Thames Be Fruitful

Have you walked along the waterfront path in between Richmond St and the Wharf and seen the citrus planted there? Have you swung on the swing at the new playground on Hauraki Tce and wondered what the trees to the south are? Have you seen the fruit tree plantings at Te Puru School or along Burke St? You probably have; we’ve been busy.fruitytree

Many of these trees have been proudly planted by Thames Be Fruitful; over 200 in fact. And the best bit is that the trees are there as a community resource; by the people, for the people, and they join the Bright Smile Community Garden on Mackay St as another way to add food to a conversation about community.

The benefits of having trees around where we live are multiple and far-reaching: they provide shade, provide shelter for birds and insects, calm moods, and can even promote spending more time in the outdoors. Initiatives such as Thames Be Fruitful has the added bonus of bringing communities together to share an experience- an experience which only gets better as the trees get older.

Our next community planting day will be Saturday 13th August, beginning at 9am at the Community gardens on Mackay St. We would love to see you there, and if you are able, please bring a spade with you.

What’s new with old stuff?

I’m sure you all know the Seagull Centre – where you can pick up a bargain or drop off your old stuff and know that someone else will have a use for it…but did you know that we are about to expand both in area and purpose? Work will begin soon on the area adjacent to the Seagull Centre constructing a new drop off area with additional buildings for sorting and storage and some new education and workshop spaces. Also the road will be re-routed so that EVERY car on its way to the transfer station will pass through this new drop off area. ALL useful items will be recovered before people travel on to the Transfer Station thereby saving resources from the landfill and our customer money in dumping fees. This will also mean that the existing “old” site will be for sales only and ultimately car-free, making it safer for shoppers.

Since the Seagull Centre opened its’ doors 10 years ago, the number of legal landfills in New Zealand has halved from 60 to 30. This means that waste has to be transported long distances from source. This is true in the Coromandel; our waste has to be transported from all of our transfer stations to the rubbish tip in Tirohia, 40+ kms away. This rubbish tip also services places as far away as Gisborne!

When we expand, the Seagull Centre will be placing a lot more focus on education and community involvement.  One of the volunteers at the centre has already been running holiday programmes for kids around making cool stuff out of bits and pieces from the Seagull Centre. The new classroom and workshop area will provide dedicated spaces to run programmes like these and others around how we can reduce waste. The workshop area will provide facilities for the local community to get involved in upcycling, that is, making new things out of old ones; and fixing up old or broken things. And later there may also be the potential for partnerships in community enterprise.

T3 supports the Seagull Centre in their philosophy of looking at “waste” as usable resources. Come down, check it out….and see what may be possible!

This guest post was brought to you by the Seagull Centre’s Trish Hatfield and Louise Deane

Be green all the way- a natural burial option in Thames

Most people don’t like thinking about it, definitely prefer not to talk about it unless in euphemisms, even though it is inevitable and unavoidable for every one of us. Death, the ultimate consequence of living…could also be described as a human beings final opportunity to choose the sustainable option. At death a person can make the ultimate gesture to the environment, by returning the body’s nutrients to the ecosystem rapidly and without pollution, contributing to the restoration of our land and the planet to a more natural state. In the words of Edvard Munch, ” From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”
Many of us are familiar with traditional burial, which involves a standard treated wooden casket, embalming of the body, and burial 6 feet deep in the soil with a tone or plaque to mark the spot. However, room is scarce for such luxuries as a grave each, and the traditional burial may not be best choices for the environment: embalming bodies uses quite harsh chemical such as formaldehyde and these are leached into groundwater, perhaps at up to 40 mg of formaldehyde effluent per litre of groundwater in the first year.  Another important consideration is the depth of burial: there is limited biological activity six feet under the soil to aid decomposition of casket or body. One alternative to traditional burial is cremation, and you can read arguments for an against the environmental footprint here and here. Another alternative is a burial in more natural circumstances, where the body is not embalmed, treated with oils, or in fact put in a large box made of treated wood. During the natural burial the body is placed within an untreated wooden or cardboard casket or shroud, and buried between 50 and 100cm deep in the active top layer of soil. Often a tree is planted on the site with the intention of regenerating natural forest to create a bush park commemorating those buried there. Around the world natural burial sites vary from woodlands to wildflower meadows, orchards and parklands of native flora. While “returning to the earth” is key, equal emphasis is placed on the natural burial ground as a special site in which the bereaved can visit a loved one for peaceful contemplation surrounded by natural beauty.

