Top Energy's geothermal power generation expansion at Ngawha is a huge project by Far North standards, and not only for the lines company.

With 29 shipping containers onsite, and beds for almost 50 workers, it's also the biggest accommodation project undertaken by container specialists Royal Wolf in New Zealand.

The $176 million project's village comprises 19 accommodation containers and a container hub, including a commercial kitchen, a laundry and ablutions unit, and a number of offices.

... but inside they are functional and comfy. Pictures / supplied
... but inside they are functional and comfy. Pictures / supplied

The specially modified container accommodation, which has been used previously in Australian mining camps, comes with an ensuite, kitchenette, work station, television and air conditioning, designed to replicate the aesthetics of a home with the portability and security of a container.


Project manager Gunnlaugur Már Sigurdsson, from Iceland Drilling, said the company had used container accommodation in other parts of the world, and it was ideal for housing workers on site.

"The real beauty of this style of accommodation is that while it's temporary, it's strong, can withstand the elements and the heavy-duty nature of a site like this. But it's also homely and comfortable," he said.

"A home away from home is really important when you're running an operation 24/7."

Iceland Drilling is drilling five 1750m wells, each taking around 30-40 days of continuous 24-hour a day activity. Royal Wolf opened a branch in Whangārei two years ago to meet growing demand for container solutions in the region, with additional containers being brought in from Auckland and the South Island for the Ngawha project.

Executive general manager Paul Creighton said the mining camp cum motel-style containers were proven in that sort of camp environment after being used in large scale mining operations in Australia.

"The Ngawha expansion is a major project for the Far North, and although it is subtle, the containers play an important part in ensuring the project can run efficiently," he said.

The 40-foot modified containers were 3m wide and the first of their kind in New Zealand (traditional containers are 2.4m wide), meaning that each can provide three spacious rooms.

"Because it is containerised, the accommodation can also be stacked to create a multi-storey block, which saves on space if the site is restricted," he said.


''But the real beauty of this style of accommodation is that when demand eases, or another project gets up and running, the containers are portable, so they can be picked up and taken away to another location."