“ Even the smallest change, when done by a lot of people, can add up to be big change.” – Debbi Brainerd, owner and operator at The Headwaters Eco Lodge


The travel industry is creating many sustainability solutions. But what do they look like in practice? On the Travel Beyond podcast, we’re returning to Queenstown Lakes to find out, and we’ll share lessons and inspiration that travel leaders and passionate communities everywhere can learn from. So hop in for a tour this season through some of the most innovative and exciting solutions this region of Aoetearoa New Zealand has to offer.

Our first stop is The Headwaters Eco Lodge, where owner and operator Debbi Brainerd led Rodney Payne through the lodge’s climate-conscious operations, including its net-positive-energy systems. They explore what makes the lodge a leader in managing its environmental impact, and how it inspires local communities to make bigger change happen. 

In 2023, the Queenstown Lakes region made a bold commitment to achieve carbon zero in its visitor economy by 2030. This vision was guided by the Destination Management Plan (DMP), ‘Travel to a Thriving Future,’ which the Destination Think team played a lead role in developing. 

Decarbonization is no small feat, and the clock is ticking. Join us as we explore the solutions already happening in Queenstown Lakes. We’ll introduce you to some of the region’s most exciting projects, guided by the leaders turning the community’s dreams into reality.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why The Headwaters Eco Lodge is one of the world’s leading examples of sustainable accommodations, and how it’s inspiring the surrounding communities.
  • How the lodge generates more power than it produces.
  • About the regenerative vision for tourism and why the lodge was built under the stringent standards of the Living Building Challenge.
  • Why Bhutan’s tourism leadership has inspired Debbi and her work. 



This season will bring you the impactful solutions shaping the possibilities of sustainable travel. Stay tuned for Queenstown Lakes’ remarkable journey toward a decarbonized future.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast player to join us on this journey.

Show notes

The Headwaters Eco Lodge – One of the world’s leading examples of sustainable accommodations, located in Glenorchy, New Zealand. 

Travel to a Thriving Future – Queenstown Lakes’ regenerative tourism plan co-developed with Destination Think.


Episode transcript

Debbi Brainerd: So the tui bird, oh my gosh, they have this beautiful white throttle on their neck, and they make the most glorious sound. And once you hear one, you’ll never forget it. There will be a little bit about the tui inside on an interpretive panel in your room. 

We really believe that every act of design and construction can actually make the world a better place.

Rodney Payne: I’m really excited to go and show everyone what you’ve built, because I’ve had the privilege of being here for two nights, and I think I’ve thought about it a disproportionate amount of time since I left. 

David Archer: Among Queenstown Lake’s many innovations in sustainable travel, Headwaters Eco Lodge is one business that rises to the top. Today, we’re bringing you on a special tour through the lodge’s climate-conscious solutions that are delighting visitors and inspiring the region to reach carbon zero by 2030. So buckle up and enjoy the ride. 

I’m David Archer, and this is Travel Beyond. Debbie Brainerd and her husband Paul opened Headwaters Eco Lodge in 2018 as a prime example of sustainable solutions in travel. The lodge is the first-ever accommodation facility designed and certified to the stringent standards of the Living Building Challenge.

The lodge uses less water and energy than other accommodations, reclaimed and non-toxic materials are apparent throughout the design, and the lodge even generates its own solar electricity, selling the surplus back into the power grid. 

And some travel leaders in the area might also think of the lodge as the room where it happened. It’s the place where the idea of committing the visitor economy to reaching carbon zero by 2030 was first introduced to the community. Following that meeting, the goal was adopted as a key focus of the region’s destination management plan released in 2023 called Travel to a Thriving Future, which the Destination Think team played a lead role in developing.

This is a big ambition, so you might wonder what actions are behind it. And over the next series of episodes, we’re going to bring you some of the Queenstown Lakes region’s most exciting solutions in sustainability, and the people whose travel projects are making those dreams come true. Today, Debbi Brainerd takes Rodney Payne and some other team members on a tour to give us a peek behind the curtain into those solutions and others.

Here we go!


Rodney Payne: I’m really excited for the tour, and I want to ask you lots of questions about this because I think that what you’ve done here has shown people in the district what’s possible.

And I think we’ve been talking a lot about possibilities to try and unpack what’s happened here. And the fear of change or the fear of doing things differently is often quickly overcome if you can show people the way. And that’s sort of leadership.

So let’s, let’s go have a look, and you can talk to us a little bit about that as we do.

Debbi Brainerd: Great. Yeah. Thank you. 

