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Hare Krishna girls from Wellington did the cooking

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Volunteers pour in ahead of festival



By JODY O'CALLAGHAN - Manawatu Standard | Thursday, 15 January 2009


Low-budget and highly motivated WWOOFers have inundated Levin.


Volunteers from the New Zealand- founded network Willing Workers on Organic Farms, have arrived from all over the world for the annual Organic River Festival.


About 70 to 80 travellers set up camp in Kimberley Reserve for the week - the largest gathering of WWOOFers ever.


Organic River Festival founder and director Malcolm Hadlum, who uses the volunteers at his fruit winery, said that the nine-year-old festival would be impossible without the hardworking foreigners.


It started with a small advertisement in the official WWOOFers book, which lists the 1000 host members, he said.


"Before I knew it we were inundated with dozens of them."


It cost him $6000 to $7000 to feed the large group of travellers, but a group of Hare Krishna girls from Wellington did the cooking, he said.


The WWOOFers' duties involved clearing shrubs, pitching marquees, designing decorations out of wood and recycled fabrics, cooking, washing dishes, security and co- ordinating parking.


Stacey Barlow, 22, of Manchester, England, said she loved the atmosphere even though she was used to bigger festivals back home.


Travelling alone, it was a good way to meet lots of people in a true Kiwi setting, she said while making a toadstool out of sticks and fabric.


Pia Stein, 23, from Berlin, Germany, loved the contrast between her busy home and the "relaxed" camping way.


Despite working a full 10 hour-day - double the normal WWOOF requirement - it was perfect on a low budget and fun, she said.


"You don't know who's going to show up."


Maaike Vincken, 21, a tailor from Holland, came from a WWOOFing placement at a lavender farm in Otaki to work at the festival.


"I just wanted to get back to the basic stuff, physical work outside."


It was a great way to travel, although sharing sleeping space with about 30 people in a large tent was a different experience, Ms Vincken said.


WWOOF New Zealand director Andrew Strange said it was the biggest crowd of signed-up members to work in the one place at one time - and he did not envy whoever had to do all the delegating.


"It must be a fairly good mission to sort all that out."


WWOOFers and organisers were handed over the mana (authority over the Kimberley Reserve) by the local iwi, Muaupoko, in a powhiri last night.


The iwi is involved with the festival and the ceremony aimed to respect cultural protocol.

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