4 Oct 2019

Takiwatanga Sanctuary - a haven for animals and for families

From Country Life, 9:15 pm on 4 October 2019

Steve and Phil Brown have set up their King Country home and farm as a sanctuary for children with disabilities and their families.

Their assortment of rescued animals – which include Wonky Plonk the duck and Patty the cow – are on staff to entertain and comfort visitors.

Wonky Plonk is a duck with an angel wing feather, Honky Tonk is an amorous goose and Patty is a gorgeous Belgian blue cow who will never become a beef patty.

Along with hundreds of other birds and an assortment of large and small four-legged pets, they all enjoy the good life on at Takiwatanga Sanctuary.

But it's not just animals who are offered refuge here.

Phil, a mental health nurse, and Steve, who has had a career working as a therapist in the disability sector, welcome children with special needs and their families to come and hang out with the animals on their small farm.

Often families are ostracised because of the behaviour of a child with a disability, Steve says.

"We're just offering a place where people can come and unwind and relax. We look at specifically what they need so we are able to offer music therapy here. We're able to offer just general respite. Families can just come and have a break.

"The animals don't judge them. They don't give them hell for not being able to talk properly... they just want to be loved and they show that unconditionally.

"It's amazing to see the progress in kids that are non-verbal or anxious or having a meltdown and suddenly the donkey will come and nuzzle in and they're just instantly calm."

Phil and Steve don't charge families for their weekend stay but are grateful for donations.

Steve says Takiwatanga is the Maori word for autism.

"It literally translates to mean 'in their own time and in their own space' and that applies to the animals as well so if they come here they work in their own time and their own space."

Contact details for Takiwatanga Sanctuary:

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
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Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.