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The Kaipara Harbour is an area which once possessed prodigious kauri forests and enjoyed a zenith of commercial prosperity and importance as a link in New Zealand's coastal sea routes prior to the advent of road and railway systems. In legendary days the great sea voyager Tamatea was welcomed at Raepare pa. He left his God Raiera there in the shape of a rock as a bridge for his descendants, and the river was named after him. Deep within its huge harbour system, the Otamatea River is a tranquil place now. Except perhaps for a certain stretch of water which passes the site of Otamatea Eco-Village, where since 1997 about a dozen families have been progressing plans for an intentional permaculture community on two hundred and fifty acres of a peninsula west of Kaiwaka.

The initiative came from two founder members who were looking for a piece of land not too remote, large enough for a number of families to have freehold title to a few acres, with enough common land to provide recreational, food growing and resource opportunities. However diverse those who join the project, the basic idea is that our motivating philosophy will be application of permaculture principles to all aspects of village life. Its inherent values of working with nature, assuming responsibility, energy efficiency, appropriate technology, and multi-functions for all elements create a direct pathway towards the goal of caring for the land and each other.
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Once the place was found, late in 1996, on a farm that had been used as a cattle run-off block for generations, the question of finance loomed. The initial purchase was aided by neighbour Edward Goldsmith, author, and founder of the "Ecologist" magazine. Each member now has freehold title to their five-acre unit as well as owning 1/15 share of one-hundred and seventy-six acres of common land. This was a pioneering move for New Zealand.

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Mainly through word-of-mouth a nucleus of intending residents formed. Then fortnightly meetings began, to write our prospectus, vision statement and co-ordinate the myriad strands of administration and hands-on physical work. To create a co-operative dynamic where people can feel safe to voice their concerns the meetings are run on a consensus basis. Through these, shared meals and working bees, we are getting to know each other. A sense of community is important here and we often think of the three conditions prescribed by the Dalai Lama to accomplish our vision: "Great love, great persistence, great patience. Patience is the hardest of all!"

In November 1997 our "Opening Day" was celebrated, marking the successful conclusion of two year's negotiations with the Kaipara District Council and Land Transfer Office.

Another high spot in the calendar was the Road Opening Ceremony on 20 June 1998. The 4.5km access road is now complete, which means that more house building can start. That afternoon, with a little help from friends, over two thousand trees were planted. Then a candlelit banquet and bonfire to honour the Winter Solstice... a memorable day.

 
Timeline
 
  • Resource Consent from Kaipara District Council granted.
  • Main title held.
  • 4.5km access road completed.
  • All 15 sections sold - most families building and living on the land/
  • Community garden established.
  • Water catchment areas and drainage established.
  • Cattle grazing and treeplanting projects ongoing.
  • Monthly business meetings, weekly shared meals and celebrations of many kinds take place.
  • Power supply installed.

Otamatea Eco-village is a stimulating collection of possibilities - environmental, social, technological and spiritual - the ongoing task is to weave these strands together to the best abilities of our inhabitants.