Bower EcoTourism - The Bower at Broulee

EcoTourism Vision for The Bower at Broulee

Broulee, South Coast NSW Australia – July, 2013.

Eurobodalla Shire Council approved the concept plan for a significant Eco-tourism development at Broulee, about 4 hours drive South of Sydney on the mid South Coast of NSW.

The Bower at Broulee emerged from the site of an old gravel pit before being transformed into a small luxury Tourist Accommodation facility on the NSW South Coast which has been offering luxury Romantic Getaway accommodation to adult couples since 1999.

The owners had originally hoped to pursue their vision for an education based Eco-tourism facility. This was, based on the site proximity to a small nature reserve called Illawong and three local schools which formed part of the pre-existing Eurobodalla Shire’s education hub strategy.

However, the commercial realities of running a very small scale operation in its early stages subsequently led to the award winning business successfully carving out a solid year round niche in the Romantic Getaways market, whilst retaining a soft sell environmental educational focus.

Significantly, almost all of the native vegetation was retained on the 40 hectares of remaining land after the owners had dedicated more than 8 hectares of Candlagan Creek foreshore as a public reserve,. This reserve now abuts an important fish breeding area within the Batemans Marine Park . To fully achieve the original vision for an educational Eco-Tourism facility, The Bower set about to expand its operations to gain economies of scale and cater for groupings of like-minded visitors that could justify guided tour experts to show and educate guests about the environmental values and geological origins of the site.

On approaching Council  (just prior to the turn of the century), the constraints over any further development were highlighted. Mark & Sue Berry then took the decision to embark on a program of detailed [and expensive] research to establish exactly what further development was possible. This provided a particular challenge, given the common desire to maintain the vast majority of retained native vegetation on the site. Consultation followed between the owners and a range of NSW government departments and Council. This was backed by detailed research into the constraints over the land, which culminated in preparation of specialist reports summarising expert analysis of the ecological, archaeological, traffic & other neighbourhood impacts of the proposal. The NSW Small Business Commissioner’s office was instrumental in assisting this process to a successful outcome.

Eventually, after working through the various issues presented, Council’s planning approval staff were able to give consent to a modified concept plan and community title management scheme that should enable the project to reach its potential.

The Community Title management scheme will reinforce the application of the conditions required by Council [and the various Govt departments] and guide the future development of the project in the interests of future owners, much like a body corporate in a traditional strata title scheme.

The approval allows for the addition of communal facilities including a health and wellness centre, Eco-pavilion and amphitheatre, small conference facilities, permaculture garden, recreation pavilion and restaurant/cafe with bushwalking trails.

In addition, the proposal includes provision for eco-units [at this stage they are likely to be luxury safari tents for glamping] which are planned for areas which had been previously cleared. Finally, a number of more traditional accommodation units are proposed to be built on the rehabilitated site of the original gravel pit. This will take the form of a “Hilltop Retreat” precinct which will also incorporate the wellness and conference facilities.

All of the above facilities will be available for temporary accommodation and/or enjoyment by guests of the Bower and will be supported by an onsite manager and caretaker.

Thanks to one of our Facebook friends for making us realise we’d omitted to mention some key points in our initial press release.

The plan also involves:

1. Dedicating another 20 plus hectares of land as a ‘private nature reserve’ which will be owned protected and managed by the community.
2. Protecting the key bio-diversity corridors that interconnect the Endangered Ecological Community [EEC] in the area and provides for the protection of over 50 hollow bearing tree that our research has identified on the property.
3. The community management scheme will enable and finance the protection and management of the biodiversity values of the EEC, alongside the ‘underfunded’ Illawong Nature reserve.
4. The property will come under a Property Vegetation Plan to meet the ‘maintain & improve’ principle.


Also here’s some background info that might assist people to reach an informed view;
20 years ago, the owners resisted the ‘recommendation/mandate’ from the planning authorities who said when we started this project, that we would need to build tennis courts, swimming pool(s), volley ball courts and golf putting greens just ‘to prove our Bona Fides’ as a tourist recreation facility.

