Stephen Poole is realising his dream. It's been a long-time dream, over a decade to date, but it has survived the disappointment of a false start. Now it has gone from promise to reality. In doing so, Stephen's dream might just show us a better way to live.
Stephen is not a stereotypical business director. He isn’t tall, doesn’t wear a suit and wears his hair long to his shoulders. Nor does he drive a prestige car: for Stephen, his 4WD ute is more appropriate. He could easily be mistaken for one of the surfers who patrol the Gulf of St Vincent shoreline in search of the perfect swell. Catching waves is something Stephen does on occasion, but his prime motivation these past few years has been getting his pet project off the ground.
Originally, the dream was a shared one. It began well over a decade ago when a group of like-minded individuals, wanting somewhere to settle, got together and talked about the possibility of developing an urban-like settlement in a rural area. Practical people rather than dreamers, they wanted the advantages of urban living with space for a little primary production.
A town called Burra, long since past its heyday as a mining centre, looked promising. Burra offered the advantages of cheap land reasonably close to Adelaide.
Plans were drawn up and the project was publicised - attracting interstate interest. This new village was to be an example of how people could live on the land while improving it and, for some, deriving at least part of their livelihood from it. The idea was to create a new type of settlement that brought together the advantages of a village with the best in modern environmental design.
But Burra was not to be. A new government introduced policies which ended plans for the village.
Learning from experience
Swiss-born Max Lindegger used to talk about combining rural living and village life back in the 1980s. He espoused much the same ideas as Stephen and like him went on to create it. By late in the decade, residents were starting to move into Crystal Waters Village, near Canondale, in the hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Environmental design was an important criteria for the planners and architects behind Crystal Waters and other similar developments, hence they soon became known as “eco-villages”.
The next development of its type was Kookaburra Park, near Bundaberg. Jalanbah followed, a smaller development near the northern NSW town of Nimbin. The eco-village was at last an Australian reality: a new way to enjoy rural life that was substantially different to life in a country town.
By the time the Burra project began there was already a number of ecovillages planned or in existence around the country, and there was much to learn from their experiences. This Stephen Poole did.
Although Burra failed at the hands of political policy, and although they were disappointed, they weren’t completely discouraged. Stephen and his team decided to persist with their dream and search for an alternative site.
Eventually, they discovered Aldinga. They approached council with their idea for a village only to learn a group of artists in the area already had a similar idea. Council thought it might be worthwhile talking to the artists. This they did. The outcome was the Aldinga Arts Eco-village - the “Arts” in the name recognising the presence of the artists.
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