Category Archives: News

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It’s open foreshore

Coffs Coast Advocate 1st Nov 2017

Roughly six months after the first sod was turned, the long awaited major upgrade of the Jetty Foreshores has opened this week.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight and Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker did the honours on Monday with council staff unveiling the $9.2 million stages two and four of the Jetty4Shores Project.

“It’s been a very long journey, 30 years I believe, to actually get some things done down here and it’s taken a huge amount of commitment and leadership from local government and support financially from the Federal Government,” Cr Knight said.

“This brand new precinct is a real game changer for the whole Coffs Coast region.”

“This is all about our community, not just locally but regionally, bringing people here to appreciate the beautiful view that we’ve been hiding for years and years.”

“Now it’s opened up and we want everyone to come down and embrace what we have here.”

The Jetty4Shores upgrade has an open plaza area with stages for events and shelters built at the northern end of Jetty Beach, wide terraced steps with a pram/wheelchair ramp for direct access to the beach and a boardwalk along and behind the dunes linking the plaza to the historic jetty and market area.

With a new stage area (designed by Coffs Harbour Architect Fisher Design and Architecture with Mackenzie Pronk Architetcs), the foreshores are now able to host festivals and community events.

The amenities block has also been extended and upgraded to provide facilities for people with severe disabilities.

Nationals Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker praised the outcome of the works.
“I know that people of Coffs Harbour and visitors alike are going to enjoy coming down here and enjoying the new space,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“It’s been a long time coming and certainly a fantastic result,” he said.

A special free Jetty4Shores Community Festival will be held on Saturday from 11am to 2.30pm to mark the grand opening of the project.

The fair will feature live music from Luna Grand, face painting and kids’ entertainment along with food stalls and other activities.

Head on down and check out the new Jetty4Shores for yourself.

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New look for Jetty Foreshores 30 years in the making

Coffs Coast Advocate 30th Oct 2017

The $9.2 million stages two and four of the Jetty4Shores Project, which has been under construction for around six months, has today opened to the public.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Councillor Denise Knight and Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker did the honours with council staff unveiling the foreshores work site.

“This brand new precinct is a real game changer for the whole Coffs Coast region,” said Cr Knight.

The Jetty4Shores has an open plaza area with stages for events and shelters built at the northern end of Jetty Beach.

There are wide terraced steps with a pram/wheelchair ramp for direct access to the beach, a board walk along and behind the dunes linking the plaza to the historic jetty and market area.

The amenities block has been extended and upgraded to provide facilities for people with severe disabilities.

“Without the leadership and commitment of previous and current councillors as well as the overwhelming support of the community we would not now be enjoying this fantastic new regional attraction.

A special free Jetty4Shores Community Festival will be held on Saturday, November 4 from 11am to 2.30pm to mark the opening.

The fair will feature live music from Luna Grand, face painting and kids’ entertainment along with food stalls and other activities.

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Key tourist site’s plan

The long awaited Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan was adopted by council at last week’s monthly meeting with councillor Steve Klipin stating the document was “the gold standard in stewardship”.

The sign-off signalled the end of a lengthy engagement period that saw many community groups, particularly the Gleniffer Community Association (GCA), and individuals offer feedback and thoughts.

The final hurdle for the plan came from Cr David Scott, which delayed the report from January until March, looking at key points not clearly addressed pre- viously.

These were:

– The toilet facilities and car parking at Earl Preston Reserve

The council identified that it would be pertinent to utilise the existing toilet facilities at Gleniffer Hall rather than build a new toilet block (due to the impact on the aesthetics of Earl Preston Reserve and the cost impost in terms of both construction and maintenance).

In response to council’s enquiry around the possibility of re-opening the Gleniffer Hall toilets, the GCA identified issues that need to be discussed and considered by council, but can be dealt with in consultation with the community when the Earl Preston Plan of Management is undertaken.

While car parking infrastructure at Earl Preston Reserve has been proposed by the Master Plan, drainage infrastructure needs to be a key consideration.

– Car parking (including the cattle grid) at Arthur Keogh Reserve

The plan’s consultants have outlined that a pedestrian grid can be installed in place of the cattle grid. This solution provides safe access for pedestrians and alleviates the need for drainage infrastructure.

Council’s inspection of this reserve also identified the potential risk to the public of the electric fence on the northern boundary of this reserve.

The Plan of Management for Arthur Keough Reserve will investigate options to mitigate risks to the public by way of, for example, improved signage.

– Picnic facilities at Angel Gabriel Caparero Reserve

The plan was adjusted to remove picnic tables from this Reserve. Consultants have now proposed that some public seating be installed within the arboretum – which is at a greater distance from the river.

This solution reduces the impact of flood damage yet still provides some public amenity.

The provision of refuse bins throughout the area covered by the Master Plan

The Master Plan now recommends no provision for refuse bins.

Instead, there will be educative prompts for visitors around the responsible management and removal of rubbish from the reserves.

In reviewing, council said, “it is important to note that the Gleniffer Master Plan is an overarching document that primarily provides a vision for the reserves.

“The plan will serve as a guide and reference to ensure there is
continuity and consistency in the way each reserve is managed and developed. While the plan looks at constraints and priorities, it does not aim to establish detailed strategies.

“Specific Plans of Management will need to be prepared for each reserve to ensure appropriate planning and environmental factors are considered.”

In total the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan will cost council $257,052.

It was devised after the tourist destination’s popularity increased via word of mouth, social media promotion and advertising by local businesses, attracting an increasing number of visitors to the area.

The council report notes:

“The Gleniffer Reserves represent an area of high environmental, social and cultural value.

“The area adjoins Dorrigo National Park, which has World Heritage status. This increasing rate of visitation is having a negative impact on the environment. The plan addresses ways to protect the environment and reduce the impacts from increasing visitation.

“It identifies the need to determine the carrying capacity of each reserve prior to any further mass media promotion of the area.

“The plan outlines ways to influence behaviour of visitors through a range of strategies.”

Alice Burnet | The Bellingen Courier Sun | 30th March 2016

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Gleniffer Master Plan delayed while council talks amenities

It’s a tourist hot-spot, and if this summer’s anything to go by, it’s only going to get busier, yet the vexed problem of how to cater for the masses at Gleniffer is proving challenging for Bellingen Shire Council.

A crew from Coffs Harbour enjoy Gleniffer’s rivers. The area is gaining in popularity and council is uncertain as to how to best cater for the masses.

The issue is not a new one and it was hoped the long-awaited, nearly $260,000 Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan would set out a course for sensible management of the area.

However, at last week’s council meeting councillor David Scott threw a slight spanner in the works by moving to delay the Master Plan’s passage through Local Government.

