City meets country in Nelson

Sustainability is a key passion for a Nelson couple who turned an old barn into a corrugated iron-themed cottage

As a child, Roger Waddell made his own corrugated iron canoes and paddled them for miles through the mangrove swamps of the Kaipara Harbour, where he grew up.

The trick was to scrape the melted bitumen off the road on a hot summer’s day and use it to waterproof the canoe. With lunch in the stern and compass embedded in the ‘bridge’ of the Arawata, he would set off on long adventures.

Fast-forward 40 odd years and corrugated iron still plays a major role in Roger’s life, in the form of the holiday house he and his wife, Adele Smith, converted from a disused workshop in Nelson. Adele has a passion for design and was the creative entrepreneur behind the evolution of barn to holiday cottage.

You can still see the old Nelson railway iron making up the ceiling (the Nelson-West Coast railway was never completed) and the horizontally challenged floor in the bathroom bears testament to its hewn origins. The old barn doors have been retained. The bathroom vanity is Roger’s old lab bench from teaching days.

Roger and Adele moved to Nelson from Auckland in 1992. Roger was an outdoor education and biology teacher, so the opportunities to take children into the wilderness and have them learn something about themselves and their environment was a big drawcard. Adele taught at Motueka High School for a year then resumed her corporate job with Telecom in Auckland via telecommuting. Rowan was born in November 1993 and the following spring the couple bought what would become Corru Gate, in Mapua.

They wanted a concept that was iconically New Zealand and also reflected their own personal heritage – city meets country; style abuts pragmatism; retro collides with modernity; indoors eases into outdoors. Thus the corrugated iron and railway sleepers and barn-red colouring. Child friendly, style friendly.

The cottage and seven-acres surrounding it feature corrugated artswork by the late Motueka artist Bill Ayers.

Adele and Roger started renting out the property as holiday accommodation in 2000; the opening day party was the day before Adele went back to fulltime work. With Briar a toddler (born in January 1998) it made for steep learning curves and very busy times.

In 2004 they began planting a pa harakeke (traditional flax variety collection). Flax was a major industry locally and was grown in the valley below. Over the road from Corru Gate is a covenanted flax wetland and flax was exported from Mapua Wharf.

Further down the track, the couple are considering adding another cottage overlooking Tasman Bay to Nelson, and possibly a smaller unit overlooking the jetty dam near the pip fruit orchard.

In the meantime, guests from Taiwan, the UK, US, Canada, Ireland, India, France, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Australia and Indonesia as well as Kiwis have enjoyed the fruits of their labours at this little slice of paradise in Mapua.

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Corrugated iron canoe Roger (foreground) paddling a corrugated iron canoe in the Kaipara in 1969

Corrugate construction In its former incarnation: a barn…

Corrugate exterior ... and the exterior now

Corrugate kitchen Retro meets modern in the interior

Corrugated iron hens
Free-range chooks