Cosy Cabins Built by NorthTec Carpentry Students

10 July 2019

Cosy Cabins Built by NorthTec Carpentry Students

NorthTec carpentry students are helping to improve living conditions in the Far North by building insulated cabins. The project, Kapene Te Rarawa, is a new initiative between NorthTec and local iwi, Te Rarawa, and the first two cabins are nearing completion in the carpentry workshop at the Kaitaia campus.

Sean Stratton, Te Rarawa’s General Manager, says the project was born from Northland’s housing need. Sean said: “Working with local whānau after the Te Rarawa settlement back in 2015, we started a housing project focusing on helping people own their own homes. We soon realised that a lot of the poor living conditions we saw were due to overcrowding, with as many as 15 people sharing a two-bedroom house, or with the overflow in tents on the front lawn in the winter. So we came up with the idea of building cabins that people could buy outright or fund with an interest-free loan at $50 a week, and that could also be used in conjunction with a rental.

“The cabins are clean, warm, dry, up to code, and because they are less than 10 square metres, they don’t need consents. They are basically a bedroom big enough for a queen size bed and a set of drawers that can be placed near the main house. They have power but no plumbing and provide extra space that reduces the pressure and improves the living conditions in the house.”

By 2018, Te Rarawa had built and placed 18. Sean said: “Demand was still strong so after talking to Phil Alexander-Crawford, Director of Demand Management at NorthTec, we came up with the cabins being a project for the level 3 carpentry course. We altered the design slightly to meet their curriculum and could also include the painting/decorating students. Now have a win-win solution: the students get a real life project that improves the living conditions within their own community, and we’re no longer paying for labour so as a registered charity we can pass that saving on to the purchasers.”

With the first two cabins nearly complete, Stuart Richardson, carpentry tutor at NorthTec Kaitaia, says they hope to finish a total of 10 by the end of the year. Stuart said: “We’ve streamlined the processes and patterns now, and the students are really into it. These students are just six to eight months into their pre-apprenticeship training and my role is to give them the practical skills they need and maintain quality control. It’s very satisfying seeing their response when they stand back, look at the finished cabin and realise, ‘Wow, we made that’.”

Sean Stratton says the cabins have so far been placed with no advertising and he knows the demand for them is strong. Sean said: “To keep the cabin production numbers up, we’re now including the NorthTec Future Trades carpentry students in Whangārei in the project and aim for a future maximum production of 20 cabins a year.”

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