Author Archive for Catriona Macdiarmid

Vale Peter Cundall, Celebrating a Life of a passionate organic gardener

What a sad day with the passing of a wonderful man that inspired so many people to take up gardening. And persuaded those with an already established interest to pursue it for their property.

Inspirational too as a man who demonstrated how older men could be fine examples to boys and men. How to be a ‘modern man’, full of respect and gentle leadership. No surprise he was the Australian Humanist of the Year in 2006.

He inspired the tone and profile of Gardening Australia still seen today in the presenters and the content of the program.

Every week he entertained us with great stories and tips as well as always sharing his wide and deep horticultural knowledge.

For us though, our greatest inspiration was Peter’s passion leading many people to organic gardening. As a conservationist, Peter was part of the generation that fundamentally changed our attitude to our natural resources. Being part of movements such as the Franklin Dam battle. And participation in conservation organisations like the Wilderness Society.

 People like Peter gave those of us starting businesses like EcoProperty and The Eco Real Estate Network the encouragement and energy to pursue our own goals around conservation and organics.

British born and of the Second World war and Korean war generation what a beautiful gift his life has been to Australia. Lucky us! Thank you Peter.

LFIA design competition – Make Money and Have your Say

Registrations for the Living Future Institute of Australia’s design competition are open.
What does a socially just, culturally rich, ecologically restorative retail centre actually look like?

LFS competition


This competition is open to anyone and everyone with different entry categories to share in a prize pool of over $30,000.

So form a design teams, register to enter – see more here  on the Living Future Institute of Australia’s website.

100% of proceeds from registrations go towards funding a renewable energy technology at a primary school local to the competition site in Melbourne.

The Change you are Looking for?

This is for a fruit you probably have ever never heard of, with a product range you may have never considered.  Perhaps you have not even considered organics and biodynamics that have now been established for it.

Is it time to do something different with your life?  Have you considered making a significant change but not exactly sure for what.? Do you have an amazing skill set but want to apply it in a very different way?  This is an opportunity that does not come along very often.  If I could have another life, I would do it myself.

What it does provide is an established business, the biggest plantation, plant breeder rights and an enormous upside for the entrepreneurial problem solver.

Let me introduce you to Achacha – think of the cha-cha with Ah in front of it.  It is Bolivian but Queensland is the perfect equal location and that is what these first group of entrepreneurs did.  Went to Bolivia, researched it all thoroughly and then brought it to Australia.

For what is now another perfect product for Australian horticulture.

I’m excited to share this with you and hope that if it is not for you, you may know someone perfect for it. 

Or, ideally I think, a group of people, who could be involved in some capacity.  One or more may choose to live there in one of the 2 existing houses.  And over time the group could build a fantastic Eco Home designed with all the latest and greatest features and systems.  And this could be on the third title available.

So, this is an opportunity to express your values.  If you have a commitment to environmental sustainability you can continue the organic certification and biodynamic systems.  Not essential but you would be crazy not to.

Request the Buyer Prospectus here.  There is also an excellent Investor Presentation.

10 Phyllis Crescent, Castlemaine Vic 3451

Three bedroomed, Peter Lees Architect designed loft house on 930sqm block. This post and beam, earth brick house has been built with the environment in mind. Its passive solar design is complemented with split system heating and cooling and a Ned Kelly wood burner.

The established garden has fruit and native trees, organic vegetable garden and greenhouse, rainwater tank and sheds. A verandah and large deck provide entertainment and great views over the adjacent hills. The home can accommodate up to 4 cars off street and has a double car port.

Located on the outskirts of Castlemaine, 3k from the golf course and a short drive from town for all its amenity including Vline service to Melbourne and Bendigo.

Please submit the property inquiry form to receive further details and have your questions answered.

