Question: I’m interested in possibly builing an Earthship in New Zealand and wanted some more info as far as best places to build, such as earthship friendly land, and so forth.
There is no comprehensive list of Earthship-friendly locations in NZ. As there is no state legislature in NZ, just Federal law, the Building Standards and Regulations apply uniformly throughout the country. Where differences come in, is at the Regional Plan level where there might be specific requirements that need to be observed (landscaping, water use etc).
By and large the Building Code is fine with Rammed Earth Tyre construction where it can prove it meets the performance standards as set out in the building codes. The Gubb Earthship in the Waikato had reinforcing rods through the tyre walls (which is not the Biotecture standard used elsewhere in the world) in order to pass inspection. Depending on your preference (and the depth of your pockets) you could adopt anything from getting a NZ Engineer’s report to say the standard Earthship build meets the Code; to building the tyre walls within a standard timber frame (as was demonstrated by Mike Reynolds in Japan if I recall correctly).
The key message I offer is that anyone attempting to build an Earthship in NZ, must ensure they get planning consent and permits. The worst outcome for addressing society’s problem with Earthships; would be that they get a name for themselves as ‘hippy lean-to shacks’ only good for bulldozing.
As far as good places to build goes, a number of local councils now employ eco-building advisors who offer their services and advice freely. I know Hamilton has one and there are other regional councils with them. Hooking up with one of them to guide you through the consent process would definitely make a big difference.
Some of the building-services might prove challenging. Whilst rural NZ has been using septic tanks and treating sewage locally for hundreds of years on a large scale; some of the grey water re-use concepts in Earthships challenge the conventional wisdom. This is mainly to do with what you would be allowed to grow in it (although I don’t see the Building Control Officer paying a surprise visit to check your Begonias aren’t Broccoli!).
Its also worth noting that opting out of council rates is prohibited in some jurisdictions. As they argue that even if you live in a self-contained home; the roads, footpaths and parks you enjoy as a user still need to be paid for. But hey, if Rates are the only thing you end up paying for, then you’re still onto a winner.
My current biggest concern about where to build an Earthship in NZ, is the cost of bare land in the first place. Sadly everyone that has ever wanted to try their hand at property development has bought every spare paddock from Farmer Brown, stuck survey pegs in it and flogged it off for a cool million. I could go on but that is best reserved for a long winter’s evening and many bottles of wine…
If you can find the right place to build from an affordability point of view, such that it leaves you enough money to overcome code-compliance challenges, then I’d take it and start ramming tyres.
We all know NZ and the world would be better for it.