Jan 2022: Plotting progress, Screaming frogs, Finding grass, Events, NEV in the news


Plotting our progress – Evaluating NEV social, environmental, and economic projects

-Rosemary Leonard

Narara Ecovillage (NEV) is a living experiment in how people can work together at the local level to create a thriving community. NEV members know we need to explore new ways not only of regenerating the environment and our communities but also our economic systems – because they all work together. One of the most exciting aspects of ecovillage life is that we can see the way all three elements work together.

At the November 2021 New Economies Network Australia (NENA) conference, Narara Ecovillage research group leader Prof Rosemary Leonard, aided by her PhD student Paulo Goncalves de Oliveira, presented a paper about our new study, ‘Plotting Our Progress‘.

The study examines projects initiated by the Community, Land, and Business Circles to identify the extent to which they address their stated aims and other goals, and achieve an integrated contribution to wellbeing.

The study then evaluates these projects against the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) community sustainability assessment tasks and impacts, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and One Planet Living goals.

Although the study is still in its early stages there have been some pleasing insights. As shown in Figure 1, we found the beginnings of a circular economy in the relationships among three food production projects. This reflected the importance of identifying the inter-connections among projects in our evaluations.

We also found that the three evaluation systems gave similar results in some ways but are not equally useful. The One Planet Living Goals were appropriate and concise. The GEN tasks covered a wealth of information about our projects and the GEN impact assessment identified current gaps and next steps for our development. The UN STGs provided less information and were not so appropriate for ecovillages; however, they will probably be useful for comparisons with other places.

The study will continue this year and hopefully provide further insights and a baseline for future evaluations of our development.

Full paper available from r.leonard@westernsydney.edu.au

New screaming frog species recorded at NEV!

-Richard Cassels

The Spring frog choruses from the ecovillage floodplain are sensational, truly a wonder of nature. This is given special poignancy because we now know that amphibians are more threatened and are declining more rapidly than either birds or mammals.

So we were very excited to receive the news in December 2021 that a new frog species has been identified in the frog recordings that NEV members sent to the Australian Museum.

This frog species is new in two ways: first, under its previous name of Litoria dentata (Bleating Tree Frog) it was not recorded in the 2020 surveys at the ecovillage; and second, a new study has discovered that Litoria dentata is in fact 3 different species. Our frog is now named the Screaming Tree Frog!  (You can read more about it here: Bleating or screaming? Two new, very loud, frog species described in eastern Australia.)

All together, 10 frog species were recorded in the NEV “lowlands” this Spring.

This is the same number as last year. However with the Screaming Tree Frog we gained one new species, and this “compensated” for a species that we did not record this year: Litoria latopalmata, the Broad-palmed Rocket Frog. At this stage we do not know why this frog was missing in the NEV frog recordings.

The froggers of NEV are determined to do everything we can to look after and, ideally, increase the frog populations of our floodplain.  

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A White-faced Heron in the Southern Retention Basin, undoubtedly looking for frogs

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Identifying an insect


Isn’t it amazing what technology can do nowadays?

While removing fleabane on a corner of our wonderful common garden under the shade of big trees, I noticed what I thought was a cricket scurrying away amongst the eucalyptus leaves and thorny asparagus fern. It was an unusual cricket I thought.

I took few pictures, making sure it was in good focus and put it on the iNaturalist app that I have on my old phone. I love apps that keep working even on older phones, and this one sure does.

Not being very proficient in identifying insects yet, I put it out to the iNaturalist community to give it a try first. A few hours later, after filling a good portion of the green bin with fleabane, blackberry and asparagus fern, I decided to call it a day and retire into the shade.

There were no takers yet on iNaturalist in identifying my cricket, so I gave it a try myself. I was quite amazed that the app was able to recognise the insect family quite correctly from just a single picture, and offer me 3 options of similar-looking tiny green ground dwellers that are found in the area.

And guess what? Crickets were not there. That means the app did a much better job than I did. And so here it is: Australian Garden Mantis, the first option suggested. What an amazing example of technology put into a practical use and helping us all make weeding more exciting!

