Life in a van beats rental stress

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014
Campbell Neil is living in his van
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

HOME, SWEET HOME: Campbell Neil has opted out of Christchurch’s competitive rental market by living in his van.

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Campbell Neil has a fulltime job, but chooses to live in his van instead of paying "ridiculous rents" for second-rate conditions.

The 37-year-old "opted out" of Christchurch's expensive rents and competitive housing market by moving into his van about 18 months ago.

"Ridiculous rents, shoddy conditions and constantly being expected to bid for a roof? Get stuffed. I'm opting out my way. I've lived like this before and it didn't kill me."

Neil, who worked fulltime for a roading contractor, lived in a van about nine years ago while undertaking seasonal work.

He made the move back into a mobile abode after Canterbury's earthquakes forced him out of several rentals because of unsafe conditions or the owners wanting to sell up or move in themselves.

""I went to look at another flat for $220 a week. It was in poor condition and some guy walks up the driveway, doesn't even get through the front door, and says 'I'll pay $250'.

"I thought 'I'm not playing this game'."

He decided to buy a van instead and fit it out like a campervan, complete with a bed, storage areas and a space for cooking.

The van did not have shower or toilet facilities, but Neil was able to shower at work and parked overnight near domains, in camping grounds or by parks with public toilet facilities.

He could do laundry at camping grounds or at laundromats, collected water from work or at public facilities and had a solar panel for power.

"You've just got to sit back and use your brains ... and think about how you do some of these things."

Although his friends and family thought he was "mad", he was comfortable in the van.

"I'd love to have a proper roof over my head, but the reality is, here it's just not going to happen unless you've got piles of cash."

Neil followed three rules while living in his van – "try not to cause trouble, don't wreck anything, don't leave a mess".

He felt critics of freedom campers usually failed to ask why people chose to live in such a manner.

"People seem to think that we're all lazy, jobless, shiftless ... I've got a fulltime job – I've had it for well over eight years now."

"There's no need for house- sitting. It's a freedom thing," Neil said.

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