Archive for October, 2018

Why it took this Victorian village 50 years to come to fruition


The ideas behind a 25-27 house ecological village development close to Castlemaine that has just been given the green light by Mount Alexander council have probably been fermenting in the mind of Neil Barrett for half a century.
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Active and effective on myriad environmental issues since he was involved with Friends of the Earth and anti-nuclear issues in the 1970s, Barrett, 72, and wife Heather have evolved a grand scheme for the transformation of a 1.4-hectare slice of land they have occupied since the 1980s into an eco village. It is projected to have an environmental footprint one-fifth of a conventional housing estate development.

It will generate its own electricity and fresh, organic food, as well as emphasising the health and happiness of future residents. It also puts “the beauty and spirit” of the site high on the agenda.

At present, The Paddock Eco Village, 1.4 kilometres from Castlemaine, is, Barrett says “just an area of light bush with a dam in the middle of it”.

Sometime next year, when the first stage of seven houses and the community centre begin to take shape, Barrett anticipates the project will sell itself.

What the council last week unanimously endorsed as “an exciting project” for the district is aiming to achieve an 8.5-star energy rating for each dwelling in the horseshoe arrangement of one to four bedroom homes surrounding a large orchard and vegetable garden (35 per cent of the site). It is also hoped that the 16 solar panels on each roof will generate more power (105 per cent) than any of the freehold houses will consume.

The dark green ambitions of this nascent village is appropriate both to Castlemaine ??? a town Barrett says was a committed environmentalist centre before he and Heather arrived ??? and to the chief driving personalities of what is now the impressive team of professionals who contrived the blueprint that follows the principles of the Living Building Challenge.

A US-based green building certification program, Barrett says the challenge sets out “the most rigorous environmental building standards in the world”. Based on the metaphor of a flower with seven petals, fulfilment of its essential performance benchmarks will only be confirmed 12 months after the project’s completion. Related: Neighbourhoods going greenRelated: What happened to the great Australian backyard?Related: Why prefabricated housing is back in vogue

And, as the developer explains, it is a big program to meet. It involves urban agriculture (the food gardens), energy, waste management (on-site grey-water reuse), materials (buildings of timber and recycled brick), offset habitat exchange, and the more esoteric qualities of the beauty and spirit of place, and the health and happiness of the owners.

“It will be of a human scale,” Barrett says, “and everyone will have equal access to the nearby bushland”.

While back and front yards will be private places for the one- and two-level dwellings, The Paddock will otherwise involve a lot of sensible resource sharing, including a community centre with spare bedrooms, laundry and kitchenette, capacious water tanks, sheds and tools and an electric charging station for bikes.

Unlike most developments ??? no matter how environmentally-idealised ??? The Paddock strongly emphasises “the primacy of landscape”, with a landscape architect involved from the get-go, not as an afterthought.

Though Barrett has thought about the project for a long time, it only developed real momentum two years ago when, at a party, he bumped into Remi Rauline, a powerhouse project manager, to whom he outlined his dream. The Frenchman came on board and quickly pulled together a team of seven consultants.

Last May, when it was officially launched, 90 people attended the event, and 85 have continued to indicate real interest in the project. Six people, the prospective pioneers of The Paddock, have recently been attending workshops that explain what they are committing to under the Living Building Challenge guidelines, and to enable them to work with The Paddock’s architect on their house designs.

Barrett says this foundation group will attend the fourth and final workshop next February, when he expects contracts will be signed.

Once The Paddock buildings manifest, he believes the hard work of philosophical groundbreaking will be complete “and we think it will then develop a life of its own”.


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One in six owners withdraw homes from auctions across Sydney


Sydney homeowners are losing confidence in the auction market, with the proportion of sellers withdrawing their properties from auction surging in November.
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Last month one in six sellers got cold feet and called off their auction – almost twice the rate of apprehensive homeowners during the same time last year.

It’s the most deflated homeowners have been in at least three years.

