David Tangye

New Zealand

The Last Great Frontier is in your mind!

Hit a button ...

Current projects, engagements and interests

#3d_design_and_printing #arduino #crypto #database #esp32 #esp8266 #drones #environment #fast-api #handyman #house-sitting #iot #minimalism #project_management #OpenUP #python #quality #robotics #software #systems consulting #tiny_homes #water_quality

Diary notes: On returning to New Zealand


After 35 years overseas, mainly in Australia (Gold Coast since 2002), I arrived back in New Zealand 26 November, along with my essential worldly goods, clothes, handyman tools, electronic and computer parts, old sailing and scuba gear, electric bike parts, all packed into two vans in a shipping container. I had been following the Youtube channel of Serpenza and C-Milk (Winston and Matthew, who had been posting videos from China for a few years. Winstone had taught a school of medical students in Shenzhen a few years previously, and they were now sending him videos of people being surreptitiously taken away out from their apartment blocks in Wuhan, with what was soon to be identified globally as Covid-19. By the time I got to New Zealand I was well aware of its severity, and was double-pleased to be getting here. I had already decided that there was a good chance of a very severe global economic crash somewhere in the near future, along with potential severe environmental problems, so I had decided that New Zealand would be a better place to weather these storms than Australia. Plus I had decided that political leadership in Australia was becoming far too openly self-serving, if not downright corrupt, for me to want to be there.

As of 2022, this inevitable economic meltdown has been postponed by all western countries as they have applied tight controls on their populace, shut down their activities and freedom of movement in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid, but mainly to provide some relief to their underfunded and overstretched health systems. Western governments including New Zealand also printed and pumped ever increasing quantities of money into their economies, further running their sovereign debts to ever more massive levels. More knowledgable people, including those who are traditionally more 'mainstream' and conservative, are voicing grave concern about this as we move back to a hopefully more open, less locked-down, less government-controlled world of 2022.


Porirua Harbour
Porirua Harbour: staying nearby with family - January 2020

I started the year with family near Wellington, waiting for my vans to be certified for New Zealand's roads.

  • The little Mazda needed extra certification, as it had once been an insureance write-off in Australia, before I had checked it out, bought it, fitted it out as a campervan, and spent five years driving it around the Gold Coast and beyond.
  • The other van was also held up by the certifiers before Christmas, but they assured me it would be high pririty to get done after the New Year break. I had bought this van in Australia in mid-2018 and named it "Te Hinanui". It is a 2015 Renault Master L3H2 model, which indicates the length #3, height #2 in their size ranges. It had just 50,000 km in the clock and was in pristine condition.
  • During my last year in Australia made a 3D design of my intended camper living setup to ensure maximum usage of every millimetre of space.
  • I fitted it out for living in. I built a similar bed setup to how I had built my Mazda van five year previously, but with full standing headroom, a toilet room (which I actually use for extra storage), and a usable kitchen area with expanded cooking facilities, electric camp stove and oven, plus my 2 burner gas stove and Waeco fridge from the Mazda.
When TeHinanui was finally certified for New Zealands, around late January, I travelled to Auckland to register it and take possession. It has been my mobile home since then.

View of Auckland from Te Atatu
Auckland from my home moored outside Te Atatu at the top of the harbour - March 2020

Three weeks after getting the van, New Zealand went into Covid level 4 lockdown. I drove to Auckland to weather it out, living aboard and looking after a 20 metre power catamaran off Te Atatu. For those 6 odd weeks of level 4 lockdown, I was the sole human out on the top of Auckland harbour. I had the entire place to myself. When permitted by the transition to level 3, I got a backpacker out onto the boat, for company, and to help with all sorts of maintenance and general work.

When level 3 lockdown ended I found the "TapLab" makerspace in the Te Atatu community centre. I joined it and based out of there on and off for several months. TapLab is a similar group to the Gold Coast TechSpace that I helped run in its early years from 2012, with a friend who founded it.

Bream Bay from near Waipu, Northland
Bream Bay from near Waipu, Northland - November 2020

As soon as New Zealand entered lockdown level 2, I was able to begin looking for places to possibly settle, my first destination being Northland.


Landing Point, Kerikeri
Landing Point, Kerikeri - March 2021

Auckland went into Covid lockdown again in February, so I spent an excellent 2 months in the far north during autumn. I made several visits to Kawakawa (probably one of the the best freedom camping spots in the North Island), worked in a packhouse in Kerikeri for three weeks (that was enough: it was way too strenuous for my aged bones and muscles), and cruised Doubtless Bay to Kaitaia and the North Cape.

Doubtless Bay joins the Matakana area as a favourite place to possibly move more permanently to ... one day.

For winter I worked on a few projects back down in Auckland, including some house renovating: some floor tiling, replacing internal walls, painting etc.

When New Zealand went into Covid level 4 lockdown again in August I had nowhere suitable to park up in Auckland, so I again drove to Northland. This time I parked up on a property in Hukerenui, north of Whangarei, where I have been kept busy renovating a house that squatter/tenants had recently trashed. This involved more tiling, fixing holes in walls then fairing and painting, plus all sorts of general handyman work.