Community, ecovillage, cohousing, multiple occupancy

Many people often ask us where can I “buy community”.  Of course, most communities are built by the people who live there – the interactions, relationships over time, history of local events.  The features of community that are desirable are connectedness, looking out for each other.   Historically community meant some sort of social unit with certain norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. Usually, a place or geographical region.  Since the advent of the world wide web, use of ‘community’ and ‘tribe’ has become much more a sense of shared values and experience.

In establishing cohousing and ecovillages, people have sought to design and build for certain behaviours and values based on a shared philosophy of sustainability.   The intention being a shared vision to create places that will address social, culture, ecology and economy – the four pillars of sustainability. 

CoHousing
Cohousing was first established in Scandinavian countries.  The design of the houses was to encourage frequent interactions and form close relationships, so architecture is important.  Often 20-40-60 homes with large common areas for the residents (and their guests) to interact in. Personal privacy remains important so often the front part of the houses and common areas were for neighbourhood and community interaction and events, the rear part of the houses private.  Ownership, decision-making and community contribution are usually the keys to engender the social and cultural changes desired. Many have consensus whilst others may differ to allow residents to ‘pay’ instead of contributing their labour. Shared resources often mean saving money as well as less expenditure on individual systems such as power and water.


EcoVillages
Ecovillages in Australia have mostly been built in regional areas, often with larger acreage involved. A broader term than cohousing each is designed by the people who live there, even if there is an original overall plan.

Participatory processes apply so that all the knowledge and experiences of members are utilised with the intention of creating a group of people who combine for a shared purpose to live sustainable lifestyles.

Multiple Occupancy
Another feature of ‘cohousing’ in Australia has been multiple occupancies which began in the 1960s as people lived together on land in rural areas with limited money and the desire to live more communally.  Often, they worked to transform degraded farms back to rainforest and bush as part of their philosophy to live close to the land and protect it.

Legal ownership has also developed over the years.  A lot of multiple occupancies became companies with share ownership in the company.  Community title was also established for ecovillages and cohousing.  The simple way to understand it is more like strata title, where there is individual ownership of each house or apartment (and sometimes land) with shared ownership of the community resources (sometimes including some sort of enterprise).  

You can see there is plenty of variety for you to consider.  It is finding one that suits your needs, preferences and budget.   Check out some here at Castlemaine Victoria, Shepherds Ground in NSW and Denmark in Western Australia.  All fine examples of ecoproperty® and available for you now.

The Greater Glider – A treasure in our unique Australian bush

#ClimateActNow

The greater glider has been in the news with 2 new species being discovered making 3 in total. The research team spoke positively about the unique and sweet nature of the greater glider species.

Intrigued to discover some more about these gorgeous and unique animals we mostly don’t see because they sleep during the day in tree hollows and feed during the night.

They have similar habitat dependencies as koalas and prefer older trees with hollows to sleep in and feed almost exclusively on eucalypt leaves. Knock down – or burn – their bush habitat and silently the local greater gliders – and the other critters that also reside there – are gone.

Greater gliders are quiet and rarely heard but you may see large scratches on trees from landing – they launch themselves to glide from tree to tree up to 100 metres in the air.

Living up to 15 years and producing only 1 young per litter per year with the young glider dependent on mum for up to 10 months often riding on her back during glides (which makes me think of a baby on mums zipline lol).

Their individual range is between 0.7 and 3 hectares and they spread their time between multiple hollows and “During mating season you will see them sitting together with their long fluffy tails intertwined,” Dr. Kara Youngetob, one of the researchers from ANU, said.

Listed as vulnerable and declining sharply in numbers, threats to greater gliders include feral species such as foxes, cats and dogs, destruction of their habitat and barbed wire fences.

The Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld is one community environmental organisation working and campaigning for the survival of species and ecosystems including gliders.

Locking up domestic pests overnight, installing nesting boxes and protecting our remaining bush will help their survival. Sadly, gliders are incredibly vulnerable to bushfires and land clearing. Chillingly the recent Australian bushfires earlier this year wreaked not only enormous destruction to communities, farmland and bush it also wiped out nearly one-third of the greater gliders’ habitat.

