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  • in reply to: Nicole Foss at Atamai Ecovillage, New Zealand #12920


    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

    in reply to: Nicole Foss at Atamai Ecovillage, New Zealand #12902


    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)

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