Nicole Foss at Atamai Ecovillage, New Zealand


Home Forums The Automatic Earth Forum Nicole Foss at Atamai Ecovillage, New Zealand

Viewing 26 posts - 41 through 66 (of 66 total)
  • Author
  • #12906

    Hi Nicole, we met at APC11 in Turangi several years ago, and again after your talk in Auckland last year. We have many Kiwi friends in common, e.g. Laurence Boomert. I just found this article and thread on and note that some have commented on what could be called the cost of entry into the Atamai community. Given the scale of the project and the difficulties encountered at the beginning, that doesn’t surprise me in the least, and I agree with Charles Alban’s comment that “…Atamai Village is very much a half-way house on the way to full community. Full community means sharing everything…”mutual gift-giving.”
    I started a much smaller community in the Northern Kaipara in April 2013, on a rather different model. It would take pages to describe in detail, but to the point of this message, an equal share of Ahika costs a fraction of the Atamai buy-in. Certainly all manner of communities are forming at this time, we’re springing up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. No two are identical, and they’re all experiments. I think of Ahika as “tribal”, and a “contribution economy”. Ours hasn’t been a particularly easy ride to date, but that’s actually had a positive effect on our bonding process–the key to success of any community. It’s also been an incredibly productive year, with a lot of fun along the way.
    Like Atamai and other such communities, Ahika is looking for expressions of interest. Some of the skills that are on the Atamai want list are on our list as well…but we are only looking for three, maybe four families/couples/individuals, and a good fit interpersonally is of far greater importance than background and skills. Anyone who wants to check out our team can visit the rather basic website at https://sustainablesettlementnz/ I should mention that at the present time we four trustees own the land mortgage-free, but this is a transition period and not all of us are living full time on the land yet. There are interesting opportunities for the right people.
    To share an opinion about the current global economic situation in the context of earlier discussions about “what happened to collapse?” For many years I have independently held almost identical opinions to just about everything you lecture about, Nicole. I have acted accordingly, and Ahika was my response to the new realities, just as Atamai was Jurgen’s. Based on research and observation, I believe the balloon will go up in less than twelve months, and humanity will experience a defining moment. As the Dalai Lama says, “Act in accordance with reality.”
    Cheers, Bill Watson


    Nicole – I cant help but notice there was no further response. Have I missed something regarding US Housing? While you guys had not spoken about it much since say 2011, I assume everything you wrote before then was still your position since it was not updated or changed. Accordingly, I am still very much under the assumption that something massive must be happening in the very near term (2014 give or take a few months).

    However your sudden silence is scaring me! Please Nicole, you are one of the few people I have left to talk to! Your comment above is one of many I saved all of which clearly implicated that we are now very much due for a rapid collapse in house prices, and I have been planning for the last 6 years accordingly. So again, given the time left is short, how can the collapse be anything other than rapid?


    @Ilargi & Nicole,

    Wow, 40+ responses! I think it might be wise to suggest Nicole is leaving TAE every month or so to pull people out of the woodwork and get the community engaged, as the number of comments can wane here from time to time… 🙂

    All kidding aside, I think a lot of the conversation is also around Atamai. Bill Watson’s mention of Ahika is pretty fascinating, and I wonder if Nicole would feel up to identifying some of the more prominent permaculture-based / eco-based villages and the challenges each have faced. Or in other words, what has worked and what has not? It would be a great reference for others who are starting similar communities in the future (note – if such comparative literature / discussion already exists and someone could posts links to it, I believe it would be very helpful).


    I’m up in Canada, but I check Zillow from time to time. I’m not sure if I’m not using it right, but I’ve seen homes throughout the lower Appalachians (TN, KY, NC, SC) as well as Ohio and Michigan for a song and a dance. Granted, they’re not the nicest looking places, but in they go for $50k – $100k USD when similar homes on similar-sized properties in NZ or Canada go for $300k+!

    No clue where you are located but if you’re just waiting for collapse to come to you so you can cash in on a cheap doomsday homestead, than perhaps you need to re-examine your plans.

    My plans aren’t altogether different from yours, but I’ve had to a) lower my standards and expectations for what kind of home I’m searching for, b) research the areas that are affordable now in Ontario (not many!) and evaluate the risks/hazards which exist (e.g. nuclear plants, flooding, crime & nearby prisons, level of government influence), c) determine what industries exist in those communities and what skills/knowledge may be valuable (and start to learn that knowledge / practice those skills), and d) accept the fact that any of my solutions are likely to be based on the concept of a multi-generational pact whereby my families finances (and unfortunately, siblings debt) are combined and responsibilities are shared.

