5. Concept Plan Community Consultation Outcomes


7 Sibley Street



20th November 2013


7th December 2013


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Summary Overview

 1 - sibley st concept consultation

Two community forums were held in late 2013 for the purpose of consulting with the Nimbin community in relation to the Master Concept Plan. The Master Concept Plan was launched on the 24th August 2013 at a Sibley Street Fundraising Auction event at the Nimbin Town Hall.

Copies of the plan have been posted around the village at NNIC, the Community Centre and the notice board on the side of the Town Hall, and are also available on the project’s website.

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The forums were held at the Nimbin Bowlo on the 20th November and the Town Hall on the 7th December. Thirty people attended in total. They were invited by public notice in the Nimbin Good Times, Nimbin Hookups Facebook page, the Nimbin Sustainability mailing list and the www.nnic.org.au web site.

Concept Plan Consultation Objectives

The Master Concept Plan consultation process was designed to provide an opportunity for interested community members to give feedback to the Design Team on the Plan and to suggest alternate solutions to the design challenges identified.

Format of the Consultation

The consultation opened with a short film produced by the NNIC to give background information and explanation of plan. This film is now available to view at http://nnic.org.au/sibley/latest-news/concept-plan-revealed/

It should be noted that the Master Concept Plan is not a final architectural plan of the site and does not include significant detail about the design of the building/s themselves.

The Plan focussed on site specific design and planning challenges, and problem-solving the key issues of building alignment, the approximate footprint of the buildings, people and vehicle access and the building regulations; in particular rules relating to boundary set-backs. The Master Concept Plan was developed after two prior consultations with the community, as well as with Lismore City Council planners.

The project manager, together with the architect, first described the key challenges the Design Team had to address in order to arrive at the Master Concept Plan. Community members were then divided into working groups and asked to explore each of these problems in turn and identify any alternate or additional ideas/solutions, which were then further discussed. There was also some discussion about the plans for the old skate park site as ‘Energy Park’ (i.e. in addition to the parking and access issues described below).

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The key challenges:

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  • Solar passive design – the site lends itself to an East-West orientated building located along the Southern boundary.

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  • People Access –  two- level building and arbour. The site lends itself to a two-level building due to the slope of the land. A two-level building in turn creates an access issue between the levels for disabled people – i.e. we can’t just have stairs.

The solution the Design Team arrived at is an arbour/veranda which extends along the length of the site for access to the top level, with access to the lower level via a different route through the lower level of the site. This would eliminate the need for a lift, and would also minimise the need for extensive ramp systems, which would take up a lot of space on the site due to the slope of the land.   There is a six metre fall between the front of the site (western edge – along Sibley St) and the rear of the site (caravan park boundary). There is another 1.5 metre fall between the site and most of the old skate park site. There is one place where the two sites are almost level with one another, on the corner of the old skate park site where it adjoins the new skate park as well as 7 Sibley St.

  • Vehicle access and parking (e.g. what vehicle access will we need). It should be noted that car parking allocations is a DA requirement and cannot be avoided, even though we would prefer not to have to allocate parking on site at all. In reality we will need to allocate parking inc disabled parking, vehicle access, and loading zones. The issue is how to best utilise the site and minimise the impact of vehicle access and parking on the use of the Sibley St site and also the new skate park. The Design Team concluded that the best vehicle access to the site is via the old skate park, and that the old skate park also offers the best use of space as regards car parking allocations.
  • Boundary set-back regulations. The issue here is the southern boundary adjoining the residential neighbour’s property. The building regulations require that any (public) building is set back at least 3m from the boundary, unless that side of the building consists of a completely solid wall. Because the site is long and narrow, the 3m set-back compromises the efficient use of the site and creates an unusable area along the southern edge of the site. Because of the gradient of the slope, it is not easy to use that area for e.g. vehicle access, without substantial and expensive earthworks. However, we also do not want a solid back wall along the southern side of the building as this would compromise natural ventilation and air flow opportunities. The solution developed by the design team is to overhang the top level of the building so as to create airflow through the floor, with the lower floor set back 3 metres to enable ventilation.


