This article was written by Robina McCurdy from TUI Community, Aotearoa – New Zealand
Tui is a 35-resident community in the Golden Bay bioregion of the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand. It is situated in a relatively remote rural area, adjoining the Abel Tasman National Park. The land is owned by a Charitable Trust, administered by the Trustees who have gone through the steps of becoming a resident, then Prospective Member, then a full member of the Trust. This is a caretaking stewardship role of the land, its resources, and people the who occupy it. Trustees do not own land or shares but have the ‘Right to Occupy’ in perpetuity. Members design, build and own their own houses. Tui Community is the main project of the Trust. The first of eight objectives of our Trust Deed, states:
Our community’s broad mission statement is: ‘As a community, we are seeking wholeness in relationship with ourselves, each other, and the planet.’ In many ways, Tui is a social experiment. We are dedicated to personal growth and supporting the wellbeing of others, and we have a learned lot of tools to do this, the most current being ‘Possibility Management’. We create our culture from ancient, contemporary and original practices, trying out ways that feel right and endorse ‘earth-based spirituality’. We review and change our systems as they no longer seem to serve us. We all contribute our labour voluntarily to an ‘energy input system’ as well as working bees, that run the practicalities of the place. We have a successful community business that employs more than half of the community. Tui features a community house, craft workshop, farm machinery sheds, members’ houses, communal orchard, vegetable gardens, farm, Tui Balms co-operative business, and the Outdoor Events Field (hired to the public as well as Tui members, as a venue for educational and cultural events).
At Tui we have four kinds of meetings: Trust Board meeting, Heartshare (both monthly), Community meeting (fortnightly), and a Tuki (stands for Tui Community Integration), which happens 3 – 4 times per year over a weekend.
The Tuki is essential to our community’s wellbeing. It’s a retreat when we gather together to address a vital theme that has been emerging through our meetings, which is either too contentious, ongoingly emotionally charged and philosophically deep. A Tuki typically facilitates a paradigm shift within the community, with a resultant change in policy and/or operating systems. Dates are scheduled around a year in advance so that everyone can prioritise attending, and we hire an external cook and childcare person to enable all residents to be fully present.
The main part of our Tuki format and process is modeled on the Heartshare culture of all indigenous peoples. This is deep listening to each other, giving full attention to the one holding the talking stick/stone/object, who is speaking from his/her heart space and belly feelings in relation to the theme’s issues and aspirations. In this way, underlying unspoken emotions and feelings can be expressed, and spaciousness for accessing spiritual wisdom opens up. Through this, a clear collective forward direction emerges. Our Tuki generally has two parts: the first day being various exercises building connection with each other, with a Heartshare for most of the day. The second day is in the style of stocktaking, analysis, and strategic planning arising out of the Heartshare, so that we complete the Tuki with tangible action held by small groups.
‘Growing Resilience from Where We Are’ was the theme of our last Tuki – addressing resilience physically, socially, economically, and environmentally. Early in Day 2, we did a ‘Fishbowl’ process to draw out the informational facts and statistics our residents knew about the state of the world, so we could build up a collective knowledge pool and bring urgency into the room. Then in pairs, we shared these questions: What do you see? What do you feel? What do you hope for? What do you want to do?
Following this, we brainstormed the vulnerability of our community in the context of global events, trends, and crises (eg climate catastrophe, unreliability and scarcity of supplies, financial collapse) and how we could buffer ourselves to the best of our abilities. We looked at the proneness of our land areas close to sea level, the slips of some hilly areas, flooding potential, earthquake impact, geographical remoteness, and the challenges to growing sufficient food. We did an inventory of resources and people skills so we collectively knew what we had to draw on as well as what the gaps were. We divided into ‘hubs’ to come up with mitigating strategies, forward planning, and accountable action steps.
We punctuated these serious topics with a fun outdoor activity that engendered cooperation as well as challenging teams to use minimal resources to create something functional and aesthetic within a minimal timeframe. Each of the randomly selected three groups was given the same equipment – 12 long bamboo pieces, a bucket, a rope, some decorations, etc. Then there was a ‘show and tell’ with lots of laughter, and we voted on which was the most interesting and the most functional and why. At Tui, we find it most beneficial when a diversity of captivating processes are used to engage and sustain group energy, especially when dealing with serious topics needing resolve.
On the first day of this Tuki we used a new creative process devised by Aralyn and Inna, to look deeply into our group characteristics and psyche, making visible our brilliance, blocks, and functionality. This was entitled: ‘Where we are Now – Mapping of the Tui Being’. It took the form of brainstorming, onto a huge paper in the center of the room, on which was drawn the outline of a person, with their body parts, including their internal organs. Each person had several little papers to write what qualities were represented by the parts of the anatomy they chose, then stood up to verbally name that, sticking down their paper on that place. The question was: “What are the vital parts of our Tui being? What is collectively alive?”
Next came the topic: ‘Myself in the Now & beyond’ as part of/in relation to the Tui Being.’ This was facilitated in the form of contemplative questions, shared together in pairs Each person needed to consider these questions: Where do I put my energy – emotionally, mentally, energetically, physically? Consciously and unconsciously? How do I feel in Tui? What am I angry about? Scared about? Sad about? Glad about? What energizes me at Tui when I involve myself? Given the state of the world, how might I want to evolve my place in Tui from here? Where do I want to put my energy consciously?
This primed everyone for a deep heartsharing as a whole group, on the topic: ‘Myself in the Now & Growing Resilience beyond’. Each individual picked up three stones and placed them on the qualities that had been identified, based on what they could relate to most strongly. As they placed each of their stones down, people spoke to this, with the group listening attentively.
We know that sharing feelings in an open transparent provides a connected foundation for daily living together, managing the land, undertaking new projects, and braving the crises our world is facing and will face even more severely in the future.
About the Author and Community
Robina McCurdy, Aotearoa – New Zealand
Robina is co founder/resident/trustee of Tui Land Trust and its 37 year old Tui Community, founder of the Institute for Earthcare Education Aotearoa, and SEED (Schools Environmental Education & Development). She is also a graduate of GEN’s ‘Training of Trainers’ course, and an ongoing keen participant in GENOA’s on-line education and networking platforms. Globally, for the past 30 years, she has been engaged in permaculture education and community development in various forms – including social permaculture, mentoring new ecovillage initiatives, squatter settlement re-development and strengthening community culture within existing organizations. She has produced a range of community resilience resources focusing on participatory processes for decision-making and collective action Her strongest passion is the application of Permaculture at the Bioregional scale, which she has trained hundreds of community leaders in, through Earthcare’s ‘Localising Food Project’.
Tui Community, Aotearoa – New Zealand
Tui Community is located in Wainui Bay, Golden Bay, in the North-West of the South Island of Aotearoa. Original members established Tui in 1984 after purchasing 50 hectares of farmland on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. Their aim was to create an intentional community. Over the years, our community, people, and processes have evolved – and we are open to you finding out more about us by visiting our website.