'Business hippie' plans $1m eco retreat

23:59, Jul 08 2012
Laura O'Connell Rapira
SUSTAINABLE LIVING: 'Business hippie' Laura O'Connell Rapira is hoping for $1m in donations to build a nature retreat.

A West Aucklander is seeking $1 from a million people so she can build an ecological retreat - complete with tree houses and hobbit homes.

Laura O'Connell Rapira, who calls herself a "business hippie", launched the 1 Million People Project on November 11 last year in the hope of raising enough money to buy land to build the retreat where the emphasis would be on sustainable living and education. 

She has so far raised about $200.

The 23-year-old Glen Eden resident said the idea came to her while she was travelling around Europe, where she visited ecologically sustainable farms and retreats.

"Everyone I've spoken to is really, really positive about it," she said.

She believes West Auckland is the ideal place for a self-sustainable retreat and hopes the community would be built by 2021.

Although O'Connell Rapira does not know how much she will need to build the retreat, she settled on the $1m figure because "it has a good ring to it".

"When people hear that, it sounds like a really big and aspirational goal but it also sounds like something achievable.

"I feel like we have come to a time where we really need to embrace new ideas with technological innovation and scientific methods, but also reaching back to what we were in the past, which was living within our means, living seasonably and living locally.

"What I'm hoping for, because Auckland is an international city and it's progressively getting more like that, it can become a place where international visitors will come to learn."

Less than 50 people would live at the site permanently and they would work voluntarily to keep the day-to-day activities at the site running in exchange for accommodation and food. 

She also wants to change the way the public views environmentalists.

"Hippies have a bit of a bad name - one connotation which goes with environmentalists is that we want to shun growth, which is not what we're about.

"We need to move past a point where we are treating economic growth as if it were endless and use what we know about the economy in a smart way."

The project will officially be launched on July 28 at 420 Bar on K Rd.

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