Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Karamea Farm Baches, Karamea Connections and the Global Gypsy Gallery form the financial base of the project and support the development of the venture by providing income to fund expansion. The eco-tourism businesses incorporate art, permaculture, and volunteerism, into their management structures and strive to be energy efficient, progressive thinking, professional and profitable.
Any business venture has an environmental impact, there is no way to avoid this fact, but the Living In Peace Project strives to minimise the environmental cost of operating the business and is always seeking to be more energy efficient.
4th Night Free
Both Rongo Backpackers & Gallery and Karamea Farm Baches offer the fourth night free. There are many reasons for this, firstly, Karamea is not yet a well-known tourist destination and there are a lot of great attractions to see and activities to do here. By offering an incentive for people to stay four nights, it also gives them an opportunity to explore the region and get and appreciation for the quality of the tourist experience on offer in the region. Fourth night free is also an eco-tourism concept in which we reduce the amount of water, electricity, washing detergent, labour and cleaning products we use by 75% (as oppose to cleaning the rooms and doing the laundry daily for single-night stays) and improve the longevity of the linen, towels and laundry equipment in the process. In addition, the 4th night free policy enables us get past the initial “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” questions and into conversations of more substance by getting to know our guests over four days…a far more satisfying experience for both guest and accommodation provider.
Solar Hot Water
Rongo Backpackers & Gallery has not used any electricity to heat water in the past four years of operation. The water is heated with an Apricus solar system and augmented with a wood-burning water heater and a wetback system on the living room fireplace. This is a significant cost saving in terms of economics and the environment. Karamea Farm Baches also have solar pre-heaters installed to defray the cost of heating the water with electricity and solar systems will be installed to heat the water at the baches in future.
A 31-hectare (80-acre) regenerating bush property provides a carbon offset for the emissions associated with the business. To encourage people to fly to New Zealand from Europe, Asia and America and other parts of the world incurs a carbon cost that we must take responsibility for. To counter this, we keep the bush block as a carbon sink to absorb the carbon we produce in the service of our business. The property doubles as an attraction and we plan to build a simple camp ground there to enable people to enjoy the property and have an experience that is not possible in many parts of the world.
The project aims to be self-sufficient in the production of food––fruit, vegetables, meat and firewood––in addition, we will provide locally grown organic meals to our guests. The service will be established on a “no waste” model, the meals will be simple, organic, healthy and locally produced from seasonal fruit, vegetables, venison, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish and other seafood etc we have available at the time.
We have registered three Web sites: www.abeltasmantrack.com, www.heaphytrack.com, www.wangapekatrack.com which offer tourists who have travelled to New Zealand from distant locations a low carbon-emission holiday option while they are here to defray the carbon cost of their travels. The concept is to enable people to have a fabulous holiday and experience a wonderful part of New Zealand under their own steam and without using much fuel.
Staring in Nelson, trampers are taken to the start of the Abel Tasman Track and walk or kayak through to Collingwood where they can stay and rest and enjoy day trips in the region taking in the attractions of Golden Bay, Farewell Spit, Whariki Beach etc before walking through to Karamea on the Heaphy Track.
In Karamea, the trampers can stay in either Karamea Farm Baches or Rongo Backpackers & Gallery for as long as they like and have day trips to the Oparara Basin, Karamea Gorge, Mt. Stormy, and Lake Hanlon etc before walking back to Nelson on the Wangapeka Track. The idea is being developed, www.heaphytrack.com is complete and work has begun on www.wangapekatrack.com.
The package has significant potential to attract advertising money from accommodation providers, transport service operators, restaurants, retail outlets, outdoor equipment providers etc, which would fund to development and maintenance of the Web sites and provide a steady annual income to fund development of the other ventures.
Mountain biking on the Heaphy
Mountain biking has been be permitted on the Heaphy Track from May 1 to September 30, 2011 as part of a three-year trial. Mountain biking on the Heaphy Track is a boon for Rongo Backpackers & Gallery and Karamea Farm Baches as well as all the other service businesses in Karamea as it irons out the seasonality of our respective businesses by increasing the tourist traffic in the winter months. It also leads to better utilisation of the DOC huts and facilities and provides additional income to maintain and improve the amenities on the Heaphy Track.The new Fenian/Oparara Loop Track provides an excellent opportunity to promote the eco-tourism potential of the Karamea region. Mountain bikers can leave Karamea in the morning, cycle the Fenian Track trough to the Oparara Basin and visit the Moria Gate and Oparara arches as well as the Mirror Tarn before cycling back to Karamea ––a round trip of about 60 kilometres and full day of healthy fun, exercise and adventure, but mountain biking is currently not permitted on this track.
