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July, 2020

A Wellington urban planners building an affordable, off-the-grid,
modern-day commune at the base of Queenstowns iconic Remarkables
mountain range.
David Lees planning two eco-villages, each comprising about 15 to 17
owner-occupied cabins, and a 400 square metre house, along with
I think everyones starting to get it that living with a group of like-
minded people in villages, how it used to be 200, 300 years ago, is
actually the smartest way of living and not having fences, he says.
The high-specced, energy-efficient cabins would be about 30sqm and
hopefully cost less than $100,000 to build.
Residents wouldnt own land but have a 10-year renewable licence to
occupy for about $300 a week  though other models could be utilised.
We should be planning our society around the fact housing is a right,
not a privilege, and if we can prove that in probably the most expensive
place in New Zealand to live, then we should be able to do it for
Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch.
Lee, whos also a Wellington regional councillor, says the biggest
obstacle to building this sort of community is finding the land.
Having spent $2.1 million to buy his 49.6-hectare parcel, off The
Remarkables skifield access road, early last year, the hardest task is
behind us, he says.
Rather than try to subdivide it, hes placed it in a family trust for 100
Its such an incredible site, its actually a bit rude not to share it.
Us urban planners live in this little dream world of utopia, thinking we
can create this utopian society.
Im of an age now where I think, why not?'
Lee is designing the village so people are encouraged to interact with
each other.
Its very much like your Pasifika housing, youre making people
connect with one another
and look after each other.
The central meeting house would include a communal kitchen, showers,
storage area and
flexible multi-purpose spaces.
The cabins would be transportable so residents could shift them around
the site or take them away.
A key part of the commune is its totally off the grid, a bit like Camp
Thered be solar power, rainwater collection, composting toilets, the
reuse of grey water for
irrigation, zero waste, through a closed-loop composter, and even a
mini-hydro power
scheme, utilising a stream running through the site.
Lee says itd be imperative to have like-minded people with shared
values and a mix of ages, genders, ethnicity and disabilities.
He thinks it could suit retirees with zero assets who otherwise couldnt
afford to live in Queenstown.
Hed also like to encourage visits from the likes of youth groups and
lower-decile schools.
Lees set up his own prefabricated building company, a social enterprise
itself, to build the
commune  he estimates the first phase will cost $2m-$3m to develop.
We want to have our first demonstration cabin up by Christmas and
have our meeting house hopefully built by this time next year.
Hes already had discussions with Queenstowns council, and hopes to
vary a consent, obtained by the previous owner, for a 1000sqm building
They dont think its going to be a big issue if we contain ourselves to
the building platform, keep the height down below four metres and use
a colour scheme that blends in with the environment.
Lees working on designs with Queenstown-Lakes Urban Village group
and has had
interest from other village projects around NZ.

Source: Mountain Scene


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