Richard Vinbrux and his wife Christel on their
self-sufficient lifestyle block in Oamaru. Photo by Andrew
Richard and Christel Vinbrux left their home village of
Roetgen, near the city of Aachen, Germany, 14 years ago, in
search of a more sustainable way of life in New Zealand, and
after buying a 14ha lifestyle block in Oamaru, the couple and
their four children now preside over a menagerie of pigs,
goats, chickens, bees and cows that has allowed them to become
almost totally self-sufficient.
They now provide their own, milk, sausages, bread,
vegetables, meat and beer.
Mr Vinbrux said although they had always tried to live in a
sustainable fashion in Germany, increasing bureaucratic
regulations and an expanding population had started to turn
their home village into a residential suburb of nearby
Mrs Vinbrux said Oamaru was the perfect place to achieve a
fully sustainable lifestyle.
''We loved the area, so we stayed. Now we have pigs, bees,
cows and a large vegetable garden. We don't buy any
vegetables now from the supermarket.
''We spend about $80 a week on groceries for six people.''
Mr Vinbrux added that their sustainable way of life in Oamaru
had been taken to a far greater scale than they had ever been
able to achieve in Germany, and it also had the advantage of
allowing them to eat traditional food from their home
country, without having to pay high prices for imported
''Good handmade cheese you just can't afford, and the same is
true of handcrafted German beer, and I like beer too much to
pay $8 a bottle for it.''
His home-made beer costs about $1 a litre to brew.
However, sustainable living was not all about price. It was
more about achieving a better quality of life, he said.
''Some people think they can buy a lifestyle block, and both
work 40 hours a week jobs and get away every weekend and
still make a profit from their vegetable garden.
Unfortunately that's just not realistic. The simple life is
The couple also breed Icelandic horses to provide an income,
which Mrs Vinbrux said ''mostly'' covered their mortgage.
''We don't make much money, but we eat like kings every
For the past three years the couple have been passing on
their 30 years worth of knowledge to fellow locals at the
Transition Oamaru sustainable skills summer school, and once
again they will be mentoring people at this year's summer
school, which starts tomorrow and runs to January 27.
The couple will tutor a range of ''hands-on'' sustainable
living courses, including backyard poultry, making
sauerkraut, making bread and brewing beer.
Anyone with a 1000sq m (quarter-acre) section could achieve a
sustainable way of life with just a good vegetable garden if
they put in the hard yards, Mrs Vinbrux said.
''There is a lot of physical labour needed; you certainly
don't need to pay to go to the fitness centre to keep fit.''