A Far North inventor can thank his ridiculously steep section for inspiring a unique business venture - a motorised wheelbarrow.

Steve Baldry lives at Totara North, by the Whangaroa Harbour, on a precipitous section with no vehicle access. Sick of lugging anything and everything uphill to his home, he invented an electric wheelbarrow to do the hard yards for him.

It proved such a boon at home he was amazed to find no one else had patented, or was making, electric wheelbarrows. He set up a company, Yardlab, won an international patent and set about filling the gap in the market.

"I came up with the concept model at home, and got so excited about it I just had to keep going. It seemed such a basic thing I was surprised no one else had patented it."


The former earthworks contractor built the prototypes in his Kaitaia workshop and, after two years of testing and refining, commercial production started at New Zealand Wheelbarrows in Thames last December.

His electric barrow comes in three models aimed at home gardeners, tradesmen and brickies, and is powered by a 48 volt, 500 watt hub motor with a plug-in charger.

It is controlled by a thumb throttle and has regenerative braking, so applying the brake while carting loads downhill recharges the battery.

With the motor off, it freewheels like an ordinary wheelbarrow.

Most of his sales so far had been in the South Island. Mr Baldry said some councils were interested because of health and safety rules limiting the loads workers were allowed to carry, and orders were pending across the Tasman.

However, if business took off in Australia, production would have to shift to China.

The barrow retails for just over $1000 with about 60 sold so far.