#ClimateActNow

Invest in your Future

The Road Best followed….time to Invest in your Future!

Has 2020 and the pandemic reinforced how fed up you are with city prices for real estate, endless traffic, claustrophobic public transport, crowded busy lives?  Now perhaps working from home successfully means you can seriously consider moving to a regional centre or small town.

Reflections about life has been one of the good things about the pandemic for many people.  Life changes in your home and buying real estate can be about savings, investing in the best life possible for yourself and your family. In real estate investment, location, lifestyle possibilities and eco features can help you make the best future.

Real Estate Prices

Values may seem cheap compared to Melbourne, Sydney, even Brisbane. So, the relief alone and way less mortgage stress of course is fantastic.

Real estate ownership is one of the most important investments you will make. There are some key things to consider.

Which location to go to?  So many people say 2 hours from Melbourne or 3 hours from Sydney but many of these communities have already had major real estate price hikes and already significant migrations over the last 10 years.  Regional centres and associated small towns further out often provide some of the best places to go to.  And, guess what, you don’t actually want to back to the city very often.  More important for you may be transport access.

Future of Work

This is where NBN and internet come in.  Whatever your work now, or in the future, you are going to need good internet coverage.  Check that out.  Both in the town, and at the property which can sometimes be poor.

When we leave our dense cities, space seems so wonderful.  Space has probably become one of the most important features to consider in your regional home.  Working from home, schooling and uni at home, suddenly have become incredibly important.  This could be for always.  Whilst we may recover from this pandemic, we need to face the very real possibility of ongoing further pandemics, and climate change is now at a critical phase.

Spaces

Last week I visited a property where I counted 18 fantastic different spaces for what was needed by a family and all their various needs and stages of life.

If you not only want to go regional or small town but want to grow veggies and fruit you need a site that has plenty of sun – and the right sort of sunlight, and the right amount through the growing seasons.  A few things here.  Check out the climate.  Check out the specifics of the property you are considering.

You can improve the soil anywhere by learning about Permaculture and organics but it does take time.  Buying somewhere with good soil already, or established gardens, can be a real bonus.

Power and Growing Stuff

Then of course water. Growing your own food is incredibly healthy – pleasurable and nutritious. Plucking and eating your greens daily is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  But veggies and fruit and nuts need water.  If you are on town water you will be paying for it through water rates.  If you are on water tanks then you need good rainfall and good clean tanks for drinking and cooking.

For solar panels and to generate your own hot water and electricity you need to have the right roof top and right solar access.  With masses of solar energy installations over the last 5 years you need to check that the property has systems that work well.  Ask to see power bills and energy use.  If neither is yet installed and you know you want to,  you may want to check with a local recommend solar installer and see how they assess the property.

Other important considerations are beach, lakes, ocean, bushland, tourist towns, remoteness.

What about what is the size of the land.  Many of our best properties have an upside that may not be immediately apparent.  Understanding the local community and likely developments not just in the next year or so, but in 5-10 even 20 years.

Increasingly your best investment is what suits your own immediate needs – your own affordability and immediate lifestyle of course.  But buying costs are high, real estate values are far more variable in rural and regional Australia.

We have seen increase in property sales in rural areas and demand for areas that aren’t usually top of people’s lists.

Invest in Values

What is not going to change is the human need for space, for water, for good soil, and one of the most important things now threatening our very existence, climate change.

Look out for our further series on all these issues – you can subscribe on our website to our Eco Updates.

Eco Property Examples

To check out one of our best eco property rated current listings ideal for making your move now. In Victoria

http://ecoreal.co/NungurnerVIC

In South Australia http://ecoreal.co/KeppochSA

5a Marie Street, Boronia VIC 3155

Designed for best Eco-style, comfort, low running costs and practicality, this brand-new home features sustainability and an energy rating that far surpasses six-stars.