    Even with all those concessions, I’m lucky if I can find a property or two per week that actually would meet my & my family’s needs (and that’s during high house selling season; I think I found about 3-5 worthwhile properties over the entire winter, which was disheartening to say the least). Most of them are snapped up so quickly because debt financing is still in place and credit is still stupid cheap (1.99% variable rate mortgages here in Ontario if you want them!), so every Tom, Dick and Harry rushes in to bid up the price to the point I would have to go into debt if I wanted to compete with their offers.

    Its at that point I have to realize that now is just not the time to buy – until people have to buy with their actual savings as opposed to borrowing insane amounts of cash, it is unlikely I will find a “good deal” on a good property. I counsel my family by explaining the need for patience, and try to sell them on the idea of changing our lifestyle completely to prepare for the future that is approaching rather than promising them a glorious future where they can have the house they want on the cheap. Not sure if that is an option / possibility for you, but I hope so otherwise you may be faced with further difficulties in the future regardless of how quickly and how far housing prices fall…



    Hi Borneo
    congratulations on getting Ahika going. I hadn’t heard of your project so it is good to learn about it. And thanks for expressing some sympathies for anyone initiating such an endeavor.
    We are all trying to achieve the same goal at Atamai but in different ways and that has to be a good thing so we can share and learn from each other.
    I’ll check out your website to learn more of the details and would be happy to send people your way if your approach seems a better match for them than Atamai. In fact, if you would like to send me what you are looking for in more candidates, that will give us an even better idea.

    and just FYI, Atamai does have a bit of a gift economy – we are actually trying to measure it- and I have no doubt it will continue to grow. Of course, the entire commons is a shared resource as well, and that will expand soon too.
    very best wishes with Ahika, and if you are ever down this way come visit.
    cheers jack


    Nicole, “Problems which occurred under previous management are not the fault of the current trustees…”. Actually, unbeknown to you, the problems which occurred under previous management are absolutely the fault of the current trustees and one other, and so will inevitably perpetuate until that is acknowledged and rectified. This denial of responsibility is the biggest problem now. There is no clean slate while there are still victims.
    Jack, “Others left feeling bitter because Atamai didn’t meet their personal expectations.” This is true, but personal expectations of being treated honestly and fairly are not unrealistic. An expectation that Atamai, perhaps more than anywhere else given it’s lofty ideals, would not practice hypocrisy is not unrealistic. There are a lot of people who have put much effort into Atamai (as Nicole is now) with very realistic expectations which Atamai failed to meet. In fact, it’s not even meeting yours really, is it? But you are too heavily invested in every way to get out now.
    And yes, direct contact would be a good idea. There are still several people seriously out of pocket as a result of their trust in Atamai’s trustees, and others just sad and disappointed, and still none of this is being addressed. The trustees know exactly who these aggrieved parties are and could easily make direct contact to resolve these issues with integrity, not with the goal of silencing or discrediting critics but of creating goodwill in their community by converting the critics back into fans. Probably some of them would even go back there, with their vision, their enthusiasm and their long list of skills, if they could trust the project, the process and the trustees. If the management really changed.

    Charles Alban

    Earthbag Village – One Community Pod 1

    I think this makes a whole lot of sense for an eco-village.

    Nicole Foss


    The fate of property prices will depend greatly on location, mostly on how easy it is to earn a living in the vicinity. In places where there end up being almost no employment prospects, the fall will be much faster, and perhaps go almost to zero. Where economic opportunities remain to some extent, there will be price support for homes.

    When I lived in England in the 1990s you could buy a four bedroom council house in Gateshead for a pound. These were quite nice houses, but to the council there were a huge liability. There was no work in the area, so no one wanted the homes and the council wanted to get out from under the maintenance burden.

    You may be able to find something very cheap sooner rather than later. It’ll depend on your own ability to do necessary work, so as to save on contractors, and on your ability to earn a living in the area in creative ways. If you can earn a living where other can’t, then you can take advantage of very low house prices in challenged areas.

    There’s a major difference between a low price on the surface and affordability. More people can afford todays high prices than will be able to afford tomorrow’s low ones, because of the current access to credit. In the future the opportunities will go especially to resourceful people with practical skills who have also saved capital as liquidity.

    In many ways collapse will be rapid, but as I said, it will be far more rapid for financial assets than for physical ones, since those have no underlying value at all.

    Nicole Foss

    Kris, I have offerred to come and talk to you about your concerns. That offer stands.

