Taupo has been earmarked as the spot for the “Biosphere of the 21st century” with plans to build an off-grid housing community.
But, unlike its flower power forebears, hippies need not apply to the scheme, the brainchild of the New Zealand Clean Energy Centre.
“There is probably a perception that what you are going to end up with is a bunch of hippies, but rather our target will be white collar workers,” said the centre’s CEO, Rob McEwan.
The pool of potential community dwellers would include Kiwis and those from overseas.
“For instance, young, affluent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are scouting around New Zealand at present looking for land,” Mr McEwan said.
“They are looking to get out of the US, live in a community with good water resources and establish a sustainable and `local’ lifestyle.” New Zealand could “easily” rise to be the No1 choice for them, Mr McEwan said.
“We are politically neutral, almost 80 per cent of our electricity is generated from renewables, we have ample water and we are friendly to Americans.
“So then the question for Taupo becomes how can we lure them to our community?”
A survey is being conducted by the centre to gauge interest in the concept, he said, and it could get off the ground as soon as a suitable developer comes on board.
The communal vegetable gardens and septic tanks will still be there, he said, but so too will be some of the mod cons of our futuristic lifestyles, including wi-fi internet and telephone services.
“This is about attracting people who have disconnected from the world, so to speak, who need only their laptop and smartphone to work and can travel anywhere and still work,” Mr McEwan said.
The development would comprise half-acre sections and the actual houses would be simple designs that resemble any ordinary Waikato development.
The family-style homes would be heated via geothermal or biomass sources, and electricity supplied via solar or wind energy.
Wastewater would be drip irrigated to energy crops that would provide future fuel for the community. Water would be supplied via rainwater collection.
“The large section would allow for things like large garden spaces, which could be private or shared, and septic tanks,” he said.
And how much would a slice of green living go for? “It is an unknown cost at this stage, but part of the vision is providing affordable housing.
“We would be looking at a range of homes, all under $500,000.” Owners would also have to pay about $60,000 for renewable energy technology add-on costs, he said.