Henare O'Keefe speaks of Flaxmere with a mixture of passion and pride - but when describing the hardship faced by members of this close knit community, his eyes well up.
Poverty is rife in the Hastings suburb; putting food on the table is a daily struggle for many, children go without warm clothes and start the school day with rumbling bellies.
Homes are poorly insulated, badly heated and any money in the bank was quickly gobbled up by pricey power bills and sky high rent. Add to that unemployment, and there was a lot of work to be done.
Many people chose to look the other way or put these problems in the "too hard basket" - Mr O'Keefe saw an opportunity.
"Poverty is not about charity, it's about justice, it's a man-made thing, like racism," he says. "I think in some instances it's poverty of giving, it's poverty of love, it's poverty of passion - if we all had the inclination to love and give poverty could be banished overnight."
It was with that in mind that he started the U-Turn Trust, which provides much needed solutions for some of the most pressing social ills facing Flaxmere residents. From feeding more than 30 families a week with a communal garden and donations from local producers, to the Tunu Tunu, a mobile community BBQ which diffuses conflict and encourages a safer community.
"There's no poverty of spirit here, it's more difficult to get out of people's hearts than it is to get in - Flaxmere is addictive, it's intoxicating."
The non profit organisation recently appointed Ana Apatu as CEO and was constantly finding new ways to heal Flaxmere, from the inside out.
Other initiatives included a Boxing Academy which helped to instil messages of pride, self esteem and positivity in young people, then there's the establishment of New Zealand's first alcohol free Sports Club - MAC.
"The U-Turn never sleeps, it never goes on holiday - because poverty never sleeps. I always say to people, there is no cavalry coming to save Flaxmere, no knight on a big, white horse with an answer to our ills - we have to stand up and do it ourselves. If you want to address the issues, if you truly want to address poverty, particularly in the food sense, you have to give them ownership, to give them education."
The aim was to discover and nurture talent, to build people up and see light, where others only found darkness.
"U-Turn never judges, it never condemns, it's a mother, a father, it's a psychologist," he says.
Part of the Trust's success has been focussing on the people of Flaxmere. "If we improve Flaxmere with better homes, better education, more employment, it's better for the whole district - poverty impacts on everything - everyone benefits from pulling Flaxmere up," Ms Apatu says.