Disaster averted for Kapiti farm attraction

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 15:20 14/01/2014
Barry the Goat
KENT BLENCHYNDEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Star attraction: Barry the goat has enjoyed a broken leg, and being spray-painted, and is now losing his paddock.

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Popular Kapiti tourist attraction Lindale Farm Walk is losing about half its grazing land, leaving the operator scrambling to provide shelter and fencing for more than 200 rescued animals.

Farm Walk operator Virginia Wilton said she was devastated to be told by her landlord last week that she had just six days to move her animals off about two acres of land used for grazing for about 20 years.

The hurried move comes after Dementia NZ bought the adjacent Whitireia Polytechnic property and is converting it into a care facility.

Lindale had a grazing arrangement with the former property owners, but Dementia NZ wants four of the paddocks and plans to start landscaping.

"Initially I totally panicked, I thought I would have to walk away," Ms Wilton said.

"But these animals are all rescued, special. There is nowhere else for them to go."

She and a handful of volunteers care for 13 goats, five donkeys, cattle, pigs, alpacas, ex-battery hens, ponies, 65 sick cats and a flurry of chicks.

Ms Wilton launched a campaign to save the farm last week, and was delighted when local roading contractor Goodman came to her rescue. The company is providing heavy machinery and manpower to move shelters and cut new paths free of charge.

"I was absolutely beside myself," Ms Wilton said. "We could not just suddenly put all these animals together - donkeys that fight, goats that do not get on, a deaf, gay alpaca and bad-tempered ponies. It is wonderful a big company is helping such a small business.

"The animals here are old, unwanted, ugly and infirm. They come here because there is nowhere else. It is scary relocating them. This is their home."

She said she was pleased to be told by Dementia NZ yesterday that she could keep a small corner paddock.

"This is no-one's fault. It is just bad luck. It is their land. Their generous offer [of the paddock] will save us hours of work rebuilding part of the walkway."

Dementia NZ strategy and organisational development manager Vicky Jones said she had suggested to Ms Wilton's landlord last week that the animals be moved by tomorrow.

"There was a misunderstanding. It was a tentative suggestion, not a deadline . . .

"There is every flexibility to move animals . . . Our priority is to have good neighbours and build good relationships."

When new fencing was completed, Ms Wilton might be able to lease back some of the land, Ms Jones said, and patients would benefit from visiting the animals.

Ms Wilton is moving the animals today before Goodman workers arrive tomorrow to shift shelters and cut new walkways.

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- The Dominion Post

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