Te Ohu Hāpori - Taumarunui

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 8 November 2015

The unofficial population of Taumarunui is about three and half thousand people, located in the King Country, it sits in the Ruapehu and Whanganui District. Taumarunui the word itself,  was understood to have been said by the Chief Pehi Turoa, who wanted a  'large shade' built to shelter him from the sun.  Ngarau Tarawa was born in Waihi close to Tokaanu near Lake Taupo. In the 1930's her father, along with many Māori men from Nga Puhi moved to the area to work in the three main industries of that time,  farming; the railways and timber mills.

Ngarau and her husband Herewini Tarawa raised their eleven children in Taumarunui.  Their homestead of fifty three years is still their residence. After twenty four years as a stay at home mum, Ngarau worked for REAP (Rural Education Adult Programmes) for fourteen years before branching out and setting up Te Waka Pu Whenua, an organisation that runs courses in Mātauranga Māori that include, Whaikōrero (formal oratory), Rāranga (Weaving) and site cultural visits.

With the support of the kaumatua, Ngarau has run Te Waka Pu Whenua for sixteen years. She talks about the many changes to Taumarunui over time and the on-going activities of the local iwi and hapu.

It feels good to know that we were part of that growing Taumarunui thing, Overall when I think of community, I think of Taumarunui.

Ngarau Tarawa

Ngarau at her office, Taumarunui

Ngarau at her office, Taumarunui Photo: RNZ/JMurray

James Downs and his wife Moana Downs raised their family in Taumarunui. The couple sold up their diary this year after twenty six years. They also ran a cafe for nine years, and when arcade games became available, they opened a youth centre. Moana remembers her children sitting on chairs behind the counter and serving the customers.

We owned a cafe and Jamie is very good cook, that's where he got big, we joked and said that he ate all the profits. It was literally the truth. He (Jamie) said, dad if we don't get rid of this place its going to kill me.

James Downs

Today, Moana and James help their son Jamie run the Breakthrough Wellness Centre, a gym that used to be the old Taumarunui Pub.  Moana has lost 19 kilos after taking on her son's shreddathon programme, and James works behind the scenes and even mans the reception desk. They've seen their son Jamie come through the other side as a more positive man after battling depression. They share their story.  Jamie talks about his perspective growing up in Taumarunui, getting well and establishing the centre.

The first job we had there was to rip the bar out, it's been one of the biggest destruction of this community. We're running the wellness centre in there, primarily a gym. It's all about helping individuals  identify their past and whats held them captive in the way of their decisions  and additions

Jamie Downs

Taumarunui Kokiri Community Trust is Whanau Ora centre that runs social and health services in Taumarunui and Te Kuiti. The large office premises is downtown Taumarunui is home to a fully functional gym on two levels. They run youth advocacy programmes, a lifestyle home for the elderly, hapu mama services, a sexual health clinic and a raft of other primary and secondary health services. CEO Christine Brears and whanau Ora Manager Frana Chase talk about their kaupapa.

Māori will be their own educators, Māori will be their own practitioners we had to create a way of doing that.

Christine Brears

Christine Brears (CEO) and Frana Chase (Whanau Ora Manager) at Kokiri Trust

Christine Brears (CEO) and Frana Chase (Whanau Ora Manager) at Kokiri Trust Photo: RNZ/JMurray