The Eco-village in Currumbin Valley received the FIABCI Prix d’Excellence global award for sustainable development in Amsterdam back in 2008 from the International Real Estate and Developer Federation. It is one of more than 30 national and international awards the Eco-village has received in the past 10 years, and yet surprisingly few locals are aware of the accolades.
It comes as no surprise, though, to the several hundred charmed souls who are lucky enough to call the Eco-village home, a verdant green Shangri-la set amid the lush splendour of Currumbin Valley. Here, all homes are solar-powered, rainwater is collected in tanks, and all waste water is treated on site and re- used for gardens and toilets. It is the only housing development of its size in Australia to voluntarily disconnect from mains water.
Homes feature solar passive design to remain warm in winter and cool in summer, veggie gardens and chook sheds abound, and the 110 hectare site is 80 per cent open space, with 50 per cent preserved in perpetuity as a flora and fauna reserve. Some 160 bird species have been observed on the site and a growing herd of kangaroos call it home.
The Eco-village’s co-founder Kerry Shepherd is a woman who has come closer than most of us ever will to truly living out her most ambitious dreams.
Kerry and her husband Chris Walton dreamed up the Eco-village concept in their garage in Budds ,Beach, Surfers Paradise, back in 1990.
Initially, their ambitions were no grander than a sustainable duplex development in Mermaid Waters, but friend and environmental educator Martin Jackson insisted they were capable of much more. They began intensively workshopping their vision with input from a close circle of friends and collaborators, and formed a development company, Land Matters, with business partner Colin Bear, to implement their vision.
Together they came up with the bold mission statement: “To inspire sustainable development projects and awareness.”
Their vision was even grander: “To create the world’s best sustainable development where people and nature flourish in harmony and integrity.”
The Eco-village neatly turned the traditional development model on its head. Rather than 80 per cent housing lots and 20 per cent open space, the village comprised 20 per cent housing lots and 80 per cent open space. They aimed to preserve 99 per cent of existing trees and planted thousands more.
But convincing buyers to throw their faith, money and lives into the village presented a formidable challenge. A strict architectural and landscaping code governed all development. Domestic animals were banned because of the threat they posed to native wildlife. Air-conditioning wasn’t permitted because of its high energy use. Solar hot water was mandatory. But those who bought into the vision did so with passion and commitment.
Monthly information days and guest speakers, on everything from weed eradication to composting to cultivating tropical fruits, built strong relationships and a sense of community with potential residents.
“The day we launched we had a cocktail party under the fig tree,” says Kerry. The black tie affair, with live music and an open fire, aimed to set the tone for the community lifestyle they hoped to nurture.
Every time someone moved in, that night a group of residents would congregate together and all bring food and rock up on their doorstep with meals, drinks and friendship. This went on for a couple of years. There was a party every night,” says Kerry.
Everyone loves coming out to the valley but it never really had a centre for the community to come together. When we looked at what we wanted to do there we saw the vision they had was perfect and we’re now carrying it on with our own touch,” says Peter. “Our goal is to create a health and wellbeing precinct in the Currumbin Valley, but it’s an organic process and will take time.”
But his ambitions don’t stop there. What we want to do here in the village is change the world, one small community village at a time. What we’re going to do is create our local sustainable community and we hope that inspires the next generation of town planning around decentralised, small, community-based villages. Ours is one example of how to do it and we hope it inspires others.
Thanks for reading