BIG IDEAS: Peter Cuming and Dr Elizabeth Bragg at their Maclean home built from repurposed materials and hemp.
BIG IDEAS: Peter Cuming and Dr Elizabeth Bragg at their Maclean home built from repurposed materials and hemp. Tim Jarrett

FUTURE CV: Should eco-villages be on the agenda?

THE Clarence could be on the cusp of something big and the community needs to decide what development should look like.

The Clarence Valley population has not grown significantly in the last 12 years and Bernard Salt suggests on current trends there will be a slight increase in growth amounting to 3000 residents by 2030.

He suggests it was because the Valley was "just a little too far" from major centres, creating a population stability he had seen before.

"You get a certain distance from a major city, beyond the zone where people can commute and it just becomes stable," he said.

"It falls just beyond the orbital influence of a Coffs Harbour or a Lismore or Ballina."

A perfect storm

With the completion of Pacific Highway, the Grafton Bridge on the horizon and a new jail, Mr Salt acknowledged there would be changes.

"There is no doubt that a major road has an impact," he said.

"It would certainly create better ability to commute to higher paying jobs further afield or allow people who work in higher paying jobs in Ballina or Byron to live in a lifestyle area like Yamba or Grafton."

Clarence Valley Council director of environment, planning and community, Des Schroder said growth and rising property value in neighbouring areas meant people would start looking to the Clarence.

"There is a sense that it is our time and we have enough land zoned for another 7000 homes." he said.

"It is a perfect storm."

New development

If predictions of higher than anticipated growth came about, consideration had to be given to how it was managed.

Mr Schroder said good settlement planning that started before council amalgamations alongside the current council's significant investment in sewage meant the stage was set.

"This is all coming together and we don't have a constraint on that (growth)." he said

Aside from more traditional residential developments, CVC recently gave the go ahead for 200 'manufactured homes' to be build on a gated estate in West Yamba.

Before its approval Peter Childs of Mavid Developments said the company was focused on making these estates affordable to encourage older residents to downsize, freeing up properties for young families.

While there had been some controversy in the past regarding manufactured developments of this kind, if managed well they could provide an appropriate space for an ageing population and could give some areas in the Valley a more youthful vibe.

However, paying close attention to the number of older residents moving into those areas from outside the LGA would ensure an adequate level of Aged Care services could be maintained as the population aged.

An alternative vision

As further development occurred in areas like Gulmarrad, Junction Hill and Clarenza, in Maclean, Dr Elizabeth Bragg and Peter Cuming were putting forward a sustainable development vision which they hope would act as an example to the rest of the Valley.

"We can't continue with 'business as usual', we have to act now to reduce our local and global impact," said Mr Cuming.

"We can see new developments going on that are very conventional, when they could have been very innovative. We need examples of more sustainable housing and neighbourhoods."

The pair's vision was 'Jagera', a 12-lot subdivision in Hoschkes Lane which incorporated rainwater collection, compost toilets and solar electricity, designed to significantly reduce their impact on the environment - and the council budget.

Mr Cuming explained their rainwater collection and sewage system would reduce the impact on the current reticulated system by 80 per cent, and could be replicated.

"If even just 20 per cent of new developments occurred like that you would have significant results in reducing the amount of water we are using as a community," he said.

"This has positive economic and ecological benefits, in terms of Council's costs for providing water supplies, and the health of the Nymboida river system."

Even its position - close to the town centre - was deliberate as Dr Bragg explained 'walkability' was "absolutely crucial for reducing our carbon footprint" and new developments needed to reflect that.

"If we are taking the climate emergency seriously we need to be walking or cycling to as many things as we possibly can." she said.

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