To celebrate getting to a hundred thousand members in our Facebook group, we decided, "Wouldn't it be good to give back to the community that has looked after us so well?". And the idea was that we'd take one of our most popular kits, the Bach Kit, and give it away to someone deserving - that wasn't quite at the stage where they could afford to buy it yet, but desperately needed it to get by. We put out the competition and we got lots and lots and lots of people replying. In the end the winner was Leah Rewiti, and we're here at her place today!
After an early breakfast and a long drive north, we arrived at Leah's with her brand new Bach Kit packed in the trailer. With the help of Ashton and his
team from Astech electrical, we were ready to get stuck in on the installation.
"Kia ora! Welcome!"
"It is! Shall I show you around the whenua? Kia ora, I'm Leah, I'm originally from Hawke's bay, but I live in Ngapuhi country, out Pipiwai, Whangarei. Love northland. So I'm a mother, grandmother - me and my husband have 10 children, adult children, a big whānau! I'm a support worker for a young tetraplegic young man, do 12 hour shifts in town, and we've been off grid here in Pipiwai full time for 15 months now. So out this way we have 118 hectares of whānau land, but this is our little plot here. There's our kitchen, and we started with this little cabin, and this was all scrub, that will be a lounge eventually! Yeah and we've got pallets and bottles up in there.
So the reason why we've come home, we felt the pull to come home and we are really truly blessed to have whenua to come home to. We want to live freely, be self-sufficient, be able to provide for our children and our mokopuna, and that was the pull to come home. And we are so blessed to be able to.
So we got up here, and all this was just all gorse, and we got this little cabin, and that's all we started with."
"Oh, you didn't stay in there did you?"
"Yeah, my son's in there right now, he's asleep. And then we built this bit, our kitchen, and so we cook off the gas, and then we have a shower, but we will extend out there when we get the concrete pad done. So this is how I do my cooking.
"Yep. And so this is concrete under here?"
"Would be a bit cold in winter wouldn't it?"
"Oh definitely, no insulation, and we've got concrete underneath here which needs to be re-concreted because the shingle and gravel from the creek and
the concrete mix wasn't quite good enough.
I applied because we desperately need some form of power, and no fridge has been hell on earth. We've been totally off-grid, no power at all, no generator, no running water. We have a little tank that we get water off the roof for, or in the creek to bath in, and we have one little solar panel for three bulbs for the lights. I just use gas on the burners for cooking and a tin shed to live in. Yeah, so that's why I applied."
"Let's check out how the installation's going. We decided we'd get Ashton in, as a registered electrician, to do the installation - make it nice and reliable. And Ethan, our head of engineering, has come out and he can explain a little bit more about the kit."
"So the Bach kit comes with four panels and four batteries. We thought the Bach Kit would be perfect for this off-grid setting. It's great to run a fridge, freezer, charge phones and devices, run a few lights, and all those other small little electrical amenities that you need in a little humble off-grid setting."
"So yeah this is all the whenua that ridgeline, all the whanau land, and then we've got the creek down there. Would you like to go and check the creek out?"
"So yeah, this is where I wash, swim."
"It's actually quite warm!"
"Yeah, and when we run out of water, I come bucket this water, because it's straight off the maunga."
"I bet you it gets pretty high in winter though?"
"Yeah it gets gets right up there, and that's all blocked in, yeah, floods."
"After checking out the creek, we were lucky enough to be shown one of Leah's favourite spots on the land, a meadow surrounded by giant tea trees."
"So I come here to meditate in the grass. These are two sisters and mama and there's the granddaddy over here."
"Whoa, I don't think I've ever seen a tea tree that big!"
"Yeah, and the grass is lovely to lie in."
"I didn't even know that they could get that big!"
"Yeah, so I come down here in the ngahere, and there's granddaddy, who I call granddaddy tea tree, mama bear and the two sisters, and so I lie in this beautiful grass and meditate after I've had a wash down the creek.
"I've never seen one that big before."
"It's beautiful isn't it? It's a perfect place.
The grand plan is we are ahikaa, kaitiaki of this whenua, so that our children and our mokos can eventually come back here - especially the way the world is going, how the world has been for the last two years, so we're setting up and keeping the whenua warm for the whānau to return. Winning a Bach Kit is life changing. The biggest challenge is storing kai and having a fridge or a freezer. We live 40-50 minutes from town and shopping every three days and kai going off - to have a fridge, a freezer, lights, being able to charge my phone - I've flattened so many car batteries! Being able to have whānau around, you know summer's here. I'll be able to buy in bulk, I'll be able to have ice cream!"
"After a tour around the whenua, the solar installation was complete, it was finally time to put it to the test."
"And here we go! Voila! Let there be light! We have a freezer and a fridge!"
"I can hear them running!"
"Ahh! Exciting! Exciting! And tomorrow this is all going to be full of ice cream!
I just want to thank the GridFree people, love you! Yous rock! Thank you so much! Life-changing."
There you go. With the help of Ashton and Ethan, we've transformed Leah's life with a solar kit on her whare, so she can have the whānau around with plenty of ice cream. And she can run a toaster she might not want to run a tv, but her life will now be much more this comfortable."
"This is so cool! I don't want to waste it now, turn it off."