Updated: Feb 10, 2022
Raglan Eco-village Project, a new opportunity is being developing for the wellbeing of our region
Ecovillages are small, ideally self-sufficient communities that live from and for their natural surroundings. There are more than 10,000 ecovillages in the world, mainly in rural areas where their inhabitants build societies based on cooperation, self-sufficiency, renewable energies, and sustainable materials.
In Whaingaroa, a wellbeing and ecological initiative is taking shape step by step, the Raglan Eco-Village, a project with a vision that states: “To live in a regenerative way, healing and connecting the whenua and people”.
The idea developed by Nadine Simsar is steadily progressing: “I spent time living in an eco-village when I visited my sister in France, and I instantly discovered the benefits this kind of living can bring to the community, not just in terms of well-being due to the interconnections or for protection of the natural ecosystems, but also I thought it could be also a way to solve some of the housing issue in New Zealand”
After presenting the initial idea to the Raglan community, where she resides, the Momentum Group was established “I felt the project was running so fast, and the time came to engage the community to co-design it together”. The thoughts of around 50 people that showed interest to be part of the project were collected, with 30 of them willing to be potential residents. After this initial meeting, a group of ten people is assisting Nadine with the next steps to move the project forward. This group is formed by potential residents that volunteer their time with the aim to generate the needed momentum to execute the different stages. It brings diversity of point of views and also provides different skill sets, as it is constituted from a wide range of backgrounds from industrial, communications, well-being and healthcare, finances, design, entrepreneurship, education, academia, science, etc. Some members have experience with environmental activities, sustainable initiatives and even living and owning a co-housing property overseas.
The cohousing concept has been slow to catch on in New Zealand but it could be an instrument to solve the house crisis problem in our country. The Raglan Eco-village project aims to create opportunities for living at affordable price, based on community-driven developments – like the one in Grey Lynn, Auckland or Mornington, Dunedin. The Momentum Group has had the support from Robin Allison, Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood in West Auckland, and Sarah Jane from the co-housing project in Takaka, Golden Bay.
“It is a lot of work but contributing to it has a been very rewarding personal experience. For instance, the intense weekend we spent co-creating the definition of the project was wonderful and emotional as we felt we were not just creating a community but a real family”, says one of the Momentum Group members.
In the nineties, the American philosopher Robert Gilman, one of the main theorists of these ecological communities, defined them as human-scale, full-featured settlements in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.
At this stage the project is creating the concept based on a 23ha land,5km out of Raglan centre, which aims to incorporate 50 off grid houses integrated in a restoring native-tree and bush plantation. This will transform what was farming land into a sanctuary of endemic plants and animals to preserve our nature for future generations. Important stakeholders from Raglan are also being consulted, the local Councilor, Harbourcare, WRAP, Raglan Naturally, local architects, and Iwi, etc. The support of major Waikato and Whāingaroa stakeholders is important to bring this new model that will deliver alternative solutions to communities that provide not only affordable housing but a more cooperative and connected approach to people, their environment for their overall wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet.
Ecovillages usually have between 50 and 250 inhabitants. The entire population has shared objectives and they work together to achieve them. They organise regular meetings where they share experiences and drive sustainable economic, societal, cultural and environmental practices. The development of ecovillages is based on one basic principle: concern for people and the environment. They encourage a way of life characterised by solidarity and ecology, where members of a community help each other to create more ethical, fairer and more egalitarian societies.
At this stage the project is trying to reach funds for its feasibility study. “Although we are working with the hypothesis of the land secured on Upper Wainui Rd, we are developing a conceptual design proposal that can be applied to other places, not just because we need to be open to other locations to set our Eco-Village if the current price conditions make it infeasible, but also because we aim that the feasibility study could be used, applied and transferred to other initiatives in the region. We are hoping to create a legacy for others in Waikato and Aotearoa inspired by our feasibility study”, another member of the momentum group points out while winking.
50% of the world population — live in cities. According to the United Nations, this number will duplicate by 2030. According to this organisation, the metropolis — barely 3% of the world's land area — uses between 60% and 80% of total energy and produces 75% of carbon emissions. The United Nations warns that urbanisation is also threatening fresh water supplies, wastewater and public health. The international community fears that the damage may be irreversible, which has drawn attention to the sustainable model in ecovillages. They set an example of how to make progress without endangering the future of the planet.
The Raglan Ecovillage team