The motion requested five additional points to be addressed by council employees:

– the toilet facilities and car parking at Earl Preston Reserve
– car parking (including the cattle grid) at Arthur Keogh Reserve
– picnic facilities at Angel Gabriel Caparero Reserve
– the provision of refuse bins throughout the area covered by the Master Plan and
– an update of the graphics within the report.

In essence, the councillors’ concerns merely reflect what locals have been highlighting for years, namely excrement and environmental damage, and which are not explicitly addressed in the Master Plan.

This apparent oversight was not just Cr Scott’s beef either – Cr Gordon Manning spoke frankly of his unease regarding the plan.

“I have concerns about people shitting in the river and I do not think these have been answered,” Cr Manning said

“I don’t understand how this has not been addressed … there is just no solution in the report.”

Given the cost of building and maintaining toilets, Cr Desmae Harrison asked, “where is the money going to come from?”.

Cr Manning suggested “trialling port-a-loos during the peak summer period to see if that could be part of the solution”.

Council’s Michael Grieve responded to councillors’ queries by saying the Master Plan focussed on “information and education as the key strategy to addressing people’s toilet habits” and “it was a controversial issue regarding toilets … many for and against”.

He also noted once council “endorses a precinct” it encourages people to a central place and there are “consequences that come with that”.

Another aspect touched upon was Forestry Corporation’s Tuckers Nob State Forest, which surrounds the four council reserves. Though council staff were quick to stress “we have a good relationship with Forestry” the dichotomy of control means even the best practice document relies on State Government cooperation.

At the very least, it flags that people can park and camp free, and amenities are not closely available.

Or to put it another way, rubbish and folk’s faeces can wash down the river or lay by the roadside, thereby negating council’s best endeavours for hygiene.

Concluding the discussion, Mayor Mark Troy said he was “concerned the already lengthy engagement process was being extended further” but conceded it was important to get the document right.

Thus the motion was carried unanimously and an additional report, to be tabled at April’s council meeting, will be prepared to address the councillors’ queries.

The Gleniffer Master Plan acts as an overarching document with focus on five key themes:

1. Visitor numbers, sustainability and cultural heritage

2. Riverine environmental improvement

3. Reserve amenity values – infrastructure and maintenance

4. Managing positive visitor behaviour and

5. Local management amenity impacts.

A key finding of the plan is the recommendation to establish what has been termed as the Gleniffer Stewardship Advisory Group. It is anticipated that this group would guide the implementation of the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan, provide advice to council and steer ongoing commitment to the protection, preservation and sustainability of the reserves. Implementation of the plan is proposed to be staged and priorities have been set within the plan with probable costings and suggested funding sources (including grants) linked to each.

Alice Burnet | The Bellingen Courier Sun | 15th November 2014

http://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/3701896/gleniffer-reserves-master-plan-delayed-while-council-talks-amenities/

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Visitor boom prompts need for Gleniffer Reserves Masterplan

Feedback is sought from the Bellingen Shire community about their thoughts on the Gleniffer Reserves Masterplan.

Residents have until Friday, December 19, to express views.

The four Gleniffer Reserves are adjacent to private properties and next to the World Heritage Area of Dorrigo National Park and Tuckers Nob State Forests and have been enjoyed by the community for generations.

In recent years, promotion tourism organisations and local word of mouth has resulted in the area becoming increasingly popular.

Gleniffer residents have reported a large increase in visitation levels to a point where it is impacting on the natural environment and local amenity.

Local residents have been caring for the reserves for many years by maintaining the amenities and restoring the environment.

However, the level of visitors now using the reserves exceeds the capacity of locals to care for them.

A consultant team led by Fisher Design and Architecture has been engaged by the council to facilitate community consultation and develop the masterplan.

Input should be provided via the Gleniffer Reserves feedback form which is available from the council administrative centre or downloaded from bellingen.nsw.gov.au

Coffs Coast Advocate | 15th November 2014

http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/visitor-boom-prompts-need-gleniffer-reserves-maste/2454262/

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Clubhouse upgrade given the thumbs up

Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club’s alterations and additions have been approved by Coffs Harbour City councillors with no comment on an objection that the design was a repeat of the 1950s clubhouse.

Cr Garry Innes asked for clarification on the above-regulation height of a small section of the building and was told it was 10.14m, with the existing building 9.14m and the proposed extra height was due to the site dropping away.

Objections about the lack of parking were aired, with Cr Keith Rhoades asking for investigation into the boundary between Fourth Ave and the coastal reserve north of the surf club entrance in an attempt to squeeze in a few more parking spaces.

Cr Bob Palmer said other surf clubs faced the same parking problem because of their beachside locations.

An attempt by Cr Keith Rhoades to question the club’s business plan, grant funding and planned completion date was firmly quashed by the mayor and Cr Palmer.

The mayor said the councillors were voting on a development application, not the club’s finances and Cr Palmer said the councillors did not ask other developers for their business plans.

Coffs Coast Advocate | 28th August 2015

http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/clubhouse-upgrade-given-thumbs/2755959/

ALTERATIONS & ADDITIONS TO EXISTING DWELLING

Surf club redevelopment up for discussion

THE Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club is one step away from receiving a multi-million-dollar makeover.

A development application to restore and expand the club will be considered at tomorrow’s Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

Built by the community 35 years ago, the current structure is struggling to meet the club’s needs and limits club growth.

A sticking point will be height restrictions, as plans put the redevelopment at 10.14 metres above ground level – 1.64 metres above accepted levels.

Clause 4.6 of the council’s Local Environmental Plan 2013, however, allows for a degree of flexibility, and a council assessment of the proposal has considered the variation as “reasonable”.

SLSC committee member Garry Murray is one of many pioneers of the proposal, and remained confident approval would be granted.

“The main idea is to really bring the surf club into the 21st century,” he said.

“We’ve been looking at several compliance requirements and maintenance issues, so this is an opportunity to think about a more substantial upgrade, given the building has been there since the 1980s.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.5-$2million dollars, and includes an expansion of the club’s cafe, renovations to change rooms and the function room, and a new entry.

The paved seating area would also be modified to facilitate outdoor dining, and outdoor showers are proposed for the southern side of the beach access.

Vice-president Sheena McTackett said the redevelopment would accommodate growth for the club, which has 400 members, and would “create a public building the community can be proud of”.

David Barwell |Coffs Coast Advocate | 26th August 2015

http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/surf-club-redevelopment-up-for-discussion/2751844/

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Tourism Campaign Wins 2014 RH Dougherty Award

Kempsey Shire Council’s recent efforts to strengthen the local tourism sector were recognised with a win at the prestigious RH Dougherty Local Government Awards at Parliament House last Thursday night.

The awards are managed by Local Government NSW and recognise greater understanding and communication by councils to their local communities.

The Macleay Valley Coast ‘Discover Something New’ Destination Marketing Campaign was announced the winner of the Excellence in Communication Award (Division A: less than 30,000), with the judging panel describing the campaign as “outstanding”.

The campaign was designed and developed by Council’s Economic Sustainability team in collaboration with Macleay Valley Coast tourism, input from local industry leaders and the financial support of 170 local tourism businesses and Destination NSW.

“The judges thought this was an outstanding, visionary, well-structured piece of communication. It was inclusive, with both measureable and positive outcomes. Kempsey’s use of the ‘Local Legend’ concept brought out personalities within the campaign; it strongly identified the target markets which backed this up with a strong media campaign.”

Fifty-four council communication initiatives were nominated across two communication and reporting categories.

President of Local Government NSW, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM, said that the standard of entries was exceptional and that the judges had difficulty in picking winners.

“The art of communication and engagement within Local Government has gone from strength to strength.

“The winners tonight have proved that they are experts in the field of communications and reporting to their community in creative and innovative ways. They are also not afraid to use technology and work outside the realms of their legislative boundaries to improve engagement and services to their communities,” said Cr Rhoades.

Kempsey Shire Council General Manager David Rawlings described the campaign as instrumental in developing a destination brand and identity for the Macleay Valley during the crucial post-bypass era, and for generating tangible growth in the tourism sector.

“This campaign was a crucial part of Council’s post-bypass economic strategy to boost the Macleay’s profile and destination appeal,” Mr Rawlings said.

“With an annual turnover of $189M and 554,000 visitors each year, the Visitor Economy is the Macleay Valley Coast’s fourth largest industry sector and it is a win for our community that this sector has now grown 10 per cent during the 12 months to March 2014.

“The objectives of the campaign signify Council’s determined efforts to ensure the bypass is embraced as an opportunity to reinvigorate our Shire’s character and reputation.”

The Dougherty Awards were established in 1981 and are judged by leading experts in the communications field. They are named after former Local Government Association President, Robert Henry (Bob) Dougherty.

Posted by Macleay Valley Coast Tourism: August 14, 2014

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Macleay Valley Coast Campaign wins Business Excellence Award and named a Finalist in Regional Tourism Awards

The Macleay Valley Coast’s ‘Discover Something New’ destination marketing campaign walked away a winner at the 2014 Macleay Argus Business Awards held at Kempsey High School on Saturday night.

The local marketing campaign, which brands and promotes the Macleay as a destination that invites ‘discovery’, was named the winner of the ‘Excellence in Business (More than 20 Employees)’ category.

The campaign was also today announced a finalist in the 2014 Regional Tourism Awards being held at Trial Bay Gaol on Saturday, August 16, along with Smoky Cape Lighthouse B&B and Cottages (Unique Accommodation category), SWR Dive Centre (Adventure Tourism), SWR Tourist Park (Tourist & Caravan Park) and the Heritage Guesthouse (Hosted Accommodation).

The campaign was launched in October 2013 and has resulted in the installation of three new highway billboards promoting the Macleay as a holiday destination, as well as a major redesign of the www.macleayvalleycoast.com.au website, a new brochure and other marketing collateral.

In accepting the awards, Council’s Economic Sustainability Manager Susannah Smith acknowledged the 160 businesses who have supported the campaign and encouraged people to log on to the website and subscribe to the campaign’s new ‘Discovery’ e-newsletter.

Posted by Macleay Valley Coast Tourism: August 5, 2014

 

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A Sign of Reconciliation- Oak Hill Aboriginal Reserve

A crowd of nearly 50 people witnessed the start of National Reconciliation Week in Yass with Aboriginal elders Eric Bell, Ruth Bell and Agnes Shae, alongside Mayor Rowena Abbey, unveiling the new Aboriginal interpretive at Oak Hill Aboriginal Place on Saturday 24 May.

The signage and structure, designed by Fisher Design + Architecture, includes photographs of artefacts found at the site, plans and descriptions of the site huts that were used as dwellings at the time, a timeline of major events, and descriptions of the three Aboriginal scarred trees that once grew close to the area.

Yass Valley Council Mayor Rowena Abbey said the Yass Valley Aboriginal Advisory Committee had been working hard on the project and wanted the signs to respectfully acknowledge the past, generate a sense of pride for the history of the location, and also be an education tool for visitors.

“The unveiling of Oak Hill’s signage is a significant event for our area as it is a tangible display where all residents and visitors can come and take the time to reflect and acknowledge the past and also learn about what real life was like for the Aboriginal people here at that time. The project has involved extensive community participation and the signage framework features the actual building material used to construct the homes at Oak Hill,” Mayor Abbey said.

The project was funded by Yass Valley Council and the Commonwealth Government. The Yass Valley Aboriginal Advisory Committee are now working towards developing a Management Plan for Oak Hill Aboriginal Place, identifying how to preserve and enhance the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage of Oak Hill Aboriginal Place.

Yass Valley Council- media release | 26/05/2014

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Focus Magazine Advertorial Jan 2014

Your home is for life

Anna and Christian Fisher have been helping locals along the North Coast to realise their building projects for over 10 years, helping to create living environments that are cost effective to build and run, maximise the building site’s potential, and enhance the quality of life.

Understanding the environment and climate of the region, and knowing local councils, builders and suppliers means they can help their clients to navigate all aspects of the building process. “Not all clients require full architectural services so we allow our clients to choose in which areas they’d like our assistance: from design advice, concept designs, architectural drawings, assistance with council applications or working with a builder” said Christian.

For larger, more complex projects Fisher Design + Architecture collaborate with other consultants and experts to create efficiently implemented and co-ordinated, high quality residential, commercial, and public buildings.

Knowing how hard many people find it to know where to start, Anna and Christian offer clients a free initial consultation without any obligations. “We want to make sure our clients achieve the most from their building investment and get the right advice that suits their needs and their budget,” said Anna.

 

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Discover Something New on the Macleay Valley Coast

October 2013 saw the launch of the new Macleay Valley Coast Tourism branding and marketing campaign “Discover Something New”, at the iconic Trial Bay Gaol in South West Rocks.

A collaboration between two Bellingen firms – Fisher Design + Architecture and ThirtyPointFour – the project involved a major redesign of the Macleay Valley’s branding, including a vibrant new website, tourism brochure and an array of marketing and advertising material.

Working closely with Kempsey Shire Council and local industry operators, the campaign sets a new benchmark for the region, and aims to raise awareness of the Macleay Valley Coast’s location and appeal as a visitor destination.

“This is a very strong campaign that delivers a powerful visual image of the Macleay, backed up by a website that is extremely user-friendly and really sells the Macleay’s people and its abundant natural assets,” said Kempsey Shire Council’s Manager for Economic Sustainability, Susannah Smith.

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‘Discover Something New’ drives $100,000 Macleay tourism campaign

Kempsey Shire Council and the Macleay Valley Coast Tourism Association (MVCTA) were set to launch a $100,000 campaign yesterday evening.

It is the biggest such promotion the council has embarked upon and aims to raise the Macleay’s profile as a destination.

A slogan “Macleay Valley Coast – Discover Something New” and fresh branding will highlight the campaign.

It has been jointly funded by the council, the Tourism Association and Destination NSW – with $35,000 each.

Trial Bay Gaol was to be the venue for the official launch of a revamped website, with 100 business operators among the guests.

Council’s Economic Sustainability manager Susannah Smith said tourism and agriculture had been identified as the two biggest growth sectors locally.

“The macleayvalleycoast.com.au website now paints a fantastic picture of what the community is here,” she said.

“As well as a lot of great new images from around the Macleay, and especially the hinterland, there are 10 ‘Local Legends’ featured.

“Each of them were asked what they love and are proud of most about the Valley and the coast.

“Their testimonials form an interesting part of the new site and paint a vivid picture of the many wonderful aspects there are to life and the community here.

“This campaign sends out a strong signal about how we want to progress.”

MVCTA secretary Danielle Cooney said she was very excited about the campaign and the association’s input, and said the website’s design would entice more people.

“It really highlights what we have to offer and will promote the wonderful assets we have on the coast and in the hinterland,” she said.

Ms Cooney said the build-up of the campaign had prompted renewed interest from the local business community, with MVCTA membership roughly doubling since the end of the 2012-13 financial year.

“It’s not just tourism operators,” she said.

“It’s also other owners, who recognise the positive impact tourism will bring to their businesses.”

Ms Smith announced there would be a new display advertisement to replace existing ones on highway billboards at Clybucca and Telegraph Point, as well as at three new sites at Taree, Grafton and Tamworth.

There are 40,000 ‘hard copy’ brochures, most of which will be displayed at visitor information centres in the Macleay and elsewhere in NSW. Many will be taken to trade shows, such as camping and caravanning shows.

Ms Smith said the campaign also involved the creation and distribution of ‘e-brochures’, which would be sent electronically four times a year to subscribers.

These will highlight seasonal events and attractions.

Thom Klein  |  The Macley Argus | 16th October 2013

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Bellingen architects well represented in awards

Baalijin House Awarded Commendation in AIA Country Division 2013 Awards

Fisher Design + Architecture received a commendation for Baalijin House, a new home located in Bellingen, in the Residential Architecture – Affordable Housing under $350 000 section.

Nestled into a green urban hillside, Baalijin House was designed with a focus on affordability, sustainability, and appropriateness for the site. The jury commended FD+A for “combining a thoughtful layered plan with tactile materials to produce a simple, warm, well crafted house.”

The house has also been selected as one of eight finalists in the New Single Dwelling category of the 2013 BPN Sustainability Awards. “We are honoured just to be a finalist for this national award which recognizes sustainable building design” Christian Fisher said.

The Bellingen Shire Courier Sun | 16th October 2013

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Building a design reputation

Building a design reputation – Local architects take out Country Awards

Local architecture practices put in a strong showing at this years Australian Institute of Architects Country Division Awards.

Fisher Design + Architecture received a commendation for Baalijin House, a new home located in Bellingen, in the Residential Architecture- Affordable Housing under $350 000 section.

The jury commended FD+A for combining a thoughtful layered plan with tactile materials to produce a simple, warm, well crafted house.

The house has also been selected in September as one of eight finalists in the New Single Dwelling category of the 2013 BPN Sustainability Awards.

Coffs Coast Advocate | 12th October 2013

 

Baalijin House BPN Sustainability Award Finalist

BPN Newsletter 2013

Baalijin House, a new Bellingen home designed and built by Fisher Design + Architecture, has been selected as one of eight finalists in the New Single Dwelling category of the 2013 BPN Sustainability Awards.

Baalijin House embraces the spirit of sustainable living and wellbeing, responding to the natural environment to create living spaces that are naturally lit, well ventilated, and designed to have a low environmental impact. Home made pressed earth brick walls provide a natural and rustic backdrop for local hardwoods, recycled timber, and plywood paneling. Baalijin House is colourful, vibrant, warm and inviting while being earthy, raw and robust – an appropriate addition to the Bellingen built environment.

Nestled into a green urban hillside, Baalijin House was designed and built by its owners – the architects – with a focus on affordability, sustainability, and appropriateness for the site. Despite sitting on a small, easterly-oriented site, the building responds effectively with areas that are designed to feel much larger. Living spaces are open and flexible, and connect with the neighbouring landscape and common areas.

Going by a ‘DIY’ approach to material manufacture and construction, the owners undertook the various building procurement roles themselves, choosing raw, natural and robust products that are renewable or recycled. This includes a palette of ‘home made’ pressed earth bricks which were manufactured on a nearby site using locally sourced earth, timbers and labour.

Internally, a simple and efficiently composed design of the house optimises passive energy principles, with siting and correct orientation maximising views, solar access and natural ventilation. To the eastern wall, sliding glass doors allow for cross ventilation, flooding the interior spaces with natural light. On the upper floor, a loft ‘box’ is featured as a multi-purpose room for meditation, reading, yoga or play. This loft is open and light-filled, with glass louvred openings providing links to the spaces below and allowing for thermal flushing during summer.

A holistic design is clearly evident when one looks at or lives in the Baalijin House, with the assurance of passive design, and sustainable energy systems and materials ultimately reducing the building’s energy demand, and creating an organic, contemporary and affordable home.

BPN online newsletter 2013

View BPN Awards Finalists

 

 

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Muttonbird project voted NSW best

THE Giidany Miirlarl Education Space at the base of Muttonbird Island has secured another major gong.

It has won the 2012 Premier’s Prize which recognises an architect or project that has contributed to the advancement of architecture in our state.

The project is the work of locally based Fisher Design + Architecture in association with Sydney firm Mackenzie Pronk Architects.

After being short-listed as one of the three finalists by NSW Gov- ernment Architect Peter Poulet, Giidany Miirlarl picked up the biggest number of votes via an online poll.

At the presentation, Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard said Giidany Miirlarl celebrated local Aboriginal culture and history and represented a healing of the scars from when Muttonbird Island was joined to the mainland in 1924.

