Apartments, offices, shops for ex-Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation site at Epsom

Apartments, shops and offices are planned to be built on the former Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation site in Epsom, with consent sought under the Government’s Covid fast-tracking response measures.

An application has been made to speed up planning consent for the scheme at 224 Great South Rd where the now-shut rehab centre operated for many years.

Protests against the centre’s closure were held this year. Tetraplegic Sophia Malthus was among disabled protesters clutching placards who rallied in Greenlane in May, calling on authorities to save the trust which supports young disabled people with physical and neurological impairments.

Its rehabilitation centre provided treatment from its home and respite care unit for almost half a century, so young people with disabilities did not have to be confined in rest homes.

But the trust closed the facility under a cloud last year, outraging those families who depended on the service.

The fast-tracking application has been made by Jim Castiglione’s Urban Resort and Australian builder Icon Co Pty (NZ).

Icon’s directors include Dan Ashby who just finished heading construction of the 57-level The Pacifica, New Zealand’s tallest apartment building, between Gore St and Commerce St in Auckland’s CBD.

Those two parties want “to subdivide land and construct a housing development and retail facilities. The development will comprise approximately 205 residential lots, commercial buildings, open spaces and associated infrastructure, including roading and three waters services”.

Victoria Carter who has campaigned against the closure said today the disabled community was reeling after learning of the plans.

“This is devastating to all those disabled who were kicked out of their homes, all those who are grateful to the trust for helping them get used to living a new life in a wheelchair and all those who used the unique gym and hydrotherapy pool – all of which was built with Auckland’s fundraising.

“Lady Caughey and Lady Fergusson had one objective: to stop young disabled people being put into rest homes,” Carter said.

An image from planners Campbell Brown shows buildings up to five levels planned for the 1.4ha site. The project is called the Ōmāhu Residential Development and the Ministry for the Environment website cites the application saying:

“The project will help to achieve the purpose of the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020;

• “Will have positive effects on social wellbeing by providing additional housing in an area that has been growing rapidly but has a shortfall in housing in the medium term

• “Will increase housing supply by constructing approximately 205 residential units
will generate employment over the three-year construction period by providing up to 200 direct full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs per year, up to 200 indirect full time equivalent jobs per year;

• “Is likely to progress faster than would otherwise be the case under the Resource Management Act 1991 standard processes.”

Dame Rosie Horton chaired the Laura Fergusson Trust Women’s Committee in the mid-1980s and was also a trustee.

“I am devastated by what is happening at the Laura Fergusson Trust,” said Horton a year ago.

“When we raised the initial funds, it was to ensure the comfort and rehabilitation of the disabled in a stand-alone facility planned to remain for many lifetimes.”

The trust got the bulk of its funding through ACC and the Ministry of Health, the Herald reported last October. It declared a loss of $1 million in the 2019 financial year and said in its financial statements that it was not sustainable to continue providing services.

Its 2019 financial statements show a $570,000 spend on consultants, including a $94,000 payment for a report by the trust’s chairman Chris O’Brien.

A notice at the trust’s former site today said a meeting to talk about the project had been cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

Those who wanted to talk about it should contact Michael Campbell, whose email is [email protected], the sign said.

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