The managers at both Karamea Farm Baches and Rongo Backpackers & Gallery are assisted by volunteers and wwoofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). This process significantly reduces the running costs of the businesses and provides an opportunity to teach travellers from all over the world about organic farming, business management, building maintenance and renovation, the hospitality industry, eco-tourism and sustainability. Wwoofers are invited to stay with us for a minimum of two weeks, most stay much longer as we have an enjoyable, productive, educational and vibrant enterprise that enables travellers to stay a while in one location and to get involved in life in Karamea while they are here in return for their labour…a mutually beneficial arrangement.
International travel is the best form of self-education available. To experience different cultures, fashions, food, architecture, art styles, language, traditions etc is extremely beneficial for and individual’s personal development and tourism is an important element in the Living In Peace Project business model. Karamea is rapidly becoming a popular destination for both domestic and international travellers and the Living In Peace Project aims to provide travellers to Karamea with a comprehensive, vibrant, educational and memorable travel experience.
Permaculture is a self-sustaining organic farming system that will provide agricultural produce for the Living In Peace Project volunteers, enable us to serve fresh, locally grown organic meals to our guests, which will add value to our farm produce, provide top quality, healthy food for people staying at our accommodation facilities and minimise the carbon cost of food production by reducing the amount of food imported to Karamea to feed visitors to the region.
Artistic excellence and creativity is the cornerstone of the Living In Peace Project. Rongo is the result of the collective imaginations of many creative people from all round the world and the entire property is now a work of art, which houses a fabulous and diverse local and international art collection.
In addition, we have hosted numerous artistic events, including a poetry recital by Sam Hunt, literary evening with New Zealand authors Kate De Goldie, Peter Wells, Nick Bollinger, Tusiata Avia, Fiona Farrell and James Brown, as well as musical performances by; Luke Hurley, Paul Ubana-Jones, Karen Hunter, Paul McLaney, Nigel Gavin, Richard Adams, The Jews Brothers, Will “Panda” Coffey and many others.
Global Gypsy GalleryIn 2006, we purchased the old Karamea Information Centre building, which is in a prime retail location in the main street of Karamea opposite the supermarket. The building is being transformed into a gallery, Internet café, recycled clothing, and organic food shop. In the future, it will be afford us a means of selling excess farm produce, and provide a central location for a tour booking office. The building is jointly owned by Gerar Toye a well-known New Zealand photographer and author, and Paul Murray, who is also a photographer. The shop displays and sells photographs by both artists as well as the work of other local artists.
Rongo Backpackers & Gallery houses a community radio station–Karamea Radio 107.5FM. The radio station offers and opportunity for visitors and residents of Karamea to be disc jockeys play music live on air. The radio station provides a community service, a source of entertainment, education, a means of broadcasting information about local events and civil service emergencies if required. Future possibilities include; boosting the signal strength to increase broadcast range, a recording studio for musicians, online streaming of the radio station and commercialisation to allow for advertising.
Short Film Festival
Rongo Backpackers & Gallery has a small cinema in which we show foreign, art-house, documentary and short films to our guests. In 2008, we hosted the Waikato Moving Images Trust, a short film festival. A short film by Gerar Toye “Zen and the art of Hitchhiking” was also made at Rongo. We hope to host an annual short-film festival and encourage other filmmakers to use our facilities to make movies.
We purchased a 10-seater shuttle bus in 2008 that enables us to offer a series of tours around the Karamea region that includes trips to scenic locations like the Oparara Basin, Mt. Stormy, Karamea Gorge etc as well as enabling us to pass on historical information about the region’s gold-mining, saw-milling, flax-milling industries as well as stories about the development of the dairy and tourism economies, the Karamea Wharf, Murchison Earthquake and the construction of the road linking Karamea with Westport.www.wildwildwest.co.nz
This Website has been registered with the view to providing transport services along the West Coast involving other like-minded organisations and providing transport for travellers interested in exploring other eco-tourism operations on the Coast. This is a future project and will develop as resources become available.
Health and fitness is an important part of the Living In Peace Project. We aim to provide healthy, nutritious, locally grown organic meals for our guests as well as a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, mountain climbing, fishing, sports and leisure programmes that encourage visitors to Karamea to participate in active physical pursuits while they are staying with us.
International tourism provides and excellent opportunity to introduce people from all over the world to the concepts of permaculture, sustainability and organic food production, cooking as well as art, cultural information, green building, recycling, waste minimisation and social harmony. Last year, Rongo guests came from over 50 different countries, which provides for cultural exchange, understanding, education and opportunities for broadening individual world perspectives. Rongo is a centre of international cultural exchange and the wwoofing programme lends itself to this particularly well as people from all over the world live and work with each other in the Living In Peace Project.
Tours, permaculture farm, campsite on land, locally grown organic food cafe, language exchange programme as well as yoga, photography, permaculture, organic growing, healing workshops.