A quiet corner block with the foothills of the Dandenongs as backdrop is an easy walk to shops, eateries, cinema and station to Melbourne. With its verandah-wrapped façade, it has a timeless appeal in addition to its modern very-high-efficiency brief.

Argon-filled double-glazed windows with low-emissivity (‘heat mirror’) glass in local hardwood frames complemented by airlock entry keep the house comfortable.

Timber-look floors underline the vaulted-ceilinged lounge, dining area and stunning kitchen with sparkling stone benches and premium appliances.

Three double bedrooms include the main boasting walk-in-wardrobe and ensuite. Family bathroom and separate toilet. The other bright and airy bedrooms have integrated mirrored robes and wide aspect views, and all that you’d never believe was made from recycled bottles!

The large double garage with remote door has internal access to the house as well as to the rear garden.
The landscaped front, side and rear gardens with indigenous and low-care planting fed by rainwater tank that also services the toilets.

Features:
Open-plan living areas with high ceilings
Stone benchtops in kitchen and bathrooms
Himalaya Hillary 100% PET recycled carpet
Main bedroom with ensuite and walk-in-robe
Responsive induction hob in generous kitchen
Ultra-high-performance double-glazed windows
Beautiful natural local hard-wood windows and doors
Built-in mirror-doored wardrobes
‘Air-lock’ entrance hall with coat cupboard and WC
Highly energy-efficient reverse cycle heating/cooling
Warm featured downlighting and LEDs throughout
Double garage with direct entrance to house
Entertainment deck area from living area
Generous 270l heat pump hot water system
Rainwater tank for toilets and gardening
Low-energy bathroom extractor fans
Solar-powered en-suite skylight
Light footprint concrete pads
Weathertex eco-panelling

Please submit the property inquiry form for all contact details and for information about the auction.

50 Wirruna Drive, Cooran Qld 4569

Enjoy this 6 Star rated energy efficient home, architecturally designed by WD Architects, specialists in sustainable architecture. Set on 1.7 acres backing onto an environmental reserve with clear views of Mount Cooran.

Nestled in a quiet area of the Noosa Hinterland surrounded by national parks & neighbouring a friendly town with a great sense of community. 40min drive to Noosa beaches and 20min to Bruce Highway. Permaculture principles have been followed in all projects around the property.

Large fenced veggie garden with raised beds and a variety of fruit trees planted in swales.

Plenty of water with 2 x 22,500 litre galvanised steel water tanks as well as 14,000 litres in additional water tanks.

North facing 3kw of solar panels with 5kw inverter plus solar hot water system, for maximum efficiency. Almost completely self-sufficient, just batteries would be required for night time electricity.

The 107.5m2 house is on stilts with chemical free cypress framing, heavily insulated with internal floorboards throughout. Additional 32m2 raised covered deck with expansive view of garden and Mount Cooran, accessible through a large open plan living/kitchen area with indoor double daybed in north facing bay window.

Spacious solid timber kitchen with stone veneer bench tops. Large walk in pantry with cool cupboard. Woodfire stove capable of heating the whole house and doubles as an oven, great for cooking in winter. (Wattle trees at the bottom of the land provide great firewood).

Two large bedrooms both also facing north, one has its own side entrance and can be used as home business area.

Bathroom with walk in colourbond lined shower for easy cleaning.

Spacious storeroom and separate laundry area. Outdoor bathtub.

Large, insulated and enclosed storage area under house.

Grey water system and compost toilet.

Double lock up garage with awning.

Fully enclosed chicken coop with large, robust easy-clean chicken house. Self-watering system and tunnels for access to tractors and goat area. Chickens also protected by 3 resident wild guinea fowl. Quick clean duck house and 2 baths with wastewater channeled to banana trees.

4 fully fenced paddocks for goats (or similar) with housing in each.

All wastewater and run offs around the property are gravity irrigated to water plants, for minimal waste.

