An ecovillage looks set to sprout on a prime 23-hectare piece of rural-zoned land bordering the start of Upper Wainui Rd if one woman on a mission can attract buy-in from residents, collaborators and investors.
Having already secured the land and presented the project to the Waikato District Council, Nadine Simsar now hopes to garner local support at an expression of interest meeting to be held next Wednesday night at the Old School Arts Centre.
Similar in nature to Earthsong – an innovative cohousing community that mushroomed in west Auckland well over a decade ago now – the Raglan Ecovillage Project would ideally have between 30 to 50 sustainable ecohouses for residents who believe shared living is the way of the future, Nadine told the Chronicle.
It’s all about coming together for the good of both land and people, she says.
Nadine envisages a community in which families live and work on site – creating their own livelihoods – without the need to commute.
She’s quick to point out her proposal is not for a commune, where people live less independently and share income.
Rather the idea is to build affordable houses with a “common” one in the middle – like at Earthsong – where some meals, a laundry and a toolshed for instance are used by everybody in the settlement.
The ultimate goal is “shared governance” of community facilities.
Nadine says the homes would be as off-grid as possible so as not to rely on council infrastructure, and residents would focus on regenerative living which is more than sustainable. She describes it as a cooperative approach that “dynamically renews all life”.
There would be the potential to partner with other establishments such as Xtreme Zero Waste in its consideration of a community-owned solar farm, and with educational organisations like Waikato University to offer on-site learning of practices like permaculture.
“I want this to be a flagship project,” Nadine insists. Her hope is that Raglan ecovillage will demonstrate a model of integrated-systems development that will become an example of how to live in a sustainable and regenerative way, and “inspire the people of New Zealand”.
Nadine – who still speaks with a hint of a French accent despite having left her homeland two decades ago – is a relatively recent arrival in town from Auckland. It was while living there that she became inspired by the Earthsong eco-neighbourhood, which has operated successfully on an urban-zoned site in Ranui since 2008.
She says she used to run a yoga studio in Howick but needed a change, so set her sights on Raglan with the intention of finding suitable land and setting up a community-led ecovillage.
“Raglan seemed like a cool community, more in tune than Howick,” she laughs of her ambitious idea.
But Nadine insists it’s no pipe dream. She already has an architect, a planner and engineers on the job and “we are looking (now) for passionate, hands-on people to join us to make this flagship project our reality”.
The project also fits well with the council’s long term plan for “liveable, thriving and connected communities”, she says.
While Earthsong is the first cohousing community in New Zealand combining environmentally sustainable approaches to housing and lifestyle with well-established community decision-making processes, similar projects have since sprouted up in Whanganui and Dunedin.
There’s also another in the upper South Island, where what’s described as “a vibrant neighbourhood in the heart of Takaka” is being built using cohousing principles.
*Come to the Raglan Regenerative Ecovillage Project meeting on Wednesday September 29 at the Old School Arts Centre, 7.00-9.30pm. Numbers are limited because of Covid restrictions. Please book your space at: