Project to provide ‘pods’ to Pacific Islands launched

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Low-cost solution . . . Pacific Trust Otago chief executive Lester Dean (left) and Pacific Pods managing director Rob Fitzpatrick are flanked by two of the "pods" being sold in Dunedin. Similar pods are being trialled in Fiji with the aim of distributing them in the Pacific Islands. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Dunedin-based health provider and social agency Pacific Trust Otago has joined forces with local business people to launch a new social enterprise, Pacific Pods.

The project, which has been in development for the past 18 months, aims to transport container-loads of small, flat-pack buildings – or pods – to the Pacific region.

Pacific Trust Otago chief executive Lester Dean said the trust became an investor and partner in Pacific Pods with the aim of creating a revenue stream to allow it to become more independent from government contracts and funding agencies.

“We can provide assistance to communities in the Pacific Islands, while raising funds that we can use to support education programmes here at home,” Mr Dean said.

“And in the Pacific, we can influence lives and provide employment as well as low-cost housing.”

Pacific Pods managing director Rob Fitzpatrick said Pacific Trust Otago’s contacts at government level, with community leaders and international funding agencies in the Pacific Islands had been “extremely beneficial” in making the project a reality.

Pacific Pods recently imported several examples of the low-cost, Chinese-made galvanised iron, insulated pods, which come in three sizes – 10, 15 and 20-foot – to Dunedin.

“We brought them here to assess them, test the quality, look at heating and to check on assembly.”

In addition, a container of the flat-pack pods was shipped directly from China to Fiji and they were quickly sold.

Negotiations were under way with Fijian agencies to use the pods as small nursing stations, powered by solar panels, throughout the remote villages.

Future shipments will continue to go directly from China to the Pacific Islands, including Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

The pods are fully insulated and built to withstand the severe weather patterns in the region.

“The idea is to train local people to assemble the pods, which will help to provide employment, as well as safe housing,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Depending on size, the Pacific Pods range in price from about $8000 plus GST to about $11,000 plus GST.

Mr Dean said the pods, which were flexible and could be moved around like building blocks, could be stacked, and might be an accommodation solution during the Dunedin Hospital rebuild.

The directors of Pacific Pods are Mr Dean, Mr Fitzpatrick, Mark Cameron, John McClelland and Richard Hatherly, and its accountant is Peni Quaqua. Investors include some of the directors and several local Pacific groups.

Pacific Pods has several pods set up at its base at 140 Portsmouth Dr, next to Metro Glass, and will have an open day on Sunday, October 21, from 11am to 3pm.