The vast Rangitikei Electorate is made up of a myriad of diverse and resourceful communities. We have communities of artists and market stall holders, school communities and farming communities; church, charity and interest group communities.
From our towns to remote rural outposts, the sense of community spirit throughout our electorate is something to celebrate and be proud of. It has held us together in times of adversity and given us cause to celebrate in times of triumph, and it brings us together to help others and to share common ideals and pursuits.
Last week I spent some time in Taumarunui and visited two very special organisations that are making a real difference to their communities.
The first was the Taumarunui MenzShed, which has as many as 25 members who meet two or three times a week in a space kindly made available to them by the Taumarunui Bowling Club. They get together to share their skills, have a laugh, and work on practical tasks either individually or as a group.
The MenzShed also provides an excellent opportunity for some social interaction for its members, many of whom have spent a lifetime working around the King Country and have a wealth of experience and practical skills to offer. It's a great place for men to learn new skills from one another too.
The members are particularly conscious of ensuring they don't compete with local tradesmen for work. When I visited they were undertaking maintenance on a number of pews and some special fittings for a local church.
The Taumarunui MenzShed is a part of MENZSHED New Zealand, which is the body that represents and supports Sheds nationwide, including one here in Whanganui.
The other very impressive organisation I visited was the Breakthrough Wellness Centre, which is run by James, Jamie and Moana Downes. Through the eyes of a first-time visitor it initially appears to be a well-equipped gym. But it is so much more than that! It is a special place with a strong culture of self-belief and an underlying philosophy about the importance of including friends, family and community in order to make real change.
The Breakthrough Wellness Centre runs weight loss courses which have proven very successful. They also run a number of courses designed to help senior members of the community, along with programmes for young people who may be struggling with life at school. This is indeed an outstanding example of a community-based niche business that understands and is meeting the needs of the community it serves by empowering people to believe in themselves and have the courage to make change.
Yes, community spirit is alive and well in the Rangitikei - this is heartland rural and provincial New Zealand at its best.