Nicole Foss at Atamai Ecovillage, New Zealand


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    Arthur James Northwood Maori woman with catch of fish on Northland coast, New Zealand 1910 Atamai Village in New Zealand is an ambitious project aimed
    [See the full post at: Nicole Foss at Atamai Ecovillage, New Zealand]


    I am in shock. LESS of Nicole?

    6 years ago, she was instrumental in my decision to sell my home and rent until the crash – thereby preserving what I had. Once that commitment was made, I assumed she would be there to help guide people like me through the transition. Now, as that decision has gone horribly wrong (my rent is more than my house payments were) and I come here to seek her advice and she is nowhwere to be found?

    Talk about feeling left in the lurch! I used to donate here until living expenses made that untenable. My marriage is disentegrating (6 years of promising your spouse “the collapse will come soon and we can then repurchase” will do that to you), and now I literally cannot afford to live as yet again, my landlord is raising our rent.

    I feel like I am at the end of my rope. Telling my family to prepare has caused nothing but alienation, and now one of the few people I felt I could rely on is moving on? What do I do now?


    Dear Cory,
    It’s important to remember that Nicole and Ilargi have been wonderful advisors/teachers/mentors/counselors for several years now. However, as individuals, we make our own decisions based on ALL the information that is available in the blogosphere. They have taught us not just “what” may happen economically but “why” it may happen. If the “why” makes sense, then keep on the path you have chosen. Do it because you think it is the right path, not Nicole’s. It’s time for Nicole to get prepared herself after trying to warn the world of the upcoming events. I’d advise Ilargi to do the same if he has not already done so. Of course, I’ll be selfish enough to hope he continues with his wonderful, insightful and effective work at the same time…

    Life is a miracle and we can live it with joy and gratefulness for the experience we draw from it each day while also taking precautions and preparations for an uncertain future.
    This may be a new paradigm for those who live in the West, but it has been the norm for other parts of the world where joy is found in the midst of suffering and circumstances.

    Chin up and and much luck.


    This is ironic/funny.

    For the past year I’ve been constantly complaining (to myself, or anyone who will listen I suppose) that I feel like I’ve been doing so much reading/learning since 2011 about the things The Automatic Earth focuses on (e.g. financial collapse, peak oil, patterns in social psychology), but that the “learning” phase of my life felt like it was coming to a close.

    Quite frankly, I was getting bored of coming here (or to other collapse-oriented websites) and reading the same thing, over and over. Now I find myself being pulled towards *doing* something with that knowledge; actually living the lifestyle I’ve been reading about so much these last few years.

    Perhaps the truth is that there are no *real answers* here at the Automatic Earth, or anywhere else. There’s certainly a wealth of warnings and good ideas, but in the end we all need to figure out what is important to us in our lives and make our own decisions and live with the consequences.

    With the loss of Nicole, I must be honest and say my time here will be far more limited… but perhaps that’s a good thing. Time to give up on online community, and find real community where I can start putting what I’ve read about to good use.


    Sorry to hear things haven’t turned out as you planned. But as to your question “what do I do now?”, it’s simple really – you either turn your back on your convictions and give your wife what she wants (regardless of whether or not you think its right) and make amends with family members by agreeing with their vision of the future, or you hold onto your convictions and pay the costs associated with them rather than blame others.

    You know exactly what it will cost you to continue down this path – the potential loss of your spouse, a lowered standard of living, and being a pariah within your circle of friends & family members – but now you have to decide if your beliefs are worth that cost.

    On the plus side, there’s nobody out there to judge you but you. So choose what you think is right, and what you think will make you most happy.

    Good luck,


    I don’t know why or how people read into my “the work for Atamai also means that you see less of her here at The Automatic Earth” that she will be even less present here. That would be hard to do, if you ask me. What I meant is that she has been less present in the past while, but she’ll certainly be back and write more once the transition phase to NZ is done. Nicole is working on the final part of her food security piece, and preparing a video file on that topic at the same time. So no need to worry about Nicole at TAE.



    Good to hear Nicole will still be about, but I think my comments still stand – how much reading can one do at TAE before we become bored with the academics of collapse and each of us start to take action to change/improve our futures? And how much can you/Nicole write that will really help/improve the lives of individuals who visit this site? Even if this was a false warning of Nicole’s departure, events may unfold in the (near?) future that would see you/Nicole end TAE or have individuals see their access to TAE curtailed and/or extinguished.

    Its not to say I’m not grateful for the updates provided in the Debt Rattles, but truth be told, the greatest value I’ve received from TAE was the “big picture” outlook. It gave me something to look forward to and to plan towards. Just reading Debt Rattles all the time (or being, say, a ZeroHedge junkie) will give you current updates which are all well and good… but trying to plan ahead and live one’s life based on daily updates is maddening.

