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Life moves pretty fast

The Raro Hut Project exemplifies the search for that elusive work-life balance by a kiwi film industry couple. The twosome manage to balance this dualism through a project that places importance on the land and people around them.

DOP James Rua and Film Construction producer Felicia Brunsting have spent the last 12 months designing, 3D drawing and building their dream. When Rua inherited half an acre of land in Rarotonga, many ideas came and went about how to take hold of this opportunity. It wasn’t until an especially quiet day for the film industry that the couple began the design of a small hut that they would personally build.

This project enabled the exploration of the often confusing dichotomy between having a career, and quite simply, having a life. The couple chose to step out of the fast lane, escape the complexity of fast paced modernity, and to instead bring to life their values of community and conservation.

“We could’ve easily done things conventionally,” explains Brunsting.

“Architects could have designed it, and builders could have done the hard work. But that didn’t feel right, that would’ve felt like cheating.”

The hut is for the benefit of their friends and family, but also for the preservation of the land through the growing of fruit trees, a sustainable design, and landscaping for potential future eco-accommodation. Self-sustained and off the grid, the hut is beautiful in its simplicity, with both a low financial cost to the visitor and low ecological cost to the land.

The project is collaborative by nature, allowing anyone to stay in the hut in return for working on the land. The project looks to reconnect people with the world around them, replacing money with labour on the land as a means of exchange.

“Building on the land of my family is a privilege, and with this privilege we felt like we had to do things right. Right by the land, right by our values, and right by the heritage from which we inherited this land,” explains Rua.

“Building it ourselves gives such a huge feeling of empowerment and satisfaction. To walk out onto that sturdy deck and think, we built this, the lights are powered by the sun, and soon we will be catching our own rain water.”

Both Rua and Brunsting have DIY and building experience in Holland and NZ respectively. Though perhaps more useful has been their ingenuity, hard work and the momentous support received from friends, family and total strangers. The NZ film industry in particular has really supported the project, with all kinds of industry professionals getting stuck in.

“The hut takes us out of the hustle and bustle of fast-lane Auckland living and throws us back into what we were used to in our childhood. Rummaging through the garden shed, finding odd bits of building material, and coming up with different ways of utilising them.”

Almost 1 year later, since an initial 6-week trip to build the majority of the hut, the project has seen the installation of many eco-friendly and sustainable attributes. The installation of a solar panel runs a 12 volt circuit, a large deck extends the living space, an outdoor bathroom includes a utility shed, and its first paint job protects the timber.

The project is all but finished, and with the seemingly never ending process of building, there is still work to be done. The build of a compost toilet, a kitchen, plumbing, and the finalisation of the interior lining are among the final jobs to be completed.

“We will keep going back to this project. When we finish any part of the build we sit down, enjoy our hard work, and then move onto the next job.”

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