10 Jul Sustainable beauty: capturing the essence of nature in Aotea
With the recent Covid crisis we went through together, we realized how lucky we are to have been supporting local businesses this all time, relying on a smaller & closer production system, knowing the owners of those businesses, and helping to build up a community we can count on in the Auckland region and throughout NZ.
A close-up on Great Barrier
Today we want to focus on Great Barrier Island, Aotea, and the unique products that issue from its incredible, wild nature. Located 90 km north-east of Auckland, Aotea is a unique island, the fourth largest in New Zealand after the North and South Islands, and Stewart Island. Mentioned as “Auckland’s backdoor’, its position also protects the Hauraki Gulf from the ocean swell along with its little sister, Little Barrier: sailing in the Gulf from one island to another would be very different without our two poutiriao to protect us.
With 936 inhabitants as of 2018 (according to the government’s statistics), Aotea is also a sanctuary for our beautiful native wilderness. Two thirds of the island are indeed property of the Department of Conservation which actively protects 3 endangered species:
- the Chevron Skink, that can only be found in Aotea (see picture)
- the Takotekai, or Black Petrel, a specie endangered by the introduction of pests and commercial fishing. Black Petrels essentially survive on the Barrier Islands.
- the Pateke, or Brown Teal, described by Great Barrier Tourism as “the world’s 4th rarest duch”, whose “more 600 of the 1,000 or so that remain make their home on the Barrier’s wetlands and foreshores.”
A shelter for flora and fauna
Nature on Aotea suffered from colonisation: digging, mining, logging and milling endangered the flora and fauna, as well as reshaped some natural landscapes. Now, with nearly 70% of the island being under DOC’s control and with the active care of locals, the island is slowly going back to its natural state!
Great Barrier has also been protected from most pests and predators, and can claim to be free of deer, stoats, ferrets, possums, hedgehogs and feral goats, hence fostering a unique territory for the development and the protection of native species. Many birds on Aotea don’t exist on the mainland, and its 285 km2 harbours 13 different species of reptiles, geckos and lizards. Some trees and plants are also endemic to the island, and don’t exist elsewhere.
Due to its isolation, some infrastructures which seem essential to most people, are not present on Aotea: no electricity, no supermarket, public transport, banking facilities or public streetlights. This pushes its inhabitants to find new ways of living, creating self reliance and a strong community.
Sustainable businesses on Aotea
This great natural resource is also an amazing inspiration for sustainable businesses, such as Aotea and Aotea Embrace, which we proudly stock at Scarecrow. These two brands, centered around skincare, both share roots in the beautiful Great Barrier, but share a certain vision of nature that is infused into their products.
Felted rock soaps: Aotea Embrace!
Saskia from Aotea Embrace makes beautiful oils, soaps and shampoos, and especially: felted rock soaps (our favourites!). Handmade on Great Barrier, crafted from essential oils, without palm oil and with some extra manuka honey for its’ moisturizing effect. They’re then wrapped by hand in their felted rock disguise, 100% New Zealand merino with a hint of silk.
Soap and washcloth in one, the felted cover shrinks with the soap, and acts as a gentle exfoliator, while still being gentle on the skin. These very beautiful felted rock soaps are an ode to Aotea’s nature, its forests, its ocean, its native plants and animals, encapsulated in a unique and special item. And if it represents Aotea’s nature, it also represents Aotearoa’s nurture. When you’re finally done with the soap (they last a long time and don’t melt away in the shower), throw the wool to the birds, they can make their nests out of it!
Herbal medicine and science: Aotea’s ethos
Our second beauty brand sold in Scarecrow is a pioneer in allying
science, nature, ancestral knowledge, plant inspiration, and technology to make it 100% efficient and suited to a sustainable and modern beauty routine. Aotea has partnered with Callaghan Innovation to conduct their own trials and tests to analyze herbal medicines and native plants, and to isolate their components to understand better what makes traditional medicine so relevant and powerful, even today. Being rooted in Aotea also means respecting nature’s cycles and provisions. Tama and his team are also committed to making our world a better place, not only through their products and ethos, but through scholarships that helps Māori youth to access high school on the mainland, as there is no high school on Great Barrier. And do you remember when I mentioned earlier that there was no electricity on the island? Well most of Aotea’s power comes from renewable energy, as it does for many other people living on the island. Clean, innovative, inspiring.
What does it mean for us to be selling these products in Scarecrow?
It means supporting a shorter cycle of products that we don’t import from overseas but insteqd rely on beautiful Aotearoa’s treasures, both humans and nature. It also means having better control on the supply chain, the origin of the products, and the conditions in which it is made…. We know a lot of our suppliers, some since their beginnings, some since our beginning. We support each other, talk with each other, share with each other. These relations give a real purpose to the word “community” in times like this, which makes us proud to be a kiwi stockist.