Coastal communities are embracing green change, writes Carolyn Boyd (Sun Herald)
LIVING in a coastal community and having young children has spurred Matthew Nott into action on climate change. The orthopedic surgeon from the tiny community of Tathra on the NSW Far South Coast is the driving force behind a move to introduce clean energy to the Bega Valley.
The movement started out relatively small – raising $20,000 to install a wind turbine and solar panel on the roof of a surf club. But now, under the banner of Clean Energy for Eternity, the group’s aims have grown and Nott says the next step is raising about $8 million to build a community-owned solar energy farm.
The Federal Government has committed $100,000 for a feasibility study into the project and has promised another $1 million.
Nott wants to establish a model other communities can follow. “We want to set ourselves up as a centre of excellence for renewable energy,” he says.
The Tathra community has already won plaudits for caring for the environment. Last year, it beat more than 100 other entrants to win Keep Australia Beautiful’s NSW Clean Beach Challenge.
When the award was announced, judges called Tathra Beach “the pearl of the South Coast”, adding “Tathra has some fantastic community involvement in some great environmental outcomes, including the dune restoration and bush regeneration, which has taken place right along Tathra Beach”.
The median house price in Tathra is $375,000. Property available ranges from a basic three-bedroom house for $265,000 to a 19-hectare eco-getaway with an innovative, two-bedroom, corrugated iron home that runs on solar power and has a separate studio with bathroom. The asking price is $1.38 million.
Real estate agent at Marshall and Tacheci, Robert Tacheci, says the stretch of coast between Bermagui and Tathra is attractive because it has a raw beauty and is home to a community that is environmentally conscious and has diverse cultural interests, including art and music.
“I think the community goes with the area,” he says. “That you’ll find the people who’ll go for the area tend to have that taste because it’s one of the last little unspoilt bits [along the coast].
“If you were to follow the Princes Highway up and down the coast from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ve actually got this little bit that was somehow bypassed. That seems to have left an area that people are really drawn to for that reason.”
Further north, at Batemans Bay, the local Coastwatchers Association successfully pushed for the 85,000-hectare Batemans Marine Park, where the commercial fishing practices of trawling, long-lining and dredging are banned.
The group’s next campaign is convincing government and landholders that the region’s forests should not be woodchipped.
In Batemans Bay, the median price of houses is $312,500 and as the economic downturn bites, many properties on the market are subject to substantial discounting.
Coastwatchers president Mark Flemming says he is not opposed to development but would rather housing was built on already degraded farming land set hundreds of metres back from the water and off coastal dunes.
Flemming welcomes moves by developers to recognise better environmental principles in housing design.
“There’s no doubt that using intelligent design at subdivision stage is a really good idea,” he says.
“We think a subdivision should be designed so that those sort of issues can be taken into account, [including] north-facing blocks.”