We started our iNaturalist Narara Ecovillage project around a year ago in Feb 2021, and have already made 303 observations and recorded 216 species.

Contributing is very easy and very much appreciated: just install the app, come for a walk, find something interesting, take a picture, upload it and there you go. Having GPS enabled makes placing it on a map a breeze, but even without that, it can be done manually or on a website in few clicks. Check out 1-2min video tutorials if you need a hand.


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Open Day ONLINE – Sat Jan 29, 10.30am to 5.30pm – NEW PROGRAM

The focus of Narara Ecovillage Open Days in 2022 will be on including a wide range of educational experiences.

Morning: the regular virtual tour and Q&A sessions as per last year.

Afternoon: a variety of learning activities, ranging from collaborative living to health and wellbeing. So please join us to attend one or more of these online sessions, and feel free to bring along your friends!

  • 10.30am to 12.00pm: Narara Ecovillage – Virtual Tour & Q&A (free or donation)
  • 1.00pm to 2.00pm: Taste of Ecovillage Life ($10)
  • 2.30pm to 4.00pm: Eco-homes & Collaborative Living – Legal & Financial Possibilities ($10)
  • 4.30pm to 5.30pm: What’s an Advance Care Directive? ($10)

Please visit us on Facebook  to see the recordings of the September, October & November Online Open Days. This may inspire more questions when you join us!

The following Open Day will be Sunday 27th February.

Many ecovillages globally hold Open Days giving the opportunity to visit different parts of their village and get a better understanding of how they live regeneratively.  

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Experience life in a real, thriving Ecovillage. Fri March 4 – Sun 6

Have a great family holiday with an eco flavour, close to Sydney.

Narara Ecovillage, still under construction, is gradually transitioning into a dynamic living community that demonstrates Ecovillage living, just an hour from northern Sydney. The members love hosting visitors, since part of our mission is to demonstrate how we can live more lightly on the Earth, while creating a vibrant, friendly and multi-generational community.

Sustainable business is part of the community vision, and events like this help to support livelihoods for members wishing to work on site. Living and working locally is part of our vision for more sustainable communities that don’t cost the Earth by creating more emissions from commuting.

For two days March 4th to 6th you can eat, work, sing and learn along-side Ecovillage members and other visitors, while you really get the vibe of this open, welcoming community.

A full program of activities includes talks, workshops, getting your hands dirty, learning about conservation, local bird life, sustainable houses, our solar smart grid, food production, the evolution of the village and more.

There is a kids program too including circus training every day with juggling, balancing, hula-hoops, stilt walking and aerial skills. There will also be kids crafts and creative projects using natural materials. Children of all ages are welcome.

Earlybird prices available until Jan 31st. Kids are just $100.00

You will meet many members including founding members, long time activists, engineers and horticulturists who are expressing their passion for a better world through this ecoliving adventure.

The price includes: talks and workshops, accommodation, three meals a day, social, work and educational activities in numerous venues around the village. Hanging out, working alongside and socialising with village residents. Getting a real feel for living in an Ecovillage.

You can also buy snacks from the coffee cart, crafts from the gift shop and treats from the food co-op.

A camping option is also available. (Campers BYO tent, gear and breakfast – or buy at the Coffee Cart).

Read more and register here before it fills up! Places are limited.

  • For Covid safety, nearly all activities will be held outdoors. Participants may be asked to take a RAT test before arriving.


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Is this Ottochloa?

Finding Ottochloa

Microhabitats of the Ecovillage Wetland (and the Search for Ottochloa)

-Richard Cassels

Freshwater habitats including rivers, streams, lakes and other wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems on our planet. Their biodiversity is declining far faster than that of our oceans or forests, and needs to be urgently put on a track to recovery. Source

In 2013, our consultant ecologist Robert Payne identified part of the NEV floodplain as an Endangered Ecological Community.  Freshwater floodplain grasslands like ours are relatively unknown on the Central Coast, and he urged the village to consider restoring ours.  

This would include rehabilitating a native wetland grass called Ottochloa gracillima. But for some years Ottochloa defied sporadic attempts to find it!

