Look out KiwiBuild - a group of high school students from Dargaville are building houses for an estimated cost of $220,000.

KiwiBuild properties, which include land costs in Auckland, are around the $650,000 mark.

Northland's Dargaville High School has launched the innovative new programme in the hope that it will ease the national housing shortage while providing employable training and much-needed building skills to its senior students.

The idea was the brainchild of the school's building academy tutor, licensed Master Builder Tim Pratt.


"I've been wanting to do this since 2011, when the academy first started, but the school simply didn't have the funds. Now we have a sponsor, we are up and running."

The school's building academy has partnered with a private sponsor in a joint venture, creating DHS Enterprises Ltd. Building custom-designed two-, three- and four-bedroom houses on its site at the rear of the campus.

"The aim of the first year's programme is to build and sell six houses. The first house is nearing completion," said Pratt.

There are five different custom designs across the three house sizes, designed by local company, Lambeth Architectural of Dargaville.

"Another major contributor to the project is the local Carters Building Supply store, which has provided the engineering codes free of charge and is also providing the framing, timber, roofing and more, at competitive prices to ensure the programme's success."

Pratt said the Kaipara District Council has also been enthusiastically supportive of the programme, recognising the benefits of boosting housing supply and providing quality job training and up-skilling.

"The houses are being built by a group of eight academy students under the guidance of an experienced licensed master builder/tutor. Construction is done on a pair of prepared foundation runners. When completed, the houses are then uplifted on low-loaders and transported to the customer's site."

The three- and four-bedroom houses are about 105m sq, with en-suites, while the two-bedroom design has the same footprint, but is shorter.

Pratt said they are selling for about $230,000 to $250,000, which includes all electrical wiring, plumbing, painting inside and out, toilet and bathroom.

"The buyer would need to pay for transport to the site, foundations, council permitting costs, white goods and floor coverings but, as Pratt pointed out, at a completed cost of around $350,000, it is still a very low-cost and very well built house.

"We have to do it 150 per cent right. We are teaching students to become apprentice builders, so there are no short cuts, there is no half measure – we do it properly and we get the council to do regular inspections."

The school's building area is also run as a replica of a real-life building site, with all safety hazards highlighted and in place.

Graduating students leave the high school with a Level 3 qualification, and Pratt said, "they are more than trained and able to be employed as building apprentices, having done a year on a real job site.

"It's a win-win-win. We help reduce the housing shortage, the students gain essential, employable job skills in a real-life situation, learning on the job and several local businesses also benefit."

He said while there are private companies who do what Dargaville High School is doing, no other school in New Zealand has a full-time building academy with full-time students and a licensed master builder as tutor.

Pratt said the next steps are to source additional funding for a second set of foundation runners, so two houses can be built simultaneously, and some sort of roof covering over both sites so work can continue year-round.

"This, of course, won't be cheap, but we might even approach the Government's Provincial Growth Fund, as I believe we meet all of the criteria and more.

"We are positively helping to reduce the housing shortage and upskilling students towards real jobs. Without the Academy and this programme, some of them may have dropped out at Year 12, so we are also helping address the critical trades staffing shortage."

Pratt said any profit from the programme will be put back into the academy.

"We want to start automotive and panel-beating training alongside the building academy, so we can continue to provide essential pre-employment training, while enabling students to learn on real-life job sites, and importantly, keeping them in school so they leave with the highest qualification they can get – but one that they can actually use".

All houses under construction and in the planning stages are for sale.

Stage comes alive

Dargaville is alive with the Sound of Music.

Thanks to the Dargaville Little Theatre, one of the world's best-loved musicals, The Sound of Music, has been brought to life.

Kurt (Seth Eve-Rumsey), Liesl (Amy de Bruin), front - Gretl (Emily Gilmour), Friedrich (Reuben Eve-Rumsey), Marta (Hannah Long), Louisa (Emma Carey) and Brigitta (Annie Carey), with Maria - top right - performed by Deborah Steele.
Kurt (Seth Eve-Rumsey), Liesl (Amy de Bruin), front - Gretl (Emily Gilmour), Friedrich (Reuben Eve-Rumsey), Marta (Hannah Long), Louisa (Emma Carey) and Brigitta (Annie Carey), with Maria - top right - performed by Deborah Steele.

The show's director Keith Allen, who has been with the theatre 45 years, said a highlight of this year's production will be the singing.

"There's lots of very good singing and lots of beautiful harmonies, it's probably more demanding than most of the theatre shows we've debuted in recent years, but they've done it extremely well, the singing is definitely one of the things to look forward to with this show."

The musical is also one of the largest productions the theatre has seen in recent years, with 30 cast and crew members working to bring the production to life.

Allen said it has involved a lot of hard work and dedication, with many cast members travelling far and wide to attend rehearsals.

Those wanting a true to story experience should not miss out says Allen.

"We haven't changed anything, part of terms and conditions of acquiring rights to air the show is that we change nothing."

The Sound of Music tells the uplifting true story of Maria, the fun-loving governess who changes the lives of the von Trapp family with her infectious love of music and kind heart.

Allen said the feedback on the musical which had it's opening night last Saturday has been heart-warming.

"We've had a number of people tell us that the seven von Trapp children were absolutely fantastic and a few people have told us they want to see the show again."

The Sound of Music is on this weekend at the Dargaville Little Theatre for tickets email: dargavillelittletheatre@gmail.com.

Fibre rolls out ultrafast in Dargaville

Residents in Dargaville will soon be able to live stream the 2019 Rugby World Cup "uninterrupted", but only if they connect to Northpower's new ultrafast fibre network in time.

Northpower spokesman Steve Macmillan said they are encouraging people not already connected to the network to make the move and "embrace a better online experience".

The Kaipara District is the biggest beneficiary of the Northpower Fibre UFB expansion because it will give 6000 people access to ultra-fast broadband, compared to just over 3000 in Whangārei District, by 2021.

Installation of ultrafast fibre was completed in Dargaville east and west this week, meaning 840 people can now experience ultrafast broadband in the township. However, there are a few more stages to go.

"When the three build stages in Dargaville are complete on May 13, June 4 and June 28, a further 1090 people will be able to connect to Northpower Fibre. Ultimately, fibre will reach a total of over 2000 Dargaville residents and businesses," said Macmillan.

"We are well ahead of schedule on the expansion which means residents in places like Dargaville are getting access to UFB Fibre earlier than expected."

Ultrafast fibre will soon be available in the following locations in the Kaipara region:
Dargaville, Mangawhai, Kaiwaka, Paparoa, Maungaturoto and Ruawai and some residents in some parts of Mangawhai will have access to Northpower Fibre as early as June.

Macmillan said accessing the ultrafast fibre network is "really easy".

"We are encouraging people not connected to the Northpower Fibre network to go to northpower.com/fibre and see if they are able to connect.

Then contact their preferred retail service provider to get the connection process under way.