    John Day

    Motueka is OK. We bike toured the circumference of South Island in Jan/Feb 2006, the tail end of our 9 month bike/backpack world tour, mom, dad and four teenage siblings.
    The weather is nice. The Kiwis seemed pretty much oblivious to troubles in the world, and very positive that things were all working out OK.
    I was looking at New Zealand as a haven for my family, and interviewed for a job in Christchurch. The finances wouldn’t come close to working…
    That site doesn’t look very arable. There are apples, grapes and kiwi fruit grown fairly close… There’s goat cheese sometimes.

    Nicole Foss

    The area where the homes are is poor soil at people are working hard to build up. Some are producing all their own veggies already and building significant amounts of topsoil. My housemates are compulsive composters for instance, and have a garden to die for. The village has a farm attached, which produces beef, lamb, chicken, eggs and veggies etc. The ecovillage down the road sells raw milk from a vending machine. There’s plenty of food here, and great weather. The people are really lovely. I am very happy here.


    Nicole said: There’s plenty of food here, and great weather. The people are really lovely. I am very happy here.

    For me, that’s a very important thing. If you make all the plans in the world but aren’t happy with your life, you’re doing something wrong. Or thinking something wrong.


    “The fate of property prices will depend greatly on location, mostly on how easy it is to earn a living in the vicinity. In places where there end up being almost no employment prospects, the fall will be much faster, and perhaps go almost to zero. Where economic opportunities remain to some extent, there will be price support for homes.”

    Stoneleigh – I read this response 2 days ago and have been spending the interim time collecting my thoughts before I respond. Accordingly, I want to say for the record, I very much appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to respond to little old me. Remember this.

    That said, I am simply in shock in your response above is simply light years away from what you said a few years ago. I attended an event with you in a suburban Maryland home (one of those places you now say will have “economic opportunities” and “price support” for homes), and there was nothing about this. Instead, everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) you said to us was more about the 90% collapse, in the extremely near term – pretty much exactly what you said here (subject matter “about that 90% drop in home prices”:

    “The way we at The Automatic Earth see it play out is that the entire house of cards will fall within 2-5 years, and, within that timeframe, sooner rather than later. While there can be any number of inside and outside factors that can speed it up, <b>we see practically none left that could slow it down.</b> Of course there can be people in a few years time who claim by hell and high water that their homes are still worth $500,000, but they will have neighbors who sold for $100,000, $50,000 or less. Price discovery can be in the eye of the beholder, until you must urgently sell.”

    Later in that thread when someone doubts the severity of the drop, your response:

    Stoneleigh said…90% is simply the typical move to the downside following an asset bubble, whatever the focus for speculation may be. It applies across the board, not just to real estate. Your stock portfolio is headed there as well. I stick by my prediction.

    There is a complete sea change in what you said then versus what you say now, and I have to ask, how/when did this happen? Selling at the bottom and seeing prices rise to the point where I can not afford to buy back is bad enough – even worse though is the prospect of renting for years, paying far more per month than I ever did as a homeowner.

    But the worst however is the impact this will have on my family. For many reasons we simply cannot leave this area, and honestly we were pretty well prepared (except for the mortgage and our fear of possible debtors prisons and “vinny the kneecapper”). I have lost so many friends & family by telling them for years to prepare for thusfar a non-event – and now I risk losing my spouse who will neither relocate nor be willing to rent forever.

    So again, if you can, can you please help me understand how we got from what you said then to what you said now? It may not help me hold on to what I have from a financial perspective but it may help me hold on to whats left of my family perspective.


    Cory, I feel your frustrations. Within my circle of family and friends, no one believes there will be anything like a 1929 depression in their lifetime. It is still buy, buy, spend, spend, use credit cards for what you want now…even at McDonalds! How silly is that? They must have this or that newest techie gadget, and more stuff for their expensive hobbies. How long can this go on when it seems prosperity has continued far longer than anyone could have imagined.

    As far as owning a house, is it really cheaper to own than rent? With owning, there are ever-increasing property taxes, maintenance/repair costs, yardwork costs, re-decorating costs, and buying more stuff to fill up the house. All of these expenses plus a mortgage, seem to be higher than renting to me. Unless one is able to pay cash for the house.

    Perhaps you and your spouse can make a list of expenses of renting vs owning. Think of everything you can…you might need a new roof, new furnace, new water heater, new appliances, etc. Or another suggestion, instead of a house, get a condo. But with a condo, there are association fees. There are no easy solutions, wishing the best that works for you and your family.