    The dream is to one day wake up and be able to say “well, I don’t really need to keep checking ZeroHedge / The Automatic Earth / CNN / / etc. every day, as everything I really need is right in front of me”. I’ll admit that dream is a tad bit naive and overly simplistic, but I don’t remember anyone ever saying dreams had to be completely realistic…



    I have to say I’m deeply saddened to read that Nicole is leaving Canada. It always made me feel a little better about the future knowing that she was making her stand here. Can’t say as I blame her for moving to Atamai though. Looks awesome their.

    Cory, I’ve lost pretty big in monetary terms as well and have to admit I have days that I feel like a fool about my choices and the fact that I’ve encouaged others to follow my lead but something is going to give at some point and many people are going to suffer.
    It is not much comfort but when that time comes I expect many of us will wish we could trade those problems for todays.

    Ilargi, thanks for all you do and a donation will be coming soon.


    While at university in 1994, an essay that I did, basically convinced me that economically our economic system is unsustainable. Lived with this contradiction until November of 2010, I resigned from my job and have been travelling around the world since (currently cycling in Serbia – and the weather is not great 🙂 with the intent to spend my money before the banks collapse. Most off my friends agree with me but can’t, or they think I’m totally crazy and are more interested about when my money will run out so they can say “told you so”.

    It has never been possible to pre-determine the efforts the system would put forward to preserve the current system … I’ve look foolish to a lot of people for twenty years, but I’m happy about my decisions (I’m no longer married – so I do have that advantage) even if the weather is terrible right now in Serbia.


    If I had to live a lifestyle that could be provide with only my strength, skills, and energy, then I suspect that the ancient australian bushman would be able to have a better lifestyle than I.
    If two people can do the work of three, then why did almost all “the back to the land movements” failed and the communities dispersed?
    I‘m of the opinion that there will be communities of humans that will survive.
    Those communities that have the highest “standard of living” will be those that have managed to harness energy from mother earth with the least amount of energy expenditure and with the possibility of going to a lower tech. requirement with their energy conversion methods.

    Nicole Foss

    I am not gone and I am not going. I am still here, just working from a different base. I have always worked from wherever I happened to be. Now I happen to be in New Zealand. There are things I need to do here, so I am balancing my time between those things and research/writing. Over time I am hoping to have more time for writing, not less, as I will be spending much less time travelling. I do intend to travel occasionally, but lecturing will no longer be my focus. I have an Australian tour with David Holmgren coming up in July for instance. I am hoping to do more permaculture teaching as well, based at Atamai and elsewhere.

    In the longer term, I will be looking for the funding to set up a bioregional institute here, which they would like me to run. The thought of doing that fascinates me. I intend to design a curriculum of information with regard to limits to growth, workshops for working through the necessary decision tree for moving forward and classes in all manner of practical skills for adaptation. There’s so little real, relevant education available at today’s educational institutions, so I intend to establish one of my own. If people would like to help to make that happen, I will be looking for funding and for fellow teachers.

    The village is looking for more inhabitants as well, since a critical mass of people makes adaptation very much easier. One does not necessarily have to have a lot of money. Every lot can have a major unit, a minor unit (granny flat) and a sleep out, so rental possibilities will be available. There should end up being a wide range of ways to engage with the village. It will be possible to share titles and set up businesses to serve the village and the wider community of the upper south island (biochar, plant nursery work, sustainable building etc etc). The idea is to have a fully fledged village economy, and young, enthusiastic people will be very welcome.

    New Zealand is looking for immigrants, but one would need to be under 55. It really is an amazing country. Try googling Abel Tasman National Park for instance. That’s 25 minutes from my doorstep, and I go walking there whenever I get a chance. See you here if you’re interested 🙂

    Nicole Foss

    I find that far more people are listening in the antipodes. I think that’s because in both Australia and New Zealand, they tend to have a sense of limits. New Zealand is two islands and Australia has a brittle environment prone to kick people at a moment’s notice, so they know they have to be prepared. New Zealand is small enough to operate at more or less a human scale, which means even the highest level of political organization is not utterly inaccessible. There’s a decent resource base here, although much of it is currently being mis-used. I told them on national TV here that the whole country badly needs a Plan B when globalized dairy exports are no longer possible, and therefore neither are imports.

    I love Canada, and the UK, where I also lived for a long time, but ultimately I felt I could do more here. I also find the US political culture quite threatening and am not comfortable living too close to it, although I am still happy to visit periodically.

