Recently I was privileged to be invited to speak at a conference in Wanganui called ‘A Place to Live’. I was asked to speak about why I have chosen to locate my business and my life in the regions rather than a main centre. Here is a copy of what I said:
My name is Georgina and I have a business called Archeus, which was a termed coined in the 16th century to mean the vital force in Nature, man and the universe. I handcraft natural skin care and healing products for humans and for animals.
I grew up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. As an only child it was nature I escaped to, building huts, exploring the bush and the old pa sites at the back of the farm, looking after pets, watching seasons change and working on the farm.
Then as soon as I could, I took off overseas and for the next 25 years I built a life and professional career in Europe. But in my mind I often returned to those Hawkes Bay hills. That early connection with Nature they gave me fuelled a passion for learning about herbal medicine, how nature can heal.
During my time overseas I worked for the United Nations Environment Programme with Pavan Sukhdev on TEEB study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. The TEEB study and the team of scientists, ecologists, economists and so on set out to show how the health of the environment has a profound impact on the health of the economy.
I found myself increasingly engaging with businesses that were taking steps towards addressing environmental issues and at the UN this was on a global reach. It was all pretty formative. It really made me want to establish a business that could build on my private passion for, and studies in, herbal medicine and healing but could walk the talk of the work I had done with the UN. I thought about doing this in Europe, but those Hawke’s Bay hills kept tugging at me and so I made plans to return. My lucky break came when the UN said I could relocate to NZ and continue my work for them from here.
I returned to Hawke’s Bay and juggled my UN work with building my vision and laying the groundwork for the future shape and form of my company. Life never goes in a straight line though and after a year and a half I moved to Wellington and it was there in 2013 that Archeus was finally launched. But I knew that my vision was not an urban one.
My vision and company ethos is deeply rooted in a sense of place and a commitment to minimising negative impacts on the environment. Archeus isn’t just about making products, it’s about growing medicinal plants, managing land in a way that ensures ecological resilience and creates havens for biodiversity, and ensuring that ecosystem impacts and dependencies are factored into all Archeus decisions. Furthermore, I wanted Archeus to give back to Nature from the outset and so I established a Raukawa Tree conservation project in Hawke’s Bay – which is inspired by the Raukawa district I grew up in and the cultural relevance of that area and that tree to Maori.
Trying to do this business from the city posed far more challenges than setting out to do it in Hawkes Bay. And to be honest I didn’t return to New Zealand to live in a city. If I was so keen on city life I would have stayed in the cities of Europe or New York.
For me, Archeus needs to be deeply rooted to the land. I need to be able to manage and account for the way that land is managed. I want to be able to show my customers how Nature works from seed, to plant, to product.
Hawke’s Bay is a fantastic place to live, and from a business perspective it has some truly great qualities – you get more bang for your buck in terms of real estate, it has terrific transport links by road, air and the port. Its attractions such as wineries, beaches and festivals make it a compelling tourism destination.
There are excellent services for land-based business ventures and it has the climate and conditions for growing things. But for me it has something else – it gave me so much as I was growing up, and for me it feels right to come back and try to build a business that will in turn give back to nature and contribute to the region.
I feel that locating in HB ensures that not only can I put my notions of ecological sustainability into practice, but I am also using every bit of my life experience to make my vision real. Nothing is wasted – I feel connected to this landscape, I know how it works in way I couldn’t possibly know anywhere else. The love of animals I had as a child has now manifested into my Anima line for animals and the studies I am now doing in equine herbal medicine make sense here in way they never could in Wellington.
And creating the Raukawa tree conservation project here has been a way of saying thank you to the hills, the bush and the pa sites that nurtured me. This is my turangawaewae.
I don’t think of this as regional I just think of it as this is where I am meant to be.