    Nicole Foss

    Cory, you use two quotes you say are from me. The first is Ilargi, not me. The second is me, but says nothing about a timeframe. I stand by the second. On average I expect to see at least 90% price falls, but that average could conceal considerable variation. I wouldn’t necessarily expect suburban Maryland to be one of the places with relative price support, although it’s possible. Even in such places, one would expect a huge fall in prices once the pool of buyers in confined to the handful of people who can buy in cash and who choose to use scarce cash for that purpose. While I don’t expect a bottom in home prices as soon as a bottom in stock or financial assets in general, I do very much expect home prices to collapse.

    Renting often only appears to cost more than owning. A renter is not on the hook for the many additional costs of ownership, nor for taxes, which are going to skyrocket once the local government squeeze gets into high gear. For more on that see the essays Promises, Promises (on Detroit) and Where the Rubber Meets the Road in America. Renting also gives you mobility, which could be very useful. The Washington DC area could easily be in for a world of hurt at some point and you might decide at some point that a different location makes more sense.


    “Nicole said…Cory, you use two quotes you say are from me. The first is Ilargi, not me. The second is me, but says nothing about a timeframe. I stand by the second.”

    Nicole, with all due respect, you cannot be serious can you? Yes the first quote is Ilargi, but when he said “The way WE at The Automatic Earth see it play out is that the entire house of cards will fall within 2-5 years, and, within that timeframe, sooner rather than later.” I naturally assumed he spoke for both of you – especially as you did not correct his statement in that thread.

    But if he did not, what then to make of this quote of yours from 6 months earlier:

    “Stoneleigh said…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.”

    5 years from then is July 2014. I am not mis-reading this am I? Again, please explain what happened so I can at least give some sort of cogent explanation to my spouse as to why the area homes were once 500K (which we sold for 360K) are not 100K like I said they would be, but instead 400K and slowly moving higher?

    John Day

    Thanks for the reply, Nicole.
    I helped arrange your talk in Austin, May 2010, and biked over to the Unitarian Church to chat in the courtyard ahead of the talk.
    I truly wish you and New Zealand well, and that general area is the region that we liked best. We did not make it to the North Island on our bike tour.
    My “final” move to Kohala, Hawaii, after working there 3 times before, which Jenny and I made New Year’s Eve 2012, did not work out, because of clinic financial stresses. I was not able to see 1.5 times as many patients each day, despite working 11 hr “8 hr days”.
    We moved back to Austin and I planted a kitchen garden.
    This is sure not ideal, but our family members have needed us a lot since we have returned, and would have missed our help if we were still in Kohala.
    Can’t run away, so gotta’ learn and do wherever life may deposit you.

    Charles Alban

    Hi Nicole

    I’m trying to reach you by email but i’m not having much luck. i have theautomaticearth at is this correct?



    Everything we said, including the timing, would have already come to fruition if not for the absolute insanity unleashed by the Fed and its peers, and the propaganda that accompanied it. We have said multiple times in the intervening years that we did not see that coming. But what could we be accused of in that regard, that we didn’t accurately predict insane behavior? I think unpredictability tends to be an inherent trait in that sort of behavior.

    What counts now is being aware of what has lifted asset markets, including housing, over the past 5 years, and realizing that it will bring these markets down even further than they would have before every American man woman and child bought $25,000 or so worth of profit for the financial system courtesy of Ben Bernanke.

    For us the prime take away from this is, as it was 5 years ago, that people need to cut their exposure to risk. And for us it’s not such a big deal that a few dollars here or there might have been theoretically lost at any given fixed point in time. We try to identify trends and the risks inherent in them, and both the trends and the risks have gotten a lot worse since 2009, even if the financial system and media have successfully fooled people into thinking otherwise.

    That’s what I would tell your spouse. Not that I’m convinced he would listen. The insanity that worldwide totals $30-40 trillion is a giant bet that people will believe way too much debt can actually be fought with even more debt, and spend and borrow accordingly. As I wrote last week, if you present people with just the principle, they tend to understand. If you tell them this is what’s happening in their own lives today, not so much.

    There are undoubtedly plenty people who feel certain we’re on our way back to normal ‘as it ever was’. They are the ones walking into the trap set with their own money.

    Charles Alban

    Hemp farming in NZ. Here’s the way to make an intentional community economically viable…grow industrial hemp.


    Interesting stuff. I’m a bit confused over who has come (or will be coming) to NZ with Nicole and what she is doing with her property in Canada, on which I understood she had done a lot of work. Is Ilargi part of the package. (I had always imagined they were partners).

