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Permaculture, Art, Travel and Education
By Paul Murray
The LivinginPeace Project in Karamea, New Zealand began in 2004 and aims to incorporate the elements of Travel, Art, Education and Permaculture into a sustainable business.
Karamea is at the top of the West Coast of the South Island and is like a little geographical island paradise in the Kahurangi National Park.
The climate is warm year-round and the region is blessed with fertile soils, plentiful rainfall and lots of sunshine. Almost any crop can be grown there, including bananas.
Founder Paul Murray, studied permaculture with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton at Melbourne University in 2009 and has since been working on developing a 7-acre permaculture exhibition farm as part of the Permaculture Master Plan.
He sees permaculture as a positive way to provide a quality life for his family and wants to make the permaculture farm a feature of his businesss.
In the hope that guests at his accommodation facilities (Rongo Backpackers & Gallery www.rongobackpackers.com and Karamea Farm Baches www.karameamotels.com) will be able to experience permaculture first-hand and learn about sustainable food production while they are staying.
"I conduct daily tours of the farm and answer people's questions in the hope that they will develop an interest in permaculture while they are here," he said. "Every year, we have over 50 different nationalities coming to stay with us and I see this as an excellent opportunity to spread the word about permaculture."
The LivinginPeace Project is certified carbon neutral and the project undergoes an annual audit by Carbon South, a Christchurch-based carbon assessor.
Environmental and energy efficiency considerations are the focus of every LivinginPeace Project business decision and the ultimate objective of the permaculture farm is to be able to produce sufficient food to feed all project volunteers and also to have a restaurant to feed guests with food that has been grown on the farm.
Murray believes that a significant carbon saving can be made by doing so. "Karamea is possibly the most remote town on the mainland of New Zealand, so if we invite people to visit Karamea and then import all the food to feed them while they're here it would be very inefficient.
So a significant carbon gain can be made by producing all the food we need for our guests, helps to maintain the carbon-neutral status of the business and also enable us to provide them with locally grown, freshly picked, nutritious, enzymatically rich, healthy food," he said.
The LivinginPeace Project is run entirely by volunteers and has been a Wwoofing host for seven years. "Wwoofers are travellers and I am very grateful for the wonderful people who have come to help develop and manage the project," Murray said.
"We seek to strike a mutually beneficial arrangement with our Wwoofers, we ask that they help develop the farm and run the businesses and in return, we offer a great place to stay, all the facilities and services we have for our guests and the opportunity to learn about permaculture."
Travellers are able to defray the cost of their adventure and in return for their labour, be able to stay in one of the loveliest places in New Zealand, explore the Kahurangi National Park, Oparara Basin (www.oparara.co.nz/) and the Heaphy Track(www.heaphytrack.com) one of New Zealand's "Great Walks."
Art is another facet of the LivinginPeace Project and there is an annual artist-in-residency programme whereby artists are invited to spend several months in the summer and offered free accommodation so that they can live and work on their art in a region renowned for its natural beauty.
In the past, resident artists conduct art workshops, drawing classes and held exhibitions as part of their residency and art is a very important feature of the LivinginPeace Project. The permaculture farm is designed with aesthetic considerations with artworks incorporated into a creative design and is a pleasant place for visitors to experience and enjoy.
In 2011, the LivinginPeace Project launched the "Permaculturalist-in-Residency Programme" whereby an experience permaculturalist is invited to stay and work with the Wwoofers on the farm as an instructor.
This enables Wwoofers to learn more about permaculture and its practical applications and also enables permaculture instructors to gain valuable experience in supervising and assisting the learning process of novice permaculturalists.
The programme has proved very beneficial for both students and teachers and the permaculture farm development has also benefitted from the input of experienced permaculture practitioners matched with the enthusiasm and energy of the Wwoofers.
The LivinginPeace Project has an 80-acre (31-ha) forest block as Zone 5 and it acts as a carbon sink to offset the carbon emissions produced in the service of the business, including partial responsibility for the carbon emissions of visitors to the project, most of whom come from the Northern Hemisphere.
The forest is tremendously diverse and provides an excellent example of a balanced natural system for people to observe and experience. The developing permaculture farm also provides and excellent opportunity for permaculture students to gain hands-on experience in the field and put the theory of permaculture directly into practice.
The LivinginPeace Project is a progressive and innovative, environmentally aware business that strives for sustainability seeks to positively incorporate permaculture into the business model to improve the energy efficiency and minimise the environmental impact of the venture.