EarthsongoutdoorsMeet the eco neighbourhood, Earthsong, just north of Ackland, NewZealand!
Wandering around the lush gardens and orchard in this little block, it feels more like a nature park than a subdivision. There are no roads, just neatly raised walking paths with little streams and gardens all around, bursting with life and beauty. The houses all go together and blend seamlessly into the environment around them. The use of natural materials and large windows makes them feel friendly. It feels so special but also comfortable as a place I would really like to live with my family and raise my children. The designers have managed 34 houses and large community facilities on the 4 acres plot in way that feels very comfortable and spacious. There are no fences delineating yards so the houses blend into the community green areas so everyone has large open area to enjoy as well as a small private space in the rear. The community took a simple and ingenious approach to privacy.  Earthsong colour planInstead of having a big fence around my private area, it is simply understood that if I am in my back yard it is my private space and neighbours should not initiate conversation in case I want to be left alone. Residents say it works well. Perhaps what also enables the open yards idea to work is that there are comfortable and inviting areas for kids to play and be noisy in the community building down the path.
The community is designed using permaculture principles. This encourages observing nature closely and then designing water management, tree shade and gardening in line with the flow of nature in your area. There are organic food beds and fruit trees growing throughout the neighbourhood which were used in the community meal that we shared in the spacious dinning mealThe residents were very friendly and stayed for a long time by the crackling fire, talking about the community and how it was built and got through growing pains and how they are able to make consensus decision making work well. One communication tool they use in meetings is a coloured cards system to help more people express themselves more quickly effectively. The cards keep the discussion on track because certain kinds of comments have priority over others. First everyone who needs clarification is heard before people with opinions get to speak up. This also helps people hear more information before publicly stating an opinion, which then is harder to change.
I was very impressed with the vision and leadership and determination that the founders of Earthsong displayed. People were happy and very proud of what they had built together. They are a very good model for sustainable community. There was one plot left for sale and Dave and I were really quite tempted!!

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