    Charles Alban

    This is all very interesting. Living in community is exactly what we should all be doing. It will eventually be forced upon us. This Atamai Village is very much a half-way house on the way to full community. Full community means sharing everything…”mutual gift-giving.” No private ownership of real estate. This development is selling lots for 300k USD and up. This requires considerable outside resources, which clearly will not be available when the crash finally comes. New Zealand real estate is some of the most overpriced in the world…Nicole herself is the expert on bubble economics.
    The only way these kind of communities can really work and be replicatable is if they are egalitarian income-sharing communities, with everything owned in common, and a source of income on the property that can support all the residents. People should not be driving to some distant town looking for paid work, or have to bring a large chunk of cash with them.
    I am working on a model for such communities. The income source I am proposing to support these communities is the farm-scale production of bio-fuels, mainly bio-ethanol. This can be a very profitable enterprise that can easily generate sufficient cash income to support a community of 100 people in reasonable middle-class comfort, if they all share assets like housing and vehicles.
    This combined with Mark Shepard’s woody agriculture perennial permaculture principles to create an economically viable total food production system providing all necessary carbohydrates, proteins and oils, will, I believe, provide a model that could be replicated in any rural region, and would not exclude anyone on their ability to pay, their age, degree of infirmity, or anything else. There would be a place for everyone.
    This concept embraces the idea of “contributionism” as espoused by Michael Tellinger in his UBUNTU principles in South Africa. A network of UBUNTU villages worldwide indeed would solve most of the world’s problems.
    If anybody has any interest in pursing this further, by all means contact me.



    Just a quick couple of questions I’m hoping you can address:

    – Phasing out of lecturing; is it that the results you’re getting from your lectures are starting to fall below expectations, or perhaps it has just “run its course” and now you are looking for something new?

    – Moving from Canada; I suppose you’re cashing out of the housing bubble while it is at its peak here, but curious what your longer-term view for Canada is at this point? Also, I believe you have family… does this transition across the Pacific impact them greatly?

    – Bioregional institute; sounds fascinating, but will it be an organization that could offer something like a study visa for NZ? Looking online, it seems as if I would be limited to a 2-month stay if I was thinking of visiting Atamai but not relocating there, and not sure of the duration of the curriculum you are planning to design.

    – Atamai; looking forward to hearing about potential short-term work/volunteer opportunities – are they likely to appear in the near future? Again, not sure I could afford to relocate to NZ, but would love to make a 2-month vacation into an experience where I can absorb knowledge like a sponge while giving something tangible back to the Atamai community (the experience being something I can bring back to Canada and share with others) 🙂



    Nicole, I am really glad to hear what you are doing. I have missed your more in depth articles, and I look forward to when you will again have more time to post. Greater understanding and knowledge of permaculture means more people will be able to eat, simple as that. Ilargi, please keep up the good work. Lately I have heard more discouragement in your tone about the human condition, please just keep acting as if there is reason to hope that some of us will be able to carry the torch.

    I know that there are folks out there who have been preparing for years for the inevitable decline. What is true is that for some the decline has already come, and to the extent they have been able to prepare they are now much better off. There is always the question of timing, certainly for some of us we increasingly have to listen to family and friends telling us how crazy and doom mongering we have been. There is also always the possibility that life circumstances change in ways that make our previous preparations problematic. But the message I have most consistently heard from TAE is build community, stay flexible, get out of debt and build capital (a judicious combination of durable good and very liquid assets.) Honestly the more time most of us have to work on that project the better, and the more time there is to get the word out, And unfortunately the longer it takes for the world to return to the level of consumption that can be sustained, the worse it is going to be for all of us, and the more we are going to want to be prepared.

    The great comfort that TAE brings to me is that Nicole and Ilargi are bringing the message to the majority of us (who are not retired stock brokers like many of the bloggers out there). They are not telling me I am doomed if I don’t have a house with land in a rural community of like minded folks. They understand that I probably need to rent to stay flexible, they understand that investing in the future may be tools and perhaps a car. Nicole is very sensitive to the fact that communities such as Atamai have limitations because at this point of necessity they need people with financial resources. This means that I support TAE financially to the best of my ability at this point, and that as my ability increases my support will increase. In light of Ilargi’s comments today I am also going to see if I can get others to financially support TAE.

    Nicole, Ilargi thank you for being there. Please try to keep TAE afloat.

