Going against the doctor's advice is not normally recommended, but Rotorua man Maurice Topia has done just that.

The 62-year-old has a learning disability and hemiplegia, which severely limits movement on the left side of his body.

After his parents died, he had to move out of home and spent what he said was seven unhappy years in rest homes.

Under health and safety rules, he could not use a jug to make a cup of tea for himself, or do his own washing.


"I was sick of sharing a bathroom, getting hungry before bed, or listening to people telling me to be quiet," Topia said.

He asked for permission from his doctor to move out.

Topia learned to cook, and did demonstrations for an occupational therapist, but he was still told he would not cope living alone.

"I paid $33 for her [the doctor] to say no in that appointment" he told the Rotorua Daily Post.

With the help of a good friend from church, Sheila Gordon, and Imagine Better co-ordinator Mary Barnett, Topia approached a property manager who eventually agreed to let him move into a flat in Victoria.

Topia's church donated furniture, and over time he paid off his appliance costs with his Work and Income support payments.

"He just wanted to live a normal ordinary life, and he now does that. It is amazing what he achieve with one good arm," Barnett said.

Topia drives a mobility scooter, wears a medical alarm around his neck, and has just 10 hours of support visits a week.

Maurice Topia hosted a party with friends on Saturday. Photo/Ben Fraser
Maurice Topia hosted a party with friends on Saturday. Photo/Ben Fraser

He also plays the organ, and used to busk in the Rotorua streets and donate the money to charity.

"He never considered that he needed the money himself, he always gave it to others," Barnett said.

Topia's efforts to pursue music were initially doubted.

He was told it would be "a waste of money" if he bought an organ but he went on to receive the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal for his services to the community through busking fundraising.

On Saturday, Topia hosted a party with his neighbours, support workers, friends and even his property manager, to mark five years of living independently.

"It has been a long journey over prejudice. It is very inspiring for those who face a lot of barriers. He is really excited, we all are," Barnett said.

Topia said his neighbourhood was "pretty good".

"Now and again we have barbecues across the road, if it is wet we go to a neighbour's garage."

On wet days Topia's neighbours often take his wheelie bins out for him before he gets to them himself.

"I am proud to be here. A lot of people thought I could not do it. The rest home told me I would be back."

Topia said the best part about living independently was "being me".

"It feels good. I do not have to tell anyone where I am going. I got my wish. That is what one of the rest home boys told me."

Topia pays for a Sky TV subscription, and his favourite shows are on the Jones! channel.

He also loves to entertain others with hot drinks and baking.

"At first they were worried I would burn the place down but I cook here with the oven and stove. If the smoke alarm ever goes off I know to just flick the towel at it," he said.

When asked what the hardest part had been about living in the flat, Topia said he "didn't find it very hard at all".

"It was what I always wanted."

Topia wants to stay put for as long as he can.

"I can do it as long as the rent does not increase too much. Whenever the property manager comes she tells me it is nice and tidy."

Barnett said Maurice had "blossomed" in the Phillip St flat.

"As much as Maurice has benefited from the community, the community has benefited from him too."