Local Case Study: EcoCentre Kaitāia

The EcoCenter in Kaitāia is a vibrant hub for all things sustainable. It functions as a shop, office and gathering space. Run by Te Pokapū Tiaki Taiao O Te Tai Tokerau Trust it is the home of Tai Tokerau Timebank, Plastic Free Kaitāia, Kaitāia Cycle commercial compost scheme, Maara Kai Community Garden, and the Kaitāia seed and crop swap. 

The EcoCentre grew into this incarnation thanks to Timebank volunteers stepping in to keep the doors open of what was then an advice centre on sustainability issues and had been the administrative base for various community projects run by Te Pokapū Tiaki Taiao O Te Tai Tokerau Trust. 

Due to changes in government funding the EcoCentre had to adapt as those projects ended with no ongoing income stream. Timebankers initially stepped in to staff the space to support the part-time administrator, and then take over completely once that funding was exhausted.

All aspects of the centre’s work was taken on by timebankers - bookkeeping, administration, grant applications etc as well as keeping the doors open as new funding was explored and strategic planning took place to figure out a way forward.

Timebankers organised workshops to create an income stream for the EcoCentre and Kiwi ingenuity led to timebankers making zero waste products for sale, potting up seedlings, and running workshops to raise funds to help pay the bills. 

As the relationship between Timebank and the EcoCentre grew it was an obvious step for the timebank to move officially under the umbrella of Te Pokapū Tiaki Taiao O Te Tai Tokerau Trust, having formerly been a Transition Towns Kaitāia project.

Due to the commitment shown to keeping the place going both the EcoCentre and what was then called Kaitāia TimeBank, gradually gained more support from funders to the extent that over the last two years paid contractors have taken on the main responsibilities at the EcoCentre, including paid coordinators for what is now Tai Tokerau Timebank. 

Over 5 years after Timebank’s initial involvement, in new and expanded premises, many of the products sold are still made by Timebankers for timecredits: knitted and crocheted dish/face cloths and scrubbies, sewn reusable produce and shopping bags, plus seedlings and surplus garden produce. As only the material costs need covered, and those are often donated, the EcoCentre continues to offer zero waste, sustainable alternatives at much lower prices than often found elsewhere.

The shop side is still staffed by a team of volunteers paid in timecredits. The space also provides an opportunity for face to face contact with the local timebank coordinator, for those who need help with Timebank - orientation, express needs and offers. It also regularly acts as a pick-up and drop-off station for items moving between timebankers to be worked on, mended, borrowed etc and a venue for Timebank gatherings and workshops.

All the trustees and volunteers who keep the shop open, are timebank members and earn credits for their input.

The involvement of Timebank brought a whole community of people into contact with the work and vision of the Trust who wouldn’t have otherwise. It brought in a wealth of practical skills, from manual labour for working bees, and building display tables etc, through to homesteading, fundraising, administrative and governance skills. 

Even though the Trust now has an established income from a wide range of grant making bodies and shop sales, as an organisational member of Tai Tokerau Timebank  it has retained the kaupapa of drawing on the skills and resources of timebank members. This retains the sense of the EcoCentre being very much a community project, and earning timecredits provides an incentive for new volunteers to get involved. Recently the Trust has again started a strategic planning process which is being led by timebank members, and has also benefited from website assistance. 

What has been achieved in Kaitāia has inspired the development of Kaipatiki Eco Hub, Paihia; a new Eco Center in Kaeo; and The Herald Building/ Te Whare Herera as a Community Centre in Kohukohu.

 

For more information, please visit: www.taitokerau.timebanks.org 

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