Schools Clean Up Day

Schools Clean Up Day is a fun and engaging way to teach young Australians about the responsible disposal of rubbish, resource recovery and the repercussions of rubbish dumped irresponsibly in the local environment.

It’s a day when students and teachers work together to clean up an area which is special to you. It can be the playground, a local park, or maybe bushland near your school – it’s up to you.

Get involved as an individual, group of friends, family, local organisation, environmental group, religious group and more! You can register to Clean Up near you any day of the year! https://www.cleanup.org.au/get-involved-as-a-community-member

International Volunteer Day

International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2019, “Volunteer for an inclusive future”, highlights volunteers contributing to inclusion, and Sustainable Development Goal 10, reducing inequality within and among countries.

It is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work among their communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, government authorities and the private sector.

IVD provides volunteer organisations and individual volunteers with the opportunity to raise the public awareness of their contributions to economic and social development at local, national and international levels.

This year, IVD celebrates volunteer efforts that strengthen local ownership and the resilience of the community in the face of natural disasters, economic stresses and political shocks. The event will focus on how volunteers can build resilient communities.

Click here to learn more.

Buy Now

Escape from the city to a magnificent, idyllic retreat: Live the ‘tree-change’ dream

The dream of escaping the hustle and bustle of city life and living off the land in a truly eco-sensitive and organic lifestyle is one shared by many but experienced by only a few. For many would-be tree changers, the challenge of growing organic vegetables from scratch or designing the perfect passive- energy home is an overwhelming project.

Just imagine if the hard work has already been done by a pioneering organic farmer and eco-property builder? That’s exactly what is offered in a property situated on the creek flat of the Grange Burn-in easy access of the city of Hamilton, Victoria. Rarely is a modern ‘eco’ home packaged with a thriving organic farm in such a well-situated location, only 800m to the Hamilton CBD.  It is just ripe for the next owner to fulfil the dream of a sustainable lifestyle or organic business from day one. 

This eco-property offers a newly built architectural home and highly-productive, amazingly fertile 4-acre farm, so the buyer can enjoy a simple, sustainable ‘off the grid’ lifestyle while enjoying the benefits of a dynamic regional community just minutes away.

It is currently home to a young family, passionate about organic, zero-waste, sustainable living who are looking to move to expand their horizons and continue their organic farming education by travelling and learning from others.

Hamilton-local Jason Thomas and his family built the home and developed the land into a 4-acre organic farm that is completely self-sufficient and sustaining, providing most of their needs. Power is entirely renewable and stored in batteries, so energy is off the grid, supporting all the technology needs of a modern family home and working farm.

The home is nestled in an idyllic location, mere walking distance to the local community of Hamilton– a thriving regional centre in the heart of the Victorian wool belt. It is close to the historic heritage botanical gardens and nearby Lake Hamilton which boasts year-round recreation activities.

For the naturalist, native Australian wildlife is abundant, including some shy, rarely seen species. From the home’s balcony, you can spy a koala blissfully asleep in the branch of a nearby tree. Wandering down to the creek that runs through the property (feeding nearby Lake Hamilton), it’s common to see a family of platypus swimming and foraging for a tasty yabbie near the footbridge.

For those seeking stress-free, rural life, it provides a rare and much sought after dream of a self-sufficient organic lifestyle and potential livelihood. In the growing season, crops of vegetables, herbs and fruit are abundant, perfect for a productive market garden. The climate is very favourable for organic agriculturalists too with ample rainfall providing year-round irrigation.

Jason and his wife Kelly, both professionally-trained, have now fully embraced the rural lifestyle, and their home has allowed them to grow all their food in an organic, healthy way, care for their children full-time and live a simpler, relaxed lifestyle.

The property is a dream in its flexibility and scalability; for the semi-retired looking for a simpler life, the garden and land can be scaled back to serve the needs of a few. Alternatively, for the permaculture enthusiast and farmer, the property can be scaled up for large scale food production or grazing animals.

