The Living In Peace Project began in 2001 with the purchase of an 80-acre (31-hectare) property in Karamea, which is a small town servicing a community of about 700 people at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The initial intention was to build an artist’s retreat on the property, which borders on the Kahurangi National Park and has about 400 metres of frontage to the Karamea River. However, the densely forested block proved unsuitable for such a venture as the many sandflies in the summertime was contrary to the Living In Peace concept.
It was decided that the sandflies were there to protect the forest from human habitation and the site for the retreat was changed when a more suitable location later became available. The bush block will be preserved for the benefit of humanity and respected for the beauty, diversity, peace and tranquility it holds, as well as to provide a carbon offset to counter emissions produced in the service of the business ventures. Simple walking tracks will be made through the forest to allow people to experience and enjoy the sanctity of the bush without destroying it and upsetting the delicate balance of nature.
The Karamea region is a paradise blessed with natural beauty; forest-covered mountains, long white sandy beaches, broad free-flowing rivers, lush green fields and fresh clear air. The region is effectively a geographical Island. It is 100 kilometres north of the closest major town of Westport and is protected on three sides by the forested mountains of the Kahurangi National Park and to the west by the Tasman Sea. As a result, Karamea is a unique rural enclave, protected from development, commercialism and many of the social ills found in urban communities. People stop and chat with each other when they meet by chance, drivers wave to each other as they pass on the road, the publican knows everyone by name and when something needs to be done, the people band together to share their skills and help each other out. This is the kind of community spirit the Living In Peace Project seeks to foster and proliferate.
A team of volunteers from around the world has been working since mid-2004 to convert the building into a hostel called “Rongo,” which means “Peace” in Maori. The backpackers business will provide accommodation for the volunteers and a means of financing the Living In Peace Project. The volunteers receive free accommodation in return for their energy and efforts in helping to develop Rongo and the realisation of the Living In Peace Project.
The venture expanded further with the May, 2005 purchase of the Karamea Farm Baches, an additional accommodation facility with four houses, three cabins and five self-contained baches, plus a 4-acre farm, which borders the Karamea estuary lagoon and looks west to the Tasman Sea. The farm is the perfect location for the Living In Peace Project, the location is attractive with great views west to the sea and estuary lagoon and back into the mountains of the Kahurangi National Park to the north, east and south. The farmland is well drained, fertile and highly productive and will be converted into a permaculture farm that will provide food for both the people involved in the Living In Peace Project and guests at our accommodation facilities.
Rongo Backpackers & Gallery is a microcosm of the Living In Peace Project. In effect, it is a test case, or practice run to determine the efficacy of the business model. Karamea Farm Baches is the second stage of the project development and provides accommodation options for a different market while expanding the project’s agricultural possibilities. The farm behind the bach complex is being developed into a permaculture block that produces locally grown, organic meals for our guests. Karamea has enormous horticultural potential, fertile, well-drained alluvial soils, plenty of sunshine and evenly spaced, ample rainfall throughout the year, which alleviates the need for irrigation (a large cost saving in the establishment of a horticulture farm).
Today Rongo has very much become a steppingstone toward the ultimate goal of incorporating the elements of; art, permaculture, tourism into a sustainable business model. The building has been transformed inside and out into a fabulously vibrant, colourful and creatively inspiring place, which now includes a community radio station, organic vegetable and aesthetic gardens, a fire bath and an excellent art gallery featuring the work of local and international artists.
The concept of both Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Karamea Farm Baches and the Living In Peace Project is to create an artistically inspiring environment where people can live, as they want in return for helping maintain and develop the venture, with the only rule being to respect the rights of others and to take responsibility for your own actions...common sense. The project is open to everyone, all nationalities, sexes, religions, ages etc, but it is especially hoped that artistic and creative people will come and stay and that the venue becomes an international centre for creativity, invention, innovation and artistic excellence.
The project aims to transcend the paradox faced by all young artists, which is: no one buys their work because no one knows who they are, and no one knows who they are because no one buys their work…which makes it very difficult for young artists to get established and support themselves financially as they attempt to develop their talent and skill. This coupled with the fact that creative art skills and creative marketing skills are generally not found in the same person, and the fact that many artists are uncomfortable selling their own work means that many aspiring and talented artists are forced to give up before achieving artistic success through financial hardship, frustration and despair.
The Living In Peace Project seeks to assist aspiring artists by helping to market their work through the gallery, exhibitions, the Internet and other means to enable them to get established and recognized as artists to allow them to continue their work elsewhere. The project is quite ambitious and there is much work to be done. The Living In Peace Project needs volunteers to come and contribute to the venture in whatever capacity they are able, whether it be building, cooking, making music, making people laugh, painting, cleaning, singing, dancing, or offering financial support...everyone has something they can contribute.