Sustainable Business: The LivingInPeace Project

A wonderfully GOOD New Zealand Story

Karamea. A community of 650 people in rural New Zealand. A small community with a big vision.

Imagine if every traveller and every business took responsibility for their carbon footprint. This is the vision of Paul Murray, founder of the Living In Peace Project in Karamea.

Paul was inspired by Douglas Tompkins, the founder of North Face and Esprit clothing businesses, who, on the sale of his companies for $120 million, purchased 900,000 ha of virgin forest in Chile to “preserve it from development.” Paul explains:

I wasn’t anywhere near as cashed up as Mr Tompkins, but loved the essence of what he was doing and his motivation for doing it. I had the opportunity to purchase a much smaller piece of forest and did so.

In 2001, Paul purchased and committed to maintaining a 80-acre (31 ha) forest bordering on the Kahurangi National Park. The Living in Peace Project is funded through his businesses including Rongo Backpackers & Gallery and Karamea Farm Baches. He wanted to capture carbon to mitigate the environmental impact of his businesses.

My accountant refers to the forest as a “non-performing asset,” but I don’t see it that way, it definitely performs a function and that is to enable us to take full environmental responsibility for the carbon cost of our business and that is important to me.

I want to be able to raise my hand and say that “I am an environmentally responsible business person” and that means I want to have a successful business, without damaging the environment in the process. I want to take full responsibility for every aspect of my business and always seek to minimise the environmental impact of my business activities.

Paul actively encourages people from all over the world to visit Karamea, which is possibly the most remote town on mainland New Zealand, which is also a country a long way from any other. There is a carbon cost for people to visit his business and he meets that by maintaining the forest, which absorbs CO2 and turns it into wood. There are also some incredible rata trees on the property that he estimates are over 1,200 years old.

To stand in the forest and be present is very inspiring for me. The forest provides everything it needs to grow and thrive and recycles all waste material in a way that sustains it. It requires no inputs other than freely available resources of water, sunshine and soil. It’s a perfect system and I believe the path to sustainable business is to strive to be like the forest…biomimicry.

Paul acknowledges that while tourism businesses have a responsibility to offset the impact of their businesses, travellers also need to do their part to minimise and offset their carbon footprint. He believes that although many people are becoming more aware about the carbon cost of their travel, others have not really considered it.

We take tour groups to the forest, go check out the big trees and discuss why we maintain the forest. The people who are already aware of the issue are very impressed with our efforts to address the carbon cost of travel on their behalf. Others, who are perhaps comprehending the information for the first time, go away thinking about the subject and perhaps in a small way, we are influencing their thinking on the subject of sustainable travel.

We asked Paul to share some Dos and Don’ts for GOOD travellers considering a trip to New Zealand. Here they are.


  • Stay longer and slow down…It’s impossible to see and do everything, so take the time to have a quality experience everywhere you go. Seek quality experiences over quantity of experiences.
  • Be a traveller instead of a tourist. Take the time to experience different cultures, fashions, foods, architectural and art styles, languages, traditions etc
  • Eat locally, be a locavore as it significantly reduces the carbon cost of your travel and supports local producers and businesses who are striving to be efficient and environmentally responsible.
  • Car pool – the more people in a car the better and it is a cheaper and more efficient way to travel.
  • Seek out of the way places and explore lesser travelled roads…
  • Take time to get involved everywhere you go…Volunteer, socialise, meet people and have good conversations…learn and grow.
  • Share what you have with others.
  • Take LOTS of photos.


  • Try and see an entire country in two weeks.
  • Be a tourist! Tourism is an expensive (financially and environmentally) form of entertainment without inherent value. Slow down, observe and get involved in the places you visit.

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Posted in Business, Efficiency, Environment, Environmentally Responsible Business, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Permaculture, Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karamea Community Hui Draws BIG Crowd


Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

Seventy-five positive people from all walks of Karamea and Little Wanganui life spent a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Last Resort on August 12 learning more about the Community-Led Development Programme (CLDP) and our partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

Many others registered apologies, calving prevented many farmers from being able to attend and submissions were received from former Karamean Owen Jennings, who now resides in Auckland and the Guppy Family from somewhere in S.E. Asia.