“Importantly, the awarding of this project demonstrates our support for all regional communities and in particular Aboriginal communities across NSW,” Mr Hazzard said.

“This modestly scaled building project has made a significant social contribution and has been a truly collaborative effort bringing the community together to tell the story of the island. I commend it as a worthy recipient of the 2012 Premier’s Prize – as selected by the people of NSW.”

Trevor Veale, Coffs Coast Advocate | 04/07/2012

 

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Popular choice- 2012 NSW Architecture Awards Premier Prize

For the first time the vote for the Premier’s Award was in the hands of the public via an online poll, writes KILMENY ADIE.

The state government’s most senior architect says letting the public choose the Premier’s Award has proven a success and that he’d welcome 
a repeat of the system next year.

NSW government architect Peter Poulet had to narrow down
74 candidates for the coveted design award to the three finalists from which the public would choose.

This was the first year the public was able to vote, via an online poll, for their favourite architect-designed building, which turned out to be the Giidany Miirlarl Education Space, performance area at Mutton Bird Island, Coffs Harbour, designed by Fisher Design + Architecture and Mackenzie Pronk Architects.

Poulet says he consulted his heart as well as his head and looked beyond pure aesthetics when choosing the final three for the Premier’s Award category in the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2012 NSW Architecture Awards.

‘‘Good design is not just about how things look, it’s how they work and contribute to people’s wellbeing. It can facilitate community interaction, wellbeing and health, resulting in more resilient, sustainable and liveable places,’’ Poulet says.

‘‘[The finalists] were chosen easily because they displayed a broad understanding of the contribution that design and innovative thinking makes to our social cohesion and our physical environment.’’

Poulet’s other two shortlisted projects were Ropes Crossing Community Centre, in western Sydney, and Common Ground, a 104-unit permanent housing residence targeted at reducing homelessness at Camperdown.

‘‘All three entrants exhibited exceptional design thinking and I was thrilled that a project that celebrates Aboriginal culture and history in a regional setting was awarded,’’ Poulet says. ‘‘It’s pleasing to see young emerging architects producing thoughtful and creative work.

‘‘The public liked that the project brought together Aboriginal and European histories and stories in a spirit of reconciliation.’’

Poulet says opening up the award to the public vote was ‘‘an opportunity for architects to engage with the general public in an immediate and direct way’’.

Sydney Morning Herald, June 30 2012

 

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Coffs Attraction, Nation’s Best

COFFS Harbour’s walk of discovery, highlighting the harbour’s Aboriginal heritage has won acclaim at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.

The Muttonbird Island attraction, known as Giidayn Miirral, overnight added the national award for indigenous tourism to its state and regional accolades.

The $320,000 harbour-side structure, featuring the artwork of local Aboriginal artist Shane Phillips, stands in tribute to Coffs Harbour’s Gumbaynggirr heritage.

Local elder Aunty Gloria Phillips said the attraction is an important achievement for both the Gumbaynggirr and wider Coffs Harbour communities.

“This is a sacred site and by highlighting its history, it is sharing our stories with the many people who come here,” Aunty Phillips said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service discovery ranger Mark Flanders, has shared Gumbaynggirr culture with thousands of visitors on tours of Muttonbird Island over nine years.

“It’s great to have all the work put in by the local and Aboriginal communities recognised at such a high level,” Mr Flanders said.

NSW outshone the other states at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, scoring 11 wins out of 27 categories.

The 27th annual event acknowledges the best travel companies around the nation including tour operators, adventure trips and accommodation.

Winners for NSW included Jenolan Caves with two awards for best tourist attraction and heritage and cultural tourism, Tri State Safaris for tour/transport operators and Newcastle Airport for specialised tourism services.

Queensland won just a single award for Fantasea Adventure Cruising as the top major tour operator.

This was in stark contrast to last year’s wins in seven categories in a what was lauded as a sign of the state’s resilience after the floods and Cyclone Yasi.

Tasmania dominated in the luxury stakes, with the Saffire-Freycinet winning best luxury accommodation and the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel for deluxe accommodation.

Other winners include the Melbourne Museum as best major tourist attraction and Maria Island Walk for the adventure tourism category.

The award for excellence in sustainable tourism went to Lane Cove River Tourist Park (NSW) – its second consecutive win.

National Tourism Alliance Chairman Col Hughes congratulated all finalists and winners.

“We recognise and applaud the many businesses who continue to demonstrate excellence in servicing the needs and exceeding the expectations of both domestic and international visitors – you are living examples of the finest of quality tourism experiences in Australia,” he said.

Sunshine Coast Daily |  Matt Deans | 4th March 2012

Photo: Trevor Veale

 

 

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Local Architects win Design Excellence Award

Local Architects win Design Excellence Award for new entrance to Giidany Miirlarl – Muttonbird Island

Coffs Harbour’s other tourist icon has received yet another award, the latest being for architectural design excellence.

The Education Space, at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve in Coffs Harbour, attracts over 150,000 visitors every year and has been recognised at the Australian Timber Design Awards.

Christian Fisher of Fisher Design + Architecture, and Neil Mackenzie of Mackenzie Pronk Architects jointly accepted the award for architectural design excellence in the Outdoor Timber – Stand Alone Structures category, at the awards dinner in Melbourne on Tuesday, October 18.

Mr Fisher said the judges were impressed by the structures’ organic form and robust character in the highly exposed marine location.

“Timber was chosen for its natural textural qualities, and its ability to be worked and inscribed with the artwork by Grafton artist Shane Phillips”, Christian said.

Commissioned by the National Parks & Wildlife Service, Arts Mid North Coast, Coffs Harbour City Council, Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Coffs Harbour Elders Group and the Marine Park Authority, the project was made possible through the Federal Governments’ Job Fund Program.

Gumbayngirr Elder and NPWS Discovery guide Mark Flanders said the outdoor education space was completed and opened to the public in March 2011.

“The new Education Space encourages an understanding of the cultural and environmental history of the site, and provides a place for social interaction, story telling, learning and rest”, Mark said.

“The project involved the construction of the Education Space as well as the training of Aboriginal Discovery Rangers to deliver the tours conducted on the Island to the public and to schools”, he said.

“The overall project has already received a Regional Indigenous Tourism Award.

“These awards are recognition of the outcome possible when an innovative team work together including an enlightened client, artists and architects.”

The Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery Program including the education space, at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve was also winner in the recent Regional Tourism Awards, and as a result is also a finalist in the NSW State Tourism Awards due to be announced in November.

Bellingen Courier Sun | 26th October 2011

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Sacred site wins state award

“GIIDAYN Miirral”, or Muttonbird Island, has long been a sacred site in Gumbaynggirr history.

