Minginui: Hope for a town that progress forgot
By Ruwani Perera
The economic reforms of 1980s were unkind to many of New Zealand's small towns. Minginui in the Bay of Plenty is one of them.
For 30 years it has struggled without the forestry jobs that used to bring in the money.
But as The Hui has found, there is finally some good news for the people of Minginui.
The seeds of Minginui's new beginning are found in a million-dollar native plant nursery - a joint venture between the Crown and iwi Ngati Whare.
It will provide two fulltime and up to 30 casual jobs - a big deal in a town where one in five people is unemployed.
"There's a future I think for our children within the village that they can look at and think, 'One day maybe I'll work in there,'" says Bronco Carson of Te Runanga o Ngati Whare.
But back in the tiny township not everyone is celebrating just yet.
"Here we have a million-dollar project right next to what you can see now," says Minginui Village Council chairman Winiata Tamaki. "How can those two things live hand in hand?"
This is the stark reality for the 157 people who call Minginui home - cold, damp houses that are all but falling apart.
"I just didn't believe that my fellow New Zealanders lived in such atrocious conditions," says Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson.
Complicating matters is the fact homeowners don't own the land their houses are on. That's owned by Ngati Whare Trust.
The Government has made some improvements in the village, insulating homes and providing fast broadband. And the neighbouring Whirinaki Forest, returned to the iwi in 2009, is another possible economic lifeline.
"The Whirinaki Forest is unique in the true sense of the word and offers tremendous potential for tourism," says Mr Finlayson.
It's a glimpse of hope for a town that time forgot.