Save Foulden Maar – with guest Andrea Bosshard

Years ago, I visited Blackhead, a geological outcrop that lies just beyond St Clair in Dunedin. For many people, it’s better known as Blackhead Quarry, that supplies gravel made from pulverised columnar basalt rock. It’s certainly not a place to visit on a Sunday afternoon. Or is it?

In Northern Ireland where I am originally from, there are columnar basalt rocks too – but they haven’t turned them into gravel. Instead, the area was declared a World Heritage Site and a nature reserve, a Visitor centre was built, and a million people visited it in 2017 alone. I’m talking about The Giant’s Causeway, arguably the biggest tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.

But here in Dunedin, Blackhead was made into a Quarry.

I want to give you an idea of how special Blackhead possibly could have been. I found this online from a Geocaching group’s website.

In Dunedin in 1867 the well-known rambler Pakeha (Peter Thompson ) admired the columns at Blackhead (then called “Green Island Peninsula”). His article in the Otago Witness 25 October 1867 says:

… The base of the hill is composed of a magnificent range of basaltic columns, standing erect, of much larger size than the beds above, quite as complete as those of Fingal’s Cave at Staffa, or the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Indeed, the rocks here are as worthy of a visit as either of these Old Country lions and there is no doubt, were they as well known, they would be equally famed.

So now you understand my surprise, and my horror at seeing what has been done to Blackhead. There’s still a remnant of it left, but it’s not a place we’d recommend visitors to go see.

Of course I’m not saying this to promote Northern Ireland over New Zealand. Northern Ireland has plenty of its own foibles!

I’m bringing this up because today’s show is about another geological treasure near Middlemarch in Central Otago called Foulden Maar, a small but very deep 23 million year old volcanic crater that contains layers of beautifully preserved fossils.  If you are from Dunedin you will have heard of it by now if you read the papers or listen to the news, because its future is in peril from being mined for its diatomite. [But see latest developments!

My guest for this show is Andrea Bosshard here to tell us about the site, why it is particularly precious, what is threatening it, and what we can do to save it. Andrea has thrown her heart and soul into this campaign and has been key in raising its profile. She is a filmmaker, making the well appreciated Coby, along with Shane Loader. She’s currently living in Dunedin as well as near Middlemarch where they are building their small eco-friendly house.

Listen to this programme on FOULDEN MAAR

FOULDEN MAAR was first aired on the 7th June 2019 through Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM and was supported by Sustainable Dunedin City with the assistance of New Zealand on Air. Eco Living in Action’s host Dr Maureen Howard is a Sustainable Practice Educator at Treedom NZ


Andrea Bosshard, Campaigner to Save Foulden Maar


Why we need good curtains – with guest Sara Crow, Dunedin Curtain Bank

This might be a mild winter but there’s still a wintry chill in the air. And my wonderful woodburner has been getting good exercise pumping out some toasty warmth in the evenings. But where is that heat going? One exit point is out the window and the big solution there is to have a good well fitted curtain.

As well as keeping us warm, curtains are also good for the planet – as we can stay warmer with less firewood and less electricity.

Unfortunately good curtains are expensive! So we’re lucky in Dunedin to have the Dunedin Curtain Bank to help people in the community who are on a tight budget to get good quality curtains. And the eco-bonus is that they are reducing waste to land fill because these curtains are made from material that has been diverted from the landfill.

On this show I spoke with Dunedin Curtain Bank Manager Sara Crow. Sara has brought many new initiatives to the organisation and it is going from strength to strength, providing more curtains each year to families who need them.

I’m keen to ask Sara about how we can get these curtains, where they are coming from, how we can fit and use our curtains to best effect, what other services are available from the Dunedin Curtain Bank, and how we can help other people stay warm this winter.

Listen to this programme on CURTAINS

CURTAINS was first aired on the 30th May 2019 through Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM and was supported by Sustainable Dunedin City with the assistance of New Zealand on Air. Eco Living in Action’s host Dr Maureen Howard is a Sustainable Practice Educator at Treedom NZ

Sara Work

Sara Crow, Dunedin Curtain Bank Manager


Why we need Transition Engineering for a low carbon future – with Susan Krumdieck

What is Transitional Engineering and how we can use existing technology to move our society away from a fossil fuel dependent culture? My guest is Professor Susan Krumdieck from the College of Engineering at the University of Canterbury. Susan has carried out research on every type of renewable and alternative energy technology, and sustainable energy systems. She’s also interested in research in energy transition of buildings, cities, transportation and freight. She has a keen interest in Dunedin. I remember reading her excellent Peak Oil Vulnerability Assessment for Dunedin report published in 2011 that was commissioned by the Dunedin City Council.

In this show I find out more about engineering solutions that will help transition us to a low carbon economy. Given the speed at which change needs to occur, what is possible to do rapidly? What kinds of systems will be feasible to operate in a future low carbon energy world? And why mining for yet more fossil fuels needs to stop.