Those looking to live accessibly to family or travel to the surrounding Victorian and South Australian attractions will find Hamilton is centrally located; cities, coastal beaches, the Grampian mountain range, Barossa vineyards and bushland are all within an easy driving distance from Hamilton.

The home is architecturally designed to be passive solar for energy-efficiency, regulated heating/cooling and maximising light. This means year-round comfort using the power of the sun, breeze, wood fire and shade. The home still meets all the modern home and business technology needs with a new NBN connection. Being a recent build means there’s nothing to do and maintenance is low.

“As the owner/builder I was able to be hands-on and involved throughout the design and building process, which is crucial with a passive solar home. When you’re trying to achieve energy-efficiency in temperature control, energy-efficiency and lighting, decisions around orientation, materials, heat retention seals, airflow and insulation are important details,” Jason explained.

There is considerable scope to develop the property further. For example, plumbing and electrical provisions were added, allowing for a ground floor extension in the future. “The plan was to add a self-contained apartment to the ground floor of the home, which could be used for B& B accommodation, for example. There are so many ways to expand the home and productivity of this property,” Jason explained.

The property is well regarded and admired in the region, so new owners will find a welcoming and supportive community. Jason has hosted around 200 farm tours, often for school excursions and interest groups learning about sustainability and organic eco-systems.

“We hope the next owners love this place and this lifestyle as much as we do. It’s given us the freedom to live simply, work less, need less, spend more time with our small children and be more conscious about our health and wellbeing. It’s such a tranquil and stunning place, and you can’t help form a deep connection with the land and everything it nurtures.”

16 Pierrepoint Street, Hamilton Vic

National Recycling Week

In November 1996, Planet Ark founded National Recycling Week to bring a national focus to the environmental benefits of recycling. 

It hopes to educate the public on the importance of recycling, as well as to promote kerbside, industrial and community recycling initiatives.

This year more than ever we need to continue to recycle, but more important is to also focus on reduce and reuse.  Not to focus on recycling plastics, but to not buy them in the first place. To ensure we reduce the amount of clothes we need to buy and buy quality items that last, or can be reused.

There are fabulous initiatives to also fix things.  We are so trapped by items being cheap that we throw them away instead of buying either quality that will last, or fixing items.  Also, whatever we buy – cars, fridges, and big items. Buy ones where all the inputs are recyclable when we have finished with them.

Now in its 20th year, this established and highly regarded annual campaign continues to educate and stimulate behaviour change, by:

  • Promoting kerbside, industrial and community recycling initiatives
  • Giving people the tools to minimise waste and manage material resources responsibly at home, work and school.

For more info about this event, please follow this link.

Regional Incentives

Regional Skills Relocation

The NSW Government has established the Regional Skills Relocation Grant to increase the availability of skilled and experienced workers for businesses setting up in, relocating to, or existing in regional NSW.

Grants will be available for businesses operating in NSW regional eligible industries. The funding is available to assist with the relocation costs of eligible skilled workers they employ that move from metropolitan areas to regional NSW.

The NSW Government has committed $10 million for applications over the next four years—$2.5 million will be available each year, providing 250 grants of up to $10,000 per eligible skilled worker.

Regional Incentives

Relocation for Jobs

Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job (RATTUAJ) is an Australian Government program that assists eligible participants to relocate to take up an offer of full time, ongoing employment. Relocation assistance helps participants accept work outside of their area by removing the financial barriers that can prevent people relocating.

A participant can receive assistance of up to:

  • $6000 (GST exclusive) if relocating to a regional area
  • $3000 (GST exclusive) if relocating to a capital city
  • an extra $3000 (GST exclusive) if relocating with a dependent.

Funding can be used for a range of relocation costs. For example, up to two month’s rent, rental bond, removalist costs, travel costs, food during relocation and some employment-related expenses. Pre-approved assistance is made by reimbursement, paid directly to a service provider or in advance where necessary.