Honoured with an informative timber shelter this year to preserve the Aboriginal link to Muttonbird Island, it’s now become a place of state significance after Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery Tours won a State Tourism Award.

The $320,000 timber structure featuring artwork by local Aboriginal artist Shane Phillips has been a key factor in the Discovery Tours being announced as gold winners for Excellence in Indigenous Tourism.

Standing with the award on site, local Aboriginal elders gathered to pay tribute to all those who have helped to achieve its success.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Discovery ranger Mark Flanders, who has taken the culture of the Gumbaynggirr people to the local community and thousands of visitors over nine years, was humbled by the praise.

“It’s great to have all the work put in by the local and Aboriginal communities recognised at such a high level, it hasn’t just been a few of us, there have been so many people involved in this success, and we aren’t stopping with a state award, national hopefully, and then international, so look out, ” Mark said.

Ann Walton said Mark deserved special recognition for the tours, given he first raised the idea with local elders and got their permission.

“The tours have been contemporary Aboriginal history walks covering all facets from the cultural significance of the island to the breeding cycles of the muttonbirds,” Ms Walton said.

Matt Deans | 2 Dec 2011

Photo: Trevor Veale
NPWS ranger Mark Flanders, Aunty Elaine Turnbull, Aunty Marie Tarplee, Aunty Bea Ballangarry, Shane Phillips, NPWS ranger Ann Walton, Aunty Gloria Phillips and CHCC’s Malcolm McLeod.

 

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Structured to impress the judges

Coffs Harbour’s other tourist icon has received yet another award, the latest being for architectural design excellence.

The Education Space, at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve in Coffs Harbour, attracts over 150,000 visitors every year and has been recognised at the Australian Timber Design Awards.

Christian Fisher of Fisher Design + Architecture, and Neil Mackenzie of Mackenzie Pronk Architects jointly accepted the award for architectural design excellence in the Outdoor Timber – Stand Alone Structures category, at the awards dinner in Melbourne on Tuesday (18/10/2011) night.

Coffs Coast Advocate |  22 October 2011

 

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Fisher Design entry in AIA Country Division Awards 2011

Master architect here

ARCHITECTS from around the state are gathering in Coffs Harbour for Beyond the Prism, the 2011 conference of the Australian Institute of Architects, NSW Country Division, which opens this evening.

Guest speakers at the conference include John Barrow, the senior principal from Populous.

Mr Barrow is the principal master planner for the London Olympics in 2012.

He will be talking mainly about the whole London 2012 experience, with reference to other current Populous projects, with a sustainability agenda throughout.

The four-day conference, the 51st held by the Division and the 10th to be held in Coffs Harbour, has attracted 75 delegates to busy program of talks speakers, presentations, displays and workshops as well as social events.

Among the delegates are Sawtell-based Ann M Gee and her son, graduate architect Oliver Gee, who has just joined his mother’s busy practice.

Mrs Gee said the conference allowed them to pick up on the most relevant and interesting things happening in their field and the product displays by sponsors were always informative.

The formal conference dinner on Thursday will also see the presentation of the division’s annual awards.

Only one Coffs Coast firm is represented on the list of nominations.

Fisher Design + Architecture in association with Mackenzie Pronk Architects have nominated their Muttonbird Island project for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in two categories – projects in non-residential architecture (a new award) and the Termimesh Timber Award.

Giidany Miirlarl (the moon place) is the new outdoor interpretive art and education structure at the base of Muttonbird Island.

The $320,000 project, which was opened to the public in April, showcases the island and its significance to the Gumbaynnggirr people as well as providing an open space for discovery tours, school tours and performances.

Coffs Coast Advocate  |  Belinda Scott | 4th October 2011

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Freshening up the Jetty Foreshores

Picnic shelters are going down like ninepins on the Jetty Foreshores as Coffs Harbour City Council staff and contractors demolish the old to make way for the new in the next stage of the $1.1 Jetty Fore- shores upgrade. Seven smaller barbecue shelters and one large shelter are being demolished to make way for a similar number of new shelters, each of which will be larger and provide more-effective shelter and more seating. Work on the new shelters will begin on October 24 using structural steel supplied by Woolgoolga firm Arc Attack, with building work carried out by Coffs Harbour City Council staff and contractors.

The shelters have been designed to be in keeping with the new Fisher Design + Architecture interpretive outdoor art and education structure at the base of Muttonbird Island. The two Foreshores amenities blocks will also be refurbished.

The director of corporate business for the council, Craig Milburn, who is in charge of the Foreshores improvement project, said as much as possible of the material from the demolished shelters would be saved and recycled in repair projects.

The work is part of a general facelift of the Jetty Foreshores area that has been made possible through a $457,000 grant from the Federal Government’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. The grant was matched and increased to $600,000 with funds from the Future Fund Internal Reserve, plus a further $50,000 provided from the State Parks Trust – taking the total to $1,107,000.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades said he wanted to see major inroads into the Foreshores improvement project in the year ahead. “There’s been 10 years of talk and consulting and paperwork; it’s time to get on and get it done,” he said.

Belinda Scott  |  Coffs Coast Advocate | 18th October 2011 

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Bellingen Energy Festival – 15/9/2011

Nick Radford (Ecoliving Design), Tricia Helyar, Anna Fisher (Fisher Design + Architecture) and Guido Eberding (Kalang Design House)

The Bellingen Energy Festival is an annual event aimed at bringing together practitioners from many fields to engage with the public about energy use and sustainable living. The festival is committed to improving and promoting sustainable living practices and design, sustainable energy technology and products, and community education.

Fisher design + Architecture joined the ‘Bellingen Architects Bus’ this year, a sustainable design information stall hosted by six Bellingen architects and building designers, who came together to offer advice and be available to answer questions regarding sustainable design and materials.

The Architects Bus contained a wealth of local experience designing environmentally friendly buildings, and included Steve Gorrell, Guido Eberding (Kalang Design House), Richard Eastman (AURA), Christian and Anna Fisher (Fisher design + Architecture), Tricia Helyar, and Nick Radford (Ecoliving Design).

The team was also joined by Chris Boaz of the newly formed Pressed Earth Brick Co., who exhibited samples of their pressed earth bricks.

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$1.1m Jetty facelift taking shape

CONCEPT designs have been released of some of the key elements of Coffs Harbour Council’s imminent makeover of the Jetty Foreshores. 

The mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said the $1.1 million facelift of the foreshore reserve and parkland, which was endorsed at Thursday night’s council meeting, will renew and revitalise one of the city’s most popular family and visitor destinations.

“The reserve is one of the best used parts of the Jetty Foreshore and provides a great venue for picnics, birthday parties, sports activities, and as a spot for family and friends to simply catch up over a barbecue,” Cr Rhoades said.

