Nine hundred people are practising radical self-reliance on a Hunterville farm, reports Zaryd Wilson

The event guide for Kiwiburn reads, "Welcome back to the paddock."

Paddock is one way to describe it. A paddock full of colour, music, people, art, culture and real community spirit is another.

The 12th annual Kiwiburn began on Wednesday and runs until Monday. It's a six-day event based on "radical self-reliance and participation" and is the New Zealand version of Burning Man in Nevada.

It's the second time it's been held on Mark Grace's Cooks Rd farm near Hunterville after shifting to Rangitikei from Waikato last year.


Shelley Watson has been attending Kiwiburn for nine years and is now the event's media liaison officer. She met the Chronicle at the gate and was our guide for the afternoon.

Kiwiburn happens on two paddocks on the edge of the Rangitikei River at the end of a gravel road. More than 900 "burners" have turned up this year, well up on last year's numbers.

"It becomes its own little town," Shelley says.

The event is based on sharing. No money changes hands during the festival and burners bring everything they need for the five day with them. "You experience what it's like to not have to worry about money. It's very liberating. It's a gifting economy."

Burners Jim and Andrew have come from Auckland and their gift to the festival is The Tea Cup. They fashioned a solar-powered, mobile teacup, which they drive around pouring home brew to all those with an empty cup. "Everyone seems to like it."

The Tea Cup is just one of hundreds of art and creative projects the camp is littered with.

Kiwiburn fuels that side of things with $8000 in art grants which are funded by the ticket price. Burners create their own camps within the camp with various themes.

Some things become annual events at Kiwiburn. One of those is the White Party where everyone dresses in white at The Camp Formerly Known as F***k Yeah. Chanelle Brodie is one of the campers and has been to four Kiwiburns.

"I went to Burning Man in the States but I also play in a samba band and that's how I first came here." Chanelle loves being part of the temporary community and enjoying the company of friends who get together every year. The temple, by Dunedin artist Rohana Weaver, is in the top paddock and is a place for contemplation and to leave messages about things people want to let go of.

After dark on Saturday is one of the main events, the burning of the man. This year's effigy has been designed and built by Nico Woodward of Auckland. And for the first time the "man" depicts a woman.

Nico made her out of 85 pallets with bamboo cladding and heather hair. "We've got a sweet lighting plan. I don't want to give too much away because it's going to be quite spectacular," he says.

Shelley says Saturday is "a real party atmosphere".

At the end of the lower paddock is the forest where burners enjoy some shade and a whole lot more projects are based. Burners come and go from the Revolving Washing Line, trying on and taking free clothes or leaving items for others.

It's also close to the river which is popular in the 30-degree heat. Come Monday the burners and the community they have created will disappear without trace.