Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Porirua group is night-riding their way to better health

Better health outcomes for Pasifika & Māori is the goal behind Cycle Safe Porirua (CSP). John Pulu decided to get on his bike for this story.

It’s just after 6PM in Porirua and a group of Māori and Pasifika cyclists are about to hit the road.

“It’s something different. We did it as kids but for us, most of us just focus on that mental health… riding in the fresh air,” says Malaga Mali’i Findlay Siania.

“We ride all over Wellington, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Kapiti Coast.

“Getting them out in the fresh air is really good for the team.”

Malaga is the founder of Cycle Safe Porirua (CSP), and they’ve been riding since 2018 with some extra motivation from Chris Te’o of the USO Bike Ride group.

Cycle Safe Porirua Founder Malaga Mali'i Findlay Siania with USO Bike Ride Founder Chris Te'o (R). Photo: Cycle Safe Porirua
Cycle Safe Porirua Founder Malaga Mali’i Findlay Siania with USO Bike Ride Founder Chris Te’o (R). Photo: Cycle Safe Porirua

Malaga says many in his group have health issues.

“Some of them have had a heart-attack, some of them have battled cancer, some of them have a physical disability,” he says. “But when we cycle we forget about all of that and just ride.”
Before they saddle up for this ride, they have a surprise for me. Malaga’s kind enough to hand me a bike and helmet so I can join in.

Many of the riders are only free to cycle at night, but it hasn’t stopped them from trying to improve their lives.

One of those is Leesa Lealaisalanoa, who jumped on board in February this year along with her sister.

“We’ve led mostly a sedentary life and we felt like it was time to do something,” Leesa says.

“I’ve lost about 20kgs, which is good, and it’s only in a short couple of months… Still got plenty more to go, which is one of the motivating factors for me being in this group as well as community.”

John Pulu with Cycle Safe Porirua
John Pulu with Cycle Safe Porirua. Photo: Tagata Pasifika

John Mu started riding in 2018. At that time, he hadn’t cycled for about 40 years.

“I couldn’t get out the front gate, and then after that it just all came natural,” he says.

It’s been a positive change, and John hopes others will join in.

“Enjoy the fresh air… getting out, getting out on the road and meeting people,” he says.

Half way through our 12km ride, it’s time for a group photo and some light banter.

“Hey guys, John is engaged, so hopefully he will invite us to his wedding!” Malaga announces to cheers.

I’m happy to take the ribbing on the chin or should that be helmet, which was starting to feel a little too tight by this time.

The good news is we all made it back safe and sound – the end of another ride but certainly not the journey for many of these riders.

Part of what they’re about is to normalise cycling as a means of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in a predominantly Māori and Pasifika community.

And for this group, that’s already happening.

“It doesn’t matter how big you are you know or what obstacle you face; essentially we are all here to ride. The end goal is just be active,” Leesa says.

By John Pulu

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