“It’s also a magnet for visitors.

“By carrying out this major refurbishment we’re going to be able to give the area an update that, I’m sure, will see it become an even more popular place for people of all ages and interests to enjoy.”

The council got a $457,000 grant from the Federal Government’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program for the upgrade.

That sum has been matched by the council and increased to $600,000 with funds from the Future Fund Internal Reserve.

A further $50,000 is being provided from the State Parks Trust, taking the total to $1,107,000.

The upgrade, which will begin immediately, will cover the areas east of the Jordan Esplanade and west of the dunal system along the open foreshore parkland.

The works to be carried out include:

• Connection to the city sewerage system.
• Refurbishment of two amenity blocks.
• Upgrading and replacement of 16 barbecues, plus upgraded lighting and power in the shelters.
• Demolition and replacement of a number of picnic shelters.
• Appropriate drainage.
• Upgrades to the showers.
• Grading and turfing.
• Installation of bollards.
• General cleaning and painting.
• The installation of a directional sign at the Jordan Esplanade roundabout.

Coffs Coast Advocate  |  Graeme Singleton | 18th April 2011

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Muttonbird Island now a resource

GIIDANY Miirlarl is a name Coffs Coast residents will widely come to know now that a new outdoor interpretive art and education space has been opened at the base of Muttonbird Island.

Taking on the local Gumbaynggirr name given to the area, the project has seen a significant tourist attraction established at the base of the island. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ranger Ann Walton said the facility showcases the island and its significance to the local Gumbaynggirr people.

“The new area will also provide an open space for discovery tours, school tours and live performances,” Ms Walton said.

Renowned Aboriginal language teacher Michael Jarrett of the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Cultural Co-operative Centre at Nambucca Heads has explained the significance of the site to local Aboriginal people.

“Giidnay Miirlarl, at the base of Muttonbird Island, translates to mean the moon place, and refers to the reef that is seen near the island,” Mr Jarrett said. “It was a special site used for hunting expeditions where muttonbirds were gathered as a food source.”

The new facility is located at the base of Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve on the end of the northern break wall of Coffs Harbour Jetty and is now available to the public.

At an official opening on Thursday night, local elders unveiled the facility.

The $320,000 project has been funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ Jobs Fund program.

The funding was awarded to the Arts Mid North Coast in partnership with the Coffs Harbour City Council, the Department of Environment Climate Change and Water through the Coffs Coast Area, Garlambirla Guyuu Girrwaa (Coffs Harbour Elders) and the Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council.

 Coffs Coast Advocate | 4th April 2011

 

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Coast Living Spring 2006 10 Best Homes on the Coast – Down to Earth

FISHER HOUSE – FERNMOUNT

With the right choice of materials, contemporary homes can look as comfortable and natural in a rural setting as they do by the sea, witnessed at this stunning property.

Designed and built by owner, Christian Fisher, the ‘Fisher House’ is a contemporary pressed earth brick home located on four hectares at Fernmount, a rural residential area between Bellingen and Urunga.

The main 3-bedroom house was completed in 2004, with a separate design studio, 13 metre lap pool and landscaping added this year.

Home to architect Christian and graphic designer Anna, along with their two children Mia and Sam, the couple spent two years searching for the “right block” before finding land with views over a dairy farm, bush and the Dorrigo mountain range in the distance.

With the couple both working from home, the birth of Sam this year necessitated the construction of the separate design studio, with pressed earth brick and eco-ply ensuring the studio complements the structure and materials of the house.

Christian has used a simple linear composition to create the modern design, with the house sited naturally along the crest of a hill.

With a strong focus on the northerly aspect, solar access and natural ventilation have been achieved, as well as rural and mountain views from each room.

Timber decks stretch the full length of the house and provide ample entertaining space, while summer meals are often eaten at the outdoor dining area, complete with barbecue and bench seating built in to the mud brick walls.

Also popular in summer is the private courtyard bathroom, which is accessed from inside the house.

The interior of the home has soaring ceilings, with glass sliding doors connecting the decks to the open plan kitchen, living and dining spaces.

A sandstone fireplace and split level design gives the living room a sense of separation as well as offering a cosy winter area. The ambience is offset by rugs Christian hand-picked in India and a 70s velvet gold lounge – the ultimate retro family hand-me-down.

Contemporary works by Sydney artists and an in-built shelf featuring a collection of travel photographs also add heart to the home.

Christian’s choice of natural materials such as the pressed earth bricks, hardwood timbers, sandstone and slate, has yielded a solid and strong home which maintains a contemporary feel.

The bricks were made locally by Bellingen’s Pressed Earth Bricks, while the hardwood timbers and sandstone came from various suppliers on the Mid North Coast.

Stainless steel kitchen bench tops were sourced from a commercial kitchen manufacturer in Port Macquarie and a paint palette of neutral greys (Namadji, String and Jasper) are all from Dulux, as is the earthy red (Mars Red).

One interior feature wall has been retained as face brick, while the rest have been lightly bagged and painted with Dulux White Swan.

The couple rolled up their sleeves during the construction process which helped to lower the costs – but the end result also demonstrates design expertise can create a great result within a budget.

While their home is stunning, the couple are obviously as enamoured with the local area after leaving Sydney for life on the property.

Anna said: “We’ve always loved the Bellingen area, it’s such a beautiful place to live and bring up kids.

“We’re really lucky that we can both work from home, because we see so much more of the kids than if we were still in Sydney. Having the studio next to the house allows us to enjoy the rural lifestyle, while maintaining a busy design practice. It really is the best of both worlds.”

Coast Living Magazine, Spring 2006. Words: Melissa Ellis Photos: Bob Weekes.

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Giidany Miirlarl opening night

The launch party for the Muttonbird Island Outdoor Amphitheatre (now to be known by the traditional Gumbaynggirr name Giidany Miirlarl) was held at sunset on a beautiful Coffs Harbour evening. Fisher Design + Architecture and the entire Mackenzie Pronk staff (up from Sydney) enjoyed the evening, and the completion of a 5 year dream. Thanks to all the builders, suppliers, artists Janelle and Shane, and especially clients Arts Mid North Coast, National Parks and Wildlife, and Coffs Harbour City Council who have been working together for such a long time to create this special project.

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Innovative project planned for Muttonbird Island

AN outdoor education and performance structure to be created at the base of Muttonbird Island is a step in the right direction in recognising the cultural significance of the area, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The structure’s design was chosen out of 23 submissions with the help of the Garlambirla Guuywa-Girrwa Elders, and consists of a new ramp made of recycled timber and a 4m high timber screen to create a natural amphitheatre.