    Ray MacLachlan

    Nicole Foss

    While Atamai does need investment and resources from those who can afford to contribute them, the door is not closed to people with other things to contribute, such as enthusiasm, physical capacity to do the necessary work, skills etc. A whole range of ages and skills is necessary. I am not in a position to buy a lot and build, but I am still here, staying in a lovely little sleep out. Here’s the list of skills they’re particularly looking for:

    1. Certified builder
    2. Digger driver/heavy equipment operator
    3. Surveyor
    4. Green architect
    5. Electrician
    6. Plumber
    7. Joinery Operator
    8. Accountant
    9. Lawyer
    10. Baker
    11. Nursery manager – to produce everything from veggies to trees
    12. Landscaper
    13. Mechanic/electrical /engineers
    14. Inventors of practical things
    15. Stockman – cattle and sheep and goats, etc
    16. Dairy person/ Cheese maker
    17. Farm manager- food production
    18. Food processor – to add value to foods produced
    19. Mason, block layer
    20. Property manager to maintain infrastructure
    21. Café / general store operator

    Nicole Foss


    Selling out the an over-priced property market is still a good idea. Look at what’s happening to that market in the US (assuming that’s where you are). Ilargi has documented how it is teetering on the brink. There is a very long way to fall. Sitting on the sidelines in cash is absolutely the way to go for anyone who cannot afford to own outright. It’s uncomfortable in the meantime, but your decision will reward you in the longer term.



    Phasing out of lecturing; is it that the results you’re getting from your lectures are starting to fall below expectations, or perhaps it has just “run its course” and now you are looking for something new?

    Lectures are simply much less in demand. People have been sucked – back – into the great dream. This is very poignant in Europe, but evident all over.

    Moving from Canada; I suppose you’re cashing out of the housing bubble while it is at its peak here, but curious what your longer-term view for Canada is at this point? Also, I believe you have family… does this transition across the Pacific impact them greatly?

    No cashing out; The Automatic Earth really, I wasn’t lying, possesses nothing. Which is part, as I said, by design, we can’t very well do what we tell others they should not, but at this point it’s become a hindrance to doing something as basic as our work. The idea was to have just enough to do that work. Also, no family coming along, except for perhaps Nicole’s youngest daughter, who’s 18.

    I’ll let Nicole provide other answers.


    Obviously, this last minute offer is not directed to long time TAE readership, so chill for a bit, ye commentators 🙂
    Age: less than 55 (TAE readership is more than 55 on average)
    Financial condition: at least half a mil USD (long time TAE readership=broke)
    This offer is for new TAE readership, the only one who might have a go at it, if they sell at the top.
    How many will they be, and how much would this help, is extremely uncertain, if you ask me. I don’t see this particular demographic being too eager to commune, but, hey, this is really the last chance.

    Cory: I would not worry about houses at this point. As a matter of fact, houses should be really the last thing on your mind right now. What will you do around that house, which you will be able to choose, literally, might be a bit of a problem.

    Best of luck, Nicole!


    ” I intend to design a curriculum of information with regard to limits to growth, workshops for working through the necessary decision tree for moving forward and classes in all manner of practical skills for adaptation. There’s so little real, relevant education available at today’s educational institutions”

    I find this hard to believe, and maybe you need to look beyond “educational institutions”. There are permaculture organizations popping up all over the place, including Eastern Ontario for example. There are also vocational schools teaching all manner of skills. Organic farmers provide workshops on soil health and how to maintain it (we took one such course from a fifth generation farmer — quite compelling). This year I have taken a tree pruning workshop and I’ve recently attended a workshop on how to grow grapes. We are planning to attend a workshops on raising bees. And on and on. There are ample examples of these practical skills in my backyard and I don’t think my circumstances are unique.
    I also spend a fair amount of time in a rural area, and my experience is that many of these folks have a lot of practical knowledge of how to manage their physical environment and get things done to a much greater extent than do city folks. I’d think my time would be better spent trying to learn from these folks.

    I very much appreciate Nicole’s skills in the area of providing an excellent big picture overview but, from what I glean from her writings here, I have yet to see sufficient experience with the practical skills to be an effective and convincing teacher in these areas. I would not be interested in learning about something like permaculture, for example, from anyone who has not actively practiced it for at least a decade, with enough time to have experienced a sufficiently wide range of climate challenges. In areas such as this and other practical undertakings, my experience is that there is a huge divide between “book learning” and real world application.


    “The village is looking for more inhabitants as well” – it has been desperately looking for more inhabitants for several years now! The village has a very poor reputation in New Zealand largely due to the actions of just a few of its members. There have been many broken promises of employment, ‘sweat equity’, business opportunities and dodgy property deals, and these have left a lot of people financially or emotionally damaged by their involvement in the project. I’m surprised and disappointed that Nicole has not yet seen through the sheen, given that she’s normally so good at doing just that.

    Yes, it’s a great project and it could have been wonderful. Instead it’s become a bunch of wealthy immigrants (mostly) setting up an expensive gated community and deliberately trying to attract other wealthy immigrants, and unfortunately Nicole is being very skilfully used to promote and further that goal. The development is almost entirely advertised overseas because a) most of the locals know what, how, and who it really is, and b) only immigrants can afford those land prices, with the help of exchange rates.

