Vandalism last straw for HUHA

By Sadie Beckman -
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The block of land HUHA purchased in Manakau.
The block of land HUHA purchased in Manakau.

Animal rescue charity HUHA has put its Manakau property on the market, with vandalism of a gate securing rescued Alpacas the final straw in a stoush with opponents in the local community.

HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) purchased the 18-acre Manakau site in 2014, with plans to build a no-kill shelter facility that could house dogs, cats, horses, poultry and other displaced, abandoned or abused animals while they recovered and were readied for adoption.

However, neighbours and some community members in Manakau quickly opposed the plan, citing noise, smells, flooding, parking and aesthetics, as well as potential impact on property values, in more than 20 submissions against the site's resource consent application.

Carolyn Press-McKenzie, founder of animal rescue charity HUHA.
Carolyn Press-McKenzie, founder of animal rescue charity HUHA.

The consent was independently granted with conditions in January last year but HUHA founder Carolyn Press-McKenzie said opposition had continued, with a potentially disastrous situation in December when six Alpaca, to be rehomed, could have escaped onto SH1 and the railway line when a gate lock was cut and gates deliberately left open.

"It was just a penny-dropping moment," she said.

"Things have got so restricted and so tight we realised we'd never be able to breathe and do what we needed to do for the animals. People were still so angry with us they were acting out."

HUHA's resource consent specified a noise monitoring plan to be in place 30 days before grazing began. Press-McKenzie said she hadn't done that for the Alpacas as she didn't consider them to be a noise risk.

Horowhenua District Council compliance lead Megan Leyland had confirmed to media the grazing contract was temporary and not counted as the start of the charity's official activities, so no further action was taken.

Press-McKenzie said while locals had been quick to complain about potential noise from HUHA, other sources of noise didn't seem to be a problem.

"The funny thing is we've had a tenant living [at the Manakau site] who's woken up to roosters every morning. The woman next door breeds them."

She said HUHA wouldn't even think about complaining because it was "part of being in the country".

The organisation's plans for the site had included noise mitigation such as an acoustically-designed building and "enriched" dogs that were in human company all the time.

"It's dogs that are bored and left home alone that are habitual barkers," she said.

"I'm not saying there would have been no barking, but our dogs can be constantly managed in the situation."

As well as helping animals, HUHA contributed to the community in many ways, Press-McKenzie said.

People went to walk dogs and get exercise, visits were hosted for children and families who couldn't have pets to learn animal care and empathy, and unemployed people gained work experience, skills and confidence helping at the shelter.

Animals were also taken in from domestic violence which sometimes enabled the victim to leave, knowing the animals were safe, she said.

However, the charity was coming to terms with the fact that no matter how careful they were, the local community will be "discontent".

"To be honest we just don't have time for drama. After gaining resource consent we have every right to go ahead with our plans at Manakau, but the truth is we don't want anyone to get hurt.

"Our intention was always to be an asset and make our community proud and, sadly, we are not confident that the Manakau community will ever see us that way."

Manakau resident Jack Cowan, whose property was near the site, had opposed HUHA's resource consent application but didn't want to comment on the charity's plans to leave Manakau.

"It's up to them really," he said.

Another neighbour, Jude Parke, was approached by media and also declined to comment, had publicly said previously that despite HUHA doing a fantastic job, she didn't want them on her back doorstep and there was widespread concern in the community.

"Whether they say they are happy dogs or not, those dogs are going to bark and make noise," she said.

Press-McKenzie said there was a "golden lining" in that the charity had just had their offer accepted on 63.5ha of land in the Haywards Hills with no neighbours.

"We are so excited.

"We will never out grow this [new] spot, and will even be able to provide the community with an off-leash forest park to use and enjoy."

HUHA's current temporary site in Otaki would remain until the move to the new property was completed.

People who had supported the organisation from Kapiti and Horowhenua could still rely on them.

"We're honestly just down the road," Press-McKenzie said.

"Although the address is relevant to how we operate, it's not relevant to how we help."

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