As part of the global rise in environmental awareness, natural cemeteries started appearing in the 90’s in the United Kingdom, where there are now more than 300 natural burial sites. The first eco- internment in New Zealand took place in Auckland in 1999, and when Wellington City established Matakara in 2008 it was the first natural burial cemetery in a city outside the United Kingdom. The natural burials group in Thames formed about 2 years ago with the aim of creating a natural burial site in the TCDC area. Submissions were made to local council and a new Cemetery Bylaw was adopted in May 2015. The standard depth for all burials is set at 1.9m (6 feet, 2 inches), with the exception for natural burials which are treated differently but maintain a minimum soil cover of 1 metre between the top of the casket/ shroud and the surface of the earth. For the natural burial site two options at the Totara cemetery were looked at but found to be unsuitable due to lack of topsoil. The group working in collaboration with TCDC is now committed to a site at the Omahu Public Cemetery about twenty minutes drive from Thames towards Pareoa. The site is currently in the design stage with plans for trees to be planted at grave sites so that the natural burial site will become like a park.

In the meantime, if you would like any more information about natural burials, or would like to participate in a workshop on Mortality and Living Wills, please come along to the Thames Community Resource Centre at 609 Mackay St on Saturday 16th July from 9am. Koha entry.


To bring Power to People

Wintec is supporting a T3 initiated research project into sustainable energy in Thames.  For T3 it is an opportunity to progress a vision of a community owned energy company that draws power from sustainable sources, delivers energy to local users at beneficial rates, and nets a surplus that is used to develop other community initiatives.  Wintec see it as part of an international project looking at sustainability solutions in several countries, which – they hope – will generate further developments in New Zealand. T3 is most involved in the first phase of research into the range and viability of energy options for Thames. This is currently underway with preliminary results due in August.

The research project will look firstly at the potential for local energy generation, including solar, microhydro, and even geothermal from accessing flooded mine shafts.  Second, the research will conduct a preliminary needs assessment of power users, particularly in areas where there is significant daytime power usage – such as Pollen Street and users such as TCDC offices, Thames hospital, schools, and retirement villages. This is because storage systems are still relatively expensive, and there are not great incentives to use the national grid itself as a giant battery. These two sets of information will inform an assessment of the potential to create a local energy network in line with the Thames Urban Development Strategy, that sees Pollen Street as the spine of a local energy network.

The final piece of this first phase will explore business models for such community initiatives elsewhere in Australasia and beyond. “Pro-sumers” – who produce and consume power – are driving a worldwide move towards energy grids that are more like interactive networks than systems to deliver power from central producers to distant consumers. Prosumers – particularly those who own a social enterprise energy company – have direct control over their energy, and are far more protected from corporate profiteering.

On the basis of this work, Wintec and T3 anticipate a second phase involving local electricity and energy contractors. This will enable members of their staff to develop the technological specifications for getting an integrated energy network underway. These staff members will be able to use this work to achieve a Masters qualification form Wintec.

The vision of a locally owned energy company was spurred by Grant Burnett, then CEO of AG Price engineering. He suggested “Thames and the coast could be self-sufficient in its own energy, from sun, wind and water, in five years if the will were there.”

That was 2010.  We’re getting there.


This is a guest post by Mark Skelding- he’ll also be at the T3 cafe on the 6th of July (7:30pm, at Brew cafe, Pollen St). Come along and say hi!

Our community learning to speak out.

Toastmasters is an international organisation that supports hundreds of thousands of people to challenge themselves and improve speaking and confidence. An exciting new initiative to bring Toastmasters to Thames is giving locals this chance to gain confidence in presenting and public speaking. Effective communication of ideas can drive change within our community which is exactly what T3 is about, and Toastmasters has developed guides to improved speaking, listening and presentation skills that are developed through club participation. Every person has a role to play (appraising, timing, introducing and being an audience member) at every meeting; essential skills that also assist whoever is speaking to develop.

