Minginui isn't a place you would stumble on by accident.

The former Bay of Plenty forestry town is well off the beaten track and has been on its uppers since the mill was closed in 1988.

There are now 69 houses and 300 residents and an unemployment rate of over 80 per cent.

While there are signs of recovery and the Government has pledged $5.8 million over three years to allow the expansion of a tree nursery that is forecast to employ up to 90 people, times are still tough in the Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park settlement.

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But, unlikely as it might seem, a Papamoa man has enlisted the services of friends in Te Puke and is looking to make a difference to the town's people.

John Peri is a former educator who has also been involved in community development in Kawerau, Te Teko and Matata.

"I have relatives who have lived there and I go four wheel driving around the area," he says.

Many residents are elderly and grandparents are often the ones looking after their grandchildren.

"Some people can't even afford to warrant and register vehicles," he says. "And the other problem is, the kids are fodder for the Mongrel Mob and, in Murupara, the Tribesmen."
One thing Minginui isn't short of, though, is places to hunt.

"Every granddad goes hunting or eeling or possum hunting, but the issue is transport."
John is working on a solution.

He has already acquired, through donations or dipping into his own pocket, half a dozen farm bikes and he is hoping to be able to get hold or more as well as riding and safety gear. The bikes would then be securely stored in the town and made available for hunting trips.

Tehemi Maxwell from Minginui with one the refurbished farm bikes collected by John Peri.
Tehemi Maxwell from Minginui with one the refurbished farm bikes collected by John Peri.

He says he wants farm bikes "so they aren't able to motocross them".

Te Puke's Graham Fraser and Steve Lacey have helped John repair the bikes.

"We want them to be ultra reliable," says John. "We've replaced the batteries and chains and fixed them up — I'm lucky to have such good support.

"And the people of Minginui are just blown away that somebody cares."

The town's youth worker will help with training to ensure the bikes are ridden safely and properly maintained.

John is now looking for more donations of bikes or parts of bikes that are no longer needed.

He has also been collecting collecting furniture, clothes, cutlery, curtains that he has taken to Minginui's residents.

Anyone who can help with bike donations can leave a message at Fraser Gear in Te Puke or call John on 027 325 2721.