    Almost all of the 21 skills in the list above have been filled at various times over the last few years by people who’ve gone to Atamai with the same dream and been burnt by false promises of “set up this business (or orchard, or Institute, or… ) in exchange for your section” and left in disgust and disillusionment after a few months or years. Trust me, there is no way in without at least half a million dollars!

    My worry is that Atamai has lowered the tone of eco-villages in general and tarnished the vision. The place itself has already gone from being a beautiful hillside meadow and ridge to a series of large quarry-like building sites with all the natural beauty of the place modified to incorporate an upmarket housing development. It’s certainly not “ecological” or treading lightly on the Earth by any stretch of the imagination, and neither does it adhere to the Permaculture ethics or principles – that’s just another delusion that prospective buyers are fed.

    Yes, we need to be more community focussed, and yes, we need to make a lot of changes to create sustainable lifestyles in a hopefully sustainable world. But Atamai is NOT the way to do it. Ethics and integrity are at least as important as sustainability and resilience, and without them this village is continuing to fail to realize its potential.

    Please start where you are!

    Nicole Foss


    Atamai had some significant problems initially, but is under entirely new management since that time. It is not now and never was a gated community. It is not an up market housing development. Houses are very modest in size and simple. Indeed they are required to be. I am here, and I don’t have half a million dollars, to put it mildly.

    Exchange rates are not a help to immigrants, they are a hindrance, since the kiwi dollar is very over-valued. Locals here pay very high prices for homes in NZ because of the property bubble, and people like to buy more than one so as to rent one out and grab a capital gain (more so in Auckland of course than here, but some of that happens here on the south island too). Most of what is bought is very low quality, leaky, poorly insulated etc.

    The houses at Atamai are well built, and not expensive in comparison with the surrounding area. The lots are pricey, but one need not own a lot alone. Sharing one is fine. Leasing or renting are fine. The intention is to build much more affordable housing and co-housing. The new trustees have put their own money where their mouths are. I know them well, and they are very much people of integrity.

    Please feel free to contact me to discuss your concerns.


    Yes, Nicole, I’m very familiar with ‘the story’. But as you probably know, the management is certainly not entirely new, just a variation on a theme. The “significant problems” you mention are not in the distant past, they are recent and were supported by the current trustees. The repercussions are still rippling into the future, and will continue to until they’re addressed by the current trustees, who have so far refused. And many other people have been EXACTLY where you are, and not stayed there, for unpleasant reasons. And yes, the houses are very well built because they’ve had lots of money spent on them, mostly by wealthy immigrants. And yes, many other people also once thought the trustees had integrity, and were sadly disappointed. If the trustees attempted to repair the damage done in the past rather than ignoring it or blaming the many other parties it might go some way to healing the woes, including some of their own. You’ve only heard one side of the story so far, the side you were supposed to hear.



    With regards to “cashing out”, I thought Nicole had sold her Ontario property and was moving with her family to NZ. From the sounds of it, that’s not the case and this is just a period of transition, but thanks for the clarification.

    Nicole, still interested in your view on Canada’s future if you have a moment. I too find myself worrying about living next door to American imperialism…



    Others – thanks for your words of encouragement, and especially you Nicole!

    Yes I am in the US and the house I sold for 360K is now a bit over 400K – nowhere near the 50K to 100K I was told we would be seeing by now. While that alone is disappointing, I really dont care if it went up in value during my ownership. What really sickens me is to think that had I done nothing, I would be 11 years into a mortgage with about 14 to go until complete freedom.

    Glad to hear that you still think we are on the brink, but that said, if we do not see MASSIVE fireworks in the VERY near term, my life will be going from terrible to unbearable. After 6 years of hearing “soon” my patient, trusting spouse no longer takes “soon” as an answer. Its do or die for me – literally

    Nicole Foss


    You are obvious embittered by whatever experience befell you, but you are making sweeping generalizations and painting a picture which is inaccurate with regards to the current situation here. The houses here are not money pits at all. They are modest and simple, but well constructed and built with a view to providing their own food, water and energy, which is the way it should be. Affordability is an issue everywhere in our global property bubble era, but Atamai is doing it’s best to address this: The cost of lots is partly due to the fact that the land comes already prepared for building and with rainwater tanks installed. Lot prices also contain a contribution to building the commons.

    You mention quarry-like building sites. There is current building work to construct small housing platforms with their rainwater catchment tanks on existing lots, and also the work to build the space for the community centre, retention ponds and school, with planned co-housing in behind. When land is not flat, some such work is inevitable, but obviously temporary.