My phonecall with Susan was recorded on the 22nd May 2019

Listen to this programme on TRANSITIONAL ENGINEERING

TRANSITIONAL ENGINEERING was first aired on the 24th May 2019 through Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM and was supported by Sustainable Dunedin City with the assistance of New Zealand on Air. Eco Living in Action’s host Dr Maureen Howard is a Sustainable Practice Educator at Treedom NZ

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Dairy Farming Differently – with guest David Diprose

The dairy industry has profoundly changed our rural New Zealand landscape; replacing cows with sheep, extracting water to green the land, adding nitrates to waterways, and significantly contributing to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.  My guest David Diprose is a dairy farmer who is modelling better environmental practices with two herds in Southland. Better practices include riparian planting and fencing of waterways, no irrigation, less fertilizers and supporting family farms. Keen to share his perspectives, David is the Chair of the Purakinu Catchment Group, as well as a committee member of the Three Rivers Catchment Group and he has recently joined Te Ao Marama – a runanga created entity that looks at the water and land, and feeds advice on policy, procedures and perspectives to assist legislation. I caught up with David at the Permaculture Hui in Riverton on the 6th April 2019, at which he was one of the guest speakers.

Listen to this programme on DAIRY FARMING

DAIRY FARMING was first aired on the 11th April 2019 through Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM and was supported by Sustainable Dunedin City with the assistance of New Zealand on Air. Eco Living in Action’s host Dr Maureen Howard is a Sustainable Practice Educator at Treedom NZ

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David Diprose

Urban Trapping of Introduced Possums – with guest Kate Tanner

Our native flora and fauna did not evolve alongside mammals which is one of the reasons they are particularly vulnerable to mammalian predators such rats, stoats and yes even hedgehogs and possums.

Although we brought these mammals here, the only thing that is now protecting most of our native birds from being killed and eaten – is us! Today’s programme is about the urban trapping programme that is being carried out by the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Trust. It’s an ambitious project to free the Otago Peninsula of introduced possums so that nature can better flourish once again. With determination, funding and a lot of people power it increasingly seems to be an achievable goal. On this show, I am keen to talk to Kate Tanner their Volunteer Coordinator about what she does, and how we can get involved.

You can listen to this programme on URBAN TRAPPING HERE

URBAN TRAPPING was first aired on the 30th August 2018 through Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM and was supported by Taste Nature  with the assistance of New Zealand on Air. Eco Living in Action’s host Maureen Howard is a Sustainable Practice Educator and Communicator at Treedom NZ





Waste Free Xmas Gifts – with guest Gina Dempster

By Maureen Howard at Treedom NZ

Christmas gets earlier every year it seems. I don’t want to wish us into  premature manic xmas mode with all the waste that it usually entails. However I don’t think it’s too early to think about pressies for xmas especially if you are posting overseas. Is it possible to give waste free gifts? Or at least gifts that involve very little waste ending up in the landfill? This week I’ve got Gina Dempster live on the phone to chat about Waste Free Gifts for Christmas.

Gina Dempster is Wanaka Waste Busters communications officer.

First aired on Otago Access Radio on 22nd November 2018.



Building with adobe and brick – with Seth and Cris Phillips

This radio show comes to you from the city of Guanajuato where I stayed for over a week while travelling south from the US. Guanajuato is a small, beautiful, historic city set in the Mexican highlands of Guanajuato municipality.  It was declared a World heritage Site in 1988 by UNESCO due to its unique history and arctitecture.

My guests for this show are Seth Phillips and Anna Cristina Marin Fonseca. Seth and Cris have created a unique lifestyle here, renovating their home which is on an 820sqm property, very large for here in the city. In this space they’ve established  approximately 40 fruit trees, have hens and have implemented a range of permaculture/sustainable living actions – such as greywater for the fruit trees, rabbits that cut and fertilise their grass, worm farms that feed their fruit trees, and a humanure composting toilet.

Join me as I talk to Seth and Cris about their adoble house which has been part renovated and part built from materials from the property. In particular Seth has developed a new technique of combining brick and reinforced cement with adobe blocks to create strong and breathable adobe walls.

On the property they have built another dwelling for rental so if you like the sound of this place you are welcome to come stay!

This show was recorded on the 30th July 2017

To listen to this programme about BUILDING WITH ADOBE AND BRICK please click on

(If you want to listen to this show and the link is not working – please let me know! We endeavour to re-air our older popular shows on request.)

This show was originally broadcast on the 17th August 2017 with the help of Otago Access Radio 105.4FM. Eco Living in Action is sponsored by Sustainable Dunedin City.

Cris and Seth Phillips with their daughter Katia

Seth has combined brick with the adobe walls using a unique method (as far as he knows). The bricks provide strength and adhere well to both adobe and to concrete.

Exterior of Seth and Cris’ adobe and brick home.








Humanure composting system in foreground. Hen run in the background.











This homemade solar oven can be swivelled manually to follow the sun. Cris is a keen cook who uses little electiricy, instead using the power of the sun. She makes everthing from scratch including grinding and processing the corn for their tamales. You’re very unliley to find any packaging in this house.





Solar dehydrator

Cris loves cooking with her insulated box oven. Food is brought up to temperature on the hob or the outdoor solar oven and then placed in the insulated ‘haybox’ to continue cooking.