PHOTO: An aerial photo of Kāwai Purapura shows the dozens of buildings built by the Centrepoint community, and North Harbour Stadium in the top left corner. Photo: Supplied / Kāwai Purapura

Down the road from one of the country’s largest malls and across the highway from a big shopping complex is the old Centrepoint site, which has become the new home of a colourful and vibrant community.

Thousands of people drive past each day and most have no idea what is hidden behind the bush, or that it was once the site of the Centrepoint commune, thrusted back into the spotlight recently after Heaven and Hell: The Centrepoint Story aired on TV.

There have been numerous stories and documentaries about the controversial commune which came to an end in the early 1990s when police raided the site in Albany, Auckland, and several members were arrested for sexual abuse and drug offences.

But the story about what became of the site after the commune dissolved has never truly been told – until now.

The people who live there now say it is a “place of healing”, a “playground for artists” and a community of giving.

The man who runs the place – but doesn’t live there – sums it up: “It’s very much a community, but it’s not just a community for the residents… It’s a living entity you come and take part in.”

Paul Gregory is the general manager of Kāwai Purapura, a wellness retreat, holistic educational centre and home to roughly 100 people.

Artists moved in after the Centrepoint community left and the Public Trust eventually took over management. Much of the 100 acres were taken over by the council or sold to developers but, in 2009, 19 acres was sold to Prema Trust.