Dreaming of eco village life? Here’s an inside view from Currumbin near the Gold Coast

Poppy Johnston

When art advisor Miriam Grundy and her family first moved into an ecovillage near the Gold Coast in Queensland a year ago, living without a general waste bin took a bit of getting used to.

“It really makes you think about everything you usually just put in a curb side bin and forget about.”

Fast forward 12 months and Miriam has become something of a composting enthusiast. She’s even been known to take other people’s scraps home, she jokes.

There’s a shared recycling centre onsite and the family also process things like cardboard themselves by turning it into weed matting, but

woman sitting on a deck

Miriam Grundy at her Currumbin Ecovillage

the focus is on avoiding waste altogether, which boils down to using reusable products and shopping at bulk food stores.

“Everything you bring into the house – you have to take it back out.”

Miriam and her partner Elliott Wheeler stumbled upon the Currumbin Ecovillage on accident. After living in the US for many years, the pair wanted to bring up their two small children on a bit of land somewhere quiet and leafy.

They knew very little about the ecovillage when they made an offer on the comfortable, understated home on an acre block (about 4000 square metres). But they were pleased to discover that they had bought into the semi rural precinct of an ecovillage that had been established around 15 years ago.

The couple have since purchased a second property in the ecovillage for Elliott’s work.

Their section of the ecovillage offers residents a bit more space and privacy, whereas the homes in the original section are closer together so that people can live within walking distant of the common areas, such as the pool and workshop. The idea is that one pool between many is a better use of resources than a pool in every backyard, Miriam explains, and also fosters social connection.

In the denser precinct, groups of six-to-eight homes form a hamlet, with each hamlet responsible for a little patch of communal land to do with whatever they wish. This little slice of group decision-making might have fruit trees, play equipment or any myriad of things, Miriam says.

Development in the ecovillage is bound by sustainability-focused covenants. These rules dictate what can and cannot be built, ranging from the thermal performance to the muted colour palette. A design committee ensures any new construction aligns with these principles.

Keeping comfortable is simple in her home

Miriam’s home, like all the other houses in the ecovillage, have rooftop solar and make the most of their orientation, cross breezes and other environmental factors to stay passively temperate.

“It’s very low fi.”

She says if “you know how to drive it”, it works very well, and is mostly a matter of opening and closing the louvre windows to manage the elements.

Photos via the The Ecovillage at Currumbin Facebook page

Childhood reminiscent of another time

Another key rule is no fences as the entire village acts as a wildlife thoroughfare (there are no cats and dogs allowed for the same reason), which also create a wonderful, safe environment for children to roam free.

“That’s the beauty of it, and that’s what everyone remarks on. It has a genuine village feel.”

Miriam says although they had made the conscious decision to live environmentally responsible lives when they bought the place, the community aspect wasn’t something they’d really considered.

“What we hadn’t considered was how critical community is to lean on and learn from when you’re embarking on this kind of shift. We’d never really experienced anything like it as adults, as we had moved around a lot.”

When first devised, the ecovillage creators wanted to hit the population “sweet spot”: not so small that people got into each other’s business, but small enough to create a sense of familiarity.

She says there’s a lot of diversity in the village: some people are dedicated to bush revegetation, others just love the pleasant village life. But the reason the whole thing works is because the community is aligned on wanting to have a lighter footprint and everyone tries to come together as a collective to achieve that.

A full life can come cheap

Miriam says the cost of living is low in the ecovillage. The family pay a reduced council rate because they are not accessing water and sewerage services. They have also switched to electric vehicles, which they charge using their solar.

In their semi rural precinct, they have their own tanks and fire protection system but down in the original parts of the village there is a communal wastewater treatment plant and greywater infrastructure.

Miriam says that while the ecovillage was world leading when first devised 15 years ago, technology has since evolved as have the ambitions of the village residents. She says the village is now looking at things like community batteries as they have become much cheaper.