New rehabilitation centre combines best of both worlds


Tū Tonu Tonuis a physical rehabilitation centre with a Māori twist. It is the first of its kind in the Waikato, possibly even New Zealand, and provides a community of practice where clinicians and traditional healers work collaboratively. From physiotherapists to traditional Māori healing, massage therapy, counselling, yoga, personal training and acupuncture.

Their vision is “to be a leading rehabilitation centre that exists to improve health and well-being by delivering high quality care and preventative services.”

Tonu combines clinically-proven rehabilitation and preventative methods with indigenous processes to improve your health. Through this unique blended model of delivery along with their education programmes, It aims to address rampant long-term health conditions that have a disproportionate impact on Māori – such as diabetes, lung disease and chronic pain.

The facility officially opened on Wednesday 17 July in Hamilton. There is a beautiful feeling when you step through the doors of Tonu. There is no judgement and a real sense of purpose and connectivity. You are greeted warmly at reception and then taken through to the number of services provided. There’s consult rooms for massage therapy, cupping and podiatry, an indoor basketball court, large space for group classes, a gym with all the equipment for strength and rehabilitation, a kitchen to help with nutrition and an artificial running track.

Tū TonuThe layout of the facility moves in a circle as you make your way around, starting from being immobilised and can’t move well, to playing sport and completely functioning and managing your own programme, balancing in the other services to maximise your well-being.

Tonu Founder and Managing Director Timi Tapara said it is a place for everyone. No matter your age, fitness level, ethnicity, sexuality, you are all welcome.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, this is not just a Māori organisation that only serves Māori. We’ve worked really hard to break that stigma. It is a service that can help uplift and provide for all that wish to utilise it.”

The name “ Tonu” can be interpreted in a variety of ways – the word refers to standing up and overcoming adversity, which within its context can translate to health concerns through injury or illness.

Tū TonuThe word Tonu suggests an elongated period, which speaks to their long-term commitment to help those back to full health. To connect with whānau, hapū and iwi, and to advocate for, educate and promote sustained lifestyle changes that will improve long-term overall health.

The design logo encompasses a whare made from two ‘T’ letter forms, which stand for the ‘ Tonu’ name. The whare symbolises stability, safe space, kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, and shelter. Inside the whare stands a figure who represents Tūmatauenga, “God of War”. Tūmatauenga is holding a tewhatewha, which symbolises strength, courage, and resilience. In Tainui narratives as the ancestor of humankind.

The woven pattern through the logo represents interconnectedness and the confluence of holistic hauora services in this space. The harakeke itself, pays tribute to its wide-ranging uses including rongoā or medicinal applications, associated with traditional Māori healing practices. Lastly, through the art of strips of the harakeke come together to create a kete, which is a representation of the repository of skills, tools and knowledge that tangata whaiora bring into this space.

Tonu aspires to contribute to each kete through the sharing of knowledge and practices that further support hauora.

Tū TonuThere is a dedicated professional team of 28 that work with their clients and their whānau to help them with their general hauora (well-being). The custom-built facility is 1000 square metres and took 18 months to build by Hokioi Builders, a Tainui whānau business established by two passionate creators, Natasha and Paddy Willison-Reardon.

Tapara said the idea to build something like this came to him while living in Australia. He was born and raised there, and while he was completing his Masters in Physiotherapy at Victoria University, they looked at health strategies for the Indigenous population.

“Some barriers were they didn’t like to come to the ‘concrete jungle’, they didn’t like driving two hours for a 20 minute appointment and they didn’t like the individual one on one concept because they’ve never lived like that,” Tapara said.

“So we started devising meaningful times that groups of 10 could come to places, and instead of coming in for 20 minutes, they would come for two hours and work with us in a meaningful block.”

Tapara is no stranger to the health and fitness industry. He was once a promising young rugby player coming through the Australian age-group levels, until he suffered many injuries including four knee surgeries by the time he was 21 years old. He had to retire early, and went on to become a physiotherapist.

He returned to New Zealand and opened his eyes to te reo and Māori tikanga. He began to understand the interconnection of emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing when we are physically hurt.

“We’ve always just been given Western rehabilitation – you must do this and do that. We isolate the injury straight away. So it’s now about understanding the entire person first and foremost and planting the seeds of returning back to what we were always designed to be – functioning in a community and connecting all of our hauora.”

He said Māori often feel the Western world makes them feel isolated, alone and rejected. He wants to change that. And while Tonu won’t magically fix you, it will help provide the right services to make you embrace that inner warrior. You will push the boundaries of health and wellness and be a part of meaningful, holistic health care.

The building space is owned by property developers Kingsbeer Properties Ltd. Special mention to Trent McIntosh at Macos Builders, CM Glass, Xtreme Fit for the workout gear, Jamieson Design, Regal Joinery, Burgeon Signs, International Sports Service for the basketball courts and Unreal Lawns for the running tracks.


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