    The people who live here are mostly ordinary people who are not extremely wealthy. Some rent, like me (I’m in a comfortable little cabin, about 20″ by 10″). Those who did have more resources have mostly put those resources to work building the community infrastructure. People have come from a variety of places, including other parts of New Zealand, and they have a wide variety of backgrounds too.

    As I said, I know all these people and like them very much. I have tremendous respect for them and what they are doing. They are all trying together to build something special, and have committed all their time and resources to making it happen. Problems which occurred under previous management are not the fault of the current trustees, who are dealing with legacy issues along with everything else. It would be very unfair to pin previous difficulties on them.

    There is an attached farm here, and an agro-forestry project, as well as the village itself. In total it is 130ha of potential for community self-sufficiency. As I said in the video, there is a tremendous amount of joined up thinking here. They understand limits to growth and are doing more to address it than almost anywhere else I’ve been. There have been growing pains, but these are not insurmountable.

    Again, I would be happy to discuss your experiences and concerns. Feel free to contact me. I would like to hear whatever you have to say.

    Nicole Foss

    Cory, house prices do not fall that quickly. The way that property bubbles burst is that the market tops out and goes illiquid, sometimes for a long time before prices fall. Sellers hold out for their price and buyers refuse to meet it, so nothing moves for a while. Eventually some sellers are forced to accept a lower price, at which point the whole neighbourhood is repriced because you have price discovery on comparable properties. Buyers see prices falling and sit back and wait for them to fall further, so another period of illiquidity ensues, followed by another fall. Prices ratchet down over many years. Getting out before that happens is a very good thing to do. Otherwise it can be very difficult later on. Trying to sell into a buyers’ market is a recipe for lots of wasted time and effort trying to keep a home in saleable condition at all times, getting low ball offers and being faced with expensive conditions on any prospective sale.

    The market rebound in the US is very temporary, and has only occurred at all because all the mortgage risks were under-written by the taxpayer. Without that support, there would be no mortgages issued and prices would have fallen more quickly. That support is not infinite however, and is in fact coming to an end. Expect the property market to seize up again when it does.

    Renting provides flexibility for an uncertain future. It is not a bad bet at all.

    Nicole Foss


    Canada is not a bad place at all. There are lots of resources and plenty of space, but there is a very large ‘adjustment’ coming. There’s no real sense of limits in Canada because there haven’t really been any in living memory. Canadians are told they’re living in an energy super-power with the best banks in the world, but neither of those things is true. Believing that sort of comforting fantasy has made Canadians very complacent, so they’re sleep-walking into disaster. There are some places in Canada where people listen (parts of southern and eastern Ontario, the west coast, and Halifax from my experience), but so many remain oblivious. The vulnerabilities are significant due to the extent of private debt (one of the highest in the world) and the structural energy dependence (the highest per capita in the world). There is going to be an all-mighty wake up call at some point.

    There will be here in NZ too of course. Nowhere will be immune. Both Canada and NZ have tremendous property bubbles, varying in intensity in different parts of the countries. In Canada the major cities are pretty much all affected. In NZ Auckland is the focus of property insanity, but over-valued, poorly built houses are the norm all over. NZ’s major vulnerability is its trade dependence, particularly in relation to energy.


    Yes, I and many other people are embittered by our experiences of Atamai. And I mean many!
    If you’d really like to hear more about it you’re invited to dinner on Sunday night. I’ll let you know where if you’re keen to attend.

    Nicole Foss

    I would be happy to come and discuss your concerns. I think I should be able to manage Sunday, although I will need to ask about borrowing a car. Please contact me at theautomaticearth(at)gmail(dot)com


    “Nicole said…Cory, house prices do not fall that quickly. The way that property bubbles burst is that the market tops out and goes illiquid, sometimes for a long time before prices fall.”

    Nicole, how can this be? Everything I read about a liquidity trap was that there would be a RAPID race to the bottom. Same with the elliot wave – the 2009 rally was to be a temporary feeling of optimism before a RAPID drop down to earthshattering low levels.

    Its been a while since I have reviewed your old writings, but again everything I read was this was all part and parcel of the massive deflation we were going to experience.

    How can home prices withstand these forces???

    Nicole Foss


    Financial assets get repriced very quickly, because they have no underlying value. Once people realize that, they can get repriced to pennies on the dollar, or to nothing at all, within a day. Houses are not financial assets. Real assets that do have underlying value reprice much more slowly. They are likely to fall almost as far, but over a longer time.

    Anything is worth only what someone will pay for it at any given time. In order to find out what that figure is, the asset must be bought and sold. If that doesn’t happen because there is no meeting of minds between buyers and sellers then there is no price discovery. The sellers will tell themselves the house is still worth what it once was, or perhaps they will think it’s gone up over time, because that’s what they’re used to. Actual deals in the real world will set the price, and for everyone who owns that class of asset, not just for the people who made the deal.

