Our District

Greener Neighbourhoods Hui

by Vanessa Crowe, Sustainable Communities Coordinator


The Greener Neighbourhoods Hui was hosted by the Ngatiawa River Monastery group, at their picturesque residence in the Reikorangi Valley. After tea and coffee and a mihi whakatau by the River Monastery group, we settled in for a morning of sharing between the groups.


Ngatiawa River Monastery:

sourdough bread making


Mishal from the River Monastery gave a demonstration on how to make their sourdough bread, reflecting on the journey to develop their recipes and refine their processes. While it's such a simple thing, there are many layers of goodness in their bread making routine. For starters it's very affordable. A heavy loaf of wholemeal and rye seed (or fruit) bread, resembling what one might buy at the farmers market for $10 costs under $2 to make, including the electricity costs. It’s really quick and easy to make. Preparing the dough takes about ten minutes - it doesn't require kneading, just a bowl and electronic scales, measuring cups, a mixing spoon and a routine feed of the magical starter.


The sourdough ‘starter’ bug really is magic, in that it draws yeast from the air to turn flour and water into edible, nutritious bread - the sourdough bug properly ferments the wheat flour over twelve hours, making it far more digestible than commercial yeast bread.


When looking to reduce our environmental impacts reducing waste and producing food locally provides big wins. Making bread at homes eliminates plastic bag waste, it strengthens our local food security and can be a great community connector. The Ngatiawa River Monastery have developed their sourdough bread making workshops as a way to connect and share with the wider Reikorangi and Kāpiti communities, making home bread baking accessible and simple. 

The Dream Catcher Co-operative: Mulling over milling flour

Jeremiah, from the Dream Catcher Food Co-op shared their plan to establish a flour mill at the co-op. This idea came about after he noticed the rise of people intolerant to gluten or wheat and began to question why. He bought the group up to speed, sharing his own questioning about where flour comes from and what happens in all the steps in between it being grown and sold in the store.

“Why are people intolerant to gluten? Where does flour come from? Where was it grown? Was it sprayed? How was it milled? When was it milled? And what does that process involve? What does it do to our gut? Do you bleach flour? Is white flour a bleached flour? How do you make white flour? What is gluten free flour?”

“If there is a method of financially endorsing a flour mill is there anyone if Aotearoa who grows the grain that we could mill the flour from? Are those seasonal? How are they stored? Is it better financially to store the grains or to buy the flour? Is there anyone in Aotearoa who can sell us a mill and do they have connections to the maker of the mill? Are the flour mill grinding mechanisms stone or are they synthetic stone? Is it made out of wood? If the grinding materials are grinding the wheat, the nut, the grain at such a rapid speed and it heats up the stone, does it have a carcinogenic effect on the grains? Is that healthy for us? What does freshly milled flour taste like? How does it affect your gut?”

So far the co-op has answered many of these questions - particularly around where to source a mill and grain. They are almost ready to be set up to start milling, and then they will be able to answer the latter ones - about taste, health and how it affects the gut.

There is a natural connection between the sourdough making pursuits of the Ngatiawa River Monastery group and the Dreamcatcher Coop, who are looking to mill their own flour. So we look forward to sampling some freshly milled flour, sourdough bread sometime soon!

Power to the people


Another feature of the Greener Neighbourhood Hui was the Love Food Hate Waste bike powered smoothie maker. It keep the kids entertained by making smoothies as well as providing a novel way to demonstrate how the power generated by bikes can be used in creative ways.

In 2012, the Ōtaki Kindergarten made a bike for kids to ride and move water around the garden and power some lights. Sara Velasquez explained how the Power To The People group formed as an Ōtaki Kindergarden whānau group, taking up the Greener Neighbourhoods grant opportunity to extend the bike power idea to generate electricity to power mobile phones in an emergency. The project is both practical and educational.

The idea is instantly ‘gettable’ and since coming up with it, the Power To The People group have gained a snowball of support for their local community with offers of help and materials from electricians, engineers, builders, the Menzshed Energise Ōtaki and Ōtaki Mail, increasing the value of the project to be ten times the initial $1000 Greener Neighbourhoods grant. This happened through connecting with the current and previous whānau who have been through the kindy, whose ideas, support and contributions have grown the project.

The bike will live in a custom designed shed. The plan is that it can both accommodate a phone being plugged in and a battery being attached for electricity to be stored. The second phase of the project is to have some solar panels installed on the roof.

“It’s still a work in progress, every step going forward involves seeing where we are and what people are bringing into the soup.”

While the bike is primarily designed for adults to ride, the kindy kids have taken part learning about the project, and helping to map out the space at the kindy for the bike shed. "The kids were mapping out the space using their arms and bodies to be the walls. Involving them in that and seeing their drawings of bikes and sheds has been a cool way to get insight into how kids see the world.” said Sara.  

"Also, the Ōtaki kura own the land on other side of the kindy and have offered their land that backs onto the kindy as a space for the shed. So it is a really prominent conversation piece for kids and whānau at the kura too."

After the groups shared their projects the floor was opened up for others who had come along to share their interests. Barbara Harford spoke about a potential tour of organic farms as part of Organics Week. Roz Dibley shared her idea to establish a preserving club. Perrine and Simon Boy talked about their interest in establishing a community resource sharing network and a creative community space.

This was followed by a delicious shared lunch, more casual discussions and a tour of the Ngatiawa River Monastery property.