The Project

The Story of our Community…

In April 2014 Carmel and Shaun bought two acres plus the house at 13 b Cross Street, in Regent, Whangarei.

After spending the first year settling in, they called a public meeting at which Robin Allison from the Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood in Auckland presented her ideas about building a Co-Housing community.

The group process took many twists and turns until it was decided that Shaun and Carmel should develop the project themselves. After extensive consultation, detailed plans were drawn up and unveilled in December 2016. 2017 was spent in negotiation with key players like the Ministry of Education and Whangarei District Council. At the same time essential ingrediants such as the vision, the legal framework, membership proceedures and community relationships were carefully developed.

But this is only our recent history…

Discover the whole story

And so it was…  Ahi Wai – Fire & Water.

As this land was forming, back in the cradle of time. A volcano spread it’s fiery lava across the land until it came to cooling waters and stopped, forming a cove on the land, like the nook between finger and thumb. A place where the fire met the water.

And so it was…

That brave Kupe set out to follow the path of the Godwits to the place they must be heading. And so he came to find this most splendid of lands, lush with unseen flora and fauna. A land he called Aotearoa.

And so it was…

That this land of rich volcanic soil and plentiful water springs was a place of abundant growth and market gardens. Presided over by wise chief Te Tirarau Kukupa of Te Parawhau hapu.

 And so it was…

A fine brick house that an orchard, bountiful gardens, a gatekeeper’s hut and Whangarei’s first swimming pool, were built by Mr George Court beside the last train station before Whangarei.

 And so it was…

Neville Sander and Lyanne Kerr built a most splendid of homes, of purple and yellow and acres of land, in Regent, heart of the city of Whangarei.

 And so it was…

That Carmel Henry & Shaun Davison built on that site an Eco-Neighbourhood for many.

And so it is 

Fire and Water

Ahi Wai Eco-Neighbourhood.

Our Vision
We are a supportive intergenerational community and a model of sustainable urban living

We honour indigenous culture and the role of Tangata Whenua in our history and daily lives

We are knowledgeable about the pre-colonisation history of Te Parawhau, including the use of this site.

We have on-going relationships with kaumatua from Te Parawhau and are guided by their insights.

Tikanga Maori (eg. karakia, waiata, mihi, whakapapa) are regular practices.

Our shared facilities and spaces form the heart of our neighbourhood

The village green and common house are the social focal points (eating, sitting, conversing).

The common house is a hub for services (recycling, utilities, library).

The common house functions as a communal “spare bedroom” for residents to house their guests.      

Our landscape supports connections between ourselves, our facilities and our abundant earth

⇒ Walkways encourage human powered transit eg, walking, cycling, prams, wheelchairs, skateboards.

⇒ Renewable sources of energy are preferred and promoted.

⇒ Pathways form a strong sense of connectedness throughout the neighbourhood.

⇒ Vegetation is carefully considered in terms of function (eg ease of gathering), relative location and the value of diversity.

⇒ Productive plantings are alongside daily flow paths.

⇒ Access ways allow for emergency services and  the occasional passage of large materials.

⇒ Our landscape captures and uses as much of the site’s natural resources as possible.

⇒ We draw inspiration from nature’s patterns and seek to observe and understand them

Our built environment supports our private and shared lives in an environmentally friendly way

The externals of private dwellings have a suitable balance between public and private spaces to encourage community interaction and provide for personal solitude.

The arrangement of buildings encourages universal access & mutually respectful communication.

The primary accessways to buildings are suitable for all abilities and in all weather (underfoot and overhead).

Houses are built to a high level of energy efficiency and well-being.

Houses are designed to make use of natural heating / cooling systems.

Materials and processes are selected with a preference for minimal/lower environmental impact.

Entrance ways are welcoming to all and symbolic of our values.

Buildings are modest in scale and encourage simplicity of living.

Homes are designed to include features that match the lifespan of people (from very young to very old).

The original house (13B Cross St) is an integral part of the neighbourhood and has aspects of both; privacy from and connection to the other dwellings.

Car Parking is restricted to the communal car parking area.

Our culture supports inclusion, intergenerational living and friendliness

Teenagers and children are appreciated, consulted and have decision-making powers.

The built environment encourages play and interaction of all ages groups.

Clear-decision-making and robust conflict resolution processes are used.

People’s diverse ideas are respectfully expressed and considered.

The margins of thought and social norms are valued and explored.

Processes that enable people on limited or fixed incomes to join, are considered.

We support one another.

Sharing of resources is encouraged.

We support environmental awareness by engaging with our wider community

⇒ We interact, consult and support our surrounding schools and other educational institutes.

⇒ We support other ecological initiatives that are judged appropriate.

⇒ We have an active and accessible web presence.

We embody an environmentally considered way of life

We use natural processes as much as possible and avoid inorganic treatments.

We have a preference towards edible plantings.

Our neighbourhood supports recycling, composting and waste minimisation.

Change is generally viewed as a creative opportunity.

Cycling & Walking

Cycling and walking are the prefered means of transport at Ahi-Wai.

Cars are parked at the entrance to the property – maximum space is given to human
powered transport with a network of paths throughout the neighbourhood.
This makes it a safe environment for our tamariki.


The new cycle way from Central City to Kamo is literally just outside the entrance,
making cycling a quick and safe way to get around town.

Supermarkets are a 5 minute walk. The library a ten minute walk and the town basin 
– fifteen minutes.

 So for most of the time you will be able to leave your car in the garage and get walking!

Site plans

This is one of the extensive plans drawn up for the site. It shows the 17 proposed buildings, the existing house, the central village green and community house, garages and parking, a swimming pool and a workshop.

This is an 3D overview of the site showing the central village green surrounded by a network of paths to all the dwellings. On the right are three seperate dwellings on the upper part of the property. Top centre there is a duplex (two houses connected), plus a terrace of four connected houses. Left centre you see three seperate houses plus a swimming pool. Left top there are 5 dwellings that are built above their garages.

This shows the view from the community house looking north. It shows the village green in the middle and the network of pathways leading up to the three dwellings on the upper area. It is planned that the area around the village green will be planted with fruit trees and vegetables. Around the common house will be a bbq, pizza oven, tables and seating.

This view is from the village green looking west. The right foreground shows the common house. The central background shows the swimming pool and the 5 small studio apartments that are above their garages. To the left we see the outline of one of the stand alone dwellings.

Renewables – Solar & Electric Cars


Another feature of our Eco-Neighbourhood will be the use of renewable energy – particularly solar energy. As well as passive solar design, we aim to provide 80% of our power through solar energy. The payback for a solar system is something in the realm of 7 – 9 years but if we as residents are are using electric cars that is reduced to 18 months. It makes good economic sense to move to electric cars.

Whangarei is a hub for developping the use of electric cars and we have connections to the people in town who promote and support the use of them.

Having a communal electric car (or 3) would seem a logical idea.

Environmental Awareness

An important aspect of our vision is that  we support environmental awareness by engaging with our wider community.
We are surrounded by two large high schools, a primary and an intermediate school. Already contacts have been made with these schools to support projects like horticulture and sustainability studies.

We also envision that our community will play an active role in supporting “other ecological initiatives that are judged appropriate.” Connections have been made with the Wai A Ariki Food Forest in Onerahiand the Papakainga project in Parakao.

And this is just the beginning…

Ahi Wai - Eco Neighbourhood

Shaun Davison and Carmel Henry
Whangarei 0112
09 4372120