Far North residents are being urged to get behind an eco-friendly movement which harks back to the days where self-sufficiency and sustainability were part of everyday life.

The new Eco Centre Whangaroa in Kaeo is a place for community groups to hold workshops and activities that foster good health, sharing and resilience.

So far it has attracted Transition Towns, Tai Tokerau Timebank and a local Repair Cafe, groups whose initiatives include alternative currencies, communal gardens, local food projects, shared transport, upcycling, permaculture and zero-waste events.

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The centre is the brainchild of Kaeo resident Maureen Paterson, who owns the building on Waikare Ave which is also home to the Far North branch of the Theosophical Society in New Zealand.

Paterson, who is the current president of the branch, wanted to make use of an extra hall in the building and for community groups to have a decent space that was inexpensive.

"We have a lot of really creative artists and people here," she said.

"Various groups who have been living and promoting those ideals plan to take advantage of the resources onsite to inspire quality of life for all, especially as it seems the economics of New Zealand are likely to make things more challenging for many in the future."

The centre has a dedicated art space for kids and adults to get creative. Photo / Jenny Ling
The centre has a dedicated art space for kids and adults to get creative. Photo / Jenny Ling

Paterson has always lived a sustainable life, back when it was a necessity and well before it became a buzz-word.

She reckons she can "teach youngsters a thing or two" about the concept and wants to help people understand that hard work, looking after each other and sharing are worthwhile things to do.

"A lot of new ideas are the ideas the older generation like me used to take as normal. It's only this modern world that's gone haywire.

"It was a way of life for us to do things for ourselves and not spend money and that's how we managed to accumulate over the years.

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"There was no such thing as self-sufficiency in those days – that was just life."

Bay of Islands - Whangaroa Tai Tokerau Timebank co-ordinator Charlotte Boss said it's a fantastic space.

"It will allow community groups to achieve what they might not be able to otherwise.

"Maureen is a generous lady who's got the community at heart. I'm really pleased it's come together for her."

The centre opened after the Covid-19 lockdown and is already boasting crafting and bike repair workshops, art groups, and afterschool programmes.

Maureen and Maryann hope Eco Centre Whangaroa will inspire residents to be more self-sufficient. Photo / Jenny Ling
Maureen and Maryann hope Eco Centre Whangaroa will inspire residents to be more self-sufficient. Photo / Jenny Ling

Kaikohe actor Willi Henley has booked it out on Wednesday afternoons for his new Kaeo youth theatre group and Tai Tokerau Timebank is hosting a beeswax wrapper-making workshop this Saturday from 10am-noon.

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Out the back is a traditional Māori playground, known as a hupara, created by Māori games expert Harko Brown and opened by Far North Mayor John Carter in April 2016.

Paterson and her late husband Alf made their section available for the Te Mara Hupara o Kaeo (Kaeo Hupara Garden) for schools and the community.

The centre also has a library with books, magazines and other resources to inspire interest in sustainable living.

Peterson said the Covid-19 lockdown also did people a favour, making them "recognise that life can go on without the extra bits and bobs".

She hopes one day, when tourists are allowed back into the country, that locals could sell their creations from the hall to earn a buck or two and help support the local economy.

If you want to get involved or use the space email Maureen: ecocentrewhangaroa@gmail.com or phone 09 405 0707. To register for Saturday's beeswax wrapper-making workshop email Charlotte: charlotte.tttimebank@gmail.com

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