 So, this is the entrance to our reception desk for Camp Glenorchy or the Headwaters Lodge at Camp Glenorchy. We’ve used a lot of local talent, craftspeople, artists, to create many installations here that, are part of what we consider to be the charm of being in a small community like this.

So on the right, on my right here, we’ve got this beautiful installation by Corinne and Tor, um, who are local artists here in town. They have a glass business in their art studio. 

And then as you see on this pathway here, this is a stone mosaic pathway that was done by Jeffrey Bale, who is an internationally recognized landscape artist. He created this from all the rocks in the Dart and the Reese River, which are just behind us coming around Mount Alfred on each side. And he cut them in half and then installed them to create what we call the Braided River Pathway.

 It smells like, it smells like coffee in here. Smells so good. 

Rodney Payne: Cool, hey? 

Debbi Brainerd: The good news is, this is the time of day when no one’s here because they’re out hiking. So if you come into our dining room, the whole idea here is to be able to have a community experience. And so we’ve set it up so that the dining, you can either choose to be by yourself at your own table. Or you can join others who are travelling because we find that when we travel, we love meeting people from other parts of the world, or the locals, which we have a lot of locals who come here for dinner as well.

And then the art that we’ve selected for in our dining room is a combination of New Zealand artists, like, for example, this art on my left was created from old fence posts off a farm on the North Island. 

Rodney Payne: Debbie, the materials that have been used to construct the lodge. Can you tell us about those? 

Debbi Brainerd: So as you look around all our spaces in what we call this homestead building, the walls are all quite different, and none of them match. And that’s because when we were building the project, uh, or actually before we were building, we had several farmers call us and say I’m taking down an old wool shed and I heard that you want to use reclaimed timber. 

So we went over to three different wool sheds that were being taken down Brought back the timber and then just kept it on site for a couple of years while we got ready to build So then when we finally got to this space we looked at, like, 30 piles of different kinds of wood, and then we just had a playtime, deciding what’s going to go where.

So, there was no really rhyme or reason, other than we just used our intuition at which walls got which wood, and then how those would relate to each other. And I think it turned out quite lovely because it is quite quirky and fun.

So the artwork in here has a bit of a Uh, educational opportunity because what we’ve done is we’ve framed two pieces on this wall that tell a bit of the story. 

So over here, when we ask people to visit, um, what we call the Welcome to Camp Glenorchy sign, this shows the power that’s generated from solar, our photovoltaic panels, which run the entire operation here, and we do have a lot of batteries, so we’re able to conserve during the day and then use that power at night. And then we also highlight a lot of the aspects of what has allowed us to become a net-positive energy site.

So, we have, um, constructed the cabins with SIP panels, which if you’re familiar with those, they’re highly insulated. And, we’ve also used a lot of recycled materials that have allowed us to give the character to the place. So it doesn’t look so contemporary that it feels cold and austere.

The other piece I would just point out on this sign is that it talks about how we use 50 percent less water than traditional hotels or accommodations. And primarily, that’s due to all the conservation taps that are here, but we’re also using composting toilets, which, if you know anything about toilets, they use a lot of water. So, the composting toilets, I think, allow us to save about 300,000 gallons of water a year. It’s, there’s a, a number somewhere, but it’s very high.

So if we walk back into, we call this the Greenstone Room. This is like our living room. A lot of people will sit in here in the evening, have a glass of wine before dinner, and just talk about the day’s activities. And partly this room was designed because our cabin rooms are quite small, as a way to hopefully push people out into a community area so they can meet other people who are visiting.

Rodney Payne: So this room definitely brings back memories for me because a few months ago, this is where we announced the ambition to, see if the whole district would go carbon zero by 2030.

And it was, it was, it was quite nerve-wracking. And I think for all of the people involved, because there’s a spectrum of, you know, comfort with change and doing something bold. And I personally didn’t think that it was going to see the light of day. Right. I thought it was going to get watered down and meet resistance, because typically, in a situation like that, there’s, there’s, it only takes one person with a loud voice to shut something ambitious down. We never found that roadblock. 

And that’s kind of why we’re back here, right? It’s because there’s a lot of momentum that’s been catalyzed. And I think I remember this was our last presentation in the week. We’d been all through Queenstown, Wanaka, and then we came out and did the last presentation here and then spent the weekend here.

And, it, we were really riding on some excitement, and I think in every meeting we’d had goosebumps, right? Because we did all the boring parts of the presentation. And then we got to, the sort of clear, bold ambition at the end that was just, let’s decarbonize first on the path to understanding limits and optimal levels of, you know, balance.