Clearance rates have also been in decline over the year, with just over half of homes selling at auction in November – the lowest in two years, excluding January, which normally has a low volume of sales.

It was 73 per cent during the same period last year, according to Domain Group data.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said buyers no longer had a “fear of missing out”, which had been a big driver of the auction market.

“I think the sentiment around the property market is a lot weaker than it was two years ago,” AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said.

“Buyers can afford to take their time, they can be more considered about what they’re buying.”

Mr Oliver said low clearance rates also showed that APRA measures to slow the investor market were “starting to bite”.

The poorest performer of all the Sydney regions was the city’s west where just 48 per cent of homes sold at auction across November. The strongest market was across town on the lower north shore with a clearance rate of just 62 per cent. The northern beaches reported clearance rates at 60 per cent.

Auctioneer Damien Cooley said the boom conditions the Sydney market has experienced for the past five years have led to buyer fatigue.

“The market is really taking a breather on the boom we’ve been through, a lot more properties have been on market throughout spring, and we’re seeing genuine supply and demand factors.”

Mr Cooley said the high number of properties withdrawn before auction was due to an expectation in the market that conditions would improve in 2018.

“Some vendors are prepared to take the risk that the market will be better in the new year, and they’re happy to take their property off the market.”

But not all Sydney homeowners are feeling deflated.

Raphael Reponty, who is selling in one of the regions still seeing the strongest demand in Sydney, is confident ahead of the auction of her North Manly home next Saturday.

She is selling her four-bedroom house to move to Byron Bay, and believes that the lifestyle of the northern beaches will attract plenty of bidders to the auction.

“When I came to the house I fell in love with the open space, the privacy and the entertaining areas,” said Ms Reponty. “We just need to find the right family who will enjoy the house as much as we do.”

Casey Faets, of Clarke & Humel Property, who is selling Ms Reponty’s home, said buyers were being pickier as more homes were coming on the market. But he said homes at the higher end of the market, as well as completely unrenovated projects, were still achieving good results.

“Particularly at the lower end of the northern beaches, buyers have more to choose from, which is one of the main reason auction clearance rate dropped a little bit,” he said.

“But conditions are still strong in this area because of the lifestyle it offers,” he said, citing the proximity to beaches and the CBD as the main selling factors.

“We’ve got in total six contracts out, so it’s proven to be one of the more sought-after properties.”

Mr Oliver predicted sustained low clearance rates would spark a drop in property prices by around 5 per cent over the next year.

And Mr Cooley agreed: “It depends on how much property comes on the market, if we see a lot, there’s a genuine chance we’ll see a price correction of a minimal amount.

“The first quarter will tell us a lot. People will be watching the market to see how it performs.

“The one factor that will continue to hold up our market is the fact that we have incredibly low interest rates.”

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Climate change risks finally grab Australia’s attention


Sailosi Ramatu looks over the sea at his old village Vunidogoloa in Fiji. Each time the ocean surged through their coastal Fijian village, residents would use rafts to move from house to house. Photo: APWhen Cyclone Evan slammed into Samoa five years ago next week, it triggered the near-complete loss of power and water supplies in the capital, Apia, and forced villagers to relocate to schools and the university for months.
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The category-4 tempest was the strongest to hit the Pacific nation in a couple of decades. For Samoan Brianna Fruean, one of the Pacific Climate Warriors, it was another sign – along with rising sea levels, and more intense floods and droughts – that action needed to be taken.

“Climate change is happening right in front of our eyes,” Fruean said this week on the sidelines of a meeting in Fiji of Civicus, a global civil society group.

Helen Clark – the former New Zealand prime minister and an ex-senior United Nations official – was also at the Suva gathering. Clark says she is not surprised by its central topic.

“You can’t come to a meeting in the Pacific and not have climate change as the focus,” Clark tells Fairfax Media. “Everybody talks about it because it’s an existential threat to the Pacific.”