Karamea has been granted a 5-year partnership with the DIA through its CLDP. The department will offer advice as well as financial, logistical and professional support for community projects in our region. There are five communities across New Zealand to have this chance to improve their lot and Karamea is currently the only one on the South Island to have been selected.

Buller Community Coordinator Pete Howard from Buller REAP welcomed people to the hui and introduced Megan Courtney from Inspiring Communities Nelson, who got the momentum flowing, kept time and encouraged everyone to engage and participate. Dyan Hansen from the DIA Greymouth office also attended to explain the CLDP and her role in liaising between the DIA and the Karamea community.


Clive Hellyar from Karamea Community Incorporated (KCI) spoke about the rapidly changing world in which we live and the need to factor into plans ways to mitigate the likely effects of climate change and to be flexible, innovative and adaptive as we charter a course into the future. He then spoke about the CLDP and outlined the possibilities for the community as well as explaining the role of KCI in the process.

The KCI committee successfully applied for the partnership agreement and is the community group recognised by the DIA to facilitate the partnership, communicating with the government department, receiving and distributing funds, meeting all compliance requirements and enabling the programme to flourish.

Presentations from successful community organisations followed and speakers from the Karamea Estuary Enhancement Project (Barry Chalmers), Little Wanganui Hall and Beach Day (Kirsty Barkman), Karamea Winter School (Raramai Adcock and Kathy Ramsay) and the Oparara Wilderness Trail Run (Lynda Pope), celebrated their achievements by sharing stories about their respective organisations to provide attendees with good examples of community-led projects and to inspire our imaginations on what is possible if we work together as a community.



After the formalities were completed and the programme explained, Ms Courtney asked the gathering to acknowledge that they supported the concept and considered it beneficial to our community. The response was enthusiastic and unanimous. People then formed groups and worked together to brainstorm ideas and discuss how they might best take advantage of the opportunity before them.



Participants were asked to fill out a short questionnaire and share their ideas for a better community…The idea cards were then stuck to the wall under the headings of; Infrastructure, Environment, Economy & Income, Education & Learning and Social, Cultural & Community. Participants were each given three coloured stickers, asked to read the ideas and then to stick a dot on the ideas they liked best. Table groups then discussed the ideas that received the most support and each group then gave a brief verbal report back to the hui about the idea they had debated.

The ideas included:

  • The establishment of commercial kitchen to enable food processing, compliance with regulations and the development of a “Karamea” brand.
  • The Clean Streams Karamea project for riparian plantings along watercourses to improve stock management, increase production and return to farms and to reduce nutrient runoff into our streams and rivers and estuaries and sea.
  • Permitting mountain biking on the Oparara Valley Track and the construction of a “Pump Track” for local and visiting cyclists.
  • The erection of a large “Hokioi” eagle on the Karamea bridge to welcome visitors to the region
  • Supporting the proposed road linking Little Wanganui and Tapawera.

The idea cards will be displayed in the front window of the proposed Karamea Café building opposite the Karamea 4 Square supermarket along with other information about the hui and about the CLDP and our community association with the DIA.

In recent years, our community has been threatened with the closure of our police station and by Cyclone Ita…We banded together and rose up to fight for the survival or our police presence and to help each other tidy up after the storm. These are good examples of reactive community cooperation.

The achievements of the Oparara Valley Trust and the recent Karamea Autumn Harvest Festival, which was organised by Sacha Healey, Brendan O’Dwyer and a team of community volunteers, provide great examples or the power of proactive community cooperation. Through the CLDP and with the support of the DIA, our community has the chance to proactively work together to improve our lot and make life in our special place even more wonderful.

KCI Chair Peter Moynihan thanked everyone for attending and contributing to the future of Karamea. In closing, he summarised the day and the community well and laid us down a gauntlet challenge in his closing words by saying, “The Karamea community is great at working together to overcome adversity…Our energy, empathy and spirit of cooperation come to the fore when things go very wrong…Well, here is something that has gone very right, and it is a real opportunity for our community to shine.”

