Eco villages are intentional communities created with the aim of becoming more sustainable, socially, economically and ecologically. They usually have a population of about 50 to 150 people. Some eco villages may be smaller or larger, with up to 2000 people, and exist as part of smaller sub communities. There are some eco villages that have grown by adding new individuals, families or small groups that are not necessarily members, living on the periphery of the eco village and taking part in the community.Members of an eco village, or eco villagers, have ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values in common. They adopt alternatives to electrical, water, transportation and waste-treatment facilities that are ecologically destructive. Many eco villages view the breakdown of traditional types of community, excessive consumerist lifestyles, the destruction of the national habitat, increasing urbanization, factory farming and an over-dependence on fossil fuel, as trends that must be changed to prevent ecological disaster and create more wholesome and fulfilling lifestyles. Eco villages present small-scale communities with minimal ecological effects or regenerative impacts as an alternative. These villages also often cooperate with peer villages as part of their own network.
Here’s an expat guide to eco villages in New Zealand.
What are eco villages?
Eco villages can also be defined as human-scale full-featured settlements where human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural environment in ways that are supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future. This definition comes from Robert C. Gilman, a thinker on sustainability who researched and wrote about eco villages along with his late wife Diane Gilman. Their work played an important role in defining the eco village movement and giving direction to the Global Eco Village Network. The Global Eco Village Network is an international association of individuals and communities that are committed to living sustainable lives by restoring the land and contributing more to the environment than what is taken. Members share knowledge and ideas, transfer technologies and have cultural and educational exchanges.
The president of the Global Eco Village Network, Kosha Joubert, has put forth another definition of an eco village. According to him, an eco village is ‘intentional or traditional community consciously designed by its inhabitants, in which people consciously value what they have and integrate this with innovative technologies to make their lives more sustainable, and the whole process is owned by the people living there.’ The aim of an eco village is to regenerate the social and natural environments. Therefore, only sustainability is not adequate; it is also essential to regenerate the social and environmental aspects of life, ‘across all four dimensions of sustainability: social, environmental, economic and cultural.’
With the enhancement of technology in recent years, eco villages have also developed and have more sophisticated structures in place.
Principles of eco villages
– Eco villages are grassroots private citizens’ initiatives
– Eco villages place great emphasis on community living
– Eco villages are not overly reliant on government, corporate or other centralized means for basic necessities such as food, water, shelter or power
– Eco villages have a firm sense of shared values that are often characterized in spiritual terms
– Eco villages often serve as sites for research and demonstration
– Many eco villages also offer educational experiences for others
Governance of eco villages
Eco villages place importance on effective governance. The first generation of eco villagers resorted to consensus decision-making as a form of governance. But challenges emerged with the method of daily decision-making, as it tends to be time-intensive. A few inflexible members could also block decisions. Therefore, in recent years eco villages have moved toward adopting sociocracy and related alternative decision-making methods. Eco villages also look for alternative governance that emphasizes deeper connections with ecology rather than economy.
Eco villages in New Zealand
Located in rural New Zealand’s Northern Hawke’s Bay, Kotare Village is a self-dependent eco village. It is home to 50 families and the Koanga Institute’s Centre for Regenerative Living. Kotare Village is currently looking for people who share the same values of supporting and embracing a regenerative future ‘through independent village living, local economies and co-evolution.’
The village is seeking individuals who wish to join the community as settlers, donors or investors. The Koanga Institute is home to the largest heritage organic seed collection in New Zealand. It focuses on developing nutrient-rich food and seeds in a regenerative manner for the health and well being of the next generation. Bob Corker and Kay Baxter founded the Kotare Village in association with the Koanga Institute. Inspired by the work of the institute, they wanted to set up human-scale villages, which supported the global need to address the foundations of human ecology.
Kotare Village seeks to be community and nature interdependent through meals, gardening, facilitated meetings, cooperative business, conflict resolution, theatre, childcare, building projects, parties, and community work days, among others. With a view that it is the big, and also the small practical things that make a difference, the village addresses matters such as the use of cellphones in public spaces, eating together, where and how to do laundry, when trading between members when is the national currency used and when should the villages’ own currency – Kotare Beans – be used, how often should members work together, what materials may be used for building and gardening, and how are conflicts resolved?
This eco village is located in lower Northland, near the top of the North Island of New Zealand. The nearest big city is Auckland, which lies about 100km south. Overseas visitors can arrive in Auckland, as it is one of New Zealand’s major cities and also the international gateway. Otamatea Eco Village is an intentional community that uses organic principles to fulfill their needs, while caring for the native eco system. This eco village welcomes visitors as it gives them a chance to learn and exchange ideas. Visitors can telephone them in advance and after making contact, can arrange a visit.