How often is there a opportunity to stand up for something you believe strongly in or speak in front of our peers, but you step back and leave it to someone else to step up? Often enough, which isn’t surprising when public speaking is rated as one of people’s greatest fears. This is why the club has started in Thames and is attended by a great range of locals from beginners to experienced speakers. They are all keen to see everyone do their best every time someone has a chance to speak. This all started as part of a conversation at T3 meetings and at the T3 cafe, where there was strong interest expressed by many locals. From there a public demonstration meeting was held at the Thames Civic Centre which was well attended and received, and gave attendees a great deal of information about how Toastmasters works. From that a club of enthusiastic local gather to work together on their public speaking skills.

Most of the ideas that T3 are of interested in promoting are essential services and include groups like TCDC and the community board: in fact TCDC and the Community Board have clearly stated that they need community input. They are aware of the interest that T3 has in developing a sustainable future for the Thames district. Confident speaking will ensure that they hear what members of T3 have to say. This can be best achieved when ideas are clearly thought through and spoken in a powerful way.

Having a Toastmasters club in Thames is one way of allowing people to practice speaking
confidently. By getting key community leaders to listen and understand will bring about the change that will make our community sustainable.

When: The club in Thames started meeting on the 11 May.
Where: The Lounge at St James Church twice a month. The second and forth Thursday of the month.

This post was brought to you by the man bringing you Toastmasters: Ian Stewart. Thanks, Ian!

Growing together

Bright Smile Community Garden in Thames is blooming! Started in 2007 as a joint venture between the Supported Lifestyle Hauraki Trust and the Ecotrust, for the past 9 years the gardens have been drawing people together from different backgrounds, different ages and abilities to grow more food. Even though the days are now becoming shorter and cooler, there is no sign of things slowing down at the gardens. On any Thursday morning, you can find a committed and enthusiastic bunch of locals and a dozen lifestylers (under the guidance of two garden supervisors) all mucking in to get things growing. The gardens have a sub- tropical fruit orchard containing bananas, pineapples, cherimoyas and more, as well as various citrus and stone fruits, and a hedge of feijoas. There are stabilised adobe annual vegetable garden beds in a magical mandala design, fragrant flower gardens and herb beds, as well as plantings to attract birds, bees and butterflies. It is a great place for a picnic, some quiet contemplation, or to run around with children. Just last fortnight Bright Smile was the venue for a fabulous outdoor event to celebrate the achievements of Peter Rutherford, outgoing CEO of the Supported Lifestyle Hauraki Trust. Under a gorgeous blue sky and a dazzling white marquee guests were dancing, talking, laughing and eating together.

2. herb and flower bed in november

The community garden is an asset to Thames as well as having profound importance at both a local and a global scale. Community gardens are a venue for building healthy communities; not only are skills shared between members but also a sense of place, and enhancement of emotional and spiritual well-being. Other benefits are not to be sneezed at: environmental education, urban agricultural experience, and even local economic development through the creation of co-operatives and markets. Gardening is not without its physical exertions, but there are jobs for all abilities in large, well run gardens, and for the many participants these opportunities to get moving are certainly a bonus! Other benefits are cheap, local produce but above all a sense of belonging to a community.

As we move forward into an uncertain future, one of the simplest and most valuable ways we can stay connected to each other and our changing world is through growing our own food together. The Transition Towns movement has at its core enabling community resilience around the issues of food, economics and energy, in ways that are environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling. Growing food in community is a way to meet these ideals. The seeds of change are planted in the ground, but also through fostering new generations of mindful individuals. We are blessed in Thames to have Bright Smile thriving as it is, as well as council approval for further community gardening development to happen at other venues. If you are at all interested in becoming part of something wonderful, get in touch and we can start growing together.

When: Every Thursday morning 9-12
Where: Bright Smile Community Garden, northern end of Mackay St


Doing good with firewood

Have you noticed the poplars on the hills getting golden? A certain crispness in the air of a morning. Winter is coming. For everyone this means an increased likelihood of colds and flus, and the inevitable rise in your power-bill. A harsher reality is that for some families and individuals in our district winter means bone-chilling cold because firewood has been unobtainable or unaffordable. Yet wood is not scarce; it is the getting it which is the problem.