    In a huge crash of financial asset value, the downward pressure on home prices would accelerate, as financing would no longer be available, and people would no longer have the capacity to pay the previous prices. This would be expected to lead to a long period of illiquidity, then sharp price falls, with the rinse and repeat dynamic taking hold thereafter. I am expecting house prices to fall some 90%, but those who wait too long to sell would end up stuck in an unforgiving buyers’ market. The time to sell an asset one can’t afford to be stuck with is before the switch to buyers’ market, especially if that asset was leveraged. Otherwise the risk is being stuck while unemployment rises relentlessly and interest rates skyrocket. Loan servicing gets drastically more difficult under those circumstances, and the risk is repossession, which means walking away with nothing as a best case scenario, or walking away with a millstone of debt round your neck and no home if your mortgage is a recourse loan. Bankers may call in good loans as well, effectively making a margin call on your house. It’s so much better not to be in that position.


    Nicole – for starters, I sincerely appreciate the extended back and forth – just like old times!!!

    Speaking of which, I am not sure how to reconcile what you are saying now, with what you were saying in 2009:

    Stoneleigh said…Arnold…Housing is not even close to a bottom, ergo it has much further to fall. I think it’ll be down 90% on average within 5 years. Watch this space.

    This is but one of many comments of yours I have saved which had a monumental impression on my life & planning since late 08. Now obviously, I dont expect you to have perfect timing (i.e. July 2014 – not even you are that perfect 😉 but still, even if it takes til the end of the year to get there, wont we have to start seeing some RAPID price movement very very soon???


    Hi Nicole,
    Glad to hear you will still be contributing after an adjustment period. Too bad about the lectures I’ve seen you speak twice now; once in Barrie and once at our transition group in Haliburton. I’ve tried to use my reflections on those talks as the basis for my strategy for the coming years. Eliminate debt, hold cash or equivalents, invest only what you can afford to loose, invest instead in easy to maintain long lasting tools, secure your energy sources, grow food, learn useful skills and use them… Works well most of the time, I try to avoid terms like prepping or collapse as it makes people uncomfortable and honestly most of the hard core members of that world make me uncomfortable…
    As for NZ… I looked at the site and could imagine several spots to fit in but with young kids and an established plan here it won’t happen. I can’t help but notice that there is a “feel” to the site that screams gated community. Great intentions I’m sure but sounds like a community of financially well established older people paying for services. As a somewhat younger person with many of the skills those communities need I would probably burn out. Just a gut instinct and I’m sure you will work to undo those perceptions. Happy journey!

    Nicole Foss

    I’ll still be doing lectures, but much less. There’s not much demand for them at the moment, since everyone went back to sleep again, and that makes it difficult to string together enough engagements for a trip to cover its costs. The last trip in the US made a significant loss for instance, since costs were higher than usual with two people. I need to be able to fund travel and I can’t really do that at the moment, so I’ll be staying put more and doing other things.

    The community here is really something special in my opinion, despite its initial difficulties. One of those has been some hostile neighbours who did want a gated community for their subdivision of large homes (which pre-dated Atamai), and were displeased at the presence of the village. They have created significant friction and caused the development phase to drag on longer than envisaged.

    Atamai has absolutely never been planned as exclusionary – quite the opposite in fact. There are younger people with young families here as well as older people. There is a working farm providing produce and a vineyard business as well. There are people here from New Zealand, Australia, the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines. By no means are all of them wealthy.

    Communication is so important, and that didn’t always happen as effectively as it could have done in the early days, which left disparities of expectations and some hard feelings. A major amount of effort was subsequently devoted to addressing concerns. As the village has developed, more emphasis has been placed on process and consensus, and on setting the development on to a solid community footing. There is a tremendous amount of potential here.

    If the dinner invitation materializes, I will go and discuss Kris’ concerns in good faith.


    The dinner invitation is in your inbox, Nicole, at least it should have materialized by now.
    You’re correct that the communication didn’t happen as effectively as it could have done, but it still doesn’t. “Disparities of expectations and some hard feelings” is a major understatement. Nowhere near enough effort has been devoted to addressing concerns; a lot more effort has been put into passing the buck. There was always an emphasis on process and consensus among the villagers but the trustees apparently seem to consider themselves separate from it, accidentally (or not) creating tiers of authority. They have also condoned and supported the actions of the ex-trustee (who, of course, is still there). It’s not enough to say that things are different now if things are still a lot worse for the victims of the previous regime and the project is still scraping around for buyers. Proactively choosing to repair all the damage already done would go quite some way towards improving Atamai’s lot as well as other people’s, by improving its reputation and credibility in its own community. They too need to start where they are, not where they’d like to be.

