Glenorchy is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu, at the head of the lake, and is a vibrant and hearty community that cares for its people and its place.
The 40-minute journey from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most scenic drives you'll ever experience. The road follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu north, providing spectacular vistas of the mountains which rise proudly from the lake's edge. You’ll find Camp Glenorchy nestled near the base of the towering Richardson and Humboldt mountains, a living building, a harmonious and sustainable eco-retreat bought to life by Founders Debbi and Paul Brainerd.
When you arrive in Glenorchy, you'll quickly realise that you are off the beaten track. The town is dwarfed by stellar alpine scenery that provides an unreal backdrop for the eco retreat. In pre-European days, Glenorchy was a 'summer camp' for Māori on their way to the pounamu rivers of the West Coast and in the 1860s, it was a landscape primed to graze sheep, mill timber and mine minerals. Today the town is a launching point for walks in Mount Aspiring National Park, a hub for hiking tourism and is home to a community enjoying the benefits of many tourism businesses embodying the values of Tiaki – Care for New Zealand.
Opened in March 2018 with a Qualmark Gold Sustainable Tourism Business Award and a 4 Star Plus star rating, Camp Glenorchy founders have been described as compassionate philanthropists and visionaries, and even by former Prime Minister Bill English as “tech heads who'd created a national treasure”. It’s not just the design and build philosophies that have helped the sustainable accommodation property to be coined a National treasure, it’s the principles that are embedded in Camp Glenorchy’s core that connect back to the community and the landscape.
“We believe it is imperative that our natural environment remains healthy to support a thriving and prosperous community. We aim to foster and preserve that which makes Glenorchy unique for future generations”, says Paul. The Living Building Challenge (LBC), much like the principals of Tiaki, shares a framework that a Living Building must give more than it takes, creating a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interacts with it. The challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings, designed to the highest level of sustainability standards using a regenerative specification framework. For Debbi and Paul it’s more than being about just sustainable, it’s about giving back to the community, which is the heart of Glenorchy.
The LBC uses the metaphor of a flower to reflect a healthy living entity. Like a flower, a building is rooted in place and must generate its own fuel, collect its own water, support its local ecosystem, and become food for the local ecosystem at the end of its life. The retreat has made a commitment to Net Zero Energy, which generates as much energy as they use over each 12-month period and uses 50 per cent less water and energy than similar facilities. It supports its local ecosystem with all profits from the business going to support the Glenorchy Community Trust, with the objective to support initiatives which promote a vibrant and regenerative community at the head of the lake.
''We really think we're here to give back” says Debbi. “Unless we take care of each other and take care of the land, it's kind of meaningless.”
Input directly from the community has complemented the foundation of Camp Glenorchy’s design thinking and has helped the Founders to understand the needs of their neighbours, locals and visitors. The relationship that locals have with the surrounding environment has inspired attitudes and behaviours towards both people and place and has enhanced the camp’s connection to sustainability as a collective desire shared by all.
The global commitment has inspired a strong emotional tie for all stakeholders to act as guardians, to protect and preserve what they call home and share the responsibility to look after it. It has created a lasting connection and a unique opportunity for visitors to holiday in harmony with nature and a way to share ‘our place’ and our connection to the land.