Tour Bend’s permaculture philosophy this weekend

The houses at Bend aim to be as sustainable as possible, including such features as being solar passive, using rainwater and having compost toilets.
The houses at Bend aim to be as sustainable as possible, including such features as being solar passive, using rainwater and having compost toilets.

BEGA’S eco-friendly development Bend is hosting an open day on Sunday to coincide with International Permaculture Day.

The community is inviting all interested to tour its gardens to learn about its foundations in the practices of permaculture and conservation.

Bend is on 9.5ha of land encompassing a floodplain and anabranch of the Bega River on the north-east side of town, and its residents live on the Far South Coast’s only permaculture-based subdivision. 

Along with around 5ha for agriculture, there are two lots of housing at Bend - 10 not-for-profit community housing residences and eight privately owned houses above the one-in-100-year flood line. 

There is also a Neighbourhood House, which is used as a meeting place, to share dinners once a month, accommodation for visitors and as an office space. 

Every resident of Bend participates in one of three focus groups, land focus, care of grounds and social focus which “keep the place ticking over with the philosophies that we have got in mind here” according to Bend resident Mary Dawson.

Resident Michael Sharman said there is an expectation people will work four hours of voluntary labour in these groups each month, which is “working great”. 

Houses have been built to be solar passive, which means they make use of the suns energy to heat or cool without using electricity or gas power. 

This includes houses being north facing, well insulated and having cross ventilation.

Mr Sharman said that the highest temperature inside his house in the summer is 28 degrees and the lowest in winter is 15 degrees, due to it being solar passive.

Using solar power is a choice and houses have individual solar panels, and Mr Sharman says his family uses “solar when we can”. 

The houses are not connected to Bega's town water supply or sewer, instead using rain tanks and a reed bed to process their sewage, which after it degrades can be pumped up to their gardens as grey water. 

“It’s been a bit of a challenge as we have to maintain our own infrastructure,” Mr Sharman said.

Residents share a shed and its contents such as a lawn mower, a community orchard and the agricultural land on the floodplain. 

The agricultural land is managed by the land focus team, and Mr Sharman hopes to one day raise animals such as sheep on it.

Bend has been a long time coming, as several local people conceived the idea for it in 2002, before purchasing the land in 2004. 

These people then spent the next three years planning, lobbying, holding public meetings and fundraising before starting a Community Title subdivision based on permaculture design principles.

John Champagne is a local permaculture teacher and assisted in bringing the eco-neighbourhood to fruition.

“What Bend has achieved is to set the bar high in terms of sustainable urban settlement design and a precedence for all housing developers to follow,” he said.

Bend’s open day tours on Sunday will start at 9.30am, noon and 2.30pm.

Refreshments and a slide show history of Bend will be available in the Neighbourhood House following each tour, where a talk on Bend and social permaculture will also be given.


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