We are your hosts, Bill Powell and Pip James
Today Bawley Bush Retreat is managed by us, its operators since inception, but we are ably assisted by an excellent team of long term staff and family. Presentation of a high quality eco-retreat that our guests will enjoy while complying with numerous regulations is a task well beyond the capacity of just the two of us. Here is our story.
From sea-change in 1992 to today
Our sea-change from Sydney started as a gleam in our eyes in 1991. Our aim was to find land on which we could build an eco-retreat consisting of seminar/celebration and holiday accommodation facilities. In 1992 after an east coast search we purchased a vacant lakeside, but virtually inaccessible, 100 acres of forest at Bawley Point. We relocated to it and started a new life from scratch, living in an isolated caravan with no services or facilities.
We somewhat innocently decided we would act on an existing approval to subdivide, use the lakeside lot so created to build our dream on and sell the other lots to finance it. With architectural assistance, we prepared a tourism development application. After we obtained the Tourist Facility consent in 1994 we spent 1995 undertaking the 4-lot subdivision infrastructure works: land clearing, access roads, a bridge, 11000-volt electricity and telephone services. We then finally started work on the retreat itself, just a shed in 1996. The shed later evolved into the Lake Willinga Bush Cafe which we operated at weekends and holidays from late 1997 to late 2000 while we resolved a long series of Council-inspired development dificulties.
If you want to develop in NSW...consider this
Development certainly was not straight forward. Ours is a cautionary tale unfortuantely experienced by very many NSW land developers. There was bureaucratically generated frustration and delay at almost every turn. We also suffered from the effects of the recession of the 90s/early 2000s that seriously affected regional land markets. But most of our problems were with the delays caused by often pointless, constantly changing, wasteful and occasionally unbelievably stupid NSW state planning authorities.
Serial politically-inspired or otherwise metatasising regulations enforced by overloaded, under-resourced council employees dogged our enterprise...though we were not Robinson Crusoe. For us state and local governemnt servants are plainly themselves struggling with change and lack of resources but are e trapped in their frustrating employment environments by their own need for salary. But my empathy ends there. The NSW Planning Department itself made silly mistakes in drafting of LEP legislation in the mid-nineties directly relating to our property. They had to twice correct these after legislative enactment. That was was like moving wet concrete. The errors occurred simply because those State Planning geniuses refused/failed to take notice of or consult with local Council in the first place. They never compensated us or apologised for their stupidity in arbitrarily deleting the right for our subdivided lots to have residences built on them. They didn't care that their stupid changes meant we lost the right to sell lots with a dwelling approval. This regulatory brainlessness nearly broke us. Thankfully we outlasted the morons and our original vision has now been significantly achieved.
What we have now
That vision included the creation of a beautiful, incontrovertibly Australian, high quality coastal retreat that complements and interprets the stunning local environment and features the use of local materials. We opened our first cottages in 2002 but it was not until 2009 that we built the multi-purpose celebration/function space we consider to be the very heart of our vision. It has already proved to be just that with most early use being for weddings, family reunions and summer season accommodation..
We have made extensive use of milled-on-site local hardwoods from trees cleared to make our roads, building spaces and mandated clearings. For some walls we have also used compressed earth blocks that we pressed on-site. Much infrastructure work is needed to service substantially separated cottages. Bawley Bush Cottages is a continuing work in progress but we now accept that we alone cannot complete the full vision in our lifetimes. WE are open to discussions with a joint venture partner to do so. When we can we will build more approved accommodation to create a larger community of similar secluded cottages. An opportunity exists to undertake a group title subdivision to ultimately sell the holiday cottages with on-site management to like-minded people.
Our eco credentials
Though our cottages and function space are all grid-connected with modern electric and LPG appliances, we try to minimize our environmental footprint. It's a challenge. We aim to make our buildings appear as elements of the bush rather than being separate from it. We are completely self sufficient in water and deliver drinking, treated dam and untreated dam water to all buildings. Half of our toilets are composting ones, we recycle all rubbish and we compost all of our own and guest food wastes in a worm farm. We have a state-of-the-art, passive waste water treatment system designed to protect the adjacent pristine lake from the possibility of nutrient contamination. We use solar, gas and wood-fired water heating.
The photo of the building across the dam on the flashing masthead above is the 3BR cottage we built to live in for ourselves on our entrance road. We travel from time to time and when we are away our residence is available for guests tio rent as "Kookaburra Cottage". It is fully described under the Accommodation Tab.
You are welcome to call in on arrival or during your stay and chat with us but we want our guests to feel they can be as private and secluded as they want. Checking in is not necessary and, so long as you have made payment arrangents, the chances are you will not need to see us at all. Cottage access arrangements are contained on your booking confirmation. However you will find that someone, either us or one of our staff, will be available to promptly respond to any comfort oversights or technical problems you might experience during your stay.
Bill and Pip