    I moved out to NZ (from the UK) about 9 years ago and we had some trouble getting our daughter (then 18/19 years old) to come and actually stay. Thankfully, that worked out; I can’t imagine being split from my family by half a planet, as we head into a very uncertain future, but certainly one in which long distance travel, across oceans, will be very rare and very slow, at best. Sadly, our wider family is still in the UK and that is a great cause of sadness.

    Yes, NZ has much going for it during the decline, if our politicians don’t completely mess things up, and I just hope they don’t have time to do so.

    We did consider an “eco village” a couple of years ago, Kotare Village (which houses the Koanga Institute – an important heritage seed saving organisation, among other activities). It didn’t really work out for us (mainly due to family related issues) but I was surprised that it didn’t fill up quickly, as it has the Koanga Institute (run by Kay Baxter) with Bob Corker, two very experienced permaculture teachers. They are using a Community Land Trust model but are having difficulty raising money to buy the land they currently occupy. It would be a heritage seed tragedy if they fail to meet their funding objectives (the current land owner now wants to sell but have given Koanga first option, with time limits). I mention this in case anyone is interested in joining and can help out. Check out their Web site.

    Actually, we almost ended up not too far from Atamai, in Hira. Sadly, it was at a big lull in the property market and we couldn’t sell our land, which we needed to do to buy a Fraemohs home there. Oh well. We’re now trying to do something with our 3000 square metres and home near (60 kms) Auckland.

    Good luck, Nicole, and all at Atamai. However, I sincerely hope that your cabin is not ‘about 20″ by 10″’, as you stated. 20 inches by 10 inches is surely too small, even for you!

    Nicole Foss


    I’ve been talking to Bob Corker about working with the Koanga Institute. I don’t fancy their chances of raising the finance they need in the timeframe available, although I wish them luck. If luck does not materialize, I invited them to set up here where we could work together and make joint funding applications. Bob and Kay will be speaking in Motueka later this month and I’ll be attending their lecture with various Atamai Villagers. They’ll be staying at Atamai in their motorhomes while in the area.

    Family arrangements are complicated and personal, so I won’t be discussing them here.


    Thanks, Nicole. I hope the institute can be saved, though I’m a bit unsure about their funding needs. In her latest talk, she seemed to mention 300,000 within 3 weeks (now 2 weeks) but I’ve also seen 700,000 by the end of June. I think this lack of clarity makes it difficult for potential donors.

    Kay has stated that she doesn’t think she has the energy to start over again, somewhere else but I hope she considers your offer, if they can’t keep going where they are.

    Yes, family arrangements are complicated. I’d only say that we were considering going back to the UK, if our daughter had not decided to come out to NZ permanently. But that was just us. I think it’s a real shame that for this last brief period in human history, a good portion of us seem to think it’s fine for families to spread all over the globe (or even just all over a country – as our condition makes long distance travel rare, anything over a few 10s of kilometres might as well be in another country). Once they get bedded in, wherever they are, there will be no shifting them. Anyway, I hope it all works out for you.

    Charles Alban

    how is New Zealand likely to be affected by the melting of the West Antarctic icesheet?

    is it likely to lose farming land?


    I don’t think sea level rise from the WAIS is much of an issue, over the timescale estimated. I think society and food supply will be organised much differently by the time it’s a significant factor, plus we won’t be supplying any food to the rest of the world. However, I understand that, due to local factors, SLR may be higher in New Zealand than many other places. I don’t think we have much crop land around the coasts, anyway.


    Looks like Koanga Institute have managed to hold on to their land for a few decades at least. That’s good news. I’m not sure about the full deal and the fate of the ecovillage itself, though it, too, seems to be OK.


    Hi Nicole,
    I had visited Atamai Village just as it started to gain momentum and after reading the comment from jsb who was a trustee I thought that relating my experience would be of help. I liked the concept and the energy of the trustees in trying to attain the goal of establishing the village and after taking the tour and learning of the conflict with the immediate neighbors, I took the opportunity to seek one of them out to ask what their issues were. jsb wrote that they were hell bent on destroying the project because it didn’t conform to their idea of a gated enclave. The reaction I received was that the neighbors wanted to see the village thrive because the very existence of it would impact their values. The concern was that the road was privately owned and the trustees were advocating an abuse of the spirit of the easements and were unwilling to provide any compensation for the owners but instead sought relief from the local council. They did not offer to me any opinion on the validity of the reasons for establishing the village but may have done so with the trustees.
    The comments from Kris reinforced my experience in that I found that the leaders of the village effort were either naive or duplicitous in their presentations (I sensed they were both) and so decided to look elsewhere and ended up here in Christchurch.

Viewing 26 posts - 41 through 66 (of 66 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.