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It’s not easy being green, especially in the food biz. New Zealand sends more than 150,000 tonnes of food to the bin every year, and 1.7 billion plastic containers – including all those single-use drink bottles and takeaway boxes.
But across the country, there are winemakers, craft breweries, food producers and restaurants who are investing in practices and philosophies that effect change – from reducing food waste to lowering diners’ footprints, to upskilling youth in the community.
Here is our pick of places to visit on your next getaway.
Māha Restaurant, Northland
Māha is located in the Wharepuke Subtropical Garden and Sculpture Park, by Kerikeri’s historic Stone Store. Originally a citrus orchard, the land is now a subtropical garden popular with visitors. The produce served at Māha is all local – from the meat to the milk, Māha works with Northland’s best producers to bring fresh seasonal produce to diners’ tables.
The Falls, Coromandel
Set deep in the Karangahake Gorge, just off the Hauraki Rail Trail, The Falls Retreat offers an award-winning bistro where visitors can receive an education as well as a meal. Most of what they serve comes straight out of the garden and from the land. They also barter with local producers to bring in the best of the Coromandel. During the days, The Falls run gardening, composting, pickling and fermenting workshops – visitors can learn to make bread, kombucha or pasta, or how to grow organic vegetables or manage a worm farm. Or just head straight to the restaurant and enjoy the fruits of their labours.
There are no choices to make chef/owner Ed Verner’s award-winning restaurant – diners enjoy an ever-evolving seasonal menu that you will not find online or elsewhere. Pasture is all about nose-to-tail , work with only line-caught fish, and do their own preserving, curing and even cheesemaking. Because the menu is set, this restaurant isn’t suitable for vegetarians or diners with dietary requirements. Once you get a seat, (there are only six available), you’ll be treated to three hours of exceptional dining, with drinks pairings should you choose.
Citizen Collective, Auckland
Millions of loaves of bread are chucked out from New Zealand homes and businesses every year. So Citizen Collective have set out to make use of what would otherwise go to waste. Their pale ales and pilsners make use of leftover bread (and they upcycle the plastic bags as well, and then bake the grain from the brew into bread). The philosophy is all about reduce food waste, reworking leftovers into low-impact food and drink, and they’ve set a goal to be a zero emission business by 2020. Cheers to that.
Hastings Distillers, Hastings
Hastings Distillers is the first to produce organic spirits and liqueurs in New Zealand. With a winemaking background, the family team behind the distillery use only organic and biodynamic botanicals (both foraged and grown) in their gins and aperitifs. Visit their beautiful tasting room in Heretaunga St to sample the range; an eau de vie (a clear fruit brandy) is due out later this year.
Wholegrain Organics, Manawatū
Palmerston North’s Wholegrain Organics is a business and charity in one. On site, they make pasta, bread and pizza bases to go, as well as carob bars, nut butters and muesli, and serve an organic vegan menu too; the focus is on healthy wholefoods.
Profits are then used to sponsor the Hands-On Food programme – which teaches young people from schools around Palmy to farm, bake and cook nutritious sustainable food. This food is served in the cafe and supplied to other cafes and organic stores around New Zealand – plus they deliver nationwide.
At Ecovilla, guests stay in a beautiful heritage villa in central Christchurch, with grand private rooms, and shared facilities. EcoVilla has an eco philosophy, and this extends to their food. In the morning, guests gather for the shared zero-waste breakfast – homemade nut milks and granolas, fresh eggs, home baked bread – and anything bought comes in reusable or without packaging. Lunch and dinner are self-catering, and guests are invited to wander the vegetable and herb gardens out back – pick what takes your fancy, and cook it up in the beautifully restored kitchen inside. All food waste is composted or fed to the worms. Ecovilla closes over winter and will reopen in October.
Central Otago has the highest proportion of organic/biodynamic vineyards in NZ, with around 15 per cent of the region’s vineyard land certified, so take a tour of the cellar doors to sample some of the best. The Four Barrels Walking Wine Trail is a good place to start – a loop of four wineries in an 8km loop track. Grab a map (available from Misha’s) and walk between Misha’s, Aurum, Wooing Tree and Scott Base, tasting at each one ($30 for the lot).