 At that point, after 20 minutes of listening to me talk, by the time we got to the part where the ambition was on the slide, everybody in the room paid attention and felt something. Uncomfortable, excited, nervous. And that’s really unique in community planning, that you’ve got everyone’s attention, right?

Rodney Payne: Because the biggest risk to community planning is just apathy and that nothing changes. And I think one of the things that happened here in this room is we, we sort of catalyzed people’s engagement in community building in a much more widespread way. And that was, that was pretty powerful.

Debbi Brainerd: I bet. Well, and really what you describe, we experienced in the beginning of our project, because there’s always going to be people who have fear about change, right? 

So I think that the opportunity for us was, well, how can we build something that feels like it can integrate? And become a part of the community without standing out like perhaps some of the buildings in Queenstown do, uh, now.

And the opportunity in building something like this was showing what we believe is a model of a lot of pieces where someone can come and learn about, it can be water conservation. It can be power production. It can be how to build sustainably with what they call, um, lack of red list materials or high-quality, non-off-gassing materials.

And that they can take that back into their home or they can take it into their workplace, because there’s people creating new buildings wherever we go right now. So it was really this opportunity of showcasing. Knowing that everyone who comes here will probably take at least one thing away with them. 

Rodney Payne: What was the driving motivation behind wanting to have a low environmental impact and be net energy positive? Where did that inspiration come from? 

Debbi Brainerd: So after we ended up finding out we were the proud new owners of a campground, uh, what we learned was that sixty percent of the campgrounds in this country, and in many places, had gone out of business in the last ten years.

And that’s because they’re seasonal, it’s because the property rates have increased, it’s because labour is challenging when you have a business that only produces revenues three months a year. So we started looking at the idea of how do we build insulated, net positive energy that could run off the grid and then be viable as a business through winter.

And so that led us down this path of net positive energy. It led us to the Living Building Challenge, which, as you see on the wall, is a piece art for us. And we got certified through LBC, through the Energy Petal, through the Water Petal, and through the Beauty Petal, because we really believe that every act of design and construction can actually make the world a better place.

So, the path towards this green architecture and sustainable design was really one that just, we took naturally after we purchased because we thought, well, if we’re going to do the right thing, how do we build it in a way that gives something back? So this idea of a model was really important.

Rodney Payne: When you began this project, was there anything else like it around here? Was there, was there anything that you sort of looked at from an accommodation perspective or a tourism perspective and said, you know, ah, that, that’s a trend? Or were you pioneering? 

Debbi Brainerd: So when we began the project, we personally had no experience in accommodation from a tourism perspective, right? And so the journey for us was really about learning. And so we visited other places and we found that no one was doing anything like this. And it was mostly because most of the accommodation in the world is so financially based on the outcomes of profitability. And this particular place, knowing that we would only have four cabins to start with, is probably a bit of a disaster to most general managers because you need more like 20 to 24 to have a viable business.

So for us, our focus was just, okay, so the financials are part of it, the environment’s part of it, and the community’s part of it, and most people talk about that as a triple bottom line business, so that is really where we started.

Rodney Payne: Where did the name Headwaters come from?

Debbi Brainerd: The name Headwaters came from a community focus group that we did because in the beginning, we wanted to talk to a lot of locals. 

And one of the locals who ran the Reese Valley Sheep Station for many years, she came up with the idea at one of our community focus groups.

Because we started with the name, the Glenorchy Marketplace and a lot of people didn’t care for the name. So we asked them. Okay. What do you want to name us? 

So, um, it was Iris Scott who came up with the Headwaters. 

And that’s because if you remember the photo that we just looked at All the braided rivers come down from around the mount alfred, which is that Dart and Reese River and they flow into Lake Wakatipu. And that is the headwaters. 

Rodney Payne: Can you tell me about this interesting structure up on the roof? 

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah, so those are solar tubes, and there is a water-glycol mix in them, and that produces energy. So it does everything from produce hot water for your showers, to produce, uh, temperature changes in our solar system down in the basement, which of course can then provide heat and electricity.

So those are on every roof. And in complementation to that, you’ll see behind this building is a big solar installation of photovoltaic panels, which I think we have about 370 panels in, and that runs this entire site.

Rodney Payne: And the solar panels, are they also connected to the grid, or are you off grid? 

Debbi Brainerd: We are connected to the grid. So if we’re producing more power than we’re using, which we do a lot, then we do sell it back. Although in this country, what they give you for what you sell it back for is quite different than in the U.S. 