From early October, the weather here has actually been better than what we would get on the Gold Coast, in my opinion. While the Gold Coast probably has the best weather overall in Australia, the bottom line is that is really too hot from early October right through until late March. It, or the northern hemisphere might be good alternatives to New Zealand for June through until late September though. That might be an option if and when Covid is under control.


Hukerenui, Northland
Farm life, Hukerenui, Northland - December 2022

At the end of 2021, I moved to an adjacent farming property, still in Hukerenui. I passed a very pleasant year there, beginning to develop a product management software system for use in the UK, while getting some physical exercise helping out around the farm, herding cattle, some tree planting and lots of hand picking carrot weed.

I finally gained possession of my second van, although it is still not registered for New Zealand roads. I found that on arrival the speedo was dead. After several months I guessed that someone had put extra fluid into the gearbox. Hopefully it was transmission fluid, not engine oil! This had led to both the speedo sensor and the manual override hold in low gears not operating, and also the gear change would mostly be very harsh. To attempt to fix the problems, I drained the fluid down to near the top indicator, and tried driving it for short distances a few times during the year, with varying results. I made a note to drain the gearbox still further and hope that would fix the problems. After that, I will need to fix some light rust, and get it certified then finally registered for New Zealand roads.


I have been mainly based around the eastern suburbs of Auckland...

from Bucklands Beach, Auckland
from Bucklands Beach, Auckland - March 2023

I visited Auckland during Christmas 2022, and again in January 2023, with a view to re-locating there, returning a couple of times to Hukerenui, the last time in February to help get over 1000 bales of hay off the paddocks and into the hay barn.

During February, the Mazda van's gearbox came back to life. The gear changes were smooth, and the speedo worked again. It appears that since the oil had drained away from the top of the gearbox over many months, the speedo and other sensors dried out.

In February, I began exploring the East side of Auckland, to look at opportunities over that way, around the Tāmaki Estuary.

I became involved with the Tāmaki Estuary Protection Society:

  • upgrading and adding new content to their website;
  • creating a new constitution for the Society to align to new laws;
  • beginning to create and develop a water quality system as the basis of a new TEPS "Water Monitoring Program".
I am currently serving on the committee.

I joined the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club for the end of the 2022/23 season, mainly to make use of their excellent faciities and do a bit of racing during autumn of 2023.

Mazda van camper fitout
Mazda van fitout removed - June 2023
During autumn, I moved the Mazda van back from Northland to a shed in Auckland, but after 6 weeks there I had to move it on again. I was in no position to work on it, and get it registered, so sadly, I had to phone a wreckers and sell it for scrap. At least that day I was able to remove the camper setup out of it before the truck came to collect it. I was able to sell the camper setup separately to another van-dweller.

Apparently the van would be sliced into several pieces and stacked in a container with others, then shipped to Dubai. In Dubai, pieces of similar makes of vehicle are combined into containers destined for nearby countries. There they are completely torn down and some parts are resold.

This was a sad waste of a well maintained and fully roadworthy van, that for several years was perfectly fit to be driven around in Australia, but which fell foul of New Zealand's excessive regulations and officious bureaucracy.

This was a very wet year in Auckland until spring, and with many 6 to 7 centigrade sunrises during winter. I spent several winter days hunkered down in the van, sometimes remaining in bed until the afternoon, although usually at least doing software engineering from there. I was surprised how much research and Wordpress website work I was able to do from my smartphone. As of August, as forecast, the advent of the early El Nino has resulted in somewhat drier weather and a few warmer sunny days, which were appreciated. Spring was mostly fine and warm, but with passing spring showers and rain - great for any gardeners. I have decided that Auckland weather generally is preferable for me than and Australian weather, except for the winter months. After 2024, I think I should be in Queensland, England and/or Europe during those months.

Embroidery at TapLab
at TapLab

I occasionally visited the excellent TAP:lab makerspace in the Te Atatu Peninsular Community Centre. Being a member of the makerspace I have 24/7 access into the building, and access to their equipment and tools, including 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters, soldering irons and to desk space.

I brushed up on my knowledge of Inkscape for laser cutting, and made a simple plaque on a piece of plywood. I also designed and made embroidered logos on shirts, both for the Tāmaki Estuary Protection Society. I have also found their sewing machines very useful for making light day and thick night blackout curtains for the van.

From September I worked in the eastern branch of DXMail as a motorbike postie:

  • delivering mail around South and parts of East Auckland;
  • analysing how to improve their mail sorting system.

I spent Christmas back on the Gold Coast with my daughters, one coming from England to join us.

Latest news: April 2024

My Development Workstation
My ODroid N2+ in
my development

I am currently parked up in the front yard of a residential property near Half Moon Bay, with power plugged in, so I am fully set up in a minimalistic fashion as intended for this van.

I am developing software, accessing the internet from my ODroid micro-PC via the hotspot on my phone.

This tiny powerhouse "Single Board Computer" has proven to have been a very effective tiny computer so far for software development and general use. When coupled with my phone's hotspot, I can work fully efficiently from any location where I can plug power into the van.

I am currently developing two websites using Wordpress and also an online store using OpenCart for one of them. When they are finished, I am favouring developing another using OpenCart and perhaps Django, and then redeveloping this, my own website, using either FastAPI or Django, and also adding an OpenCart online store into it as well.

Powered by raw html and css grid magic! Copyright: Tangye Engineering 2023