Bellbird Developments was founded in 2019 by Vicki Spearing when she was upset to discover the shortcut her kids took to school through the local park was in fact a privately owned site with consent to develop into 11 lots. Home to bellbirds, tuis, fantails and many other species, she felt there could be a more considered use of the site than the standard “wipe the slate clean” development.
Bellbird Developments aim to inspire council and developers to consider how we build thriving and connected communities. Instead of creating “affordable” sections by carving sites to smaller and smaller lots, (with no useable outdoor space), instead cluster houses together and create shared amenity to encourage residents to interact with one another, and with nature to achieve socially and environmentally sustainable urban living.
As passionate advocates for energy efficient homes, we hope our cashback incentives and compulsory energy modelling will encourage conversations about how we build in New Zealand and what we could do better. We would love to see PHPP modelling as standard practice as that would take the conversation beyond price per square meter, and more about what do I get for my money and how can I expect this house to perform.
For a number of reasons it was not possible on the Greenwood Lane site to achieve the original vision of small houses clustered under trees, a peer to peer microgrid system capturing and storing solar energy, shared communal spaces including edible gardens, a food forest, A BBQ area, a man-shed & compost facilities. This vision will be fully realised in a future development.
About Vicki Spearing
I used to value homes by how they look, feel and flow, besides of course the location and the view. These days I consider performance of a house to be the most important criteria.
In my previous life as a real estate agent I viewed literally thousands of properties; beautiful homes, some with stunning vistas out over Lake Wanaka, but it could be an effort to present a house at its best. Sometimes the curtains would be drawn in the day trying to keep the sun out because it was too hot, or I’d arrive early to host an open home and hastily run round wiping condensation off the windows before any potential buyers turned up, or we listed vacant houses that were not be visited without prior notice so we had time to flick on the heating and light the fire. I literally saw incidents like a lounge window break and a kitchen splashback explode because the vacant house so overheated it broke the glass.
I didn’t know it then, but coming home to a cold house is not how we need to live. An energy efficient house is not only so much better for our environment it is warmer, healthier, calmer and quieter to live in too. There is no need to get up early and light a fire before everyone else gets up, or spend hundreds of dollars a month on underfloor heating, or rug up at night just to keep warm. A passive house will use 90 – 95 % less energy than a standard NZ home to heat and cool. While the energy savings are great, what most passive home owners say is “it is the feel of the house” that they love most.
Our New Zealand building code is 20 years behind European standards. A house built to code is simply the lowest level you can legally build.
What I hope Bellbird Developments will do is inspire conversations around the performance of your home instead of simply “how much does it cost per square meter”.
If you prefer to live in a house where you could work from home and still have minimal power bills, be blissfully unaware of the temperature outside and wear a t- shirt all year round, are wanting to reduce your carbon emissions long term, or there is a history of asthma or allergies in the family, then please talk to your architect, your friends, to builders and others so that the demand for better buildings is so normalised that that is the only way we build.
My journey of learnings includes:
- Real Estate Agent, Harcourts then NZ Sotheby’s International Realty. 2004-2016
- Property Developer, Quartz Development Group (Sentinel Park, Lake Hawea) 2016-2018
- ONE / WAO New Zealand, volunteer organising sustainable summits and transitioning our community to carbon zero and beyond. 2018-current
- Member of NZ Green Building Council.
- Founding Member of the Wanaka Better Building Group.
- Registered Homestar practitioner.
- Studying @ Passive House Academy, New Zealand
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