So, the flax just bloomed a couple of weeks ago, so you can see these seed pods opening up. And you’ll probably notice, since your cabin is called the Mountain Flax Cabin, that there’s a carving on the front of every cabin. These were done by someone here in New Zealand that works on movie sets. 

 Come on in. This is one of my favourite rooms. And you’ll see that everything in here is a bit quirky. Nothing really matches. There’s a few old pieces of furniture. There’s new, what we call fine linens on the bed, then you’ll find some old pieces of art with some contemporary photographs. 

We call this the mud room. So you can actually come in, a lot of people come in from outside, leave their hiking boots in here, but, so you have two entrances into your room. 

And this space has one of these amazing solar tubes, these are made in Australia, and they use refractory light. It’s all mirrored inside and if you look at this. Even on a cloudy day, there’s still light coming in, and there’s no electricity in there. That’s all natural. 

So if there’s a family staying in here, there’s another room that you can end up putting a child or a family member in. And then they can share the bathroom. So what we’ve done is we’ve set this up so that the bathroom has three separate areas. You’ve got the sink, you’ve got a shower with a door, and then you’ve got our famous composting toilet, which we’ll go into and you can take a look at. 

know, people are afraid that the composting toilet’s going to smell, but if you come in here, you’ll that they don’t. Um, and if you lift this up, a fan comes on, and then air is pulled down because there’s a solar fan. The air is pulled down, and then it goes out.

Rodney Payne: So what’s the benefit of a composting toilet? How does that add to the total, uh, vision of this place?

Debbi Brainerd: Well, if you think about the world and our water use, a lot of people are concerned about minimizing water use. So you’ll find taps and shower heads are being redesigned. And with toilets, they probably use most of our water in our homes. And if you look at how much we use per flush, you’ll see with this particular project, and you look at an annual use of water, I think these composting toilets save us about 300,000 gallons.

So you can see that that one change is actually a conservation change that has a huge ripple effect.

Rodney Payne: And do you think of the compost as a natural resource?

Debbi Brainerd: Is it? Absolutely. I mean, you can put this compost, at the end of 18 months, you can’t tell what it is. It’s actually, it can go out into any garden or farming operation.

We don’t put it in our garden beds here, mostly because there’s a lot of food growing on, but it can go into any garden or any operation.

Rodney Payne: Well, standing in a composting toilet with you is a first for me. Sorry yeah.

Debbi Brainerd: There is another one of the solar tubes in the shower. In this particular shower, we’ve just recycled some old Italian tiles with some tiles out of Auckland that are made sustainably in this country, just to give it a bit of fun and character.

But, again, there’s no electricity on in there, so you see what happens with just the prisms in that internal place of the refractory light.

Rodney Payne: And I notice a timer next to my shower here. Can you tell me about timer? 

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah, so Rodney, when you take a shower, you’ll have the opportunity to learning about what it’s like to have a time shower, which is seven minutes. Now most people that hear that there’s a timed shower, immediately have all this fear that they’re not going to have enough time or enough water.

But everyone who takes a shower here usually comes to us afterwards say, gosh, I realize there’s plenty of time to wash my hair and rinse it with seven-minute showers. So hopefully you’ll feel that same way.

Rodney Payne: I feel a little bit like I’m back living with my mum in, uh, in country Australia and having to conserve water. So I think I’m going to be okay with it, but, uh, I, I really do love the different elements that you’ve incorporated that is so confident and teaching people subtly.

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah. Well, even that solar tube, I think most people go home and put one of those over their kitchen sink because they like the light where they’re cooking, but we’ve put them here in the bathrooms, not into the rooms because we like the fact that at night. We can do a blackout inside the rooms.

Rodney Payne: Yeah.

Debbi Brainerd: So Rodney, now we’ll take you over to the solar garden, where we’ve got about, oh, 

376 photovoltaic panels that produce energy for all 14 cabins and for a homestead building.

And there now are people looking at this as a model for what can happen in small communities. And even Glenorchy is looking at that idea of how could it, being so far, almost an hour from a town or a city, be off the grid because getting power up the road is sometimes a little tricky because it, there’ll be a flood or there’ll be a tree that goes down and, and takes out the power.

Rodney Payne: I think what you mentioned there about showing people the way or showing people what you can do is really inspiring.

You mentioned that the city of Glenorchy is looking at this as a potential test case or an example of what’s possible.

Do you think that you’ve had that effect on the community?

