Mum shunned

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The Queenstown woman convicted of stealing from the kids’ charity she set up isn’t welcome at the newly-reformed group – but her daughter is.

Heart Children New Zea­land’s Central Otago branch is rising from the ashes after collapsing last year when Fiona Moran was convicted for defrauding it of $22,835.

New HCNZ boss Lara Syddall and branch coordinator Julie Neilsen visited Queenstown two weeks ago to see if parents of kids with heart conditions were keen to reform.

Moran didn’t show up at the public meeting – but she’d have been asked to leave if she had, Syddall says.

But HCNZ would never exclude Moran’s 10-year-old daughter – born with a congenital heart condition – from support and activities, Neilsen says.

“This heart child or as we call them, heart client, has done nothing wrong. She needs our support. The heart client’s parent is a different story.”

Syddall says there may be some restrictions imposed on Moran as a parent-member:

“Membership to Heart Children comes with some responsibilities … we would be very reluctant to [involve] someone who’s not aligned to the values that we hold true.

“We would actually put some separation between us and that person. If they’re hurting the organisation, they’re hurting the children and we can’t condone that.”

Moran repaid court-imposed reparations in 2007 after admitting 11 fraud-related charges that took place between 2005-07.

She was sentenced to 400 hours community work in February last year. Moran set up her Central Otago branch in 2003 and was a familiar and persistent face in Queenstown fundraising circles.

Following the collapse of the local branch, Wakatipu children with heart conditions went to Dunedin or Invercargill for support.

But the charity’s head office thought now would be a good time to set up again so it called the meeting to gauge interest.

“Everyone who turned up who had been affected by [Moran’s fraud] agreed it was time to put the past behind them,” Syddall says.

Doug Brenssell of Lake Hawea will coordinate the new Central Otago branch till February next year, when a family day for current and prospective members will be held in Queenstown.

Syddall was thrilled with the meeting’s turnout and hopes the “passion” will continue.

“To have representation in Central Otago is pretty vital because it’s a long way for people in Queenstown to get to Dunedin and Southland to have contact with anyone,” Syddall says.