On a good day you can see the South Island – no problem at all. In the other direction you can even see Mount Taranaki, which most Wellington residents cannot boast of.
And yes, it’s up on Southernthread Road in Brooklyn – you can see wind turbines on another ridge – but the Lubich-Sparagna family wouldn’t want it any other way.
“We love the wind, it is so alive and keeps us on our toes,” says Eleonora Sparagna. “We realized early on that the weather in Wellington was irrelevant; What matters is the house that you have. It’s like the old adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear / clothing.
“If you have the right house, the wind from up here is just a wonderful natural phenomenon. We call our house the Skyhouse because it feels like we’re floating in the sky. “
* No heaters are required in this rural dream home
* Off-Grid-Bach and Portacom-Cabin are NZIA winners
Eleonora Sparagna and Ermanno Lubich and their sons Davide (16) and Alessio (11) live off-grid in a house that they are still finishing. The couple, who grew up in Italy, bought their land five years ago and are allowed to be subdivided once every five years.
But what caused the move in the first place?
“We were looking for building land with the intention of easily living off the electricity grid and our children to grow up closer to nature,” says Lubich. “We spent a couple of years looking at land all over the North Island and thought we’d start our dream by building a creek somewhere and then maybe moving to the land over time.
“We spent many weekends driving to pretty remote places, beautiful places, but they were always a little too far and a little too remote. And with a townhouse and a creek – with possibly two mortgages – it took years before our vision was realized.
‘Best of Both Worlds’
“We never thought there was a piece of land like this in Wellington, and we could get the best of both worlds: an urban lifestyle but off the grid and the feeling of vacationing every day. We came across the ad by chance in the past few days and agreed to visit it the next day. With trembling hands we made our best offer and in a few days our dream became a reality. “
Sparagna says that the landscape, with its strong features and the connection between the mountains and the sea, reminds them of a childhood vacation on Isola D’Elba, a small island off the coast of Tuscany.
The couple bought 44 hectares and said there was a lot of land to farm and it was “really a little overwhelming” when their family was young. “But because it can be divided every five years, we saw the possibility that our children and their children could stay with us in the country in due course,” says Sparagna.
“So we work with a long-term mindset from the start. This works well because nature takes time, and it’s good to slow down and accept that it will take years for the trees we planted to grow and years to shape the land in order for it to be can be completely self-sufficient. “
“We didn’t want to pay any more bills”
There were several reasons why the family decided to go off-grid: “We really wanted to stop paying bills,” says Lubich. “Most of the houses we lived in here in New Zealand were a bit old and very expensive to heat and manage.
“We wanted to build from scratch to design a dry, warm and efficient house. We have always been aware of our impact on the planet, and life off the grid has met all of the criteria for us. It was also cheaper than bringing all the services here and then paying bills forever. “
“The turning point for us was meeting people who actually did it,” says Sparagna.
“We took the children to a family we had met through a solar power company – so we could check their battery bank. They lived in a remote place and we had only talked over the phone. When we arrived and they opened the door, their house was just a normal house. Your kids played video games on a console and our kids joined in.
“They made us tea with an electric pot and said, ‘We have a gas stove, but we don’t use it often because electricity is of course free’.
“We couldn’t stop grinning all the way back to Wellington.”
Solar power system costs $ 60,000
The couple used a company called iSolar and were happy with the support they received both before and after the installation. “We essentially designed our ideal house and lifestyle, and they created a suitable solar system so that we didn’t experience any deprivations or changes in the way we work,” says Lubich. “Apart from that, we use more electricity because it’s free.
“Our system cost about $ 60,000 at the time. We chose batteries that do not require maintenance, they are sealed for 20 years. We’ve been running it for a couple of years now and it’s amazing. “
When asked if there were any particular challenges with this lifestyle, the two said there was no delivery service – if they wanted it, they’d have to pick it up on the way home from work. And there are considerable trips to drop off and pick up children when they want the company of friends.
“We didn’t think of that back then, as we don’t even see our neighbors’ house, but living here means a good balance between great privacy and the ability to get support when needed. It’s safe and private, but not isolated, ”says Sparagna.
“And being in the country makes for great conversations that you wouldn’t have anywhere else about inverters, soil quality, dirt bikes and water pumps. It’s a good break from work and the city, but only minutes away from everything. “
Agriculture of the future
The family has built up their “farm life” in recent years.
“We made many buckets of our own raw active Manuka honey and fenced the land and prepared it for growing food,” says Lubich. “This year, with the support of some like-minded people, we will test the first small cultures.
“Our goal is to be able to live as much as possible on the land – we have set up the house in such a way that we can also charge our cars with solar energy.
“The only thing that can take too much time – and yet as Italians that we cannot live without – is extra virgin olive oil. And wine too.
The family’s land is being sold by Anji Foster and Samantha Taylor of Lowe & Co, with inquiries for over $ 545,000.