Coomera Valley Ecovillage Project

by John Mongard Landscape Architects
Location: Coomera Village, Gold Coast City
Design Team: John Mongard Landscape Architects
Caroline Stalker Architect
Collaborators:
  • Coomera Valley Progress Association
  • Coomera Valley Residents
  • Catherine Lakshman - Media Consultant and Artist
  • Bruce Carrick - Graphic Designer
  • Gall Medek - Illustrators and Facilitators
Timeframe: July 1995 - February 1997
Budget: $25,000 + community in-kind support, $6,000 - Brochure

The Coomera Eco-Village project is the first environmental marketing and design project that the Australia Council has funded in Queensland. Unlike most CEAD grants, it represents a strong move to promote the green principles espoused as part of their community and cultural development agenda in Australia.

Environmentalists as well as residents are seriously questioning the sustainability of 'mainstream' urban development in Gold Coast City. This marketing and environmental design project set out to put ESD principles on the agenda for suburban developers planning their way up the green slopes of the city's hinterland.

The information booklet produced has had a big impact on the Gold Coast. The City Council have embraced it and printed and distributed the booklet from their planning and development counter. Developers proposing new work in the city get a free copy as a means of promoting green values.

The active environmental movement on the Gold Coast have picked up on the ecovillage model project as a useful means of negotiating a middle ground with large corporate developers who are yet to implement their projects. On the Coomera Valley alone, it is estimated that there are at least twenty large scale golf course orientated developments. The ACF is currently attempting to achieve a continuous open spaceand hydrological corridor through the Valley and the Plains.

The QNIA (Queensland Nursery Industries Association) recently held a successful conference for over 300 people which also focused around green issues for development in the city. The Coomera Valley Eco-village was highlighted as a viable option and raised much discussion.

Elements of the Sustainable Suburb

The design team worked with the local community of the Upper Coomera Valley to design part of a sustainable village, to show what it could look like and how it would work. The site is undulating, with lightly wooded regrowth along the eastern edge, and open forest throughout the protected areas on a steep western facing slope. The site captures beautiful views through the valley.

Building areas which have already been cleared were selected, and no construction should take place on protected areas. The road layout follows the natural contours of the land so that water will flow over and under it. The road layout is designed so you can walk or ride directly to your chosen destination. Open space recreation areas are included in the form of tracks through the creek and wildlife corridors in low-lying areas of the site. Some parts of the site have been allocated for small-scale farming.

Buildings on the site are generally oriented to capture the northerly aspect for effective summer cooling and winter warming. Since there are already some services on Maudsland Road, we have located higher density housing closer to these areas, and lower density housing to the edges of the site.

The development would also provide for the growing trend for people to link up withnew information technologies and to operate small businesses from home. Some of the housing includes workspace on the ground floor. Some members of the community may be involved in small scale farming and horticulture - and could even provide some food to their captive market in the village.

A sustainable village of around double the density of conventional development is less expensive to build than your average suburb. A sustainable village of the kind described in this brochure represents an 8% saving in the development costs compared to the conventional suburban model.

Making the Eco-Village a Planning Reality

Further to the grass-roots interest raised by the eco-village project, and the lobbying done by the Coomera Valley Progress Association in relation to imminent suburban development, the Gold Coast City Council commissioned a Structure Plan for the Coomera Valley area (Kopps Road area, Oxenford Structure Plan). John Mongard Landscape Architects worked with Gutteridge Haskins and Davey Planners and a team of consultants to turn the principles of the eco-village into a regulatory planning document and to guide sustainable land use in the district.

The plan outlines numerous potential sites for eco-village development and focuses further urban development on disturbed or cleared landscapes. An open space network using waterways, ridgelines and forests is the spine of the plan, dividing and buffering neighbourhoods which fit into a sustainable staging framework. ESD principles are outlined in the development guidelines.

A major arterial road proposal through the valley has galvanised residents into action, and the Structure Plan awaits political decision making on this major issue prior to being adopted. Once in place, the Structure Plan will be the legal means of implementing ecological residential development: the visions of residents will have come a full circle towards a plan which is real and enforceable.

Research shows that if these sites are built upon at an average density of 25 dwellings per hectare, there will be sufficient population to sustain a local bus service and a greater range of local shops and services.

Protecting Scenic Values

As part of the Structure Plan, John Mongard Landscape Architects mapped out the critical vegetation and landscape of the Valley and this framework was used for the containment of future residential growth to discreet pockets. Further workshops with the community consolidated this approach, where the highest priorities of people were to maintain a natural rural character in the Valley and to encourage sustainable land use.

Co-Design

The co-design process of designing and marketing the alternative development proposals has been a strong educational tool. Residents, developers, council staff and the media were taken through three intensive workshops, including two all day design sessions. Over 150 people were involved in developing optional sites and urban forms for eco-villages in the Valley. The eco-village finally developed is the urban pattern and site which residents voted to be the most viable.

Environmental Marketing

Part of the project involved marketing green values through the popular media, especially through developer oriented journals. A media consultant and environmental artist was part of the team. Controversial stories and advertisements were put into the local paper and the development journals, and the television networks began to pick up the story as local news. The project received good coverage with a very low scale budget.

Local Knowledge

The village is located walking distance to existing services in the old village, and on a rural property which could be developed due to the current zonings. The village was planned by walking the site with a local flora and fauna expert, an environmental geographer from the area, and a local historian. The concept and the principles of the Eco-village are able to be applied to any site in the Valley. Many developers have come forward to date for more information, including some from as far as Victoria.

The Coomera Valley Eco-Village project shows that environmental action can be instigated by Landscape Architects, making thorough grass-roots community networks. It is hoped that the eco-village model will be taken up in various ways, before the green behind the gold is totally lost.

For Further Information Contact:
John Mongard Landscape Architects
mail@mongard.com.au
Ph: (07) 3844 1932
Fax: (07) 3844 3250