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Ōtaki Summer Camp is for young people who care about political issues and ideas. It is a chance to hear and discuss interesting ideas, meet and get to know others who care, and explore local mountains, forests and rivers with experienced guides.

This three-day summer camp is open to anyone aged 17 – 30 years old (though if you are a bit outside this age range and would like to come, you are welcome to get in touch with us).

Some assume young people in New Zealand don’t care about politics, yet many young people care deeply about the issues affecting Aotearoa and the world. It is more correct to say young people have felt ignored and left out of politics.

The camp will be welcoming, fun, and safe – we have deliberately kept the price as low as possible.

All we ask is that people arrive in time for the Friday night festivities, treat other attendees with respect, and follow our code of conduct.

Political summer camps are not a new idea and have played an important role in New Zealand’s history.

An annual “congress” was held at Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds from 1949 until the 1970s. Organised by the New Zealand University Students Association, it “endeavour[ed] to obtain the best speakers in various fields of knowledge and thought.”

In the 1970s, two more influential political youth conferences were held in Ōtaki. In both cases, many of those present went on to play important roles in the life and politics of New Zealand.

In 2017/18, a group came together to breathe new life into the political camp tradition, and Ōtaki Summer Camp was born. After the enormous success of the first camp, we hope you’ll join us for the second in January 2019, which we think will be even better.

Final night at the Curious Cove summer university congress run by N.Z.U.S.A in 1971 (Alexander Turnbull Library)
Summer University Congress in 1971 (Alexander Turnbull Library)
Rafting in the Marlborough Sounds at Curious Cove in in 1971 (Alexander Turnbull Library)

Our organisers are volunteers who have been involved personally in issues of justice, free speech and the environment. Their vision is to see Ōtaki Summer Camp become an annual event.

Adrian Leason

Adrian is a teacher and peace campaigner based in sunny Ōtaki where he lives on an organic farm.

Nicky Hager

Nicky is the author of a range of books covering politics, intelligence, military and environmental issues.

Emily Menkes

Emily is a researcher and journalist. She is part of the New Zealand Centre for Investigative Journalism and has worked at media outlets, universities and NGOs across the world.

Kimberley Collins

Kimberley is a science communicator, a conservationist, and a campaigner. She is passionate about raising awareness for environmental issues and telling stories about Aotearoa’s wildlife and wild places.

Mary Fisher

Mary is a paralympian who lives in Wellington. She is a member of the Access Alliance, working towards a more accessible and equitable Aotearoa.

Mark Callagher

Mark has been a secondary teacher and now works for an educational technology company. He has an interest in history, along with political and social justice.

Johanna Knox

Johanna’s books include A Forager’s Treasury and Guardians of Aotearoa. She’s a past editor of Forest & Bird’s Wild Things magazine, and has a longstanding commitment to LGBTQIA+ issues.

Harry Berger

Harry attended Summer Camp last year while in his final year as a student. He now works in the public sector, and views the camp as crucial for developing and uniting activists.

Hanneke Lewthwaite

Hanneke is a doctor at Wellington Hospital with an interest in health and environment issues, and is currently living at Berrigan Catholic Worker House in Wellington.