AN AFFINITY WITH NATURE AND THE EARTH drew Ali Law to the idea of building a rammed earth home. She wanted to create a living space that would be completely natural - a home without toxic fumes, glues or resins - a healthy home where she could one day raise a family.

The foresight Law showed was remarkable. Twelve years ago, Law was a single woman with an ambitious dream. She was on the building site daily, with her builder, Greg Brosnan, laying the deep, concrete foundation for the 400 mm thick walls.

The earth for the walls, excavated from the property, consists of a calculated mix of soil, clay, and silt (with just a sprinkling of cement to satisfy the local council). Law spent a year testing to get just right.


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A life engrained with the love of art Homestyle Magazine

Words: Fiona Maddison     Photos: Anja Lenner

Down to earth G-Magazine

Words: Fiona Maddison     Photos: Anja Lenner

FOR BRYAN L’ESTRANGE, being an artist is all about passion and living the life you want to live.

This is instantly apparent as soon as you walk into L’Estrange Art Gallery in Sumner, near Christchurch. And, what you find is not some shop assistant dressed to impress and make a sale, but instead you find an artist at work, building up layers of ideas and thoughts, projecting them with love and precision onto a large canvas. It’s a complex composition; a work in progress, in much the same way that Bryan’s gallery has evolved over the last five years.

“The gallery is like a sculpture to me; it’s a part of me, a continuation of who I am,” enthuses Bryan over a cup of coffee, expertly made on a coffee machine that sits unobtrusively in a corner of the gallery.

It is in itself almost a piece of artwork with gleaming chrome and cups stacked in a casual, haphazard manner.


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Finding Akaroa Homestyle Magazine

Words & Photos: Fiona Maddison 

My day begins with a short 60-minute drive from Christchurch, through Little River, and over the hill to Akaroa harbour. The sun is shining and the views are magnificent.

The autumn air is mild and the town has a relaxed atmosphere after a busy summer. A group of women gather on the edge of the park to prepare for their weekly walk, while others pop into the local store for their daily paper and a chat.

My first visit is Destination Akaroa Ltd where owners Jennifer and Evan Still have kindly loaned me a hire scooter for the day.

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Courageous canines get top professional care  

Words: Fiona Maddison  Photos: Singapore USAR Media                                         Independent article  2011

BRAVE, hardworking, and committed to their task. You could be talking about any member of the rescue teams trying to find earthquake survivors and bodies amongst debris in the Christchurch city centre following the February 6.3 earthquake.

These brave little souls, however, are not people. They have four legs, a keen sense of smell, are loyal by nature, and have amazing powers of endurance. They are the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) search dogs. And some have been on the job since day one.

These amazing canines from New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Singapore are specially trained, along with their handlers, to locate people who are trapped after the collapse of buildings following events such as earthquakes, tornados and other natural and man-made disasters. Locating trapped victims quickly can save lives.

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Inspired vision  Street Talk Newsletter Harcourts Four Seasons

STREET TALK visits teenager Lizzie Pawson and discovers a passion for making a difference in

other people’s lives. A normal teenager is how 17-year-old Lizzie Pawson describes herself.


A very humble, self-description from a young woman who, since the age of nine, has followed

her heart,and made a difference to the lives of hundreds of women in Kolkata, India.

Through family friends, Annie and Kerry Hilton,  young Lizzie heard about Freeset, a

manufacturing business created by the Hilton’s to take women out of prostitution, educate

and teach them life skills.

“Annie and Kerry shared stories about these girls ― some of them not much older than me.

Back then I just wanted to help out in some way.” Lizzie recalls enthusiastically.

The plight of these women struck such a deep cord within Lizzie’s heart that she immediately

set out to raise $50, which soon became $300, enough to save a woman’s life, take her out

of poverty, give her back her dignity and her freedom.

Passion for the Poor soon followed. It was Lizzie’s name for her own fundraising venture to

help the women in Freeset’s care. Family and friends provided the necessary support and over the last seven years Lizzie raised around $20,000.

“Passion for the Poor is an expression of my heart. Helping others brings satisfaction and warmth to my life,” Lizzie explains, “and knowing you’ve saved a life, and when a cycle is broken, knowing that it affects the future ― the outcome of generations to come.”

A visit to Freeset in India, with her family, gave Lizzie the opportunity to see for herself the difference her fund-raising venture made to the women.

“I got to hear their stories and was amazed at how they bounce back. You get real a sense of hope, dignity and freedom from the women.”

The women work hard and get a fair wage from making jute bags and t-shirts, which are exported all over the world. Freeset is Fair Trade certified and now has 200 women employed.

Lizzie believes she is an optimistic person and says she isn’t sure what her future holds career-wise but knows that she definitely wants to work with people. She’s not a behind the desk person.

Her message to others who want to make a difference is simple:

“Our lives and freedom is golden and precious, we should challenge ourselves everyday ― even just by smiling at someone can make a difference to their life. It’s just a small thing that we can do to make such a big difference.”

Making a difference to the lives of others is an inspired vision ― one that comes from a young woman with a beautiful smile and a generous heart. It is a simple philosophy and one that we can all incorporate into our own lives.

To learn more about Freeset and their vision, visit

Words: Fiona Maddison