The initiative to create a permaculture community on a 251 acre peninsula in the Kaipara Harbour west of Kaiwaka started in 1995 when the founding members of the Otamatea Eco-village sought land to develop following permaculture principles.
In June 2000, the Eco-villagers got together the following info on their venture. At that point two families had built and had been living there for over a year, with five others putting their plans into action. With all the hurdles to purchase the land, gain Resource Consent, and divide the land using Unit Titles having been successfully jumped, there was a new emphasis - building dwellings, creating gardens and community.
Marijke, Robert & two children: Robert says "We have been involved with the village for four years and plan to build in earth brick and recycled materials. My parents plan to build next door. Our strong interests are in revegetation, involvement in community ventures such as the greenhouse, developing the village's educational potential (especially for children), and, as boaties, enjoying water activities on the Otamatea River."
Site of Otamatea Eco-village, before building and road construction.
Sharna & Kapil's unit: Sharna "Our land contained both wetlands and dry spots, slopes and hollows, which meant that the land itself suggested where ponds and buildings were placed, and where gardens might do well. Incorporating spiritual ideals within our physical structures is important to us so spaces were planned for meditation, contemplation and healing. It is our belief that what we surround ourselves with can awaken connections to the sacredness in life and support our personal spiritual growth." They have many projects underway including orchards, subtropicals, herb spiral, edible hedgerows. "We're working hard, having fun and feeling much healthier and happier" says Sharna.
Kapil: "Like most of what we've been doing on our land, the design and building process of the barn/studio/workshop - called Wakawhenua - Earthship - has been intuitive and organic. We feel the building is very much part of our outer skin and needs to embody and express how we feel about life and the world". Their main building elements are old power poles, Econobarn arches, various timbers, mud in-situ adobe walls, mud floors, ferro cement, Onduline roof, recycled bricks, bottles, times - all yet to be adorned with copious mosaics and sculptures. To sum up his philosophy Kapil quotes Hundertwasser's eloquent words "Beauty is not a luxury".
Daniel, Jude and two children: "At the moment completing stage one of our house, eventually this will be an "S" shape with indoor/outdoor courtyards connecting the main rooms. First stage is the kitchen/dining room and bathroom/toilet, all facilities are now operational. The construction technique: pole house with strawbale infill (the wolves are still at bay!) plastered with concrete outside and clay from the land inside." Daniel says different materials will be used for further stages - wood, earth blocks, rammed earth. Their other projects underway include: timber barn, herb garden, pergola, shelter belts, orchard, native bush and pond edge plantings, fencing for house cow and other animals.
Marion & two children: "Our family is well settled into eco-village and local life after my macrocarpa house with its economical use of space was finished last year. We have a fully functioning alternative power system. This eco-village based on permaculture, healing of the earth and the human spirit, is becoming a reality. I'm a strong believer in acting locally and thinking globally." Marion is busy fencing off land for horses and house cow and creating a small garden.
Lynne & Reinhold: Reinhold says "We've been settled for over a year in our timber barn and plan to complete a post-and-beam timber house with strawbale infill and earth roof this year, also to complete our alternative power system. A strawbale sauna is great for time-out." Lynne is delighted with the success of their planting so far, evolving from their permaculture design. She loves the wild beauty of the Kaipara with its special light, and the enjoys strong interest shown in what's happening here.
Light earth construction of Wolf and Sabine's barn.
Sabine & Wolf: "Building our barn, which is a light earth construction on a concrete pad. The timber framing is Lawson Cypress with double studs - one row on the outside of the wall and one row inside. We're working on light earth infill now which means that temporary boxing gets attached to the studs and the walls are filled with a wood chips and clay mix. Once the infill has dried out we're going to plaster inside and outside with mud plaster and put down an earth floor" says Wolf. Sabine and Wolf hope the barn will be livable soon so they can move in and finally live on the land. It's three years since they decided to become part of Otamatea Eco Village and now they're almost there!
Paul: "This year at last I will be based at Otamatea Eco-village - my new barn is going up now. Tree planting and a decent vegetable garden are my top priorities. It will be great to be able to follow up with some TLC" says Paul. His priorities are: stop to enjoy the sunset, early nights, fun, fishing, read, relax, socialise and soak up ideas from his neighbours.
Rik: "Planning to return in September and this time stay a bit longer" writes Rik from overseas. "Long enough to carve some paths on my unit, plant a line of trees from the dam to the north, and build a cabin. This will be partly timber frame filled with glass panels, partly mud brick or rammed earth, with an earth roof. It will stand on a concrete slab with solar floor heating. The will be a conservatory and a 12V system fed from solar panels and car batteries." Rik also has plans for a larger pyramid-form house.
Suzie & Mick: "As the most recent members we probably have most to do. Firstly, to clear NZ immigration then pay for our unit (gulp!). Only then can we change jobs, pack up and transport ourselves from the UK to the other side of the world. Despite this we're busy drawing up plans for roads, houses, ponds and orchards. From planting olive trees to rearing chooks to designing solar heating systems we just have to cross the (community) street to find not only living examples but also neighbours with friendly guidance and an abundance of expertise" writes Suzie, who keeps in close contact via email.
Working bee to build earth floor in community barn.
Peter (from Germany), Alba (from Columbia) and two children: "We're starting to build our house using New Zealand timber, clay bricks and recycled materials such as flooring and beams. Last year we planted 1000 native trees around three ponds and now planting a shelter belt to the south of our unit. We'll have a vegetable garden, an orchard, subtropicals, chickens and pigs" says Peter. They look forward to moving into their house at the end of this year.
Julia: "In 1997 I chose Unit P, which feels very harmonious and alive with its two little hills facing each other, gentle descent to the tidal harbour inlet and various microclimates. I had a water harvesting pond built, which is now home to frogs and occasional ducks, and a little macrocarpa cabin with the door towards sunrise. Then my circumstances changed and I left Otamatea, ready to sell" says Julia. Now she is looking for people to hand over the guardianship of this special piece of land, the young native trees and "the white stone."