The hills of Mullumbimby in the heart of the Byron shire are alive with the sound of home construction. Tallowood Ridge, a residential community on the outskirts of the town dubbed “Magical Mullumbimby” is bucking the trend by thriving in tough economic times.
Yet three years ago Tallowood Ridge was a battleground.
“The Council at the time fought just about everything that came to them”, said Tallowood investor Christopher Dean. “Byron Shire enjoys a far more conciliatory Council now and I think the broader community is starting to appreciate the shift”. Christopher Dean and his brother Peter are perhaps best known for Thursday Plantation, Australia’s iconic tea-tree business which they founded in 1979. They sold the business in 2006 and looked to invest in the area they loved.
The brothers, two of ten original passive investors in Tallowood Ridge, watched on as Tallowood Ridge endured these public battles. “It was a great project, this should not have been happening” said Christopher. So, along with their fellow investors, a collection of baby boomers who were all retired or semi-retired and enjoying the pleasures of the Byron lifestyle, they enlisted further investment and negotiated an active role in the re-creation of Tallowood Ridge.
“The GFC has brought the passive investor to front stage” said Steve Connelly of Planners North, Tallowood’s Town Planners. Connelly is behind some of Byron’s most public approvals, including Splendour in the Grass’s new home at North Byron Parklands. “Tallowood is an example of the passive investor coming out of the closet to inject life and capital into tough projects. The turn-around has been phenomenal. The old hippies have stepped up to the table and reinvigorated some old fashioned ideas. And boy it shows”.
With an average age of 62, the investors meet in their homes over coffee and the fruits of the morning farmers’ market to discuss planning, marketing and community issues.
“Meetings tend to take longer with this group and there are more of them” said Connelly. “Whilst they have all designed their own homes, they are not developers. But overall the process works. They spend time talking to neighbours and residents. Sometimes I wonder if they get sick of hearing from the investors. They’re providing affordable land for battlers as well as the Byron Bay escapees and they genuinely respect the land”.
In a recent move designed primarily to preserve potential koala habitat, the owners submitted a rezoning application to Byron Council which achieved 100% support from Councillors. The 65 hectare site is now proposed to allow for only 40% residential development, with 32% of the site offered up to be under the strict 7(b) Environmental Protection zoning.
Tallowood Ridge residents include renowned comedian and writer Mandy Nolan, CEO of Rainforest Rescue Kelvin Davies and Roe Ritchie, Producer of the Children’s television series The Grimstones. One of the community’s drawcards is its NBN broadband coverage.
With 17 lots sold since October and only four lots remaining in the current Stage Two, Tallowood Ridge is the most popular estate in the region and one of the most successful in New South Wales. Land is priced from $243,000 – $279,000.
Image credits: Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson with Tallowood Ridge resident Mandy Nolan, an acclaimed author and comedian
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