a really, really good response," Mr Cairns said. Port staff voted for Tauranga RDA as their chosen recipient. Last year, the charity was the Child Cancer Foundation.
Mr Cairns was at the RDA yesterday riding Kato and spoke of a young girl whose face lit up when she arrived and saw the horses.