Do we need Council?


DejanTuesday, 13 October 2020 - 9:01am

Narara Ecovillage water dam.

There is an example on Central Coast of the community that has taken infrastructure in their own hands. Narara Ecovillage is on outskirts of Gosword. They have their own water/sewer license, their own water pond/dam - so they could be off-the-grid in that respect. They build their own roads as well. They are co-operative and membership fee is $30,000.

There are plenty of examples nowadays where individuals are living off-the-grid in terms of power supply. Western Australia has complete communities that live that way. Generated power is stored in communal batteries and shared on communal basis, reducing the cost for individual users. Advances in technology are providing opportunity for excess power to be sold to the market - power becoming point of income for the community, offsetting other costs (like NBN).

And what chances are for MCC to deliver any of that to North Arm Cove (accepting that they will outsource the service anyway)?

From MCC's meeting on June 27, 2018:

"The newly merged Council faced a multi-generational problem of $180M backlog of works on roads and bridges as well as an annual shortfall of $5M in renewal works."

and that lead to :

"The first significant step was to get legislation changed specifically for MCC allowing application for a special rate variation (SRV) outside of the proclamation conditions. The income generated by the SRV allowed Council to prepare a sound business case of $100M - $50M from Council and $50M from the State Government."

So, $180mil backlog patched by $100mil grant and increased in rates (Special Rate Variation) above NSW cap. Do you see MCC ever having NAC's needs on agenda?

Oh, and they plan to rezone those thousand lots in NAC "paper subdivision" into "environmental" losing potential hundreds of millions in income that could have paid for infrastructure of the whole area.

North Arm Cove is one of the largest rate-paying communities in MCC, yet it is treated with out-most disdain from Council. Therefore the question - do we really need Council? What for? Can we outsource the service ourselves, like others did?


Dejan we do need Council

Unfortunately you haven’t told us the full story about Narara Ecovillage.

Narara ecovillage is not off-grid:

- Even though houses have solar power, and the village will ultimately have its own battery system, the village it is connected to the electricity grid to provide supply for when the sun doesn’t shine
- It has a centralised sewage system that treats sewage and recycles it for flushing toilets and gardens, but potable water comes from the local council supply
- Waste is collected by the local council.

As well as the $30,000 payment to become a member, members also need to pay for their land purchase, development costs, annual member co-operative contributions, annual community association levies, council rates, water rates, and electricity consumption.

Using the current Narara costs as a guide, people who want to set up a similar ecovillage structure and do similar development on their blocks of land in the non-urban area of North Arm Cove would have to pay about:

- Membership shareholding of $30,000 per block
- Development costs of $150,000 per block to cover roads, water, sewage, electricity infrastructure
- Co-operative member contributions of $2,376 per year
- Community association levies of $2,000 per year
- Council rates of $1,300 per year (this includes waste collection)
- Water and sewage rates of $1,200 per year
- Electricity rates that are similar to what is currently charged to North Arm Cove residents.

Recognising the real cost of development, even for eco-sustainable housing, land at Narara ready for building sells for some $350,000 to $400,000 per block of about 550 square metres. Earlier this year a 551 square metre block was on the market for $335,000.

The Narara Ecovillage was developed from the old Gosford Horticultural Institute, which already had buildings, large dams and other infrastructure. It started off with cleared agricultural land, over 50 existing structures and buildings, including greenhouses, outbuilding and workshops that were perfect for food production and cottage industries. This has made the ecovillage development relatively easy - there is no comparison to developing the North Arm Cove non-urban area which will be much more difficult to develop due to densely treed land, poor and shallow soils, rocky outcrops and no dams for holding water.

Developing Narara was also relatively easy because the land was on one title, with one owner, and not thousands of titles and thousands of owners as is the case at North Arm Cove.

Solar power comes at an environmental cost too – in order for houses in an ecovillage to have good solar electricity they need lots of sunshine, and to achieve this in North Arm Cove on small lots there would have to be extensive tree removal – what is the environmental cost of this?

The Narara Ecovillage is on a 64 hectare lot – of this 12 hectares will be used for development, 12 hectares for agriculture and community gardens, and the remaining 40 hectares (or 63%) will be dedicated to conservation. The proposal for North Arm Cove appears to be the opposite of this – with over half of the land being developed.

So Dejan, when you compare development at Narara to what you are proposing for North Arm Cove, make sure you tell the full story – what it will really cost to develop it, what it will really cost every year to live there, and how difficult it will be to get it developed as an ecovillage.

To answer your question of “do we need Council”, I think the answer is yes, none of this can be done without Council’s help.

For further information on the Narara Ecovillage, the website address is

Assumptions and mistakes 3

I have used Narara only as an example of POSSIBILITY for community taking infrastructure (water and sewer in this case) issues in their own hands - independent from council.
Indeed, Narara didn't utilize all its options - potable water was on a doorstep being part of Gosword. That, however doesn't mean that they couldn't utilize other sources if they wanted.

I did not use Narara as a good example of electricity off-grid community. There are many better examples, and I mentioned Western Australia.

Narara, as you said, is much smaller than North Arm Cove. It has also started as a private (group) development initiative - land is owned by co-operative and they can sell it to the market at market rates. It is also located in urban/sub-urban environment so they have reason for conserving parts of their own land. They are also few hundred meters to schools and bit more to shops.

That is why I used Narara only as an example how Council is not needed for SOME of the services.

North Arm Cove is surrounded by conservation areas (including the ocean) , no need for more than million square meters in subdivision itself.

There are savings to be made in economy of scale. With 4000 lots North Arm Cove is attractive opportunity for larger service providers and investors. At that scale recycling provides opportunity for generation of income rather than being a cost point. At that scale opportunity for employment is much higher.

As I mentioned, Councils are not providing service - they outsource that to service providers and very inefficiently, slow and expensive (as a matter of principle). Many communities have their own agreements with waste management companies, electricity, gas, NBN, water recycling.

So, no, we don't need council for any of that.

Now, we can talk about the costs as well - North Arm Cove pays about 1.5-2mil in rates to Council, every year. Do we get a value for money in infrastructure and service? I think that anyone could do better job than Council with that kind of money.

Again, no, we don't need Council to do such a poor work. That is, if you are interested in progerss of community.


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