Tui Warmenhoven lives in a house of God. Literally. Two and a half years ago she bought a converted circa 1950s Catholic church. The whare has been modified with recycled materials, but a large wooden crucifix hangs above the lounge as a reminder of the house’s religious origins. While the structure is now a dedication to the tenents of self-sufficiency, composting toilet included, Tui’s approach to sustainable living is pragmatic rather than fundamentalist. “I was raised up the creek, I don’t want to go back to that, I like my fridge!” she laughs.
‘Up the creek’ is Reporua where Tui’s mum, Rangimai Te Hei raised her brood without power and the simple necessities that entails like hot water. A short stint on a hippie commune in Wharekahika also exposed the young whanau to the principles of permaculture at a time when holistic, organic anything was considered new age craziness. Now it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and one the TRONPnui director thinks Ngati Porou on the coast could thrive in. “We do live quite self-sufficiently, but we need to move more to horticulture… we can do that, it’s been done before”.
It was done as early as 1840 when an entire hapu based wheat industry flourished throughout Ngati Porou under the leadership of the visionary Mokena Kohere. Such was the enterprise of these tipuna that grain was shipped on Ngati Porou owned schooners to market in Auckland, and even exported to New South Wales. Tui believes opportunities for sustainable agriculture, along with hapu based cottage industries and fruit and vege cooperatives still exist. “In an isolated community the first thing you need is food, shelter and energy, if we can be self-sufficient in food we’re winning”.
The aspiration of food self-sufficiency is easier said than done in a modern era which revolves around the likes of Pak ‘n Save, but Tui has tips, reversioned from advice passed down by Confuscious no less. “If you wish to plan for a year, plant a vegetable garden. If you wish to plan for 10 or 20 years plant a tree. If you wish to plan for 100 years educate people”. In an era where climate change is forcing a rethink of orthodox farming practices, Tui hopes people will look to their own backyards for self sufficient solutions.
TUI’S TIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING
- Plant a tree, “a tree will feed you for life”.
- Plant a garden.
- A forest with indigenous flora such as manuka and kanuka, “which lives for a hundred years”.
- Consider investing in alternative waste disposal like composting toilets.
- Learn to conserve water.
- Remember education is the key.