Samoa at least has high ground where people can seek refuge. Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands are nations barely three metrestoper centhonouring,per centdecarbonisecloserageingper centMrper centper centper centageing,realisingstrategisegovernmentup on,DefenceandcentrecharacterisationThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Law allowing bosses to sack pregnant women to be abolished


NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman at the announcement of the NSW Government’s response to the Lindt Cafe Siege Inquest. 8th June, 2017. Photo: Kate GeraghtyA legal exemption allowing employers to sack or refuse to hire a woman who knew she was pregnant when she applied for a job will be abolished.
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Two subsections in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 allow employers to fire women who knew, or ought to have known, they were pregnant when they applied for a job.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman and Minister for Women Tanya Davies will on Sunday announce the exemptions will be abolished. They said fair access to employment was good for the NSW economy and vital to the financial and social independence of women.

“It’s unacceptable and out of step with modern standards for a woman to be overlooked for a role because she’s pregnant, or dismissed from a new position once it becomes apparent she’s carrying a child,” Mr Speakman said.

“We understand the need for employers to plan and be prepared for staff who need to take maternity leave, but an agile workplace that accommodates family commitments is likely to attract and retain the brightest talent.”

The change to NSW discrimination law will bring it in line with other states, territories and the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

New NSW attorney general Mark Speakman with the AG ring and key. Monday 6th February 2017 AFR photo Louie Douvis .

Mrs Davies said the state government wanted to encourage equal opportunity in the workplace.

“That’s why we are removing this archaic legal exemption that has discriminated against pregnant women who are seeking employment,” she said.

The state government acknowledged the advocacy of NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi who has campaigned for the abolition of the legal exemptions for employers wanting to sack pregnant women.

“This is a huge win for our campaign to remove pregnancy discrimination from the law books and for women in NSW who were falling through the cracks because of these absurd exemptions in our anti-discrimination law,” she said.

“This shows that with determined activism, and by working together, we can make changes that have far-reaching impacts on people all over the state. I acknowledge and thank the NSW government for agreeing to make this very important change in our law.”

A recent Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into pregnancy and maternity discrimination had revealed that even after decades of anti-discrimination laws, pregnancy and maternity discrimination is still “remarkably pervasive”.

Belinda Smith, associate professor of law at the University of Sydney and an expert on sex discrimination laws, has said NSW was lagging behind federal and other state legislation in addressing pregnancy.

“Some women would be able to pursue protection under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984, but this does not apply to state public servants (who only have the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act available), and entails much greater litigation risks (because for hearings of federal discrimination matters in court, the default costs rule applies, which means the loser pays all),” she said.

“In any event, that some women have some protections under federal law is not a good reason for NSW to have such backward and limited state protections.”

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Gombau takes responsibility for Wanderers’ distressing loss


Western Sydney Wanderers coach Josep Gombau has taken full responsibility for the club suffering their worst A-League defeat in history after being thrashed 5-0 by Sydney FC in the derby on Saturday night.
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A major selection gamble failed in the club’s biggest home game of the season after Gombau opted to hand two teenagers their first starts of the season against the reigning champions, and played others out of position.

Lachlan Scott is yet to play a minute this season but started ahead of experienced striker Brendon Santalab at the arrow point of their attack, while Keanu Baccus was deployed as the Wanderers’ holding midfield in his first start of the season and just the second of his career. Right back Josh Risdon was played as a winger, and Kearyn Baccus, brother of Keanu, was moved from his holding midfield role to a more attacking position.

The changes were said to be in line with Gombau’s evolution of the club’s playing style. He says it will take a lot of time but the blame for their performance in the derby falls on his shoulders.

“For me, the players are trying to do what the coach is asking them to do. I assume all the responsibility of this big loss,” he said. “I want to said my apologies to the fans who come to support the team. For me, the team I am coaching, things are improving.”

The Spanish coach is embarking on changing the club’s playing style and mentality but is yet to experience any joy from his project. The Wanderers are yet to win under Gombau, losing three of their four games and having scored just once.

“Today is a starting point and it’s not good but for sure the finish point will be good,” Gombau said.

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