Earthsong Centre Trust

A key motivation for developing Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood was to trial and demonstrate a more sustainable urban neighbourhood model. We felt that the biggest contribution we could make to global sustainability was to not only build a neighbourhood to the highest practical standards of sustainable human settlement (both socially and environmentally), but to share what we have learnt with others.

Education thus formed one of the three aims in our vision statement as follows:

"To assist in education and public awareness of sustainability by demonstrating and promoting innovative community design and environmentally responsible construction."

In order to advance the educational aims of the Earthsong vision, a charitable trust called the Earthsong Centre Trust was established in 2004, with trustees drawn from both unit owners of Earthsong and the wider community. The Earthsong Centre Trust manages the outreach activities of the Earthsong neighbourhood that contribute to education of the general public in the principles of socially, environmentally and economically sustainable urban living based on the cohousing model.

The Earthsong Centre

The Earthsong Centre Trust jointly owns, with Earthsong unit owners, the large community building at the heart of our neighbourhood known as both the Earthsong common house (for residents) and the Earthsong Centre (for the Trust). As these two purposes are quite distinct and at times have differing needs, we drew up a Statement of Intent in June 2004 to set out the basis of the shared use of the building. We are also working towards a full Joint Use Agreement as a detailed guide for use of the facility by Earthsong owners and the wider community.

Through the Earthsong Centre Trust we are committed to sharing our knowledge and experience of sustainable design and community empowerment with the public. The Earthsong Centre is a venue for presentations and educational tours run by the trust, and is also available for meetings and events run by local interest groups and organisations that are compatible with the charitable, community and environmental objectives of the Trust. Over 100 such events occur every year, and this is expected to grow as the Trust develops a full educational programme.

The Earthsong Centre Trust charges fees on a sliding scale for educational tours, events, and use of the venue by other organisations. Higher-paying users subsidise low and non-paying users, with an overall small annual income to the Trust to go towards maintenance and running costs.

Financing the Earthsong Centre

Due to the challenges of financing the development of the whole Earthsong project, we had made a decision early on to budget only for partial completion of the common house, with the remainder to be completed in the future when funds allowed. Financed from surpluses built into the sale price of each house, the common house was scheduled to be last on the programme of development, able to be built only when all the individual houses had been built and sold. A loan from Waitakere City Council, however, made it possible for us to build this building earlier than we otherwise would, and to build the entire building from the start rather than a reduced version.

Earthsong has had a close and supportive relationship with Waitakere City Council, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with them in 2003. The MOU recognised Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood as a key partner in relation to the Council's Eco-City policy, with a wealth of experience that supported and demonstrated the Council's objectives. In 2004 council agreed to make a $300,000 interest-free loan to the Earthsong Centre Trust to help to build the Earthsong Centre. The loan demonstrated their recognition of the benefits that that facility would bring to the people of Waitakere and greater Auckland. The loan was fully repaid in 2009.

A number of other grants and donations assisted us to build our beautiful Centre. We received a grant of $203,000 from the ASB Community Trust in 2005 to assist with construction costs of the Earthsong Centre. Waitakere City Council made a grant in 2005 of $10,000, being half the costs of the installation of the demonstration composting toilet, in order to monitor and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of installing composting toilets in an urban area. And all Earthsong owners agreed to pay extra levies of several thousand dollars per household to cover the shortfall in funding and allow us to build the complete, beautiful building that we'd always envisaged.

Activities

The main focus of our educational outreach has been tours and presentations about Earthsong itself. Public open tours are scheduled 4 times a year, and many private tours are requested by national and international tertiary institutions, advisors to local and national government, architects, planners and engineers, students of all ages, overseas delegations and many diverse community and professional groups.

Thousands of people have visited, and many people from all sectors of society find that visiting Earthsong is an inspirational experience.

Now that construction is complete and the ongoing life of the neighbourhood has settled, the Trust is developing a more proactive and strategic action plan for its future direction. In order to advance this, the Earthsong Educational Collective was established in 2012 to run educational tours and events on behalf of the Earthsong Centre Trust.

The vision of the Collective is to build on the context of Earthsong to inspire and encourage the work of others towards flourishing, healthy and resilient communities and ecosystems. As well as responding to outside requests for tours, the Collective supports its members to generate workshops, seminars and presentations that further the aims of the Trust.

This website is a key element of making our learnings available to others. There is also continued interest from all sections of the media to showcase the neighbourhood as a viable and desirable alternative to standard suburban life.

Donations and bequests

The Earthsong Centre Trust is a not-for-profit registered charity that does not receive any Government funding. Apart from a small income from tours, it relies solely upon the generosity of our supporters and donors to carry out its charitable educational and community activities. You can help us to promote our goals by making a tax deductible donation.

If you also wish to leave a bequest by will to the Trust we suggest you consult a lawyer or whoever holds your will, so the appropriate clause can be added.

The following wording is suggested for leaving a gift in your Will to the Earthsong Centre Trust:

"I give to the Earthsong Centre Trust, Charities Commission registration no CC29760, (% of estate, the residue of my estate, or sum of money, or write description of property or assets) for general purposes, for which the receipt of an authorised officer of the Trust shall be a full and sufficient discharge to my trustees."

We would be very happy to assist in making these arrangements. Please contact us at info@earthsong.org.nz for further details on how to make a donation or bequest.

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Web Earthsong

Located in the heart of Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood, the Earthsong Centre provides a unique venue that embodies the principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Enquire about using the Earthsong Centre as the venue for your event, presentation, or workshop.