Government under fire for letting village close

Roxburgh children's village board member and kaumatua Francie Diver speaks with Central Otago...
Roxburgh children's village board member and kaumatua Francie Diver speaks with Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan (left) and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan. Photo: Pam Jones
Central Otago leaders have slammed the Government for breaking its promise to care for the children of New Zealand, as they vow to keep fighting the closure of the Stand Children’s Services Roxburgh children’s village.

Emotions were high at a public meeting held in Roxburgh yesterday to try to prevent the closure of the Roxburgh facility, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Children Tracey Martin came in for harsh criticism.

"Even a moderate increase [in funding, to save the Roxburgh facility] would signal that the Government was serious about its election promises, and serious about the kids of New Zealand," Teviot Valley Community Board chairman Raymond Gunn said.

"Instead they [the Government] have fallen at the first fence."

About 100 people attended the meeting, including Stand staff; families from the Teviot Valley and wider southern district, some of whom had been helped by Stand; and New Zealand Public Service Association delegates, who organised the meeting.

A young girl brought many in the audience to tears when she spoke to the audience about how Stand’s Roxburgh village had changed her life, and her mother said the Roxburgh facility had turned them into "a saved family".

Stand Roxburgh staff member and NZPSA delegate Carol Hastie said another person who stayed at the facility when it was known as the health camp said: "The health camp gave me a childhood. Without it I wouldn’t have known what that was".

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan were both close to tears as they voiced their anger about the Government breaking its promise to the children of New Zealand.

They said the Roxburgh village did "utterly critical work", and no other agencies provided the intensive, residential, wrap-around service the Roxburgh facility provided for children who had experienced severe trauma.

Stand Roxburgh operations manager Dwight McDowall said things were "looking pretty grim" after this week’s news the Government would not bail out the Roxburgh village, but said Stand would keep fighting.

NZPSA delegate Scott Taylor praised  Roxburgh Stand staff whom he called "change agents", and "ambassadors for hope" in children’s lives.

Otago social service organisations spoken to this week said they continued to be concerned about the possible closure of the Roxburgh village.

A statement from Anglican Family Care said their organisation had many clients who had received or who were receiving services from Stand, the only service in Otago providing intensive, live-in assessment for children and parents.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Chris McKinlay  said the village was an "excellent resource" for  children and families needing it.

"We think it’s valuable and we’re definitely in support of retaining it."

The National Party’s spokesman for children Alfred Ngaro said he was "deeply disappointed" the Government was refusing to step in.

He said pleas to the Minister for Children by local mayors and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean had been rejected.

"I hope the Prime Minister walks her talk and gives the organisation the financial support it needs by its Tuesday deadline."

A decision on whether the Roxburgh village, and one in Otaki, will stay open is due to be announced on Tuesday by Stand chief executive Fiona Inkpen.

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