There are a number of bus companies that travel the route from Auckland to Kaiwaka. Buses usually leave from the Central Business District in Auckland. Those arriving at the Auckland airport can take a bus to the Central Business District. Buses stop at various locations in Kaiwaka depending on which operator you choose. If you ring the eco village when booking your ticket, they will arrange for someone to meet you at the bus stop.
The Otamatea Eco Village is located on a peninsula in the Kaipara Harbour near Kaiwaka. This area was once a hub of commercial prosperity and had a significant role, being the link in the country’s costal sea routes. The legend states that the great sea voyager Tamatea left his God Raiera there in the shape of a rock, which served as a bridge for his descendants, and the river was thus named after him. The Otamatea Eco Village is settled along a stretch of the river where since 1997, nearly a dozen families have been laying the foundation for an intentional permaculture community.
Permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. It is a concept that can be applied from the balcony to the farm, and from the city to the wilderness. Through permaculture, individuals can create productive environments providing food, energy, shelter, material and non-material needs. It also helps to establish social and economic infrastructures.
The Otamatea Eco Village is involved in various projects such as cattle breeding and raising, nursery and tree propagation, orchard, weed and pest control, community meetings, maintenance of community roads and buildings, and finance and administration.
New Zealand’s oldest intentional community, Riverside Community, was founded in 1941. Located in a peaceful rural environment, Riverside is 8km from Motueka, in close proximity to the beaches of the Abel Tasman and the stunning mountain ranges of the Kahurangi National Park. The Great Taste Cycle Trail with its beautiful scenery and local wineries passes directly along the Community. Travellers and cyclists who wish to stay for a while, or are interested in the community life are provided with comfortable and affordable accommodation. At the heart of the community lies the Riverside Community and Cultural Centre where private functions, business conferences and weddings can be held. Expats who want a closer look into community life, can participate in the ‘Riverside Experience’ immersion program where they can take part in the activities of community and cooperative living.
The Riverside hostel is located at the centre of the community and is surrounded by trees. It is also adjacent to a wide-open field called, the Oval. The lodgings are simple, but comfortable. There is also an outside area that incorporates the principles of permaculture including gardens and worm compost.
One of the main activities of community living and a great way to connect with each other is through the sharing of food. During the immersion program, expat visitors will be able to learn from one another about food preparation and creating meals together. Most fresh ingredients are available in the land that the community harvests. Dry goods are available in bulk from local suppliers. As part of the Riverside Experience, community lunch is prepared three times a week.
Founded in 1984, Tui Community is an intentional community, which began on a farm consisting of 50 hectares in Wainui Bay. Today it is a blend of an intentional community and a village, where individuals come together to share lifestyles. There are about 30 to 40 adults and children living in this eco village. Some of the many activities practiced by the community include growing an organic garden, organic orchard and sharing weekly communal meals. Members finance their own accommodation, which is available in the form of unique separate houses. Some of the members work at Tui Balms Cooperative, which makes natural products such as skin care and massage balms. Many members also have their own occupations and incomes. The primary focus of Tui Community is the creation of genuine relationships with honest and open communication as its foundation.
The main objective of the community is to live close to the land and build an environment that is conducive to families and personal growth. The heart of the community is the original farmhouse, with a dining area for up to 60 people, a kitchen, a lounge, a space for children, a meeting place, laundry facilities, shop, games room and guest accommodation. The community does not follow any specific religion or political doctrine or spiritual leader. Up to 20 percent of the population are children, who are perceived as parental responsibility, and also communal. This has fostered a keen sense of extended family.
Each member of the Tui Community contributes to the costs of running and developing the community. Adults put in about 3.5 or more hours every week in the gardening, farming, orchard, machinery and finances among other activities.
This is a forming eco village located in Whitford in east Auckland. It has 19 quarter-acre lots clustered together, along with a common house. Farming is done with permaculture design principles. The community is currently looking for families who would like to share in their vision of building this eco village. Turanga Farm especially welcomes families with children and individuals with skills that can come in use such as organic agriculture, beekeeping and building, among others. Their aim is to bring together individuals who would enjoy the experience of being involved in the eco village’s continuing explorations of deepening relationship-building skills. To date, the community has finished all the infrastructure work such as earthworks, access roads, wastewater facilities, phone lines, and power. They are also in the process of finalizing legal documents. Another development is the food forest, of which the first stages are completed.
The Turanga Farm eco village helps create a sustainable environment through land management based on natural ecosystems and in accordance with organic and permaculture principles, with adequate land devoted to wild natural landscapes. As an eco village, it respects and cares for all that the community looks after, and everything is treated as alive and interconnected.