29 Jun 2018

Riverside: a community of pastoral peacekeepers

From Country Life, 9:38 pm on 29 June 2018

The Riverside Community near Nelson is the oldest intentional community in New Zealand.

Christian pacifists established Riverside in 1941 to support the families of men imprisoned for refusing to go to World War II – and today's residents still live by its core values of peace and sharing.

Riverside's 200-hectare property crosses the main road between Upper Moutere and Motueka.

It is hard to miss as colourful signs point to the well-known Riverside Cafe, accommodation, a joinery workshop, a garage and the community's raw milk-vending machine.

Tristan Vincent's grandfather was one of the men who went to prison.

He was brought up at Riverside.  

"I loved it. There was a big group of kids to run around with at the time and plenty of places to make huts and go hunting."

Now an environmental scientist, Tristan manages the dairy farm and lives in the community's village with his German wife and their two children.

A herd of 170 Friesian-cross cows produces milk for Fonterra and a smaller herd of 30 supplies milk year-round for the roadside vending machine.

Despite the initial outlay on the Swiss-made vending machine four years ago, Tristan says the venture has been a success.

"In the first nine months of operating it paid for itself."

The land at Riverside is owned collectively and new members are accepted at a rate of around two families a year.

Soon the community will have to look at building more houses in the village.

Most of the community members work on the property and are employed by the trust board that owns all the land, buildings and stock.

"All our income goes into one pot to pay all our expenses... I don't see a competitive lifestyle as being sustainable for the planet or the people in it," Tristan says.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Country Life

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)