About Riverside Community & Trust
How It Came To Be
Riverside Community was established in 1941 by a small group of Christian Pacifists who - in the face of the 2nd World War - were eager to practice ways of communal living that were based on cooperation and sustainability and the repudiation of war. The founders of Riverside believed equality and social justice to be the main pillars of peace.
One member of the group, Hubert Holdaway, contributed 30 acres of farm land and orchard in the Lower Moutere Valley, and some of the group moved there to live. Many of the men spent the war years on prison farms as conscientious objectors to the military scheme during the 2nd World War while their wives and children lived on the community farm.
After the war, the Riverside Community Trust was formed (1953) and over time more land was purchased, hilly scrub land was cleared and new business ventures were started. To this day, all income from Riverside Trust Board's enterprises continue to be used for the promotion of education and to support the 'sick and the poor' as set out in the trust deed.
Over the past decades, Riverside's intentional community has gained worldwide recognition as an example of co-operative & communal living and is today New Zealand’s oldest intentional community.
Both, Riverside Trust and Community, have come a long way from the original religious focus, and nowadays both entities consider themselves secular and pluralist.
Yet, Riversiders (members and trustees alike) still see their strength in adherence to the founders’ basic principal: ‘If a group of individuals pool their resources, co-operate and live simply, they can create a resource and surplus income to be used for the greater good of society’ (Hubert Holdaway).
How It All Works
The community and trust land is located in the Moutere Valley, close to Motueka, and consists of 200 hectares of both flat & rolling land, with beautiful views to the mountains and the sea.
Riverside Community is intertwined with its charitable trust which was set up in 1953 to promote religion (which is no longer pursued), education and relieve poverty within New Zealand. All land and assets are owned by the trust, having been gifted by early community members to the trust when it was established. The community rents houses and leases some land of the trust.
Trust enterprises have expanded over the past decades to include a dairy farm and a fresh milk vending service (Riverside Milk), tourist accommodation (Hostel), a large venue for hire suitable for weddings, workshops and other events (Riverside Community Cultural Centre), an art gallery (Che Vincent Gallery, currently closed) as well as a mechanical/engineering workshop (Riverside Workshop), joinery and the iconic Riverside Café which is currently leased out.
Profit from all enterprises is solely used for providing affordable learning opportunities to the wider public, promoting education in various forms and supporting not-for-profit groups and events which provide relief from poverty and mental and physical illnesses.
Trustees and community members consider themselves both caretakers of the Trust, but it is trustees who are officially tasked to administer the trust and to ensure it follows the path set out by the founders' original deed.
Some community members work in trust enterprises and some are also trustees. The ongoing synergy between trust and community is based on the idea that peaceful, just and sustainable societies have their roots in a group of people who willingly share their resources with one another (community) and who invest all their profits in charitable causes (trust) rather than use them for individual benefits. An ideal of a society which continues to be at the very core of community membership, and which still governs how the community relates to the trust. Therefore, becoming a member of the community does not just mean joining in a cooperative, sustainable and peaceful lifestyle but also entails a promise to always act in the best interests of the trust and to further its objectives wherever possible.
There is no private ownership of houses or cars among community members. The general community fund, which encompasses all member's wages, meets basic needs such as health care, electricity and phone, while other needs like food, travel & education are subsidised. The community has no leader, no religion it follows and no common political party. Instead, members from all walks of life and with a diverse range of occupations work together peacefully and make decisions based on consensus during weekly meetings.
Community members receive a weekly allowance out of the Community fund to use for their daily expenses. Members pay rents for their houses to the trust just like a regular tenant would pay their landlord. Houses are arranged in a village-like setting around ‘The Oval’, a large green area. Children attend local schools and some are home-schooled. There are currently around 25 members and their children living at Riverside along with regular trust tenants. During busy times of the year when visitors and volunteer workers come to Riverside, the number of people on trust land can swell up to around 80.
While no longer a religious group, the community still celebrates a number of seasonal festivals throughout the year which is often open to members of the public. Riverside Community Lunch is a weekly Trust-facilitated open-invite lunch, cooked from the community's own organic vegetables and a great opportunity to find out more about Riverside's history and vision.
Come and visit.
Riverside Peace Focus
In the early days, Riversiders (members and trustees alike) were often involved in protest action groups for peace and social justice. It's therefore no wonder that community members still strive to live their lives as a contribution to create peace in the world.
Every year the trust board allocates funds to support education on non-violence and peace work. The community, on the other hand, continues to engage with action groups that are working towards social justice and which are supporting disadvantaged or marginalised groups inside and outside of New Zealand.