The hui was funded by Buller REAP, Chef Vinnie Dunford catered for the event with a tasty array of fine cuisine and Shelley Neame and Kylie Martin looked after kids at the Karamea Kindergarten to enable parents to attend the meeting.


(Paul Murray is the current secretary of KCI)

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Posted in Community, Community-Led Development, Economics, Environment, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Karamea Estuary Enhancement Project, Mountain Biking, MTB, Nature, New Zealand, Oparara, Oparara Basin, Oparara Valley Track, Paul Murray, Permaculture, Politics, Social Commentary, Social Enterprise, Social Equity, Sustainability, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore Airlines Article on Karamea/Nelson/Collingwood

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Posted in Collingwood, Environment, Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, Nature, Nelson, New Zealand, Oparara, Oparara Basin, Oparara Valley Track, Photography, Rongo, Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, South Island, Sustainability, Travel, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOAL for Karamea Community!!

Knock, Knock…Who’s there?


…Opportunity Who?

Opportunity to make our region FABULOUS!


Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

When opportunity knocks, you open the door right? Well, the Karamea community has a golden opportunity ringing its doorbell and it’s time to open all entrances and welcome it in for a cuppa, some scones and a chat.

ggcircle800pxKaramea has been granted a partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) for five years through its Community-Led Development Programme (CLDP), which will offer financial, logistical and professional support for community projects. There are five communities across New Zealand to have this chance to improve their lot and Karamea is the only community on the South Island to have been selected.
Karamea Community Incorporated (KCI) applied to DIA for the CLDP alliance and the application was successful, largely due to the savvy and acumen of KCI coordinator Clive Hellyar who drew up the application with support from committee members.

What does all this mean? I hear you ask…Well, in the first year, there is $1 million available for distribution to the five communities that have been selected for the programme. Yes…that is $1,000,000 large! (…and that’s just in the first year of a five-year programme).

In order to access this money, the Karamea Community (and the Little Wanganui Community) need to come up with serious plans on how we might improve our lot, draw up proposals, apply for funding, get the money and then get busy at a practical level to turn our dreams into reality and we have the support of the Central Government through the DIA’s CLDP to back it up financially and make it real.

This is an opportunity that needs to be embraced and nurtured so that we can improve local employment opportunities, strengthen our regional economy, make our region more attractive for local people and visitors, enhance aesthetics, increase local recreational activities, upgrade existing infrastructure and generally give the place a good spruce up.

The association with the DIA will dramatically improve the chance of success for funding applications and the DIA will support grants with “partnership funding” by adding to successful funding applications to get projects across the line financially.

IC KCI is a group of local people passionate about improving our community for the people living here. We need your help, Buller REAP in conjunction with KCI have arranged for a community forum called “Love (Y)Our Place.” Megan Courtney, a facilitator from “Inspiring Communities” is coming to Karamea on August 12, 2017, to enable all the members of our community to have a voice and share their thoughts on how we might take full advantage of the opportunity the CLDP offers. We need your help by coming to the forum and contributing to the future of our region by sharing your thoughts and ideas.

The forum is a chance to have your voice heard and to shape the future of our region. Your opinions and thoughts are important and this is an opportunity for you to be heard and for your ideas to be put into action. This one Saturday afternoon will be time well spent, as you will have a chance to shape the future of our region with your input to the forum.


So come along on Saturday, August 12, 2017, to the Last Resort Café from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and express yourself with other members of the Karamea and Little Wanganui communities and let’s work together to make this great place even better for all concerned.

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Posted in Art, Bureaucracy, Business, DIY, Economics, Environmentally Responsible Business, Karamea, Money, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Politics, Social Commentary, Social Enterprise, Social Equity, South Island, Sustainability, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Burning Woman Throws Baby

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Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

When a large macrocarpa tree blew down in front of his house in a storm, Granity artist and bon vivant Peter Whitaker saw it as a sign, “It was like a message from God,” he said with a wry grin.

