Pio and crew muck right into sustainable living at Solscape

From yoga to gardening, cooking vegetarian kai and patching up an earth dome – it all got filmed over four full days late last year when a television crew visited Solscape eco retreat for an upcoming series on the joys of a life unplugged. 

“I was surprised how long it took to set things up,” Solscape co-owner Phil McCabe told the Chronicle of the 30-minute Raglan episode to be screened later this year.

But he was also impressed with the professionalism of the small crew from Scottie Productions throughout the daily schedule of filming for the series, which will screen first on Maori Television and next year on TVNZ 1.

Entitled ‘Off the Grid with Pio’, the lifestyle programme follows Pio Terei as he sets out on a tour around the motu to investigate the lives of whanau and individuals who are embracing aspects of sustainable living. 

Pio is quite “a character”, says Phil. He is interested  in people’s relationships to the environment and has a grounded approach to things. “He’s real.”

While Pio – with programmes like ‘Tales from the Trails’ and ‘Tangaroa’ behind him – brings his trademark humour and style to the show Phil found that his director, cameraman and soundman were all “good guys” to host up at Solscape during the full-on days of filming.

Phil says the filming was very much an interactive process. Pio joined Phil’s partner and Solscape co-owner Bernadette Gavin for a yoga session, mucked in with the gardening and composting, created a bit of chaos in the cafe kitchen alongside the head chef and helped out with some repair work on the earth domes.

He talked to Bernadette and Phil about the philosophy of Solscape and what their intentions were, Phil says, at which point the couple explained how their backpackers accommodation on 10 acres overlooking Manu Bay had evolved into an eco retreat.

That happened on realising they had the opportunity to influence people, says Phil, so they started to create working models of sustainability. “And we’re still not finished.”

Phil is proud of what they’ve accomplished so far, especially during the past decade. 

Solscape now offers a diverse range of accommodation – from camping to contemporary and alternative lodgings – a communal kitchen, a surf school, yoga centre and a seasonal vegetarian restaurant with extensive organic gardens.

Educational courses such as permaculture design are also regularly on offer.

  “Solscape gives a lot of people the chance to be in a different space, to clear minds and hearts from hectic 21st century lives,” says Phil.

And the highlight of the crew’s visit to Solscape? Perhaps the song Pio wrote while there. “He performed it on his departure as his koha to us,” says an impressed Phil.

Edith Symes