By Pam Ferla
Offering a sanctuary from this troubled world is bush-clad Te Moata Retreat, where new managers, Paul Scriven and Anna-Lena Axfeldt, are enjoying the challenges of their role.
It was while reading emails on the remote Durville Island that they learnt Te Moata was looking for help. The couple already had fond memories of visits to the retreat that is nestled in 344 acres of regenerating native bush north of Tairua. “We were very remote at the time we read about the vacancy, ”says Anna-Lena. “We had to sit in a specific spot to get Wi-fi for a zoom interview. Paul and I got the job and three weeks later, we were here on this lovely land.” Previously the couple had a business teaching yoga in Mt Manganui, where they lived for 20 years. When Covid affected their business, they decided it was time for a change, bought a van, and headed south for adventure. “We became like a couple of teens, travelling around and experiencing the wonders of the South Island,” says Paul.
Running Te Moata is an unusual job, managing the extensive area of bush (with a lot of hilly tracks), organising retreats and maintaining the buildings. Coordinating the flow of international WWOOFERS - Willing Workers on Organic Farms - is also an important part of the role. Te Moata is a sanctuary for nature and there’s a lot of nature out there. “There’s a sense of peace that only nature can bring. This place is a treasure,” beams Paul.
At the heart of the centre is a lovely purpose-built meditation hall, with a cosy fire during winter months. It is ideal for long silent meditation retreats. The drug, alcohol and smoke -free complex is off the grid and runs on solar power. It needs a lot of firewood. There is a communal dining room for vegetarian meals. Accommodation is provided for up to 30. There are also two large spaces available for workshops, singing and dancing groups. Four solitary huts with basic living facilities are perched on high ridges deep in the bush and are available for individual retreats. Special meditation and sacred sites at Te Moata include the Lavender, Rimu and Green Tara Circles and the Labyrinth. This is an exact replica, in size and pattern, to the thirteenth century labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, France and offers a sacred space for contemplation.
The centre includes an area of significant wetlands as well as bush. Thanks to the conservation work of managers and volunteers, there is an abundance of birds, with kiwi, fern birds and pied tits among the numerous species heard on the property.Te Moata offers a year-round programme of retreats and gatherings and is also available for private retreats. Regular events include a permaculture course, women’s gatherings, dances of universal peace and meditation retreats. There is a weekly silent meditation evening which often includes WWOOFERS as well as local visitors. “We meet some amazing people here and feel it’s a privilege to be part of Te Moata,” says Paul. “Anyone interested in visiting or joining our team is welcome to contact us and arrange a visit. And help with work on the land is always welcome.”
For more information check out the website www.temoata.org.
Caption: Pictured at Te Moata Retreat Centre are new managers, Anna-Lena Axfeldt and Paul Scriven.