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Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - THE GRILL -

Bart Cox works for Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil as an en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­viser. He’s pic­tured in his Carter­ton home, with his girl­friend Iso­bel MacKin­non, an ac­tor, direc­tor, and theatre maker, and his mum, Liz.

BART/ I grew up in Welling­ton but I have a con­nec­tion to Wairarapa – my fam­ily on Mum’s side have been there for some time. Mum moved back to Master­ton when I was 15, when my dad died. I was paint­ing Mum’s shed for her one day and I had this over­whelm­ing feel­ing that I should move there. I asked Mum if I could put a lit­tle house on her block of land, out of Carter­ton. She said she’d love that.

I was work­ing in this lit­tle del­i­catessen in Master­ton mak­ing cof­fee, liv­ing in a car­a­van. This guy Jim was a build­ing re­cy­cler, but he hates knock­ing down build­ings, es­pe­cially if they’re nice old wooden ones. He al­ways tries to re­sell the ma­te­ri­als or, even bet­ter, re­sell the house to some­one else who wants to re­move it from the land. He was a reg­u­lar in the deli and one day he was in and try­ing to sell the cus­tomers a lit­tle smoko room from this in­dus­trial part of Master­ton. He had pic­tures on his phone. I knew if I looked at it I’d prob­a­bly want it. Even­tu­ally I was like: “OK, give me a look at the pho­tos.” And

I was like: “Argh! I love it!” It was – it is – tiny. He goes: “Come on. Just buy it off me. Oth­er­wise I’m go­ing to have to knock it down.” I was like: “I can’t, it’s too much of a project.” It had al­ways been my dream to have a lit­tle shel­ter re­flect­ing the sea­sons. He sold it to me for $2500.

The bones were mostly old na­tive tim­bers from the 60s. It’s got three rooms. There used to be two toi­lets – one’s now the bath­room and one’s the study. There’s an open-plan kitchen and bed­room and liv­ing space. It had nails stick­ing out of the wall with peo­ple’s names or nick­names on them where peo­ple used to hang their cups. It was full of pa­per towel dis­pensers and soap dis­pensers.

I gibbed it in­side and con­nected it to so­lar pan­els with my friend Ed. His way is sort of DIY – you can tai­lor-make it to your life­style. It’s all about liv­ing close to the land and hav­ing a sen­si­tiv­ity about the kind of im­pact that mod­ern com­forts have on the re­sources around us. We col­lect rain­wa­ter, we com­post our num­ber twos. We pro­duce our own en­ergy. There’s a spirit of cel­e­brat­ing hu­man in­ge­nu­ity, and not be­ing re­liant on big firms pro­vid­ing you this thing you don’t un­der­stand but you know that you want.

I think there’s an el­e­ment of personal sovereignty to know­ing whether your wa­ter comes from, your en­ergy and all that, and be­ing part of the sys­tem. You’re your own elec­tri­cian, you’re your own plumber. Of course, some­times you’ve got to call in some friends...

I got the Home­wood stove brand new from a New Zealand com­pany. It cost much more than the house.

Mum lives in Master­ton, but there’s a lit­tle 10 square me­tre hut next to the house. I go and col­lect her and I have her at home for as long as I can. She sleeps in her lit­tle hut.

Photo: Vic­to­ria Birkin­shaw In­ter­view: Britt Mann

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