Thank you so much for your questions.
Q: “Will sustainability features such as efficient water and energy systems be implemented? If so, will they blend in with the landscape?”
Yes, the project intends for example to use water-less toilets based on approved dry-composting technology and showers that recycle most of the water that normally goes down the drain through a combination of filter and sanitizing components directly back to the shower head. The recycled shower water is still warm and thus only requires a small amount of energy to be spend on re-heating to the desired temperature. Hand wash taps will have flow reduction devices integrated. All electronic devices on site will have to run from the onsite batteries and therefor will be scrutinized on their energy consumption before purchase. This goes from each and every led light bulb to office computers and cooling fans.
Q: “Would construction introduce any pollutants or toxins into the area?”
No, the project intends to use prefabricated components where possible that will merely be installed or assembled on site. The one exception is the refuge building that requires a concrete floor. The builders for the refuge will work under very strict conditions to not impact our beautiful environment in any event.
Q: “Would the site use renewable energy technologies?”
A: Yes, our project will be off-grid and thus have no connections with power. The main source of power and heat will be solar based. All electronic devices on site will have to run from the onsite batteries. We would like to have wind back up for low solar exposure days however we do not like regular wind turbines as they would not blend in with the landscape. We are very impressed with the wind tree turbine concept of French innovators New Wind (see http://www.arbre-a-vent.fr/Arbre-vent_31.html). There will also be another energy resource used and that is the leaves bark and twigs that are collected from our site through raking and pruning during bushfire risk reduction works. Normally these are burnt in hazard reduction burns which waste all the energy stored. We intend to have this natural renewable energy resource chipped into a size that can be used appliances that normally burn wood or gas instead of ending up as hot air. Heaters, cookers and even micro Combined Heat & Power (microCHP) machines can be run with chipped biomass. Any surplus of this material can be sold to be used elsewhere or used for mulching outside our IPA. (updated Feb 2017)
Q: “Would waste be treated on site?”
A: Yes, the dry-composting toilets ‘treat’ toilet waste on the spot into greatly reduced dry compost that can be collected annually by contractors. During cleaning the waste collected in the shower filters can be added to the compost chambers of the toilets. The reduced amount of grey water from the showers and hand wash will be treated in modern approved above ground odorless grey water systems that look like a small water tank. The resulting treated gray water will be stored in small water tanks and re-used for various irrigation purposes. The small water tanks and small grey water treatment systems will blend with the shapes of tents and other buildings.
Q: “Would the unique environmental and cultural features of the site be built into the visitor experience?”
A: Yes, these are unique selling points of our small scale Eco Lodge and will help to deliver a one of a kind experience that will attract guests from all over the world.
Q: “How will the facility benefit the local community?”
A: There will be various new local employment opportunities in our business. Also our business and our guests will be potential clients for local businesses such as outdoor experience operators, cafes, shops and restaurants.
Q: “Would you please spell out what your vegetation management plan for fire and flood safety means?”
A: The vegetation management plan will see the western part of our land with the waterfalls and wetland dedicated as conservation area. In this area we will execute weed control and additional planting and cultivating of local endangered native plants to be selected in cooperation with Council and or NPWS. The southern and eastern parts of our land are Special Fire Advantage or Asset Protection Zones. Since we will operate a business in the APZ the once in a decade burning of excess bushfire fuel in the form of leaf and other bush litter is not an appropriate strategy to achieve high performance SFAZ properties. We will remove the excess bushfire fuel continuously through the use of handheld and vehicle attached tools where appropriate. As a result the bushfire risk profile for most of our neighbours will drastically improve since the fuel loads will continuously be as low as just after a one in a decade hazard reduction burn.
We will use local native grasses suitable for sandy soils as used by NPWS in their recreation areas in order to prevent erosion. Dupont Ground Grid optionally with gravel or crushed shale or similar solutions will be used to improve erosion resistance where required. All ground cover used in the project will be permeable. Most of the rainwater to fall on the land will enter the soil as it is now. There will not be more water in the wetland due to our project. There is no effect on flood safety.
Q: “Since the Fire Services and National Parks and Wildlife feel that it is unsafe altogether, it implies that large scale clearing in a sensitive area leading to wetland is the only way to achieve any sort of prevention.”
A: The plans have just been lodged and we or anyone else have not yet received any factual feedback on the lodged plans from the appropriate departments of RFS or NPWS. Not once in the discussions and communications that we have had with the appropriate departments of RFS or NPWS has it been said that “Fire Services and National Parks and Wildlife feel that it is unsafe altogether” and we have explicitly asked the question!
Almost all trees to be cleared for the Asset Protection Zone are located on the southern plateau in the landscape. The large trees on the slopes remain with pruning to some of their widest branches. The area completely cleared of trees will be approximately the size of two typical residential blocks in Bundeena. That relates to 3% of our whole property. That cannot be defined as large scale clearing.
Q: “Would you also tell me what your evacuation plan is in the event of fire or rain and wind events with 100mm or more of rain and 150 km/hr winds (several this year) given that the site is at the furthest end of a suburb with only one road in. National Parks and Wildlife close their camping ground altogether and send campers out of the park on days with a catastrophic fire danger of which there were several last year alone, all in peak tourist season?”
A: Our plans have been lodged with a very conservative bushfire evacuation plan. To summarize it states that we evacuate early if the FDI is 75 or higher. We will offer an alternative day program as discussed with RFS or a full refund option to affected guests.
Also proposed is a bushfire refuge building constructed from modern materials that can withstand a full impact bushfire. See this page for a demonstration of the fire protection properties of modern building materials and construction techniques available in Australia today.
The refuge will consist of an assembly room and a garage for a designated evacuation vehicle. All accommodation on the property is located withing 50 meters of the refuge entry. After assembly occupants can orderly move into the evacuation vehicle while protected from outside heat. After the fire front has passed the occupants evacuate the property with the designated evacuation vehicle.
The tent structures comply with the highest Building Code of Australia (BCA) standards and are engineered and manufactured to the maximum cyclonic wind rating of Australia for any structure (Region D).
Note that the peak season for our bushwalking guests is not the typical peak tourist season but autumn winter and early spring. We believe the impact of our conservative bushfire evacuation plan on the bottom line is not very significant – or important for that matter.
Q: “Would you also release your business plan that shows that you have no plans to expand ever, and that you can make your business profitable at the size you say is all you want?”
A: We are certain we can operate a small scale low impact sustainable business at the size we aim for now. We believe businesses should not solely aim for growth and maximum profit but more for a sustainable environmental footprint and maximum happiness for all participants such as guests, employees, community and business partners. We will still have to pay the bills so we do aim for a positive balance sheet on the long term.
We do have plans to expand the business however not with additional accommodation on our current property.
It is very unlikely that we will release an internal focused document such as a business plan for publication.
If you have any more questions please let us know below.