We started in 1998 as a group of people who came together out of concern over the potential genetic modification of food in New Zealand. Our response was to create the Organic Food Cooperative in 1999. Within six months the cooperative involved 350 families. From 2000 to 2004, we ran the New Zealand Organic Food and Wine Festivals in the Historic Precinct of Oamaru. In the following three years, we ran a local Organic Farmers' Market. Throughout both of these projects we hosted talks and workshops by top speakers from around the country on issues related to sustainability and local resilience.
In 2006, Professor Ric Sibson of the University of Otago Geology Department came to Oamaru and discussed the threats and opportunities of Peak Oil. The urgency of this problem altered our focus to addressing these threats and introduced us to the Transition Town Initiative.
Due to the abundance of artisans, craftspeople and permaculture enthusiasts in the district we chose to focus our project on the fostering and continuation of these sustainable skills. The first Sustainable Skills Summer School was held in January 2011 and was a great success. We are now in our seventh year of organising the Summer School, which runs from 21st January until 5th February 2017.