David Tangye

New Zealand

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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.


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

I visited Auckland around Christmas, and again in January, 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.

As of February, the Mazda van's gearbox seems to have fully come back to life. The gear changes are smooth, and the speedo is working again. It appears that since the top of the gearbox has been dry for many months, the speedo and other sensors have dried out. They would be near the top of the gearbox.

In February, I began exploring the East side of Auckland, to look at opportunities over that way, around the Tamaki Estuary. I am currently involved with the Tamaki Estuary Protection Society, serving on the committee, and upgrading and adding content to their website. I am in early stages of creating and developing a water quality IOT, open database system as the basis of a new TEPS "Water Monitoring Project".

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
I moved the Mazda van back 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 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. From there, similar items are restacked into containers for nearby countries, where they are torn down and some parts resold: 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.

Latest news

I am mainly around the eastern suburbs of Auckland...

  • It has been a very wet year here so far, also with many 6 to 7 centigrade sunrises during winter. I spent several 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 are appreciated.
  • I still occasionally visit 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 have also found their sewing machines very useful for making curtains for the van, and have also made a simple plaque on a piece of plywood for the Tamaki Estuary Protection Society.
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