God’s message was apparently to take the windfall and use it to disturb people. Good installation artworks often do, their message is strong and direct, they evoke emotion and stimulate contemplation. Pete Whitaker’s “Burning Woman Throws Baby” is such a bit of work.


The hideous and disconcerting sculpture is on display at Rongo in Karamea for six weeks and we invite you to come and take a look, have a think and try and determine just what the message Mr Whitaker is attempting to convey might be. It’s also a great selfie opportunity…because everyone looks good in front of this monstrosity.


Arthur’s Pass hostel owner and raconteur Bob Vaile (left) is never one to pass up a good selfie opportunity. He stayed at Rongo on his way to ride the Heaphy Track on his new full-suspension fatty and couldn’t resist a quickie with the unfortunate woman.


On seeing the sculpture for the first time, Rongo Manager Tristan Lockerbie said, “My God…That is a total waste of a good piece of firewood.” “It’s badly carved, poorly executed and completely disgusting…I LOVE it!”

Karamea Village Hotel Chef and local Barista Vinnie Dunford, couldn’t resist the opportunity to be photographed with the grim installation…”This is cheesier than double brie, mozzarella pizza with a cheddar infused crust….Mmmmmm CHEESE….,” He mused.


Chef and Barista Vinnie Dunford gets up close and personal with the flaming lady.


Granity Artist Peter Whitaker with his creation “Burning Woman Throws Baby.”

“It was motivated by despair really,” Whitaker said. “Despair with the state of the world, politics, the threat of global warming…It’s a message to say “Hey, things are really wrong here”…We need to think about saving the next generation.”


Whitaker carved the work for the annual Buller Art Exhibition in the clocktower in Westport on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The work didn’t elicit much feedback, but did result in one offer to purchase. “Someone wanted to buy it,” said Whitaker. “But I didn’t sell it as I was uncertain of the person’s intentions for the piece,” he added.

Diva Murray, daughter of Rongo owners Paul and Sanae Murray, was confused by the sculpture…”Why is the lady gorilla throwing a pig Daddy?” she asked.


Diva Murray with Mrs Kong and Piglet

The anatomically incorrect shaping of the “hot” lady suggests it’s been quite a while since Whitaker has actually seen a woman without clothing and when pressed on the subject he said, “That may be true, but I have a lot of good memories.” Well memories are one thing, but mammaries are quite another and the Burning Lady’s misshapen chest suggests the unfamiliarity of the sculptor with the real thing…or things.

After the exhibition closed, mother and baby went on display in Westport at the Art Hotel in Brougham Street and they are now doing their time at Rongo in Karamea. Whitaker plans to take the burning woman and her unfortunate child down the West Coast and display them at other venues to spread the message and share the scare.

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“Burning Woman Throws Baby” is on display at Rongo until Labour Day, so come and stay in Sunny Karamea and enjoy the stark contrast between the beauty and peace of Karamea life and the dystopian horror depicted in Whitaker’s artistic effort.

Take a selfie with the unfortunate lady as she desperately attempts to save her toasting toddler by tossing him out of the furnace of the present and into the frying pan of the future…and help spread the message that while things might not be so good now, there is hope for the age to come.

Posted in Art, Artist, Artist-in-residency programme, Bureaucracy, Children, Culture, Economics, Environment, Environmentally Responsible Business, Hilarious, Humor, Humour, Interviews, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Parenting, Paul Murray, Peter Whittaker, Photography, Resident artist, Rongo, Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Sculpture, Social Commentary, Social Equity, South Island, Weird, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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Karamea Food-Branding Initiative Gathers Momentum

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

Buller Community Development Facilitator Peter Howard recently presented information at the Karamea Bowling Club about a proposal to establish a “social enterprise” in Karamea to bolster the local economy, create employment and improve returns to our agricultural sector.


Buller Community Development Facilitator Peter Howard presents the concept of a food-branding social enterprise for the Karamea Community at the Karamea Bowling Club on January 17, 2017.