Aboriginal art, history and the significance of the area to the Gumbaynggirr people will be included in the structure, as will creative approaches to environmental issues.

The project was announced yesterday after $320,000 was secured by Arts Mid North Coast in the second round of the Federal Government’s Jobs Fund, part of the economic stimulus package.

Ann Walton, National Parks and Wildlife Service’s nature reserve range for Muttonbird Island, said a significant amount of planning and development had already been carried out on the project, including $200,000 already raised in resources and materials.

She was thrilled with the funding announcement.

Cherelle Brooke, landscape architect for the Coffs Harbour City Council, said the submission by Fisher Design and Architecture was chosen as it integrated into the natural land forms and was sympathetic to the natural environment.

Hailed as an innovative project and outstanding example of the intersection between the environment and the arts, Richard Holloway from Arts Mid North Coast said the Federal Minister for the Environment Protection Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, had already expressed a desire to visit the site.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, when it will then be used as a creative public performance venue where a variety of training and events can be held.

Coffs Coast Advocate- Clara Smith 01 Apr, 2010

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Australia Today “Green Acres”

Download article

Building your own house. Growing your own vegetables. Watching your kids spend their afternoons in a tree house instead of in front of the television. Following a greener, more sustainable way of life is a dream for many of us. For the Fisher family it’s a dream come true.

Seven years ago graphic designer Anna Fisher and husband Christian, an architect, were living a typical urban lifestyle in one of Sydney’s most sought-after suburbs.

“We had a lovely, older style flat in Coogee, on the second floor,” say the couple, both 40. “But it was smallish and we were working long hours in the city and doing a lot of commuting and eating takeaway food.”

It took the arrival of daughter Mia, in 2002, to prompt a rethink of their lifestyle and their living space.

“Christian had always wanted to move back to the country – he grew up in Taree – but it wasn’t really till Mia came along that I wholeheartedly agreed,” says Anna. “I was at home, carrying a screaming baby, shopping bags and a pram up two narrow flights of stairs. We needed more space and less stress!”

Holidays spent in the idyllic country village of Bellingen, on the Mid North Coast of NSW, led to a six-month hunt for a property where they could build their own home. They wanted their house to have green features but, at the same time, they were on a tight budget – they were leaving their jobs in Sydney with only a little money.

They eventually bought 3.8 hectares of pasture and native forest for a steal, just before the last property boom. Their land tucked at the end of one of Bellingen’s most desirable streets where a lack of traffic means Mia can play safely on her bike with friends.

There’s a dairy farmer next door and the Fishers leave their gate open so his cows can come in for an extra feed in winter and keep the grass down in summer. The family can gaze over the rich, green country through their three-bedroom home’s abundant windows.

It took them a year to build the house. During that time they lived at Taree, where Christian’s mother still resides, and would take the three-hour drive back and forth to a caravan nearby.

“A lot of the labour was ours,” says Christian. “For example, we helped make 5,000 pressed earth bricks on the property. That reduced our costs.”

Pressed earth bricks are similar to mud bricks and have what designers call “thermal mass”. In other words, they absorb some of the heat that’s in the air on a hot day and release it slowly overnight when the temperature is cooler. The house also has lots of big windows to the north, making the most of the sun’s light and warmth, and only one tiny window on the western side, which protects the home from the intense heat of the late afternoon sun. There’s no air conditioning and ceiling-mounted fans are used only occasionally in summer –they’re not often needed.

When it came to the material for the floors, doors and window frames, recycled timber was out the question. “We simply couldn’t afford it.” Rather, the Fishers sourced mixed hardwoods – mainly Blackbutt – from the local mill and dressed it themselves to use for home’s timber framing. Spotted Gum was chosen for the floors.

Always with an eye on the budget, the couple used offcuts, as well as some wood they were given by a friend to make a handsome dining table and a broad sliding door. The stainless steel benches in the kitchen were sourced from a commercial kitchen company at a fraction of the cost of standard kitchen suppliers.

Clever decisions like these allowed the Fishers to build their home for around $200,000, not including the garden the pool.

Like many people on country properties, the Fishers aren’t connected to the town water supply. They rely on Bellingen’s high rainfall – 1517mm a year – to fill their two concrete water tanks – a 20,000 litre for the house and a 5,000 litre for the garden and pool.

Anna researched appliances, finding a dishwasher that used the least water and installing a three-star-rated showerhead in the bathroom to minimise water consumption. Other eco-friendly choices are a natural gas stove, Solahart solar panels to heat water and lined curtains for insulation.

The Fishers have been in residence for five years now and the Murraya and the lilly pilly they planted on most of the boundaries to give them shade and privacy have grown into bushy specimens.

“We also planted natives to attract birds. The first year living in the house we had lots of red-back spiders, but once the natives grew we didn’t have any,” says Christian.

There are passionfruit vines, mango, mandarin, grapefruit, lime and kaffir lime trees and a vegetable garden. Herbs such as chilli, oregano, basil, rosemary and chives – many of them a gift from Anna’s mum, Shirley – are dotted around the property.

“We were novice gardeners but now Mia will only eat lettuce from our garden – she doesn’t like the taste of the stuff from the supermarket – and both she and our son, Sam, 3, like to plant seedlings.”

Outdoor play is encouraged; there are limits on both television viewing and computer games, but Mia prefers riding her bike and playing in a neighbour’s tree house or on a trampoline. There is also the family dog – Leila, a border collie kelpie cross, to play with.

Around the house, other small touches reveal Anna and Christian’s commitment to sustainable living. They buy dry food goods in bulk and use Earth Choice cleaners for the kitchen and bathroom.

A handmade quilt by Anna’s mum adorns the main bed; a ladder rescued from the tip is used to access the loft space in Mia’s bedroom; and the natural soaps bought from the local market are used in the bathroom.

All of the used paper from the couple’s at-home office goes to the children’s drawing table and Anna recycles birthday and Christmas cards for collage and her own card designs. Comic pages from the newspaper and colourful catalogues are used for gift wrapping paper.

“Pumpkin Patch is great for girls’ wrapping paper!” says Anna.

Living in an eco-aware community helps the family’s effort to cut down on their impact on the planet.

“My neighbour, who has four girls, regularly brings down a big box of clothes,” says Anna. “One neighbour has chooks/eggs and potatoes, which I swap for herbs and chillies.”

Both Christian and Anna have also traded their professional skills (www.fisherdesign.com.au) for services such as massage and hairdressing.

“We’re not perfect,” says Anna. “For example, we have a plasma TV that was handed down to us by the family. But I think it’s just about doing as much as you can.”

Australia Today, July 2009 | Photos Michael Wee  | Words Helen Hawkes