Nestled within the bush and lit by solar power, the retreat centre comprises several buildings set around an attractive courtyard. The purpose built-meditation hall offers an unparalleled experience of silence and simplicity, and is ideal for long silent meditation retreats. Delicious vegetarian meals are served in the nearby communal dining room. Accommodation is provided for up to 30 people, including a small number of single and double rooms. Two further large spaces are also available which are popular for workshops, singing and dancing groups.
Four solitary retreat huts with basic living facilities are situated on high ridges deep in the bush and are available for individual retreat. A network of walking tracks allows access to streams, waterfalls, and beautiful stands of native trees. Special meditation and sacred sites at Te Moata include the Lavender, Rimu and Green Tara Circles and the Labyrinth.
Te Moata offers a year-round programme of retreats and gatherings. Te Moata is also available to hire for your own retreat. Contact us if you are interested in running a retreat or workshop at Te Moata.
The sacred sites at Te Moata have been lovingly created by volunteers over many years and offer contemplative spaces to deepen our connection with ourselves and with nature. Created in special locations on the land, these sites are used for meditation, the Dances of Universal Peace, ritual, celebrations, and ceremony.
“Every part of this world is sacred to my people” – Chief Seattle 1854
The Lavender Circle
The Lavender Circle is located near the Centre and is a grass area surrounded by lavender bushes and lush tree-ferns. Open to the expansive sky and swirling wind, it is a favourite space for the Dance of Life meditation in the first rays of the early morning sun. This circle is also used for the Dances of Universal Peace and for walking meditation.
The Rimu Circle
The Rimu Circle is situated further into the bush and is encircled by rimu, kauri and ponga trees. This trodden earth circle has a fire pit in the centre. A profound memory for many retreatants has been dancing under a canopy of stars with a full moon and a crackling fire in the transformative energy of this circle.
The Green Tara Circle
In the Buddhist tradition, Green Tara is the Bodhisattva of Compassion and this circle represents the quality of compassion for all beings. Enhancing this quality is the sacred greenstone, Hine Pounamu, which sits in the centre surrounded by ferns. This sacred stone was gifted to Te Moata by the Waitaha people and embodies the qualities of love, compassion, respect for all life and honouring the earth.
The labyrinth is the heart centre of Te Moata and is situated by the stream on a potent energy line which runs through the land. The design of the labyrinth is based on the sacred geometry of the ancient labyrinth embedded in the stone floor of Chartre Cathedral in France. It is made of Te Moata red clay and hand molded stones. This is a sacred space in which to symbolically walk your life’s journey; a place of contemplation, celebration, ceremony, commitment and inspiration.
Puja Point is a small circle further up stream where there are meditation seats at the base of tall native trees. This is a place for silent and secluded contemplation surrounded by the sounds of nature. In the centre of this circle on the forest floor is a stick and branch sculpture in the shape of a heart.
There are many ways to describe the richly varied and remote beauty of Te Moata. None of the physical descriptions can really do justice to the experience of the powerful presence of nature at Te Moata.
The land itself is 344 hectares, protected by a covenant since 1987 and covered in regenerating native bush with the two dominant species being rewarewa and kamahi, with nearly 200 species of plants having been recorded. There are still original remnants of the magnificent Podocarps which once reigned in the area: rimu, totara and kahikatea and three large groves of re-growing kauri. The land form is a volcanic caldera, and the views from the ridgeline of the caldera are breath-taking. Three healthy streams are dominant features of the landscape.
The sacredness of the land speaks. Visitors and guests at Te Moata are consistently touched by the special qualities it evokes. A sustainable future for Te Moata includes integrating our spiritual and conservation values by adopting an environmental restoration and protection plan to ensure the health of this precious environment.
With the support of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, an ecological survey was conducted at Te Moata (Footprint Enterprises, April 2008). The surveyor reported “a remarkable diversity of small habitats, micro niches and micro-climates contributing to the rich tapestry of flora”. Two distinct wetlands areas were identified, along with several threatened species that require urgent management to protect their futures.
Threatened Species at Te Moata
Found only in New Zealand, prehistoric Hochstetter frogs (genus Leiopelma) are among the most ancient and primitive frogs in the world. These native frogs are listed as “vulnerable” nationally and are a Category B threatened species. Several Hochstetter frogs were located at Te Moata during the eco-survey.
Classified as “sparse”, fernbirds (Bowdleria punctata) are native birds inhabiting dense thickets near wetland areas. Fernbirds nest on one of Te Moata’s ridges.
Areas of high biological productivity and diversity, wetlands provide important habitats for wildlife and plants. Wetland areas are becoming increasingly rare worldwide and already 85-90% of New Zealand’s wetlands have been lost. Two distinct and previously unrecognised wetlands were found at Te Moata, one with rare swamp maire.
