IN all his 65 years, former Kiama deputy mayor Ben van der Wijngaart says he has never worked so hard.
But his efforts to build a sustainable community as director of the Atamai eco-Village in New Zealand are reaping rewards.
"We have 10 families at the moment, 12 by next January/February," he said.
"We had 80 people to the open day and quite a lot were interested. In fact, three families were interested in buying a lot."
Among those set to join the village is Nicole Foss, an expert on peak oil and finance.
"She said there were only two places in the world with the right understanding on what's needed to be done," Mr van der Wijngaart said.
"One is a place in Ireland, which is a permaculture village like ours, and the other one is Atamai.
"It's a wonderful compliment to us."
The former Greens councillor said the village had changed dramatically since he made the somewhat controversial relocation three years into the previous council term. Fellow former councillor Monique Dare-Ward later made the same move.
"Where we're living, the road wasn't even finished," he said.
"At the ripe-ish age of 65, I can say I've never worked harder in my life, and I've worked pretty hard."
Aiming for carbon neutrality, the village uses solar power and harnesses methane from waste to power cooking stoves.
Infrastructure is engineered beyond design requirements to cater for higher future rainfall due to climate change.
It produces its own fruit, vegetables and eggs, and expects to have its own dairy herd by this time next year.
"We're proving you can live comfortably with a lot less of a carbon footprint," Mr van der Wijngaart said.
"I suppose one thing I'm saying is stop thinking of buying a Prius and using Bokashi bins; it's not going to cut it when things get tough.
"People need to bite the bullet and have much less consumption.
"Buying more stuff is not the solution, it's about reducing your footprint and doing more stuff yourself."
Mr van der Wijngaart said he missed Kiama, with artworks by artists from the area reminding him of his time there.
"What I miss most is the Australian bird noises - Australian birds are unique," he said.
"But we also don't have snakes and spiders, so you can run through the long grass and not have to worry."
The eco village in Motueka is searching for people with building and nursery experience.