Children play with paint at the Karori Creche.

The fight for Karori Plunket Creche: a mother speaks

On Friday 20 April the doors to the Karori Plunket Creche will close to the last child, the last family, for the very last time. Angela Cuming spoke to Liz Taylor whose son Allan attends the creche.

In March, Plunket announced Karori Plunket Creche’s closure, and took the $50,000 the community had fundraised and  earmarked for renovations.

Plunket bosses say the restructure will make them more efficient and give them “greater visibility” of their resources so they can provide better services to vulnerable communities, but Karori parents are furious and say that is just a thinly veiled excuse to sell the property and put the money in their coffers.

And at the heart of all of this is the children whose parents were only given seven weeks notice to find new childcare for them.

Infants at the Karori creche.

Allan is two and has special needs and, says Liz, will struggle to cope when he has to say goodbye to his beloved Karori Plunket Creche teachers for the last time.

Here is what Liz says, in her own words:

”While his peers began to use theirs years ago, my favorite little voice is just beginning to find it’s words. There’s frustration when they get stuck, wanting to come out and not finding their way. There’s triumph when they enter the world, and fall on lovingly waiting ears.

When words fail then personal connection transcends them. There are less than ten people in this wide-world who have forged a strong enough bond that he is able to effectively communicate with them. Plunket gave us a matter of weeks notice that he was to lose three to them from his life. I have no words to express how devastated and angry I am for him.

Plunket promise the best start for every child so why am I fighting them to do the right thing by mine? They said they are closing his creche and ‘focusing our resources on where we can make the biggest difference to the lives of children and whānau’. What about the life of my child? What about our creche whanau – our village? The centre is a kōhunga where he is safe and loved. His special needs are respected and he thrives there because of the difference the teachers are making in his life.

The playroom at the Karori Plunket creche.

The teachers are some of the best people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. One of them has donated countless hours of her time and energy to work with the vulnerable children that attend the centre. Two with special needs and others who face the challenge of learning English as a second language. My family (and countless others) will never be able to thank her enough for for all that she has done. Plunket thanked her by sending a letter saying her services will no longer be required – they didn’t even bother to front up in person first.

The two head teachers have loved and cared for Karori’s children for close to 40 years between them in a creche that’s been treasured since the 1940s. They were also given a matter of weeks notice that the creche was to be closed. In that time, they have been supporting the parents and children to adjust to this massive blow while nursing their own broken hearts and worries for the future.

These woman have a place in the hearts of so many of our community. They’ve been there to wipe away our babies tears when we couldn’t. While we’ve been trying to balance parenthood with putting food on the table, struggling with postnatal depression, babies in the neonatal ward, children in hospital, traumatic births, divorces, and all the challenges imaginable that come with being a parent. This support network, this safe space they’ve created has been a life-line for so many. Maternal and mental health issues touch the lives of so many Kiwis and more care needs to be taken before removing such an integral support system. The gap that’s being left in our lives is bigger than simply finding alternative childcare arrangements.

A child plays at the Karori Creche.

I hope all the teachers at creche know their value to us isn’t reflected by the treatment they’ve received from Plunket. Their kind, reassuring words echo in my head as my son and I face life’s challenges together. The strategies they’ve shared have given me strength when I’ve felt like a failure as a Mama. Thanking them from the bottom of my heart can’t even begin to repay them. I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me and my beautiful boy.

The little boy that means the word to me, that I would give anything and everything, a thousand times over for. There’s nothing I want more than to make this hard world softer for him, to smooth the path his tiny feet walk down. If I could ask one thing of Plunket it would to put our tamariki before profit. To look at the impact this decision has made on these children’s lives rather than their bottom line. Let us keep the creche that means more to us than mere dollars and cents and don’t take away our babies chance at the best start in life.

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