Friday, January 17, 2014

Joining an Eco Community

As I've continued dreaming about and planning my new eco-friendly home, there's been a nagging issue: where to put it.

And I don't just mean a suitable plot of land with good soil. That's the last consideration. What about the neighbours, and the sense of community? In the modern world we tend to live in enclosed family units, perhaps knowing our neighbours but not necessarily forming strong attachments with them. So if, like me, you don't have a family unit to belong to, how lonely could it get to live outside the city? Is there any point in retiring to live in isolation, miles from the nearest friend, with nowhere particular to go all day?

So there are options: move to a village or town and hope everyone there opens up to you. Except the plots tend to be on the pricey side, and the councils are a lot more fussy about what you can build. The neighbours may just look down their noses at 'that girl with the smelly garden'.

Or get a shed load of cats.

But the inspiration for all this came from Lammas Eco Village, which appears to have an extremely strong community spirit, with single people and families of all ages belonging to it. Rather than just coveting their architecture and ecological principles, I think I'd really like to be their friend.

The Lammas village - a perfect community?

Finding an Australian Lammas

A search for similar projects in Australia started slowly. On the surface, most of modern Australia is a little bit on the snobby side - certainly in Sydney and in the popular retirement spots where prices are high and the standards even higher. There's a lot of talk about ecological building but it's combined with modern architecture and big, ambitious projects to 'hide the eco' and appear 'normal'.

But eventually, after a lot of digging, I've found them. The quiet, hippy communities that are either well established or just beginning. And they might be exactly where I need to go.

The concept

Generally, these villages are set up as a cooperative. Pioneers purchase a large plot of land and between them define the spaces - lots of communal facilities with sensibly divided lots for individuals to build on. In some of these the small lots are entirely freehold, though some are sold on a leasehold basis.

It's a choice that sounds ideal to me but certainly isn't for everyone. The conventional Australian is likely to be unimpressed. Which seems to result in some very reasonably-priced properties. Included in the 'sold subject to contract' search is a small house on a 2-acre, well cultivated plot for only $79,000. There would be no problem at all putting a little hobbit house on a plot like that, taking your time and living in the existing house in the meantime.

An adorable home in an established ecovillage for less than $80,000

Another village that's in its very early stages is a good deal further North in Queensland, where you can buy a freehold acre of building land for $45,000 and establish yourself within the community before it becomes too tightly knit. The climate up there would be beautiful and all the schools and facilities you could ever need would be right next door. They also have a 'no dogs or cats' policy that encourages the native wildlife to flourish alongside the people. Imagine living with kangaroos and kookaburras hopping around your garden!


One thing is clear: you can't just buy into these places. If you're joining a community, you have to know who and what that community is. Will it be similar to the pagan community portrayed in The Wicker Man? Will it remind me of my favourite 70's TV series Survivors? Or could there be a dark secret like in Syamalan's The Village? It's important to go to these places and spend some time with the people who could become your neighbours, friends, co-workers and family.

Living with native wildlife
I'm trying to kick back a bit at the moment, taking things one step at a time, but it's something to think about!


  1. I like the idea of living with kangaroos in my garden but a 'no dogs and cats' policy wouldn't do - I currently have two dogs and a shed load of cats and could never contemplate life without them. I do like the idea of a quiet hippy community though and I love the look of that home for $79,000.

    1. Yeah, that one did come as a surprise, though it makes perfect sense. I always assumed that I would live with cats again once I was settled, but I think I could try cuddling koalas instead (err, sort of!). Of course, since Tufter, I've been without pets... I would feel very differently if I was currently living with them. There's no way I would ever have turfed my puss-cat out just for a house (of course he never chased birds anyway, the softy!).

  2. Now cuddling koalas is something I would just love to do.

    It's long been my dream to get a one-way ticket to Australia, hire or buy a campervan or small motorhome, and spend three or four years exploring the country in every direction, but unfortunately family ties and lack of finances mean it will always remain just a dream :(

    1. Oh, I'm sure you could always scale it down a bit. Six months would be plenty (plus easier to secure a visa for) and there's a lot of free/wild camping. If you do come down, make sure you look me up for a spot of couch surfing!