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah, so there’s a community down the road called Wayuna Preserve, and there’s actually a few owners there right now that are looking at the idea of how would they do a solar installation to take all those homes off the grid and be a model for that, uh, sustainable design from a, from an energy perspective.

Rodney Payne: Doing things that have never been done before to be a common theme in the conversations we’re having down here.

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah, well, that’s the quirkiness of it, and that’s the idea of, how do you just trust that what you’re working on will unfold in a way you don’t have to micromanage everything, and people and ideas show up?


Rodney Payne: I got the chance to interview the, the person in government responsible for tourism in Bhutan recently. And I haven’t to Bhutan, but I really, really want to go from the values perspective and, and seeing the future, right? I kind of want to peer into the future. And I think that was one of the most inspiring hours of my life, talking to Damcho, because of how deeply held the values of the country are. 

And one of the things that he said that really stuck with me was, I asked the question, what would happen if Bhutan did what the rest of the world did? And just had open borders and as many tourists as wanted could come. And we’d try to get as many as possible without any thought to that. 

And he said, well, the residents would be really unhappy because they’d lose their home. And the tourists wouldn’t get to see Bhutan. They’d just see tourists. And it made me realise that there’s very few trips I’ve done in my life where I haven’t been just with other tourists. Right, and I think that’s a really interesting concept to think about.

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah. Well, I have been to Bhutan. I’m very blessed. I’ve been a lot of places. And I would tell you that my experience there, because I was in the mountains a lot and doing some treks, but I was also in a lot of farmers homes having dinner with local people, right?

And the thing that you realize about that particular country. Well, there’s a lot actually that we could learn from, but the simplicity of life, you know, that they have is it’s really lovely. 

The thing that I remember most was, when we planned to go there, we had to apply for our visa. We paid a very big landing fee, and then we paid a daily fee for being in the country.

And I’ve often thought New Zealand should do that. Like you fly into Auckland, or whether you’re flying into Christchurch. You pay a very big landing fee, and then you pay an amount per day to be in the country. And what I learned is that all that money was going to preserve their culture and their farming. When you’re there, they manage the numbers. And they also manage, in some ways, to keep the culture by subsidizing that with the tourism dollars that come in. So that’s an interesting thing.

Rodney Payne: You mentioned the triple bottom line. One of the things that I’ve been trying to do recently is find language to get business people excited about different types of growth, right, because I think the word degrowth doesn’t have a good brand. It’s a concept that talks a lot about needing to grow in different ways, right? And the word probably doesn’t do it justice, because it’s not very inspiring to take a backwards. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the bottom line for communities. And the triple bottom line is something you referenced, commonly known in business. But I don’t think that in community planning or in destination management, we think enough about all of the different externalities of tourism. 

And we’ve almost done the industry a disservice by, just focusing on getting more and more and more people, and not thinking about how much of that money is staying in the community.

And what are the costs of hosting visitors on infrastructure, on the resources that we have, and, and on people’s lives, and, you know, forcing people out of the community, and on the environment?

And I think recently, you know, in the past few years, I’ve had a growing consciousness around the climate impact of tourism. And as I start speaking to people about it, I’ve grown more and more concerned that I don’t think people are really connecting how bad tourism can be for the climate as, you know, on an individual level.

Debbi Brainerd: Absolutely.

Rodney Payne: Was climate a big motivator for you in building this?

Debbi Brainerd: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think climate is, on some level, on many of our minds.

And, I mean, I even think about it when I go back to Seattle. I think, oh, do I really need, can I, could I find a way to not get on a plane for any reason, right? Whether it’s just flying up to Auckland to see friends, or go to a doctor’s appointment, or if it’s um, going back to the States. I think that flying, of course, with our carbon footprint, everybody, looks at that and, um, we’re all thinking about global warming. And at the same time, it’s a complex problem.

So you think about, well, what piece can I work on? And so I try to think about, well, how can I fly less? How can I be more conscious about how many times I get in my car versus how many times I walk to where I need to go? And, even with our home, we tried to build a small home here, so it didn’t have a big footprint and wasn’t going to use a lot of energy to keep it going, but, I mean, your, your conversation about global warming and our carbon footprint is, on some level, the opportunity when you get, get to invest in a project such as ours, how do you just showcase all the pieces that, if you were to make small changes in your life, whether that be your personal life or your professional and in a commercial situation, that you can have some kind of reduction in power or water usage. And if we can all do a little bit, I find that, that some can be quite powerful.