    Nicole Foss

    I checked my inbox, but I don’t see it. Which email address did you use? The one I have access to is theautomaticearth(at)gmail(dot)com . As I said, I will come and discuss the concerns in good faith.

    Nicole Foss

    I have still not received an email to an account I have access to. Perhaps you could resend it.




    As someone who has been involved in some way with Atamai for almost 7 years, I can both acknowledge that problems have occurred, and that’s Kris’s portrayal of them are at the very least a bit off the mark.
    Yes, there have been problems with aspects of Atamai’s development in the past. It would be surprising if there were not.
    As for “broken promises” it is important to understand that some people come to Atamai with their own expectations and wishes, which may not match with Atamai’s vision. Talking about possibilities outside mainstream thinking can easily be overstated or misunderstood. It sometimes takes a while before the mismatch becomes clear, but this is an inevitable process for an open village where people self-select their membership. And of course, promises can be broken in two directions. What I can state as fact is that when problems arose, considerable effort was put into resolving them constructively, including the offer and use of independent mediation.
    Have people become involved and left? Certainly. Some have left having had a very positive experience even though they realized Atamai was not for them. Others left feeling bitter because Atamai didn’t meet their personal expectations. Fortunately, all of the people that left did so before they actually made a financial commitment to purchase a property. Those who made loans to the project and left have all been repaid, with interest.
    The dozen plus families now living at Atamai are pretty happy with their lot and enthusiastic about what is happening here. The self-selection process is working.
    Kris should be aware that NZ is largely an immigrant country (Kris is likely an immigrant). Atamai has been encouraging any like-minded family to consider joining. We do not discriminate on the basis of origin or anything other than values and global perspective.
    Land development is an expensive activity and the initial focus has been on selling lots (at market rates) to cover the costs of implementing the subdivision. We have always recognized the need for diversity in age and income levels and the need for affordable accommodation.
    Now that most of Stage 1 has been sold and we are beginning to sell titles in Stage 2, we are in a better position to provide both lower cost sections, as well as some rental accommodation. It is factually incorrect that a family needs half a million dollars to become part of Atamai. There are a range of ways families with modest means can join – get in touch for details.
    The skill list provided by Nicole remains relevant to this approach. Contrary to Kris’s assertion, most of these opportunities have never been taken up and remain open avenues for joining Atamai. But it is important to realize the difference between the developer offering someone an opportunity to start a business themselves, and offering employment. Many people are quick to jump at employment opportunities, but reluctant to take on the challenges of starting an independent livelihood. While we hire villagers who have the skills needed for the development process whenever possible, livelihood opportunities need self-starters with an entrepreneurial spirit – not everyone has that.
    The land being developed is topographically complex and requires quite a bit of earthworks to provide suitable house sites and growing areas. We would be the first to admit that the earthwork stage does not show the land at its best. But Stage 1, which underwent considerable earthworks, is almost totally complete, and quite attractive, with ponds and orchards and rolling hills with dwellings nestled into them. We get many spontaneous comments praising the layout and feel of the place from those who visit. While there are still earthworks to do, we are pleased that the really large earthwork activities are now behind us.
    To challenge Kris’s criticisms of Atamai is not to suggest there have been things we wish had been done differently. The criticisms ignore the many challenges faced by the project: including a small number of immediate neighbours hell-bent on destroying the project because it is the antithesis of their idea of a gated enclave; and their need to deny the reasons for creating the Village. The drying up of credit (as predicted by Nicole) just when the first subdivision plan was approved also presented a big obstacle. Local council regulations that impede affordable housing in rural areas, and some unfortunate personality conflicts that seem to be inevitable in these types of endeavours, have only added to these challenges.
    The new management (as of late 2013) is indeed aware of the mistakes of the past and is working toward a new development paradigm that is addressing them. Such changes don’t happen quickly, but they are in process.
    Kris’s comments clearly reflect a very personal opinion that would likely be better served by direct contact to deal constructively with any unresolved issues. These comments are a disservice to the many families now enjoying their life at Atamai, the many families that would like to be part of Atamai, and the example Atamai would like to provide for others to learn from – our errors as well as our successes. It is easy to be critical. We are at least making a collective attempt to provide a resilient future.
    We welcome anyone with an interest in what we are doing to make inquiries about any of these issues, and most of all, to visit and see for themselves. They will find us an open, welcoming community that is transparent about our failures and weaknesses as well as our successes.
    Jack Santa Barbara Trustee of Atamai Land Trust (since 2013)

    Nicole Foss

    Duly received. I’ll be there.

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