Hannah Hobbs sold her five-bedroom home and gave up her government job to live in a tiny house with her daughters and dog on a tree-laden 7000sq m section in Tauranga.
The 38-year-old resource teacher and single mum to Grace, 14 and Bella, 17, was seeking an escape from the stresses of having so much stuff and working all the time.
But the simpler life has come with new stresses.
Hobbs says her efforts to set up her tiny house by the book have caused her nothing but grief from Tauranga City Council, even being told she may have to apply for a camping ground consent.
She was living in a villa she owned in Masterton with a new $30,000 kitchen and working for the Ministry of Education when she started to feel things were not quite right.
“I thought ‘there has got to be more to life than paying down a mortgage’. If my priorities are my children, there has got to be a different path.”
Minimalism blogs assured her she was not alone or having a mid-life crisis.
It took five craftsmen nine weeks to build the tiny house of her dreams, which can be towed on a trailer.
The house has an expandable section that can “sandwich in” from 5m to 2.4m wide for road travel.
Steel-framed to withstand travel, it is made with organic plywood, polyester insulation, wooden joinery, and painted with handmade milk paints.
The kitchen has normal-sized appliances, including a fridge, ample bench space, a small laundry room next door and a fold-out wall-mounted dining table.
Her daughters sleep in a loft above the kitchen.
The lounge is small but homely, and there are ornaments, books and plants everywhere.
Rosie the dog – a “shweenie”, shih tzu/dachshund mix – can snooze in the sunny spot by the double wooden doors.
The bathroom has a shower over a bath, afforded by the expanded width.
Hobbs has a queen bed in a loft opposite her daughters’ bed, over a storage space.
The family sold up and moved to Maketū in the Western Bay of Plenty district in 2017.
They felt welcomed and Hobbs said the council “didn’t bat an eyelid” at her tiny house.
But driving the girls to and from school in Tauranga, 40 minutes away in traffic, wore thin and she decided to move to the city.
She worked with a lawyer to find a section. Newer subdivisions were quickly ruled out because of strict covenants so she turned to “old Tauranga”.
Hobbs found what she was looking for in a semi-rural, covenant-less area of Pyes Pā and the family moved again last spring.
The 7000sq m section in an excavated valley was surrounded by mature native and deciduous trees.
Hobbs has planted a “food forest” with a vegetable garden, fruit trees, 20 beehives and a recycled greenhouse.
She has a storage container for seasonal or bulky items and a “dune ship”, which Hobbs bought online and is used as a hangout spot.
“It feels like the countryside but it’s in town.”
She and the kids bike or bus to school and her Greerton-based work as a resource teacher who consults with schools.
They share the section with a small “community of women”.
Permanent residents include “free raging” Nanny goats Phryne and Dottie and some chooks.
Another mum, Jess, has her tiny house on site and stays roughly every second week.
Hobbs said she also invited two women who lived in their motorhomes to stay occasionally and store their vehicles.
One of those women, a 62-year-old who asked to remain anonymous, said she moved into her motorhome as she could not afford a rental.
She said there were many others like her in Tauranga and it was hard to find a safe, secure and settled place to stay so most moved between freedom camping spots.
Hobbs had a list of 37 people seeking land for a tiny house, but did not want to risk exceeding the site’s maximum occupancy allowance of eight people.
She would if she could – there’s a housing crisis and she has more space than she needs – but she wanted to follow the rules, even when other tiny house dwellers advised her to “hide”.
“There are so many people fearful about having to deal with the council,” she said.
“So many people are hiding. These are working, viable members of society who want to live in a healthy, good way and end up living like criminals.”
She pushed ahead but quickly ran afoul of the council.
She had consent for a septic tank but it was incorrectly installed and failed an inspection.
She said she was rectifying that with the installation company, but could not find anyone to install the reduced pressure backflow device the council required.
Hobbs said installers told her the type of device she was told to use was unusual for a residential connection.
Hannah Hobbs’ tiny home
• 10.5m long and 4m tall
• 2.4m wide when driving
• 5m wide when landed
• Registered, warranted
• Steel framed, polyester insulation
• Wooden joinery, milk paints
• Two bedrooms
• Full oven, gas stovetop
• Family-sized fridge
• Bath, flush toilet
• On 7000sq m
Adapted From Source www.nzherald.co.nz