  • Aesthetics. Feedback from the community (in the form of emails, and feedback sheets which were distributed when the Master Concept Plan was launched), were fairly evenly split between people who loved the Plan and people who did not. The overall feedback was overwhelmingly focussed on aesthetics, even though the Plan does not actually describe the aesthetics of the buildings in any detail. It is clear that the aesthetics of the site is very important to the community, e.g.: “I don’t want it to look like a 1970’s library”. We agree! So the challenge is how to create a beautiful building and environment, without overly compromising sustainability. Some compromise may be necessary because aesthetics is after part of a sustainable building – no point building something you don’t want to look at much less occupy!


After addressing these issues, the participants were asked to consider the use of the site and the buildings. They were asked:


  • What do we need?
    • What don’t we have space for already in the community?
    • How will that usage generate income or industry and economic outcomes? (This is NOT a welfare project – it is a social enterprise project aimed at creating jobs and industry).

Group Feedback

Groups were composed so that each contained someone with building experience, someone willing to draw and someone willing to take notes.

6 - sibley st concept consultation Groups were given pens and large sheets of paper with the site’s boundary lines indicated. Verbal feedback was recorded by Guy Stewart, Michelle Walker and Chibo Mertineit.

Issue 1: Solar passive – site and building alignment

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In both forums all participants agreed with the proposed building alignment and location.

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Feedback from the groups suggested pergolas and deciduous vines/grapes for shading in summer. Groups were supportive of solar passive features that help collect winter sun and block summer sun.

There was also suggestion for using living surfaces e.g. vertical hanging gardens.

Issue 2: People Access Issues

There was agreement that the site lends itself well to a two level building.

The working groups spent some time on trying to arrive at alternate solutions to the issue of access between the levels of a two-storey building.

There was general agreement in both forums that a lift would not be desirable in terms of sustainability – e.g. electricity consumption, high annual servicing costs, breakdowns etc.

The concept of the arbour/veranda providing access to the top level and alternate access routes for the lower level was well supported.

There was some discussion about the opportunities that the arbour could bring – e.g.

  • Vertical gardens
  • Sliding slatted walls which could be moved across the arbour to create shaded areas or rooms
  • Using a variety of different finishes – opportunities for workshops to teach skills in different materials
  • The arbour could be continuously changing and be part of the demonstration of various materials and techniques.
  • There was a suggestion made that there could be some new technology or way of moving lifts e.g. solar/water powered which may be worth looking into. The Design Team to investigate this.

Issue 3: Vehicle Access and Parking Issues

In the first forum one working group started from scratch and went through a very similar process as the Design Team to try and find alternate vehicle access to the site as well as alternate parking. They looked at creating a driveway along the Southern boundary and encountered the same problems as the Design Team in relation to two-way access and turn around areas in particular. The gradient of the site also limits opportunities for parking unless we want to do major earthworks. As a result, that working group came up with the same conclusions as the Design Team in relation to vehicle access and parking.

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There was agreement that it is preferable to make the best use of the site as it is, rather than try to change the lay of the land on the site. This is also a fundamental principle of permaculture.

Other working groups came up with the following possible alternatives:

  • Create parking on the roof of the building- would not use up any land area and would eliminate the need for parking spaces on the old skate park plus building would be level.

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This idea was further explored at the second forum and the idea did not have much support because a) would make car parks the feature of the site…it would be the first thing you would see as you approached coming down Sibley St and b) would involve substantial use of steel and concrete, which we have already determined should be minimised as much as possible as neither material is very sustainable.

  • Use the existing driveway access as the In or Out access and create a one-way driveway between that and the other side of the old skate park – this would eliminate the need for turn-around area. This idea will be further investigated by the Design Team.
  • Create turn-around area in the courtyard in front of the building. To be further investigated by the Design Team.

Issue 4: Boundary Set Back issues

Both forums queried whether the solution arrived at by the Design Team would be acceptable under the new building regulations and were advised that yes we have checked and it is.

There was agreement that we do not want to compromise natural ventilation and air flow opportunities.

There was general agreement that it would be preferable to avoid having to set the whole building ca 3 m from the boundary and no groups came up with any better way of using the space between the boundary and the building.

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There was discussion around the impact of a two level building on the next door neighbours – the building height has been estimated and will not affect the capacity of the neighbour to e.g. install solar panels on their roof (i.e. will not shade out their house).

