A couple living next door to an experimental building construction are disappointed they weren't consulted by their neighbours.

"If it was me building that, I would've had consideration for the neighbours," Putiki resident Wanda McGrail said.

She and her husband, Tony, have penned a letter, signed off by eight local households.

Architect Elinor Harvey McDouall and her husband, Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall, have embarked on a project to turn the hull of a boat into a tiny house, offering luxury accommodation. The hull is on site at 52 Putiki Drive, overlooking the Whanganui River.

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McDouall regrets that she hasn't consulted the neighbours - but said that wasn't a usual requirement for a person building a house.

But the McGrails say the building is a commercial enterprise and they want Whanganui District Council to "clarify how this is considered a permitted activity".

Putiki neighbours should have been consulted before luxury b & b accommodation was built in the area, Tony and Wanda McGrail say. Photo / Laurel Stowell
Putiki neighbours should have been consulted before luxury b & b accommodation was built in the area, Tony and Wanda McGrail say. Photo / Laurel Stowell

They spend part of the year in Canada, but Tony is a fourth generation Whanganui resident and McDouall has met him twice.

"I regret that I didn't make contact with him earlier. It didn't occur to me to consult, but I really wish that I had done," she said.

Wanda McGrail said there was a lot of noise and vibration in mid October when six steel columns were driven into the ground to support beams for the house to rest on.

"It shook our house for a full day. I couldn't be outside."

Noise was usual during construction, McDouall said. Her contractor has told her neighbours there has never been an issue with the method used to drive in the columns.

The McGrails say the accommodation is a commercial enterprise in a residential zone, and should have needed consent. But McDouall said Airbnb accommodation was a new thing and still a "grey area" where consent was concerned.

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"Most Airbnb places have no consent or permissions."

Residents who signed the McGrail's letter worry the tiny house will mean more traffic and visitors to their "little piece of paradise". But McDouall said it can only accommodate one couple and one other person.

"Any increase in traffic will be less than if I had built a family home on that property."

A mobile home may be parked in the driveway during the holiday period, to provide security for the site - which didn't please McGrail.

"We are going to have camping now, next door," she said.

The building is the only one McDouall and her husband own, apart from their house, and she said it will be a long time before it can make a profit.

They hope to pay it off through renting it out, and then retire in it - either where it is in Whanganui or moved to the Awhitu Peninsula south of Auckland.

"I wanted to do something experimental, and I saw a need in Whanganui," she said. "I want [the town] to grow and prosper and attract a certain type of tourist, with the river a highlight."