This would have required extensive clearing, which was possible (and practiced by many neighbouring properties) prior to the introduction of the Native Veg Act.

Some years later, we discovered the simplistic reasoning and lack of foresight, behind the planning directive when a senior planner declared ‘you don’t seriously think people will pay money to sit in the bush and watch the birds do you?’

We (and many others that you’ll find listed on greengetawaysaustralia.com.au) have disproved that statement & attitude.

In fact, we’ve invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars in passive solar buildings, with extensive use of steel, to entice people to immerse themselves in our beautiful environment and begin to truly appreciate & value the ecology in action.

Over the 20 years spent developing our property, we’ve planted over 2,000 native tree and shrub seedlings to regenerate & revegetate areas that were subjected to logging, gravel extraction and/or grazing by previous owners.

More recently, we’ve voluntarily invested even more significant sums to research and survey the biodiversity values of our land and to improve the quality of the ecological, archaeological and mapping data in our local area.

The next step in our plan is to secure the financial viability of our business investment. Then with the support of the Bower community, we may be in a position to embark on programs to formally recognize our existing practices thru such initiatives as Eco-Tourism Australia accreditation.

 To fully achieve the original vision for an educational Eco-Tourism facility, The Bower set about to expand its operations to gain economies of scale and cater for groupings of like-minded visitors that could justify guided tour experts to show and educate guests about the environmental values and geological origins of the site.

On approaching Council over 4 years ago, the constraints over any further development were highlighted. Mark & Sue Berry then took the decision to embark on a program of detailed [and expensive] research to establish exactly what further development was possible. This provided a particular challenge, given the common desire to maintain the vast majority of retained native vegetation on the site. Consultation followed between the owners and a range of NSW government departments and Council. This was backed by detailed research into the constraints over the land, which culminated in preparation of specialist reports summarising expert analysis of the ecological, archaeological, traffic & other neighbourhood impacts of the proposal. The NSW Small Business Commissioner’s office was instrumental in assisting this process to a successful outcome.

Eventually, after working through the various issues presented, Council’s planning approval staff were able to give consent to a modified concept plan and community title management scheme that should enable the project to reach its potential.

The Community Title management scheme will reinforce the application of the conditions required by Council [and the various Govt departments] and guide the future development of the project in the interests of future owners, much like a body corporate in a traditional strata title scheme.

The approval allows for the addition of communal facilities including a health and wellness centre, Eco-pavilion and amphitheatre, small conference facilities, permaculture garden, recreation pavilion and restaurant/cafe with bushwalking trails.

In addition, the proposal includes provision for eco-units [at this stage they are likely to be luxury safari tents for glamping] which are planned for areas which had been previously cleared. Finally, a number of more traditional accomodation units are proposed to be built on the rehabilitated site of the original gravel pit. This will take the form of a “Hilltop Retreat” precinct which will also incorporate the wellness and conference facilities.

All of the above facilities will be available for temporary accommodation and/or enjoyment by guests of the Bower and will be supported by an onsite manager and caretaker.

Thanks to one of our Facebook friends for making us realise we’d omitted to mention some key points in our initial press release.

The plan also involves:

1. Dedicating another 20 plus hectares of land as a ‘private nature reserve’ which will be owned protected and managed by the community.
2. Protecting the key bio-diversity corridors that interconnect the Endangered Ecological Community [EEC] in the area and provides for the protection of over 50 hollow bearing tree that our research has identified on the property.
3. The community management scheme will enable and finance the protection and management of the biodiversity values of the EEC, alongside the ‘underfunded’ Illawong Nature reserve.
4. The property will come under a Property Vegetation Plan to meet the ‘maintain & improve’ principle.


Also here’s some background info that might assist people to reach an informed view;
20 years ago, the owners resisted the ‘recommendation/mandate’ from the planning authorities who said when we started this project, that we would need to build tennis courts, swimming pool(s), volley ball courts and golf putting greens just ‘to prove our Bona Fides’ as a tourist recreation facility.

