Western New Zealand

Come to sunny Karamea
A remote off-grid community in New Zealand has outed itself in an appeal for more residents to come and join them.

The scattered collections of a dozen houses and cabins near Karamea on New Zealand’s west coast, relies on solar power rather than pay the $40,000 per household it would cost to connect to the grid.

A system with four 160-watt solar panels cost one  couple $16,500 “You want me to pay $40,000 and then $200 a month after that? I don’t think so,” Aby Chalmers said.

Their house still had all the modern trappings like Sky TV.”We have had less power cuts in five years than Karamea township,” said Chalmers, 32.

Denise Tilling, 71, who lives a few kilometres south of Karamea, has been off the grid for over 10 years. She said all new homes should have solar technology. After her first house burnt down in 1997, she installed solar panels on her new home for $20,000. She now has eight panels in her garden, and a backup generator. Tilling, who keeps chickens and ducks and grows her own vegetables, said she could become entirely self- sufficient if necessary.

“During the years that I have been off the grid I have seen [other people’s] bills going up and up.

“I’ve heard endless screams and shouts from people saying they just couldn’t understand why they were getting bills for two, three or four- hundred dollars. “I don’t know how they manage it.

In nearby  Wangapeka Valley, it would have cost about $30,000 to plug into the grid.  There are eight solar-powered homes in the Valley.

One of them started with one panel and slowly worked his way up. “You don’t need to spend a lot, you can just keep adding on,” he said.

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