Rodney Payne: And there’s always the dichotomy between whether this is a problem that requires individual action, or whether it requires systemic change. And I think we often get caught in a debate between those two things, and the answer is that it needs both. Because individual actions, like what you’ve built here, serve as an inspiration for others.

Debbi Brainerd: Absolutely.

Rodney Payne: And that kind of leadership is really powerful. But the sum of individual actions can also cause pressure, bottom up, which is I think one of the things that’s happened here. 

And then you’ve got a political class that’s paying attention to what the constituents want, and when you have the bottom up and the top down together, the magic can really happen.

Debbi Brainerd: Absolutely. 

Rodney Payne: I feel like every second business I look at here is an environmental restoration company masquerading as a tourism business. And I feel like that consciousness around community and environment is, is really prevalent, as a high proportion of the population that lives here. And that’s a really fascinating thing to see. Because if you take a model like Bhutan, and learn from, from some of the best bits of it. You know, what, what would it look like to retrofit that and apply that to, you know, a community or a, a small country?

Debbi Brainerd: So now, we’re going to take you into what we call the Back Forty. And it’s a bit of a construction. project, which is in the very back, you know, we’ve got about five acres total here.

So we’re going to walk through a bit of a mess. And when we get to the very back, which will only take us maybe two minutes, you’ll see we’re building a kitchen garden. That will have a winterized greenhouse, and that winterized greenhouse will produce food for our kitchens both at the lodge and at Mrs. Woolley’s throughout the year.

Rodney Payne: Let’s go.

Debbi Brainerd: Okay. 

Rodney Payne: I’ve always wanted to see a deep winter greenhouse. I’ve read lot about them, and I’ve always wanted to go see it.

Debbi Brainerd: Well, the idea of this, which was designed in Canada, because they have those really big winters up north in Canada, and although our winters maybe aren’t as severe as northern Canada, we do get some big winds here and we, we can get some pretty big drops in temperature.

So as we go down this area, um, into the lower elevation, you’ll see there’s a lot of projects that are still a work in progress. There’s a potting shed being built out of an old container that we had, and they’re just putting a roof on it so we have some outdoor space to work out of the sun.

Rodney Payne: Let’s go see the new greenhouse. 

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah, so it’s not finished yet. They don’t have any of the structures in yet. But you can just see that the external area they’ve just completed. So they’ll end up putting in a racking system and watering system in here. Sometime probably in the next few months. 

So right now, what happens is, when it gets too hot, there’s a thermometer inside. These windows automatically open, and then there’s a fan that brings the air up and out. So it’s this pathway of a natural cooling system.

Rodney Payne: How many months of the year will you be too cold to grow here? 

Debbi Brainerd: Uh, you know, our growing season here probably starts around October, and it goes to probably about, oh, end of April, maybe early May, yeah. It’s, it’s really actually pretty good, considering you’re in the, what is it, 3,000 feet up in the mountains?

Rodney Payne: Yeah. 

Debbi Brainerd: But you can see all these trees were just gifted to us just a couple months ago. And they love the sun here. It’s hard to believe. They were just little sticks. And this is how much they’ve grown in just a couple months. I think it’s extraordinary what two months of growth can do 

Rodney Payne: Yeah, it’s amazing.

Debbi Brainerd: Yeah. Well, you for all your time. 

Rodney Payne: Yeah, and thank you so much showing us around today. And more so, thank you for creating a little bit of inspiration here, because I think what you’ve done has shown people what’s possible and helped to create the foundation for the massive ambition that’s been catalyzed. So thank you.

Debbi Brainerd: Well, thank you, Rodney, for coming, and, um, telling a part of this story, because, actually, I hope that, and my husband does too, that some piece of this project will inspire others to do something within their communities as well.

David Archer: This has been Travel Beyond presented by Destination Think, and you just visited Headwaters Eco Lodge at Camp Glenorchy with Debbie Brainerd and Rodney Payne. We’ll include links to more resources on the blog for this episode at DestinationThink.com. 

My co-producer is Sara Raymond de Booy. This episode has been created and has theme music composed by me, David Archer. I’m recording from Haida Gwaii, Canada, which is the territory of the Haida Nation. Lindsay Payne and Annika Rautiola provided production support. 

We would like to thank Destination Queenstown, Lake Wanaka Tourism, and Queenstown Lakes District Council for their participation in this series and for their trust in Destination Think throughout this project.

You can help more people find this show by subscribing to future episodes and by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. We’re actively looking for the best examples of efforts to regenerate economies, communities, and ecosystems, so be sure to reach out if you have a story to share with us, and we’ll see you next time. 


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