Whanganui woman Ari Bailey's warm personality inspired love and loyalty in those who knew her - and that is still evident after her death.

Moari (Ari) Bailey died of a brain tumour in September. She was the driving force behind an eco village development on Māori land near Putiki. Her daughter Zoe Cochran and partner of 20 years Phillip Baertschi are continuing the project.

"It was our promise to mum and each other, to stick it out and make it all happen," Cochran said.

This month they held the first in a series of planned Thursday evening and Saturday open days, where volunteers can help mix sawdust, clay and straw and pack it into forms to make the walls of a house.

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About 12 people turned up for the first open day on January 5.

The house is in what could become a papakainga - a settlement on a 27ha Native Reserve. The reserve is Te Riri a Te Hori and Bailey received a grant for water, power, tracks and wastewater treatment for up to 20 dwellings from the Māori Development Ministry.

The house was designed by New Zealand earth building architect Graeme North, and is funded by Bailey's savings. The total budget is about $250,000 - mostly for labour.

Tim Oldham, architect and builder, adds clay to the mix.
Tim Oldham, architect and builder, adds clay to the mix.

The builder is architect Tim Oldham, who also drew the plans.

On a poorly drained terrace, the house has a unique foundation. It uses very little concrete and is ringed by a drainage ditch. The floor will be clay, with empty glass bottles for insulation.

The house is framed with macrocarpa timber, and its roof beams are eucalyptus boughs from a nearby plantation. The roof is corrugated iron, and will have wool insulation and a hessian ceiling coated with mud.

Blue barrels contain lime plaster, which will be used to coat earth walls and floor.
Blue barrels contain lime plaster, which will be used to coat earth walls and floor.

The earth walls and floor will be coated inside and out with lime plaster, now maturing outside in drums.

The land also has a constructed and planted wetland and a fish pass linked to Awarua Stream. It is already attracting eels, frogs and ducks, Cochran said.

"It's looking awesome. It doesn't really need any interference from us any longer."

Bailey's vision was for a small settlement offering retreats and workshops, growing food and native plants for traditional Māori medicine.

The earth house is 120 square metres, with three bedrooms.
The earth house is 120 square metres, with three bedrooms.

The three-bedroom house was to be a prototype for future buildings, and Bailey and Baertschi were to initially live in it.

When it's finished Baertshi and Cochran will likely share it for a while, and decide what happens next.

Her mother's death has pushed Cochran into learning about earth building. She has a two-year-old son, Lewis, and still works in New Plymouth on Mondays and Tuesdays, spending the rest of the time in Whanganui.

++ Earth building open days at Te Riri a Te Hori will be posted on Facebook at Creating Mama's Whare. People going to the Thursday evening ones will need to book in, because a meal will be provided.