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Wairau Pass B&B is the vision of Eric MacDonald and Helen Campbell who wished to create not only a comfortable and handy “stop-off” point on one of the major travelling routes in the Top of the South Island, but a haven for those with a love of nature.

Our homestay was completed in 2005 and is of earth brick (adobe) and macrocarpa construction to passive solar principles with the environment in mind. We believe in “walking lightly” on the earth and encourage our guests to do the same by offering the opportunity to plant at least one native shrub, tree or flax plant as part of our on-going native restoration programme. This could be compensation for your long-haul flight by off-setting emissions loading. We also:

  • Minimise electricity use by having solar hot water heating supported by wood/coal stove wetback; open Jetmaster fire in winter; no unnecessary appliances, for instance, electric blankets; switch off appliances at the wall/no standby; conserve water supplies (rainwater/tank); turning off unnecessary lights; use gas for cooking (if not using wood/coal range); eco light bulbs.
  • Have minimised potentially harmful chemicals in either construction materials, or in the house e.g natural based paints & oils; cleaning products, woollen blankets & cotton linen etc
  • Conserve water/electricity using low water/energy consumption washing machine/dishwasher (and was dishes in sink!)
  • have copious quantities of wool insulation in roof/ceiling; polystyrene insulation under concrete base
  • Grow own vegetables and herbs etc; buy local/in season/ge-free and organic where possible; free-range hens for eggs; home-baking; home-made jams, chutneys and other preserves; real tea and coffee!
  • Give all food scraps to hens or to the worm farm or compost
  • Reduce waste by buying in bulk or using recycled containers; buying longer life products
  • Recycle all plastics, glass, paper etc through the Tasman District Council recycling programme
  • Are active supporters of the local Recycle Centre shops (and a long-time supporter of the Nelson Environment Centre) and op. shops
  • have an on-going weed (blackberry, broom and wilding pines) and animal pest eradication programme – we have rat and mouse traps; a DoC 100 trap for mustelids and rats; a live trap for feral cats and Timms traps for that Australian import – the brush-tailed possum
  • Drive a Honda Jazz (5.4 litres/100km)
  • Are active supporters of Friends of Rotoiti (a group of people who undertake animal pest control for the Rotoiti Recovery Project in and around the St Arnaud/NLNP area); the Brook Waimarama Wildlife Sanctuary; Friends of Nelson Haven & Tasman Bay and the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society & the Kiwi Conservation Club ( www.forestandbird.org.nz ).



Earth-brick/adobe construction:

Why did we decide to build an earth-brick homestay?

Firstly - because there is a considerable history of building in earth or clay in the Marlborough and Nelson districts, with many buildings still standing proudly in their environment – regardless of how much that has changed through the years! For instance, Broadgreen Homestead (built 1853) in Nayland Road, Stoke, Nelson is an excellent and well-maintained example of in-situ adobe/boxed cob building. Buildings were constructed from cob, sod or turf; wattle and daub (or manuka and mud); mud & stud; rammed earth (pise de terre); poured earth; soil-cement (stabilised rammed earth); terracrete/cinva rammed–pressed brick; post & beam ..... and earth brick (adobe). (see the Earth Building Association of NZ site: www.earthbuilding.org.nz).

Closer to the Wairau Pass Homestay are farmhouses and cottages in the Wairau Valley and around Nelson Lakes. The former Rainbow Homestead in Rainbow valley is still occupied over summer (as a tollhouse for Rainbow Station) and the Tophouse Hotel again holding holding a liquor licence and providing accommodation. Both are former coachhouses on the Cobb & Co Nelson-Christchurch route through Hanmer to Christchurch.

Another reason for choosing earth-brick was the local expertise and materials available – architect Peter Olorenshaw of Nelson and builder Bob Gilkison formerly of St Arnaud; bricks from Solid Earth (www.solidearth.co.nz) of Wakapuaka, Nelson (with lovely golden Moutere clay and ground marble fines from Takaka Hill) – although the macrocarpa beams originated from Southland!

These bricks are traditionally-made i.e. clay, sand/ground marble, and straw – not so-called “stabilised” with cement! Yet again, while some speak of earth-based houses (minus the cement of course!) as being able to “breathe” - not true of course - what earth does is to absorb water moisture, filter impurities from the air and hold heat – thus ameliorating humidity, improving air quality and stabilising temperatures inside the house. Clay provides water-proofing and weather resistance – although an essential for all earth buildings is that it has “good hat and good boots”!

Aesthetically , we (and our guests: see References) find that the lovely honey-colour of the clay brick is very pleasing to, and easy on, the eye. The heavy macrocarpa beans complement the clay and underscore the stability and long-life of the clay. Additionally, the house pays homage to the clay/adobe houses of the Americas – the theme of the house is sort of “Santa Fe meets Saint Arnaud/Pacifica”! Come and see what you think.! You are most welcome to make suggestions.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly we have always considered that there is “truth and honesty” as Miles Allen has described it, in solid earth walls - there is nothing hidden – no frame concealed beneath the layers, no mask of plaster to cover some lightweight structure to make an “illusion” of being solid. What you see is what you get. ... and what you get is a sense of of serenity, of long-life, no stress!

The house uses passive solar energy to heat the house (solid concrete floors); 3 solar panels for water heating; wetback on coal/wood stove and gas for cooking.