Endangered, rare, and threatened plants found at Te Moata include:
Tree Daisy (Brachyglottis myrianthos);
Kawaka (Libocedrus plumosa);
Gumland Orchid (Corunastylis pumila);
Kauri Orchid (Diplodium brunalis);
Swamp Maire (Eugenia maire)
Kiwi at Te Moata
Two regional KiwiCare groups, Whenuakite and Kapowai, have enjoyed real success in protecting kiwi in the areas around Te Moata. The kiwi population in the land under their care more than trebled between surveys in 2001 and 2012. This is the biggest annual increase in kiwi population anywhere in New Zealand. Te Moata’s predator control also plays a key role in supporting protection for kiwi throughout the region and as evidenced by our own surveys, Te Moata is becoming a natural haven for an expanding kiwi population.
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Threats to Te Moata’s Flora and Fauna
Despite the diverse habitats and apparently flourishing regenerating bush at Te Moata, animal pests seriously threaten our native flora and fauna. Mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels), rats and possums contribute to a low level of bird-life in many areas of the bush. Ground nests, eggs, and chicks are all ravaged by these non-native predators. Rats and mice also eat the seeds of native plant species. Damage from wild pigs was evident on much of the land during the ecological survey in 2008. Pigs rooting among native tree seedlings and rare plants threaten their survival. Pigs also disturb the water quality of the streams upon which the Hochstetter frogs depend.
The land of Te Moata has been a under a Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant since 1987.
The land of Te Moata being under this covenant gives the Charitable Trust a responsibility to protect native species within the covenant. The Trust embraced this responsibility more fully in 2009 with our vision to become “A Sanctuary for People, A Sanctuary for Nature”.
One of the main responsibilities that come with this vision is control of non-native predators.
The Charitable Trust’s Commitment
The Charitable Trust will continue to apply to appropriate funding bodies to extend its conservation land management to give maximum protection for the biodiversity of Te Moata in the environmentally safest and most humane way that funds allow.
Brief history of land management since the mid 90’s
Te Moata has had some pest control in place since the mid 1990s. After the 2008 ecological survey, Environment Waikato supplied 100 more bait stations. Half of these were installed and filled in August 2008, with the help of Wayne Todd who did the ecological survey and several Te Moata volunteers. These were regularly re-filled in the spring and autumn of the following years by managers and volunteers.
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There have been several successful funding applications in the ensuing years, two to the Biodiversity Condition Fund (A Dept of Conservation body), which funded the clearing of two new tracks in 2009: one through a central area of the covenant (this being quite remote from the retreat centre and buildings) and another new track which runs through the Manui Basin, an area of significant wetlands and uncommon species. Also the installation of mustelid traps along these tracks. These mustelid traps have been serviced monthly since this time by our dedicated managers.
A second application to the BCF in 2011 was made for the latest humane re-setting possum, mustelid and rodent traps (known as “Henry traps”, designed and produced by a small NZ company). Eight of the possum “Henrys” have already been installed, and several more are soon to be installed.
The Waikato Regional Council “Small Scale Community Initiative Fund”(SSCIF) provided $5000 worth of environmentally safe toxins for possum and rodent control which was used throughout 2012/13. Te Moata is extremely grateful for these much-needed boosts to our available funds for conservation land management. Another application to the SSCIF fund has been made in 2014 for up to 21 more Henry traps for the three main predators: possums, mustelids and rats.
There has been a noticeable increase in birdlife with all this extra pest control in place. Native pied tits are now frequently seen in various parts of the bush, including areas quite close to the main centre. There have also been increased sightings and more pairs of fern birds heard. We are delighted to now be graced by the increased presence of kereru (native pigeons), and have been excited to hear kiwi with increasing regularity since 2010, some even in the home valley!!
A more regular pig-hunting regime has been in place in recent years, and pig damage is gradually reducing in severity.
Much valuable work has also been carried out in recent years by managers and volunteers reducing the noxious weed presence at Te Moata, with literally ute loads of noxious weed waste leaving the property.
Te Moata has been exceedingly fortunate to have such commitment and sheer hard work from its managers Dave Saunders and Jessie Birss (also David and Kaia Kohout who have joined the management team) in carrying out so much of this conservation work, and in coordinating our flow of keen international WOOFERS (Willing Workers on Organic Farms).
From Te Moata’s inception, taking the life of any creature has been (and continues to be) an ethical quandary for many of the “guardians” of Te Moata. However, without control of non-native species, the precious biodiversity of this land would indeed be under severe threat, and Te Moata wouldn’t be a sanctuary for our native species.
If you would like to be involved as a volunteer in Te Moata’s land restoration project please contact us