He's survived two smashes that should have killed him, played rep rugby, driven big rigs the county's length, been a repo man, a bouncer and briefly managed a strip joint.

Now he's gone where none have gone before – successfully establishing a drop-in centre, a safe haven for women and children and a night shelter. Another shelter's recently been set up in Taupō.

How has this man mountain that's Tiny Deane achieved it? "I'm a stubborn bastard, won't take no for an answer."

One look at his 170+kg frame and who'd be brave enough to turn him down?


Some have tried by confronting this fellow who unashamedly admits to struggling with reading and writing with a mountain of "hard as" paperwork.

A sympathetic soul suggested he take advice from a consultant.

Undaunted he approached two, no dice, their fees were way out of reach of a bloke whose sole income's ACC.

Tiny persisted and third time struck it lucky. Sigma Consultants' Ann Nicholas embraced his vision without charging a cent. Lawyers Lance Lawson and accountant Glenn Hawkins willingly provided their services pro bono.

Were we not to acknowledge these "amazing, wonderful people who've made things happen" Tiny would have shown Our People the door. Thank heavens he resisted the urge, his jumbo-sized boots scared the bejesus out of us.

This time it was our perseverance which paid dividends. His is a story that, once begun, became more gripping by the second.

Thames born, he was driving trucks while at high school. "I'd work three nights a week on the Thames, Te Puke, Hamilton tomato run."

Unsurprisingly his education suffered yet he stayed on "until I was 18-and-three-quarters". The attraction was playing prop in the 1st XV and for Thames Valley juniors.


Despite his loving family background - "my dad taught me to work hard" - Tiny reflects he was a 'stroppy young sod'. Running away from home, he headed north.

In Whangārei trucking company owner Stan Semenoff took one look at him, employed him and sent him to the famous All Blacks' Going brothers. Next day Tiny was playing for their premier Mid Northern club.

"I still had a lot of anger in me, they worked that out pretty damn quick. Sid [Going] said I'd make the Māori All Blacks, even the All Blacks, but I was a real bad trainer, hid under the bed when the van came to pick me up."

At 22 he married Maree Curran.

"We'd been flatmates two weeks when I proposed. She's an amazing woman, we were chalk and cheese, she was educated, worked in the courts, still does, she's a manager now. She tamed me."

The couple had two sons before moving to Tauranga to be near Maree's parents.

In December 1999 Tiny, with his young sons on board, was hit by a drunk driver in the Karangahake Gorge.

"My foot was pushed back to front, an off-duty Middlemore Hospital surgeon who saw the crash snapped it back into place. Another doc wanted to amputate it, this surgeon wouldn't let him, they choppered me to Waikato [hospital]."

His boys were less severely injured.

"Maree nursed me back to health, I was a very bad patient."

His disposition wasn't helped by being told he'd never drive trucks or play rugby again.

Ironically the smash came on the eve of signing with a Tauranga club.

"I'd got that contract after dropping from 180kg to 150kg because they were short of props in the Bay. It was a sign from God because it helped me get better real quick."

Within eight months he was back driving but pain forced him to quit.

"Maree said 'you'd be a good document server, repo man' so I got my PI [private investigator] licence. It was a huge laugh, I got to know people like cops and lawyers extremely well."

The time came for pastures new. Attracted by an ad for a bouncer at an about-to-open strip club, Tiny applied. "I'd done bouncing up north, been into judo, powerlifting."

The club's owner appointed him manager instead of a front of house heavy.

"Then I got the wheeze from cop mates to leave. A lot of the staff were arrested for drugs stuff."

With his leg improved Tiny returned to big rigs.

Our conversation does a rewind as he drops in the Karangahake crash was the second he's survived.

"At 16 I was racing a mate, drove off a 60 foot [18-plus metres] cliff. You know how people say they've had out-of-body experiences, well it's true. Going over I saw myself sitting on a bridge girder, I woke up in hospital."

He escaped with bruised ribs. "The 1st XV coach said 'I'll see you at training tomorrow so don't think you're going to get out of it', he bought me a helmet."

In 2004 Maree transferred to Rotorua court, Tiny signed on with Mainfreight, his runs covered the country.

After five years the Deanes separated, "but we're still very, very close because of our boys and she's so nice".

Tiny didn't enjoy being single. A mate suggested he go online to find female company.

"I met this wonderful kindy teacher from Murupara, Lynley McMillian, she ticked all the boxes. I fell in love straight away, met her in April 2014, proposed that Labour weekend."

On his elder son's advice he didn't race into marriage, waiting until last September.

Tiny continued to drive but the pressure on his "crook foot" took its toll. Confronted with another amputation threat he sought a second opinion, his leg was saved with the warning it probably won't last past his 60th birthday.

Reality set in, he'd never drive again. It was driving that alerted Tiny to the country's escalating homelessness and allied social problems.

"It was getting real bad here [Rotorua]. I said to Lynley 'I've got to do something', went to a meeting about a night shelter, it was all talk, talk, no action so I got stuck in."

The women and children's shelter came first. To finance it the Deanes sold Lynley's pre-marriage home they'd turned into a rental.

The Visions of a Helping Hand drop-in centre with regular meals provided came next, followed by the Rotorua night shelter and a Taupō women's and children's shelter that operates around the clock. These latter two premises were acquired by the Deanes mortgaging their home; all operate under the umbrella of a charitable trust.

When the council decreed this week the night shelter's not a place to be slept in, Tiny remained unfazed.

"We're keeping our heads up, praying and doing the mahi (work) we are expected to do, we're keeping smiling and a big grin on our faces as we go about marrying things up within our organisation. Not sleeping in a night shelter may sound ridiculous but it is what it is."

Born: Thames, 1969
Education: Moana Taeri Primary, Thames High
Family: Wife Lynley, sons Curtis, 25, Mason, 21, step-son, step-daughter, three mokopuna
Interests: Family, people. "When someone comes into our centres I give them a big hug so they can feel the warmth." Rugby, golf, coaching rugby and soccer, presently coaches St Mary's U9s. Eating. "I love eating but am trying to cut down a bit."
On homelessness: "I won't stop doing what I'm doing until it's eradicated completely."
On his life: "I'm very happy where I am now."
Personal philosophy: "Live by what you believe in and never take no for an answer."