Issue 5: Aesthetics

Both forums discussed round/circular buildings and both ultimately determined that round buildings are difficult to build and furnish and thereby compromise the goal of replicable building design and sustainability.

The second forum discussed a recurring comment raised about the Master Plan – “that it is not in the style of Nimbin”, “Too modern for Nimbin” etc. This raises the issue of what IS the style of Nimbin. Participants discussed what the essence of Nimbin actually is. There are many buildings which were built since the old buildings on Cullen St – e.g. Rainbow Power Co (mud brick modern building), the Central School (very modern brick building), the fire station (a big shed), the Hospital (contemporary building), the laundromat/Stringworks/Contented Tummy café building (new building), and the skate park itself (very contemporary design).

It was suggested at the second forum that the essence of Nimbin is more about the art and the embellishments on buildings as well as the philosophy of the community, and that there is no point trying to replicate the old heritage buildings because a) they would only be a copy anyway b) those buildings are not so sustainable in terms of design and c) one of the aims of the project is to influence new building developments around the community and these will be contemporary builds.

Ideas to create a beautiful building and site included:

  • Straight Walls with Curved Walk-Ways
  • Natural local materials, very significant support for hemp and wood in particular
  • Also support for straw bale
  • Soft appearance
  • Apply some ‘pattern language’ principles
  • Beauty, gardens and trees, art
  • Sculptures
  • Softening the landscape
  • Make the arbour curved, leave the structure square
  • Round Poles, rather than square
  • Pyramid from recycled materials.
  • “If you don’t get a grant we’ll build an EARTHSHIP from the tip”.
  • Water is important for the ambience of the site. The sound of it, Pond, gardens and green space
  • No DA approved Earthships in Australia. (yet). Issues with council approval
  • Building into the ground in a very wet climate
  • Local climate is quite hot, quite cold can be very wet
  • Strategic use of deciduous plants
  • Use of organic materials
  • Water – demo micro-hydro, add ambience, can also be used to create natural air cooling.


Issue 6: Uses of the site/buildings


12 - sibley st concept consultationIt is important not to replicate spaces and facilities that we already have in the village, as this would erode the sustainability of all those spaces and compromise the viability of the project. The aim is to meet needs which are not currently met, and the whole concept of the project is that it will generate skills, industry and $$ and at least pay for its own upkeep and staffing

What do we need? What don’t we already have space for in the community?

So far the needs which have been identified include: exhibition space (focused on sustainability and in particular local hand built homes), marketing/retail spaces (again, focused specifically on sustainability and access to resources/materials/skills – NOT duplicating existing retail shops, media room, tools workshop, possibly community kitchen or food hub, hard arts workshop? (E.g. floor loom, weaving, spinning, large paintings e.g. murals)

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There was general support for splitting ‘clean’ (top level) and ‘dirty’ spaces (bottom level).


’Clean’ Spaces

  • Educational, place to spread the word. Educational – Sustainability Alley Style. Direct/Indirect – people with skills to fix
  • Gallery –  sustainable local products
  • Library 333 all things eco. Two big shelves of DVDs, videos, vending machines, resource centre. Place to sit down.
  • Recycled/Upcycled Stuff – marketing and exhibit– is there a possible link to the Waste Transfer Station?
  • People can come here and learn something.
  • Retail space there to promote local products to tourists as expansion for the farmers markets.
  • Exhibition / local sustainable building /MOs /Hand-built houses
  • Media Room (20 seater) / or Movie Combi
  • Overall Design & Technologies demonstrated
  • History of Nimbin
  • Library / Resource Centre – Sitting/Reading/Meeting space
  • Integrated building information management
  • Archiving – although there is a need for archiving (eg Nimbin News, Aquarius etc) – there was general agreement that we cannot provide adequate space at Sibley St. This is best left to e.g universities/public libraries because archiving requires strict temperature control, dust control and is expensive and difficult to manage.