Some months ago T3 began work to change this where we can. John and Ian (those dashing Nissan Leaf drivers) arranged a private donation of fallen trees, which they have shifted, split and begun delivering to needy homes in Thames (9 trailer loads to date). We’ve connected with local charities and organisations, and spread the warmth through word of mouth.

It’s been hard work but worthwhile; TCDC’s Community Grants have recognised it with a $1000 grant in the latest round, which will go towards equipment hire. It won’t split and deliver the wood though and there is no shortage of that! If you would like to lend a hand delivering the next 9 trailer loads or moving and splitting the next woodlot, get in touch with

Electric success

Wow! What an event. Thank you to everyone who came along to support it. In total we had an action packed 2 hours; 100 people through. We got 60 of them into the Telsa’s and 30 got to ride around in the comfort of the Nissan Leaf.

It was a great image for the bus load of visitors arriving in town during the time. Strat Peters (Chair of the Thames Community Board) was there and spoke about his excitement and the realization that Thames itself can lead the charge towards a different approach towards community energy.

Watch this space…

Electric vehicles in your hands

Exciting news! More electric vehicles are coming to Thames. And, You can drive one. This month T3 will be hosting an electric vehicle (EV) event at the Thames Civic Centre, where the general public will have the opportunity to drive an EV, talk to experts in the field and some current owners. This event has come about thanks to the determined effort of two of our local EV owner-enthusiasts John and Ian, who are also members of T3.

New Zealand produces 80% of our electricity from renewable sources such as hydro-dams, wind and geothermal. If you combine this with the fact that an EV is 4 times more efficient than your own car’s internal combustion engine, EVs come out using only 20-25% of the energy that fossil fuels do. You would have to pay 30c per litre at the pump to beat that (imagine!). But, don’t just take our word- in March Air New Zealand confirmed the purchase of 75 fully electric vehicles for the ground fleet. The people of New Zealand are also voting with their feet; electric vehicle ownership has also been on the rise from sitting around 250 at the beginning of 2014 to 1128 this month, the largest number of those being in Auckland.

The world’s  excitement regarding EVs is demonstrated by the Tesla Model 3. This new “lower priced”, 5 seater offering (US$30,000) is less than half the cost of the next model, yet has a similar 200 mile plus (320 km) range, and a brisk performance. Manufacture is starting at the end of the year, and the company is taking orders now with only a $1000 deposit. In the first weekend, the offer attracted 267,000 deposits!

EV’s can charge where-ever there is a powerpoint, but despite this the range of travel has long perceived as being a limitation. The reality is quite a different story as they easily cover the the average urban commute, and with planning can handle longer cross-country (<120km) distances too. Fortunately Fast Charging technology which will allow charging times to drop from 6 hours to 25 minutes has already been planned for New Zealand. More excitingly the first Fast Charger for Coromandel is already planned for Thames making us much more accessible and friendly to EV drivers one and all (but especially the Aucklanders).

T3’s interest in EVs is part of our ongoing project to move our community towards sustainable, locally generated sources of energy. This includes increased domestic insulation, low combustion wood stoves, photovoltaic and micro-hydro generation, and aligns with a Thames Community Board vision for the town described in the Thames Urban Development Strategy.

Sunday’s event is being held in conjunction with the Better NZ Trust Annual Roadshow. There will be Nissan Leafs. There will be Teslas. There will be food from Aroha Catering. Come and see the future and join the rEVolution.

Where: Thames Civic Centre, Mary Street Thames
When: Sunday April 10th, 9-11am
What else: $10 raffle (prize is your very own week in a Tesla, luxury accommodation and grocery gift vouchers)

Welcome to the T3aser

Have you noticed that there can be a bit much doom and gloom in our media? Do you know that right here, in our town, there is lots of really good stuff going on? Positivity simply flows from the people of Thames, and we would like to celebrate this…. So ladies and gentlemen, behold the T3aser blog.

We hope to both entertain AND inform. Every fortnight we will bring you a positive news story or value-added advertisement of an upcoming even to help start the conversations we want to be having.

The T3aser-torial team would love to highlight any good news story you have too, and are open to guest posts. Please email