Te Teko whānau aims to revitalise health and business in the community

By Mere McLean
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Te Teko is a small rural town nestled in the Bay of Plenty, it's known for its sweet grown vegetables like kamokamo and sweetcorn.

For a small town it never seems to rest, even more so now with its new gym prospect. Mere McLean caught up with the organisers behind the initiative.

Te Teko has a population of 600 the majority of its working force seek employment in neighbouring towns like Kawerau, Edgecumbe or Whakatāne.

Like many small towns, bigger and better opportunities mean moving away.

However, some Te Teko residents are reinstalling the pride back in their community by establishing their own projects. The latest is a Health and Fitness Centre.

Wharepapa Reuben says, “If a person feels good within the body, and physically, then that person can go about without worry, following their dreams and this is what my wife and I are doing to help support our families.”

Owners, Wharepapa Reuben and his wife Raana say the concept came from wanting to offer whānau a new outlook and perspective on health and fitness. Along with Dean Elliot they ran an afternoon fitness group called TexFit at no cost. From there the dream grew into the establishment of the gym. 

Raana Reuben, says, “For me the main thing about this project is not only fitness but it's one pathway for those of us living here including the surrounding areas. In the past many families would leave go to places like the pub, but now they can come into a place like this to get fit, like the TexFit fitness programme and now this place, it's really awesome.”

The gym has been open five weeks; within the first three they received over 100 new members and those numbers continue to rise, with one new person joining every day.

“It's not only for our relatives around here, because we have clients that come here from outside of Te Teko, some from Ōtākiri, who are farmers, some from Kawerau, and Edgecumbe, so we have a lot of hope invested here and the main thing is educating so it will benefit all, therefore it's not just about weight-lifting, it's about all aspects including nutrition.”

Changing to a healthy way of living is expected to have a positive impact on the local children.

Haturiini McGarvey says, “Comparing our generation to how it was in the past, the food is different, the quality of food is not the same to that of our ancestors' time. We're descendants of Toi-Kai-Rākau and according to the Hapuoneone people, our food is from the land, trees, bush and sea, and those were the food sources of those times, but now, we rely on supermarkets like PAK'nSAVE, and eat rubbish. One major problem is that the products sold in those stores are behind diabetes, heart problems and cancer.”

Available to members at a low fee, the gym is open 24 hours 7 days-a-week. Member Haturiini McGarvey says this idea is a positive one for the town.

Raana and Wharepapa say that they are here in Te Teko to stay. The idea is not for personal gain, but to reinstate the pride of the town and by accomplishing that they charge less than $10-a-week.