However, all that (may have) changed two weeks ago, when professional botanist Diane Warman visited our freshwater grassland one damp morning to help reassess the ecology, and once again seek the elusive Ottochloa. To everyone’s great delight, she found a grass that could be Ottochloa!

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Diane is thrilled to find an intact wetland of the native couch Paspalum distichum

A few days later she reported that she would like to collect some more of the presumed Ottochloa for a final confirmation. “The specimens are in their early stages of flowering and some later stages when flowers have turned into fruit would be good. It’s looking good for Ottochloa but I still have to resolve it!”.

Stay tuned for more on this story!

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Duelling botanists? Diane discussing identifications with NEV Member Patricia Meagher

NEV has some lovely examples of freshwater “microhabitats”. If preserved and well managed, they could become little jewels in our education programs, alongside innovative food and business enterprises.

Footnote: Diane is a professional botanist who for many years has shared her passion for native plants with students at the University of Newcastle. She has also developed an affordable Basic Bush Botany course for Australian Plants Society Central Coast members (currently in hiatus due to Covid). If you’d like to learn more about how to identify the floral families on the Central Coast you can contact the Australian Plants Society to find out more.

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In the news- collaborative land ownership & housing at Narara Ecovillage

-Liz Bassett

Many people are seeking ways of living that balance the need for personal space with the need for companionship and belonging to something larger than oneself – and to do it all affordably.

In an ABC news article this month, Maani Truu interviewed three Narara Ecovillage members who are squaring this circle in their plans to buy land and build a shared house together. Plainly the article inspred some people- we immediately had a rush of enquiries at the village.

The article: Could collaborative living provide an answer to the housing crisis and climate change? Some people think so

While most of the commenters on the ABC’s facebook page thought that the idea is awesome, there was some concern that shared ownership is a jerry-built solution to unaffordable housing.

My favourite response to that comes from Christopher Nicholls:

Oh yay, that we can create collaborative groups of people who are no longer alone, lonely and can form a collective – in small groups, in villages and caring communities. While you may think it’s back to student sharing, it’s far from that. These women and others like them, come with their collective ‘sum-of-the-parts’ value to each other. It’s not all economic, and yes, that needs to be there. But if you read the article it’s not simply about house sharing, it’s about building communities. So far from homelessness.

That’s the spirit!

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Planting Wattles & Bunya Pines at NEV

-Patricia Meagher (resident Araucariaceae expert)

We have planted wattles and Bunya Pines in a gully which has a number of Hoop Pines that are included on the Council’s heritage list. 

Bunyas and Hoop Pines are closely related conifers in the ancient plant family Araucariacea

Later we’ll plant more Bunyas further up the gully, along with some Wollemi Pines – which are also in the same family.

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Gang-gang Cockatoos at NEV

-Richard Cassels

Australians on the east coast tend to take our parrots for granted. We should not! 

At NEV are really fortunate that 13 species of wild parrot are regularly seen at the site. From largest to smallest they are:

  • Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (60 cms long), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Long-billed Corella, Little Corella, Galah, Gang-gang Cockatoo , King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet and Little Lorikeet (18 cms long).
  • And there is a free-flying pet Eclectus Parrot that occasionally turns up (naturally occurring only in northern Australia).

This month we have been privileged to be visited by a group of 4 Gang-gang Cockatoos. The distinctive “creaking hinge” call of these birds is usually the first indicator of their presence.  

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They are solid and relatively small cockatoos. The male is grey with a bright red head, topped with a wispy crest, while the others are mainly grey in colour. One male was kind enough to pose for me on a jacaranda in a good morning light.

The main attraction for them seems to be the many Callery Pears that were planted on the site by Department of Primary Industry.

As a red cockatoo, the only parrot likely to be confused with Gang-gang is a Galah.

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Galahs, for comparison


– or Don’t, in this case

Don’t be too neat in the heat

Leave the grass a bit longer. Each blade of grass is a tiny solar panel helping to cool its environment and minimize soil evaporation. From Leaf of Life, ‘a simple experiment with a profound message, measuring the temperature of exposed soil, cut grass and uncut grass in summer. The results speak for themselves.’

You may even want to try this experiment yourself!