This would have required extensive clearing, which was possible (and practiced by many neighbouring properties) prior to the introduction of the Native Veg Act.

Some years later, we discovered the simplistic reasoning and lack of foresight, behind the planning directive when a senior planner declared ‘you don’t seriously think people will pay money to sit in the bush and watch the birds do you?’

We (and many others that you’ll find listed on greengetawaysaustralia.com.au) have disproved that statement & attitude.

In fact, we’ve invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars in passive solar buildings, with extensive use of steel, to entice people to immerse themselves in our beautiful environment and begin to truly appreciate & value the ecology in action.

Over the 20 years spent developing our property, we’ve planted over 2,000 native tree and shrub seedlings to regenerate & revegetate areas that were subjected to logging, gravel extraction and/or grazing by previous owners.

More recently, we’ve voluntarily invested even more significant sums to research and survey the biodiversity values of our land and to improve the quality of the ecological, archaeological and mapping data in our local area.

The next step in our plan is to secure the financial viability of our business investment. Then with the support of the Bower community, we may be in a position to embark on programs to formally recognize our existing practices thru such initiatives as Eco-Tourism Australia accreditation.

Guest Comments

Survey of our Guests prior to embarking on the approval process

Check the Petition that we started when our land was threatened to be re-zoned and here’s a public list of

Bower Supporters who signed the petition.

Guest Names
Comments
From
Carol & Fab

New binoculars, new camera, for our next visit – due to our newfound hobby BIRDWATCHING ! We really loved it here – thank you.

Melbourne
Mark and Dona
Our third visit and it gets better every time. Very relaxed and rested, ready to face the real world again. Thoroughly enjoying the extra wildlife we see each visit. Fantastic place, and we will be back for our fourth (and fifth and sixth…) visit.
Canberra
Pete & Liz

This place is beautiful and so peaceful ! It was lovely to look out the window and see nothing but nature ! It’s a wonderful place to come and relax. We will definitely be back & will tell friends about this peaceful hideaway.

Canberra
Simon & Pensiri

Thank you for a fantastic few days. We are soon to move overseas & this is the part of Australia we will be taking with us

Surry Hills, Sydney
 Jani
 There is no other secluded, private self-catering eco-tourism accommodation available in the Eurobodalla shire – I’ve tried to find some! I don’t want to stay at a resort or motel. The area needs the Bower to be as it is, small cabins totally surrounded by nature and completely hidden from the rest of the world, so that visitors like me, who relish privacy and seclusion, will want to come to the area. To stay at the Bower is the only reason we visit the Eurobodalla.
 Seven Hills, NSW
 Colin and Lorraine Adrian
 It is so important to maintain and expand environmentally sustainable retreats like The Bower. The mental and physical health breaks they provide are so essential for busy people who want to experience something more fundamental than the daily hustle and bustle of city life. The Bower provides the environment for people to regenerate, recharge and renew themselves and it should be allowed to fulfil its full potential, not be disadvantaged by the shortsightedness of a few individuals.
 Kaleen, NSW
 John Hennessey
 The Bower is a superbly run and appointed establishment which is a credit to the locality. The way in which the surrounding bushland has been preserved is a credit to the proprietors and a benchmark for future developments.
 Minnamurra, NSW
Peter & Libby
The Bower is unique. It is a great place to relax and enjoy a balance between stylish luxury and the beauty of the bush – the birds and cycads etc. There are not many places that get the balance right and they should be encouraged rather than hindered.
Heathcote
Robyn Hogan
There are so few eco-tourism sites in this Shire that everything possible must be done to preserve and sustain the existing sites. Local, State and Federal Government policies must encourage and support those individuals prepared to develop and foster eco-tourism ventures in their local shires. People like Mark and Sue Berry deserve the support of the Eurobodalla Shire for their contribution to local tourism.
Gordon