Green Business: Raglan resort grows on eco-tourism surge

By Sahar Lone

Alex Grey and Bomun Bok-Chung in front of the 'Earth Bag' building they helped make at the Solscape eco-resort in Raglan.
Alex Grey and Bomun Bok-Chung in front of the 'Earth Bag' building they helped make at the Solscape eco-resort in Raglan.

The rising popularity of eco-tourism has forced one of New Zealand's eco-resorts to expand to meet the additional demand.

Raglan eco-resort 'Solscape' is growing fast to accommodate a big rise in guest numbers after the past winter saw a 60 per cent jump in bookings.

Annual turnover at the resort has risen by 30 per cent in the past year.

Although 75 per cent of Solscape guests are backpackers, owner Phil McCabe says the resort is also popular with families and surfers.

McCabe and his partner Bernadette Gavin also own a backpackers in Central Auckland and are offering shares in the Solscape property.

There's a variety of accommodation types, including cabooses, carriages, teepees, and two new additions; the 'earth bag' building and the eco bach.

The eco bach cost $3,500 per 80 square meters to build and should be complete in time for this summer.

With a "solar passive heating design", the bach has a brick wall running down the middle, which stores energy and releases it once the sun goes down.

The frame of the two studios is made from macrocarpa and recycled timber has been used for the furniture. The house has solar hot water, painted with non-toxic paints, and uses LED lighting.

McCabe says the house is a model for their clientele to demonstrate that sustainability and luxury are not mutually exclusive.

"It's for the people who drive up in their Audis and BMWs. They can spend time in a place that doesn't have to be damaging to the environment. That's so we can show people with money and influence that they can live that way," he says.

A $30,000 grant from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's innovation funding has been put towards four solar hot water cisterns on the property.

McCabe says the family business has been thoroughly revamped since he bought it with his partner seven years ago.

The recycled train carriages now sport a new paint scheme - green and red - instead of the blue, purple and red combination they were.

"So when you look up from the road you can't see them where they used to be pimples on the landscape." "I took a business man from Raglan up there the other day and he thought there was just a couple of teepees up there. He said, 'bro, this is totally flash'."

Seventy five per cent the waste is diverted from landfill with packaging being recycled and food scraps used to feed the ducks that roam the property.

The business employs eight local staff while also using volunteers from the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) project who are given accommodation in exchange for thier labour - building an 'earth bag building'. The walls are made from local soil packed into bags, while the floor is constructed from recyled glass bottles.

And despite the redevelopment of the 10-acre property McCabe maintains the family business won't exceed capacity.

"We have a strong intent of regenerating it and operating it within the limits of the environment."

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