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. We hope you’ll join us for the next one!

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.

Emily Rosenthal

Emily is a justice advocate and investigative researcher based in Pōneke. She has taught and worked in non-profits, universities and media outlets across Aotearoa and the world. 

Nicky Hager

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

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.

Hannah Higgison

Hannah is a student at Victoria University at Wellington, studying for a BA in Sociology and Te Reo Māori. She cares about making politics and activism inclusive and accessible for people of all ages. 

Ollie Neas

Ollie is a journalist and barrister living in Wellington with an interest in political issues.

Hanneke Lewthwaite

Hanneke is a doctor living in Ōtaki, with an interest in health and environment issues.