Te Puke’s Fruit of the Pacific charitable trust is spearheading a two-week project to teach Ni Vanuatu RSE workers how to build an ‘earthship’ when they return home – to use as houses or safety shelters.

Earthships are a self-contained, impact-minimising land-based ‘ship’ – constructed from what others throw away and designed to work in harmony with the environment, say their designers Earthship Biotecture.

Fruit of the Pacific’s Kylie DellaBarca Steel witnessed Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 15-16.

Fiji Earthship

“I saw what it did to people’s houses and the RSE workers have been coming here for seven years now and have slowly built themselves permanent houses back home, mostly made of corrugated iron.

“But in four hours everything was ripped off around them and they ended up with no homes.”

Learning about earthships from a documentary, Kylie emailed the creators to see if they’d help in Vanuatu.

She got a reply saying they’re building one in Fiji, so Te Puke’s Sam Charrington and Zane Holloway this month went over to learn the skill.

Next week they return to project manage the earthship build in Te Puke.

Kylie says earthships are wind-resistant structure, making them ideal for Vanuatu.

“The particular model we’ll build – it doesn’t have four standard walls and a normal roof.

“It’s circular and completely covered in dirt so wind blows around and over it and it doesn’t have a roof structure to lift off, because it’s usually when a roof lifts off that the strength of a house structure disappears.”

Another benefit is the low-cost of an earthship’s main materials – tyres and dirt.

“Tyres in Vanuatu are either dumped in big piles like in NZ or people burn them, which is an issue, or bury them.

Fiji Earthship

Ni Vanuatu RSE worker Joe Iatu in front of a half-complete earthship hut in Rotorua.

“After tyres, the biggest resource to make the structures is people – and there’s a lot there who’ve lost everything, or are willing to put energy into something that’s going to keep them safe.”

The safety factor is key to Kylie. “There’s just so many people I know who literally ran from house to house as homes flew away around them during the cyclone, while carrying their children in their arms. And I can’t imagine something much scarier than that.”

Kylie says if even Ni vans don’t build earthship huts as homes, building one as a survivor shelter in each village would be beneficial. “So everyone has somewhere safe to go.”

Tomorrow and Sunday, preparation work begins to build an earthship at the Branns Farm at Paengaroa before Sam and Zane’s arrival, with the pair to teach RSE workers the skill.

“The build is open to the community to help too,” says Kylie.

This weekend, people can help out and bring tools to use in the build, then donate them to RSE workers to take to Vanuatu after kiwifruit season.

“We particularly need mallets, gloves, sledge hammers, wheelbarrows, levels, pick axes to be shipped over in a container to Vanuatu.”

Ni vans will carry on with the project around kiwifruit work, with one worker Joe Iatu, who owns a tyre shop in Tanna, planning to build one when he gets home.

“They’re all really keen to learn because they just don’t have the resources to build a new home and the money they earn here is going to paying for survival.

“So to be able to learn a building technique that keeps them safe and is low-cost is really exciting for them.”

The earthship build is at Branns Farm, 814 Allport Rd, Paengaroa. To donate tools, call Kylie on 027 286 7993 or email kylie.fop@gmail.com

Fiji Earthship

An earthship hut in Philippines – built by Earthship Biotecture in response to Typhoon.


Posted at 12:01pm Sunday 14 Jun, 2015 | By Merle Foster merle@thesun.co.nz