The proposal to value-add local produce under a “Karamea” brand and sell the processed products to gourmet food markets in more affluent urban markets is supported by the Akina Foundation, EPIC Westport, the Grey District Council and Buller REAP. It came out of the recently conducted Tai Poutini West Coast Regional Growth Study by Wellington-based consulting firm Martin Jenkins and has caught the ear of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Karamea’s unique “ geographical island in a National Park” location provides the community with a distinctive point of difference that has been utilised in other locations to successfully establish locally branded products that capitalise on the uniqueness of their region to enhance the market potential of their products.


Karamea: A Geographical Island in the Kahurangi National Park

I grew up on Kangaroo Island in Australia. Farmers on the island had a problem. All the inputs to the farm–Fencing material, fertiliser, livestock, fuel, machinery etc,–had to be imported at significant cost. All produce from the farm had to be exported to mainland markets for sale, again this incurred an additional cost. As a result, Kangaroo Island farmers’ gross margins were significantly lower than mainland farmers producing a similar product.


In the late 1970s, a group of progressive-thinking farmers, including my father, got together to work out a means of addressing the problem. They considered the island had a unique comparative marketing advantage as a food-producing region and decided to produce a range of “Kangaroo Island” branded premium quality products that could be processed and value-added on the island for sale into high-end gourmet food markets on the mainland. Not everyone thought it was a good idea initially, but a few got on board and started off with simple products like vacuum-packed premium quality beef and lamb cuts, cheese, yoghurt, honey etc.

The initiative significantly reduced export costs as they were now exporting just the prime meat cuts rather than a whole animal and value-added products rather than raw produce. The quality focus enabled the establishment of the Kangaroo Island brand in the mind of the market as a premium quality product for which a premium price was paid.

Today, there are over 100 “Kangaroo Island” branded products and the project was a great success. Kangaroo Island farmers now enjoy a similar, if not better, return from their farm businesses than mainland farmers and the initiative has resulted in the creation of numerous new jobs in associated fields like food-processing, production, manufacturing, marketing, transport, packaging, designing etc., improved local infrastructure, increased the skill-sets of local people and generated profits that have been returned to the community to improve services, facilities and social equity.


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Kangaroo Island Branded Premium Quality Food Products

Kangaroo Island Branded Premium Quality Food Products

The dynamic of Karamea district is very much like that of Kangaroo Island, and we have the same potential to overcome our challenges in a similar way and, in the process, increase local employment and create sustainable incomes for the people who live here.

As Karamea is also a popular tourist destination and will become more so as the Oparara Basin is developed into an “iconic West Coast attraction” like Punakaiki pancake rocks and the glaciers, there is a great opportunity to sell Karamea branded products to visitors to the region. Kangaroo Island producers found this to be a great opportunity as the island is also a tourist destination and visitors purchase a lot of Kangaroo Island products to take home with them, which proved to be a boon for the producers as there was no transport cost associated with such sales. In addition, tourism embraced the opportunity and visitors now take tours of the processing facilities, farms, purchase products directly from the manufacturers and associated merchandise bearing the Kangaroo Island brand.

The Karamea airport also provides the region with a great advantage as our value-added horticultural and agricultural; products could be back-loaded on planes bringing people to the region for holidays. Many planes are currently returning empty and there is an opportunity for us to access urban markets like Wellington and to increase efficiency and mitigate flight costs for airlines. Locally based flight services could also fly product to urban centres and return with passengers.


Karamea International Airport


Karamea is seen as an excellent pilot location to test the development of this kind of social enterprise with the view to applying the concept to other regions and indeed the whole West Coast, which is also a unique and recognisably distinctive region of New Zealand.




The opportunity for the Karamea community is to establish a social enterprise with financial assistance and professional support to proudly promote our special region, add value to our raw produce by processing it here and selling it to people less fortunate, but with more money!


Posted in Agriculture, Australia, Buller District Council, Business, Economics, Education, Efficiency, Environment, Environmentally Responsible Business, Gardening, Health, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Money, Nature, Oparara, Oparara Basin, Oparara Valley Track, Paul Murray, Permaculture, Photography, Social Commentary, Social Enterprise, Social Equity, South Island, Sustainability, Travel, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment