"The disabled are the minority that is ignored the most and treated the worst."
Sophia Malthus, a tetraplegic from a work place accident at 19, said it me when we were talking about the secret closure of the Laura Fergusson Trust in Epsom.
The Laura Fergusson Trust was set up in the late 60s after the Governor General's wife saw so many young disabled adults living in rest homes.
Lady Fergusson had a special message to parents of disabled children - the trust would safeguard their children's future so that they would be cared for when the parents were no longer able to.
The Great South Rd Epsom property developed some 45 purpose-built units now sitting empty. In 1997 a specialist hydrotherapy pool and gym was built with funds from Government, Rotary and much fundraising.
Not only did it home about 45 disabled but thousands used the public hydrotherapy pool and gym facilities annually for Parkinson's support, multiple sclerosis classes, stroke programmes, neurological rehab, pulmonary rehab. There was even an active gym/pool membership of elderly and disabled people.
Tragically, this facility is being prepared for sale.
Rather than encourage debate and discussion, the board has instead refused membership to people with solid reputations. It has even rejected disabled people for membership, while dragging others through complicated processes including questionnaires and face to face interviews. This prevents any debate or disagreement with the board.
Rather than share the findings of the close to half a million dollar Price Waterhouse report it commissioned to justify its actions, it hides behind it. Rather than use it to work constructively with Government and health agencies to better the outcomes for disabled people and their families, the board refuses to release it.
The board claim a lack of funding from the Ministry of Health yet Official Information Act requests prove it made no requests for help and even turned down an offer to meet the director-general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
The chairman, Chris O'Brien, claims everyone is re-housed happily. How would he know?
One intellectually disabled adult who lived in one of the self-contained units after a car accident is now in a rest home sharing a bathroom with a geriatric. In her first week, a much-loved orchid was stolen from her room. She no longer has facilities to make her own breakfast, she has lost access to a specialised gym and is socially isolated, unable to enjoy the company of others in a similar situation.
These are the stories the directors don't want to know about, turn a blind eye to.
It's time to stand up for disabled people, to stop turning the other way. The board will
provide reasons why it must be closed, but this ignores the fact LFT in Wellington and Christchurch operate successfully.
Using the funds from this valuable site for research was never the intention of the founders or those who fundraised for decades.
They wanted the disabled to have a home. None of us know when a work injury, car accident, or stroke might result in us or a loved one needing the wonderful rehab that LFT offered.
It's time for the Government, the appropriate agencies, all those operating in this space to work with LFT, the disabled and their supporters. Auckland desperately needs this central location for disabled people. There is nothing like it.
Step one is to stop the secret sale of the land – it's an Auckland asset not the board's.
Aucklanders need to be part of the discussion on what will happen to it.
• Victoria Carter is a company director with a disabled family member and friends who relied on the Laura Fergusson facilities. As an Auckland City Councillor she worked closely with the trust to get better pavements and crossings.