Peter Rodeka and Ria Waikerepuru are Project Leaders for the Nīkau Ecological Experience on the Kapiti Coast.
The Nīkau Ecological Experience will be uniquely Kapiti and is about thinking globally while acting locally. It will be a whānau-based, sustainable Airbnb with magnificent views of Kāpiti Island. Peter Rodeka, co Project Leader with Ria Waikerepuru says they will focus on one group at a time and visitors can experience te ao Māori and pakeha perspectives of papatūānuku.
"Visitors can engage at their leisure with a native forest restoration project on the Nīkau Palm whenua and our museum-like accommodation," says Peter.
Peter says George Hickton, former CeO of NZ Tourism, in an address to the Provincial Growth Fund public meeting, 26 November 2018 said, "Kapiti Island is crying out to be linked to the land."
The whenua at 91 Nīkau Palm Road has been owned by Ria Waikerepuru and Peter Rodeka for eleven years and they say there has been no stock on the land since it came into their ownership.
"It consists of approximately six hectares and has a great variety of vegetation. There is open grassland on exposed hilltops, regenerating bush in the gullies, gorse on the old quarry, and three areas of recently (2016 – 2018) planted native trees numbering approximately one thousand in total."
The first native bush assessment was completed eleven years ago by Ria and Peter when studying Pūtaio (Environmental Science) at Te Wānanga o Raukawa. A 2018 plan by consultant Mike Urlich, formerly from Greater Wellington Regional Council, demonstrated the connectedness of the whenua to nearby Kapiti Island, Kaitawa Reserve and the Paraparaumu Scenic Reserve. Rob Cross from KCDC has also provided invaluable help.
Peter says there is a 35m2 tenanted cottage on site. Recent re-zoning will allow another building to be constructed on the property. This will contain the Airbnb.
The land is traversed by the national electricity grid and there are two towers on the land with wires spanning most of the top hills of the property. Despite this, the Kapiti Coast District Council has recognised the value of the views by having a designated public walkway on the land. The Airbnb site will have unobstructed views of Kāpiti Island.
Ria and Peter plan to apply to the One Billion Trees Fund to restore the majority of the area with native trees. The Wellington Regional Council is also assisting with the process. This restoration project has also received support from Trees that Count in the past.
The Nīkau Whānau Airbnb will include these exhibits:-
Kāpiti Island – yesterday and today
Work by local artists, with emphasis on Māori art (e.g. showcasing Ria's work and raranga in particular)
The whenua at 91 Nikau Palm Road, history of the old forest, quarry, the farm and now the current restoration project, including citizen science projects which record the progress of the restoration process
Ria is experienced in the art of raranga (weaving) and has completed a Masters degree in Museum Studies. An initiative is currently being undertaken to digitally document the work of Ria's father.
Peter is an experienced educator with a background in Science and Special Education.
The digital documentation project is based on traditional pou/values/principles and these align with ngā mātāpono from He Toa Takitini in regard to the Airbnb.
"The building for the Airbnb is planned to be developed on site during 2019 and 2020. The building will form the foundation for the sustainable enterprise that we will keep growing both inside and outside the whare. The building will employ universal design principles," says Peter.