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The Arthur's Court Motor Lodge Story

You should never go back to look at something from the past because you may end up buying it again!

That is what happened to Frank. In October 2007 Frank heard that the old Abel Tasman Motor Lodge had been redeveloped and was up for sale. He suggested we go back and look at it for old times sake, as he had owned it in a previous life 25 years before. He was the man who installed the iconic large satellite dish, which presided over Sherborne Street for so many years. (It picked up TV stations from around the world in the days before Sky TV.) We came to look. The developers were still at work. Five years later and we are still thinking of ways to improve it further.

It is a story that may never have happened if the day we moved in we had not been threatened by the gas company sales rep to sign a 3-year contract right now or he would remove all the gas company equipment from the property before 5 pm. We managed to negotiate a one-year contract to leave the gas on. From that day, we started to look at alternatives to gas hot water. We had installed a solar system to our own residential house only 3 months before. So we rang John Wilson of Sunshine Solar to discuss the viability of solar hot water for commercial premises, and began the first step to our environmental awards. At the time EECA was giving out grants of about 20% towards installing solar heating in commercial premises. By the time we had done the planning, had the Christchurch City Council approvals and consents, and the solar water system was installed, it was up and running to the day a year later. We told the gas company to remove all their equipment from the property by 5pm that day! (They had just finished reticulating the gas down Sherborne Street and wanted us to connect to the bulk supply – yeah right!)

We do owe this company a vote of thanks, as without them we would not have traveled this road.

One of the first decisions we made was to wash all our motel laundry ourselves to maintain quality control. We purchased two front loader washing machines, because they used so little water compared to top loaders and heated only the water they needed to the temperature required. We washed all the sheets in these and did the towels in the top loader we had inherited. After some weeks we noticed the towels were going slightly grey. We sought advice from the towels supplier and the detergent supplier, trying to overcome the problem. After some time we mentioned to the washing machine salesman that our towels were discolouring, and he suggested we pop them into the front loaders for a wash. The results were a revelation, and we promptly ordered another front loader and discarded the top loader. Our towels are now white again! As our business has increased so have our laundry needs. We now have 6 front loader washing machines and 3 commercial dryers.

All the innovations we have put in to the motel have been done because they are economically viable, either short or long term. Energy bills go up every year, increasing on average 100% every decade, but the government has not yet devised a tax on the sun and its power to heat. Double-glazing and blackout curtaining help retain heat in the units. Heat pumps are more efficient converters of electricity to heat than convection wall heaters. Aided by heat pumps/reverse cycle airconditioners, front-loading washing machines and eco bulbs, our savings on energy have been tremendous. Since owning the motels we have replaced all light fittings to take LED lights. The outside lights for night security are the equivalent of one 100watt bulb.

Our latst addition are the photo-voltaic panels on the roof to capture the sun for electricity. These feed into the motel during the day and any excess goes back into the town grid. Our electricity bills are the envy of any hospitality business that does not have PV cells.

We never regret our extravagances; we always regret our economies!

One of our little extravagances was replacing our non-stick frypans with stainless steel. Once the nonstick coating is scratched or worn, it can flake off into the food, and research shows that these coatings may be carcinogenic. Not the sort of thing we would like to eat, or want our children to eat, or our guests.

Another little extravagance is our water feature. We removed an old tree by the fence to create a space for the gentle splash of flowing water and some goldfish in the pond, a touch of feng shui in our busy world. With the gazebo beside it, there is a place for a drink and chat outside.

Arthur's Court Water Feature and Gazebo

Frank’s garden out the back has been a productive source of vegetables. Using raised beds, he was told that the soil would need replacing every two years. We now have a worm farm, called ‘The Beast’ from Earthly Delights, and our organic compost from the units and the house goes to feed the worms, producing worm pee which will feed all our garden soil and worm casts which will rejuvenate it in the coming years. No need to buy more expensive earthy compost from the garden shop. We look forward to even bigger tomatoes this year!

Through the Enviroment programme we are monitoring our rubbish and recyclables. We are filling the Christchurch City Council rubbish bins to the brim each week, and then using our Waste Management bin for the overflow. By hiring a second recycle bin from the council, and sorting the rubbish carefully, our goal was to cut down our private rubbish collection to once a fortnight instead of once a week, which we achieved over two years ago.

Monitoring water usage produced an interesting result. We could not understand why our water consumption per guest kept going up radically over the summer. All was revealed when a wet area sprang up beside the house, there was a pinhole leak in the high-pressure pipe, and when Drainworkz fixed it the comment was that the house was on top of a lake! We now know that when we start monitoring something and it increases for no apparent reason, there is a fault somewhere.