During a recent trip around the Island state of Tasmania, off the south-east coast of the Australian mainland, I had the opportunity for a brief visit of the Tasman Ecovillage. A new and evolving community development project near the southwestern tip of the Great Southern Land.
The active history of Tasman Ecovillage goes back to 2013, when 23 acres of land were bought by a small community of people in the small, quaint, rural and coastal town of Nubeena, on the west side of the Tasman Peninsula, located in the southeastern most part of Australia and southeastern most part of Tasmania. The Tasman Peninsula, is like most of Tasmania an area of great natural beauty, with awe-inspiring coastline, beaches, bays and harbours, beautiful eucalypt forests with towering giants and tall tree ferns and abundant wildlife (including some of the remaining and healthy populations of the fierce Tasmanian Devil (which survival is threatened by a deadly facial tumor disease). But also the area of Port Arthur is nearby, Australias most important penal colony site (now a museum), a reminder of the grim early days of colonisation of the continent.
The Tasman Ecovillage site is next to the coast situated into rolling hills of the coastal hinterland, which is largely forested in this area, with the site itself mostly cleared, but with remanent bush present.
The site was previously used as a motel (including a cafe and restaurant) still some of it operated to have accommodation available for visitors at the site and as a form of income generating enterprise and golf course (which ceased operations) and a great cafe and restaurant is open for business.
One can say the community is still in its early days of development, but has completed all legal and permit requirements and approvals for development of an ecovillage (e.g. strate title and land released and available for purchase) and has all utilities and services available on the site They area currently seeking new land owners, and residents to join the approximately 20 people already living there and some construction of new buildings has recently started.
The vision of TEV (as the Tasman Ecovillage is known) is : “Our vision is a thriving, caring community that celebrates our connection with the Earth and with each other, and cultivates a sustainable, peaceful and productive lifestyle”
This vision is in turn supported by a number of principles in relation to land and nature, traditional custodians of the land, resilience, holistic sustainability, ecological living, cooperation and community, governance and decision-making, personal development, caring multigenerational living, arts and outreach, education and training. The vision for TEV is brought to life and into reality through a number of tangible and concrete guidelines in the areas of community ownership and management, physical infrastructure, environmental footprint, community businesses and economy, community facilities, and community life,.
Common land is owned through a strata title by the whole community, with individual house lots owned by individuals and legally the community is governed by a Body Corporate (like other strate developments elsewhere), but with strong goals and guidelines for a sustainable development of the land. Hence all strata owners are required to adhere to high standards (especially for building ecologically sustainable houses, for example in relation to for water, waste, energy, building standards etc) but also to allow for social interaction. Community Land Trusts are being considered as a future possible ownership form which would allow for securing affordable housing and ownership security.
TEV has a strong commitment to building strong and cohesive groups, using group development processes, compassionate communication, consent based decision-making and active conflict resolution approaches for its governance and decision making. Decisions are made by full members of TEV, which is organised through Sociocracy for governance and decision-making, in circles, including a central management circle (includes the Body Corporate) and a number of thematic circles, like buildings and facilities, landcare and gardens, people circle, which manage the day-to-day operation of the community. As a fairly small community, TEV appears to have a closely knit and caring and compassionate community.
The planned village could house up to approximately 100 people at full capacity, spread around the site, in five separate building clusters (pods), with each up to 10 buildings of various size and community facilities in each cluster, as well as central community facilities (some of which already exist, like a community kitchen used for weekly community dinners and other get together, but also open to visitors a function space and recreation area (pool, spa, sauna, tennis court). Land plots will be under private ownership by individuals, as are and will be the dwellings (which can also be bought and sold with a process for new members to be followed) with the majority of the land (approximately 19 acres) under community ownership for common development (e.g. gardens, agriculture, community and recreational facilities, enterprises, etc). The site has also approval from the Tasmanian state government as a demonstration site for sustainable living.
The community has not only established a number of smaller gardens and lots around the property where fruit and vegetables of many sorts are being grown, appropriate for the cool climate of Tasmania (including apples, pears, cherries, stone fruit, nuts, berries and most traditional European style veggies but also eggs and honey), but the community also has a privately operated permaculture based CSA on the community land which provides a fair bit of fruit and veggies for TEV and the wider community of Nubeena as well. TEV has the land and the potential to expand horticultural and agricultural production substantially (also for some livestock and including various associated enterprises like cheese or bread making) and the community has the potential to become fairly self sustainable.
Some of the community members own and live in some of the apartments which were part of the motel in the past, which have been adopted and modified and upgraded by the residents to make them more sustainable. The first few new houses are currently built in the first cluster and also experimentation with tiny houses occurs.
Because TEV is established but a new community there is a lot of potential for experimenting with ecological building and design and also for the founding and operation of various social enterprises for serving TEV but also the wider community of the area and beyond. A number of facilities to support this already exist, like shared office, workshops, studio etc
TEV is a secular community with a spiritual aim but not following no spiritual path, but supports all forms of spiritual practices and work by members of the community as a welcome form of personal development and growth of people and a contribution to the diversity of the place.
The community is still in the process of developing and co-desiging the ideas and implementation of various plans for development, including for common facilities and for projects and enterprises. So far a common kitchen (where weekly dinners are held, common room, events room, outdoor entertainment area and various recreational facilities exist) and so do camping facilities. Short term and longer term visitors, are commonly around and warmly welcome (Tasmania is a very popular place to visit both for overseas and Australian visitors) and can contribute to the day-to-day operation of the community (especially working in the gardens and fields, also as WWOOFers or through HelpX).
The community, even though still small and in initial development and expansion phase, there are many ideas, great potential (especially in the hospitality, eco-tourism, eco-education, horticulture and small-scale sustainable agriculture and food processing sectors), which of course still needs to attract more enthusiastic and energetic people from all walks of life who want to set up their roots in this lovely corner of the island and country, and able to co-create a tightly knit and sustainable community able to face the 21st century challenges together thriving.
Inspired? Head down to Tasmania and pay them a visit or at least have a look for more info on the Tasman Ecovillage Website