Floating Homes in NZ, what’s wrong with that?

I remember watching Discovery Channel, well I guess it was a while ago, may be some 12 months back or so, but I recall I was really surprised to see tug boats pulling homes, floating homes fully built, from one part of, I think it was Canada to another.

Locally we hear that in the specific Nelson zone we are running out of future space, different from the Richmond, Tasman zone because they have quite a bit coming on stream. And obviously as I have mentioned before the fact that Nelson residents are the most coastal in the whole of NZ plays a large part in that. Between the sea and the hills there is only so much finite space on which to build.

When considering climactic & environmental conditions in New Zealand, one wonders why this concept has not been attempted, in carefully selected locations, already? Personally I would love someone with a marine engineering/marine building-construction background to tell me why this would not be possible locally? Or maybe in Hamilton on the Waikato, or in Tauranga on the western side of Matakana Island?

Importantly I remember noting that many of the homes built on this program were constructed primarily from wood. They were constructed inside a large barge, sort of a dry dock, somewhere north of their final home, from memory it was 2 or 3 homes at a time in the barge. Then the tugboat towed them to their finally destination where a mighty crane lifted each home out of the barge and into its new home, in the water.

We Kiwis pride ourselves on what we can do on water, well naturally its kinda all around us isn’t it, especially when it comes to building things for water use like yachts, or super yachts. Hamilton Jet? Hey, does anyone remember something called the Americas Cup?

A place like Nelson where the Boulder Bank [hi-res photo here] completely insulates any major changes in elevation’s to just that of the tides, should be an absolute given, an absolute dream mooring destination considering the challenges I remember on this TV program.

Even in the photo, maybe clearer in the hi-res version, you can definitely see that there is a clearly noticeable difference between the waves / smoothness of the outside sea, and the inside [closest to bottom of photo] Boulder Bank estuarial sea. It could also be argued that similar conditions exist behind Rabbit Island with easy boat access to Mapua?

And what a fantastic way to liven up any waterfront zone, look what has happened with the Viaduct area in Auckland. I can tell you walking through that part of Auckland back in 1982, and then again in 2006, she’s a lot different now, in fact almost unrecognizable!

Is this a workable idea or not?……..

11 thoughts on “Floating Homes in NZ, what’s wrong with that?

  1. avatarSue Aldridge

    Have you had any comments. We are also researching this opportunity, as we would like to live on the water, but there appears to be limited informtion on this topic for NZ. We have also often asked ourselves this why question. Do you have any answers?
    We would like share in your quest, and your reply would be appreciated
    Kind Regards

  2. avatarDavid Leggott

    Sue, I felt the idea has some real merit, especially with all this talk about greenhouse gases, the closer proximity of marinas to most town/city centres would by my way of thinking offer a real advantage in terms of transport emissions. That’s with my logical cap on. I am not so sure on the different councils views around NZ, but one thing I am sure of, it would definitely aid inner city living developments.
    Would be nice to see others thoughts on this topic too.

  3. avatarChristopher Wingate

    New Zealand has wonderful coastal, lake and river environments that would be stunning to live around. Sadly council and planning controllers have no imagination and will stop this type of good idea becoming a real project. I love the idea of floating homes. What a wonderful environment to live in each day. And when you want, change location for more kiwi paradise.

  4. avatarDavid Leggott

    Given the sheer volume of coastline we have here in Godzone, it seems weird that this very practical avenue of housing hasn’t been investigated in greater depth. Perhaps its a bit like those Grey Nomands in their campervans. For decades travelers in the USA were going about the place in their “RV’s” – finally NZ caught up – albeit with the help of cheap imported ex Japan buses – but in some things its just like what Rachel Hunter says.
    While my mouse hovers over your name, I see Matakana. I lived in Tauranga til I was was 12 and then moved to Nelson. Guess Mum & Dad had a thing about living in holiday spots.

  5. avatarDavid Leggott

    Whoa, that’s some serious development plans you have there for the Island – all I can remember was the forestry. Is that a bridge I spot in the right of photo 100_1248.jpg?

  6. avatarGordon WInter

    My wife and I are in Portland, Oregon, USA for a month as we travel down the coast of the USA for the next 3 months. We then plan to move to Nelson in the new year. We have seen whole floating neighbourhoods here, usually along slow moving rivers or in harbours with boating speed limits to minimise the wakes. Most of these homes have boats of all sorts moored outside, the way most of us have a car in the driveway. We were hoping to find the same in NZ, and would be interested in helping the movement. Simply put, these neighbourhoods look wonderful!

  7. avatarDavid Leggott

    We are blessed in Kiwiland with many places where this type of development would be ideal. However at the same time urban planners and councils I don’t believe have given much thought to the concept. I certainly can’t see why it can’t be done, we have the raw materials, we have the manpower although we may have to employ expert overseas assistance to begin, and we most certainly have the locations.

  8. avatarGrant Simpson

    I have been studying floating homes for some years now and i too am surprised there is little being done in this area of industry.
    I am a marine engineer and have been involved with building ships to superyachts.
    The basic principles of a floating house are not complex particularly if the home is not self propelled, therefore should not need to be built for any sea condition more than a small chop or waves no higher than say 2 feet, maybe threeish (1m)
    The main hurdle is building a good solid hull or barge for the building. Most of the hulls in Sanfransisco harbour where there is a large community of floating homes in sausolito are constructed from reinforced concrete or ferro cement. http://www.floatinghomes.org/
    There is a new concept here in NZ designed by a kiwi guy using modular plastic pontoons that i thought is a brilliant idea. I am considering using this system for a small floating home that i plan to build next year.
    The other idea i have is to price up using large diameter polyethylene pipe, say 1m or larger and cap the ends while clamping the pipes together to cross beams probably made from galvinised steel or perhaps aluminium depending on cost to form a multi cell very strong hull base. And just build on top as a nrmal house, how ever using a plastic floor so as the constant moisture will not permeate this.
    Im thinking i will use a steel frame as incase it does get wet from waves throught the cladding then it will not draw in moisture, just dry out quickly.
    There are many fibreglass and woodfibre/plastic claddings available also.
    What i will probably do at the start for my small prototype house is build the whole external structure from aluminium sandwiched polystyrene such as commercial refrigerated coolstores are made from.
    Basically just aluminium sheet glued to polystyrene insulation on both sides. Its very strong and just cut out sections for the windows and doors to suit.
    I did some plumbing work on these type of builings below in 2006 in christchurch.


    I will just moor the floating structure at a marina as one would moor a normal boat. The only real issue is sewage disposal, but many marinas now have sewage pump out facilities, so a simple holding tank is all that is required.
    Some marinas allow the use of onboard sewage treatment machines for boaties that live aboard permanently.
    As the demand for mooring and marina berths increases then developers move in to create more marina facilities.\
    I plan to build my floating home so its seaworthy to go out in calm conditions but able to withstand small choppy waves.
    I will keep you updated. Best wishes fellow mariners!

    1. avatarDavid Leggott Post author

      Hi Grant
      Interesting – please keep me updated. It really surprises me that given our topography, etc we don’t have some installations of these up and running in NZ, even if originally based on some sort of tourism venture.
      About the only home I know of in the local region is that of King Salmon down the Marlborough Sounds but that’s more a business type thing – quite possibly a dormitory style unit because its for the Salmon farm workers to stay overnight.

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