The trust generates income from residents’ rent, occasional lodging, its on-site coffee shop, and room rentals. The rooms and facilities are reserved for conferences, they organize annual festivals and there is even a school holiday program. It’s open to the general public, but some choose not to come due to its dark past.
Many people from overseas used to visit, especially to learn yoga, or to volunteer between the fruit picking season. Previously, they had as many as 50 volunteers at a time – more in the run-up to major festivals held there – but that number has dropped to around 15.
Annette is the Volunteer Manager and arrived after the second Level 4 lockdown last year, having crouched off-grid in Raglan the previous months.
The crystal sound therapist with a background in both law and business quickly put her skills to use, bringing together older and younger volunteers, giving volunteers their own rooms, and bridging the gap between themselves and residents.
Everyone always comes to her with problems, usually the ones she can handle. It’s good if people have issues they’re working with, she says. But while KP can be a lot of things, it’s not a mental health or addiction service.
Annette would like the place to focus more on self-sufficiency, a sentiment shared by many residents and returning volunteer, Frenchman Thomas Tournant.
After eight months of traveling and working in the orchards, Tournant returned a few months ago after discussing with management plans for a Heal NZ festival next year. But he is driven to stay by a passion for the land.
“We need people to pay attention to make this place what it should be because there is so much potential,” he says.
When Prema Trust bought the site, directors Phillip and Jennifer Cottingham had a vision to build a place where people can learn about all kinds of lifestyles and environmental and green awareness.
“We really see it as an education center – an example of living in a bustling urban environment but still close to nature,” says Phillip.
They want to set up community wellness programs, day seminars and possibly a residential wellness center where people discharged from hospital can be cared for while they return to their lives.
Phillip says that he and Jenny see themselves as kaitiaki, guardians of the earth.
“It’s still an ongoing vision, but the vision was to have a campus for our college (Wellpark College of Natural Therapies) and a residential healing center, and it was also clear that there would be people living here. that could line up with the land and part of what we wanted to do was make sure the existing bush and forest were all preserved. ”
It appears that as long as the site remains in the hands of the trust, this oasis slide in the concrete jungle of north Auckland will remain. And one day the seeds will become trees that will again obscure the highway and the big Miter 10 across the road – the only visible reminders of what is outside.