Emotional protest held to save much-loved Auckland rehabilitation centre

Disabled people were kicked off the property at Auckland’s Laura Fergusson Trust rehabilitation centre today as hundreds protested to stop it from closing.

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Hundreds called for the board governing Auckland's Laura Fergusson Trust to reverse its decision to close the facility. Source: 1 NEWS

By Larissa Howie

The Greenlane centre has provided rehabilitation for decades, allowing young people with disabilities to escape the confines of their homes in the company of others their age.

But it closed last year, claiming it was short of funds, leaving those depending on its services devastated.

One couple, who met at Laura Fergusson and have now been married for almost 50 years, say the news of the closure brought them to tears.

“This is the first time the disabled and their friends and family have been able to have a voice about the closing of Laura Fergusson,” says advocate Victoria Carter.

Her niece Sophia Malthus is a driving force behind the protest.

She resided at the Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation in 2016 after becoming tetraplegic when she fell from a horse in a workplace incident.

She says had it not been for the centre, she would have ended up in a rest home at the age of 19. She worries for others in situations like hers, who will not have the option of the centre if the closure goes ahead.

“I've seen first-hand the impact on my friends who have ended up in rest homes.

“They had people dying around them while they were trying to learn how to get in and out of bed,” says Malthus.

She plans to go to parliament this week to call on the Government to step in.

“We’re calling for honesty and transparency, and hopefully some form of preventing it from closing,” she says.

The Laura Fergusson board has been moving to close the centre since the end of 2019, saying it was short of funds but it did not take up an offer from the Ministry of Health to explore new ways of providing services under their Ministry contracts.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson told 1 NEWS the Trust informed the Ministry of its plans to close the centre after the board had made its decision to exit.

“It's rare for providers to exit services and it’s typical for the Ministry to be informed before providers any decisions are made about exiting Ministry contracts,” they say.

Laura Fergusson Trust was approached by 1 NEWS and declined to comment.