Koitiata village resident Ken Gillon has taken the desire to be beside the sea to new lengths - building a steampunk "tiny house" to drive closer to the water.

He and his partner Lynda Marsh were parked up on a remote stretch of beach to see the New Year in.

Their dwelling is self-contained and drives away, leaving nothing behind.

It took him about three months to build what he calls a dune ship. Its base is an old Ferguson tractor he bought from another resident of the seaside Rangitikei village.


The tiny house has a shower, toilet, wood stove, gas cooking, two bunks and a double bed up above. He and his partner drive it down the long grey sand beach to favourite possies and stay the night - even in winter when the wind rocks it on its wheels and they sit by the stove to keep warm.

Ken Gillon's
Ken Gillon's "dune ship" is clad in plywood strips. Photo / Laurel Stowell

Its entry stairs are made of copper hot water cylinders and its headlights sit inside saucepans. The cladding is plywood, cut into strips.

"A lot of stuff has been donated. People in the village have just said 'Would you like that?'" Ms Marsh said.

They can fish off the "front lawn", sometimes catching kahawai, snapper, gurnard and dogfish on a long line.

Visitors are welcome.
Visitors are welcome. "I don't mind people calling in. It's all part of life," Mr Gillon says. Photo / Laurel Stowell

Their Open Home sign drags in a few visitors, including young people walking the Te Araroa trail as it passes along the beach.

"We had five in yesterday, for a coffee."

The five left their names and nationalities behind, written on a driftwood table: Australia, Finland, South Africa, Switzerland and Israel.

The "ship" drives like a tractor. Photo / Laurel Stowell

Mr Gillon is originally from Hunterville, and worked for an engineering business in Rata. But he's done a lot of other things, including driving tugboats in the Marlborough Sounds and living in an old van in Australia.

Newly retired to Koitiata, he built the dune ship because he was bored and wanted a hut at the beach.

"How it all started - I saw a picture of a motorised steampunk house. I thought a dune ship would look good like that," he said.

He hasn't been short of a new project. He's seeking consent to lift his village house up, in order to get a better sea view and put a bigger workshop underneath.

And he's already been responsible for the "Christmas tree" on the beach front and starting off a series of surprising sights along one of the dune tracks the locals use.