On the practical level Richard has had help with clearing away the jungle which had
grown up in his yard while the barn was out of use. This meant he could get at the barn to
repair it. “I just would not have done it if I'd had to clear all the brash myself,” he says. A
job on another member's place was a 're-zoning'. There was a large stone wall between the
back door and the garden, which meant you had to go a long way round to get to the garden.
The team made a hole in the wall and put in a gateway. It effectively made the garden much
closer. There were big stones that would have been impossible for one person to shift, and
the conventional approach would have been to bring in a machine. Another time the group
task was digging a ditch. “The people were working with their heads together, going chat,
chat, chat,” said Richard, “not even noticing the work which was being done while they
were having a good time.
“The permaculture group has opened my eyes to the power embodied within a group of
people, both in a physical and in a more emotional sense,” he says.
A Permaculture Village
Permaculture is very much about designing landscapes as a whole, combining good hous-
ing, food production, wildlife, water supply, sewage treatment, energy supply and all other
needs in an integrated way. So it is not surprising that it is being used to design whole hu-
man settlements in many parts of the world.
The pioneer permaculture settlement is Crystal Waters village in Queensland, Australia.
This is a self-build village, with workplaces, agricultural land, woodland and wilderness
integrated with the residential area.
The developers are a small group of people, mostly working as permaculture designers.
As they did not have the money to buy land, they did a deal with a landowner whereby he
exchanged the whole of his farm for a small number of developed house plots when they
became ready. The people who did the design and planning work were also paid in plots.
People who were interested in buying plots were invited to invest money in advance and
this covered the working expenses. Thus people without any money were able to start de-
veloping land without falling into the power of the banks.
Much of what makes Crystal Waters a specifically permaculture settlement is not ne-
cessarily visible to the casual observer. This is the care that has gone into the design. The
whole site was surveyed with a thoroughness and sensitivity that went far beyond what is
done for any other kind of development. All design work took place on the land, not in an
office. Placement of the different components was only decided after careful consideration
of all the relevant environmental factors, such as slope, aspect, soil, vegetation and micro-
climate, balanced with the needs of the people for space, contact with others, access and so
The result is a village which has been intentionally designed to work with nature rather
than against. Houses are sited in the best spots for passive solar gain and summer cool-
ing, so that the design of the house enhances the natural energy flows rather than working