’Dirty’ Working Spaces

  • Industrial Art Space
  • Peoples Shed – tools workshop: building, carpentry and repair skills
  • Open up onto plaza
  • Multi-Use
  • Wood working, work space, electronics workbench.
  • All one space which can be divided in to smaller spaces e.g. with modular walls on wheels
  • Mobile equipment and benches on wheels.
  • Concrete floor in the work space. Can we get around this?
  • Recycled/Upcycled Stuff – is there a possible link to the Waste Transfer Station?
  • Some sort of memorial for the dead?
  • Playground – kids spaces
  • Gym (outdoor, simple)
  • Sk8/Bike DIY repair shop
  • Food Hub – Food Library, Gleaning
  • Commercial/teaching Kitchen. – Jenny + Jim could be involved education process/models + program development, vocational program. Food Security Group to work further on this concept.
  • Aspects of sustainability alley
  • In the downstairs space have people with skills to teach and also do repairs
  • Doing something dramatic that gets publicity.
  • Demonstration veggie gardens
  • Crash course Workshops
    1. Compost making
    2. Worm farming
    3. Vegie / Fruit preserving
    4. Energy generation/efficiency devices etc.
    5. Building design
    6. Demonstration solar passive house design
    7. Context
    8. Education

Other Ideas

Income: Solar-powered vending machines, juice machine, $2 a go.

Nimbin Certification Process

Public access electric recharge point.

Cover the roof in cheap solar.

Have timed power points that people can use to charge electric bikes, mobile phones.

Demo purposes – we have mud brick and timber buildings in the village. We don’t have hemp or straw bale. Can we use both in one building? Design Team to investigate.

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Community Kitchen

The issue of the concept of a community kitchen was discussed in some detail by one working group income detail. Possible needs/uses include:

Freezer space

Sterilisation space. Jar and bottle exchange.

Kitchen doesn’t need cool room.

Is there sufficient interest? Will there be sufficient uptake? It needs a champion to promote the project and establish the case for the need.

The creation of neutral healthy spaces. Alternative to pubs and clubs and cafes as a social centre.

Income sources: hire of fridge space/freezer space/kitchen space

Large functional bench spacing, multi fridges, gas cookers, commercial oven.

Vacuum packaging, deep sinks, minimum floor space 40 sq M


The Old Skate Park Site

Currently the site is owned by Lismore City Council. We will be seeking to re-acquire the site as part of the DA process. Council has advised us to develop the the old skate park site in conjunction with the Sibley St site and submit a DA which includes both sites.

The ultimate design of the old skate park site depends on Council agreement. The overall concept is multi-functional recreational space as per community forums and council planning.

The goal is that the old skate park site will sympathetically link the 7 Sibley St and the new skate park together and tie all of it into the community precinct that includes the Community Centre site and Peace Park.

Council has allocated the land as being for recreational use.

The existing skate park is for very experienced skaters. Issue of having a beginners area on the old skate park site.

Idea of having skateable steps between the current skate park and the old skate park.

Issue of basketball court – there are now plans to include a basketball court at the tennis courts. This will help to make the tennis courts more viable. No need for basketball court at the old skate park. The plan is to retain a basketball hoop there for shooting hoops only.

Final Plan to be worked up early 2014.

Aiming for middle of 2014 for a DA.

Group Feedback

Use of the old skate park, whether the current flat space is best used for a car park.

Old skate park site offers the best site for car parking.

Wild idea – Large thermal mass to the south corner, which you could park on, on top of the building.

Possibility of road/vehicle access doubling as learner sk8 area.

Boom Gate, 5km speed limit, façade/precinct.

Summary of agreed outcomes

In summary, there was agreement from the participants at the two forums on the following:

☑︎  The proposed building alignment and location

☑︎  The site lends itself well to a two-level building

☑︎ A lift would not be desirable in terms of sustainability – e.g. electricity consumption, high annual servicing costs, breakdowns etc.

☑︎  The arbour/veranda concept is a good design solution to enable access to the top level (with alternate access routes for the lower level)

☑︎  It is preferable to make the best use of the site as it is, rather than try to change the lay of the land on the site e.g. via earthworks

☑︎  The best place to allocate parking spaces in on the old skate park site

☑︎  We do not want to compromise natural ventilation and air flow opportunities

☑︎  It would be preferable to avoid having to set the whole building 3 m from the boundary and no groups came up with any better way of using the space between the boundary and the building

☑︎  That round buildings are difficult to build and furnish and thereby compromise the goal of replicable building design and sustainability

☑︎  Aesthetics are very important and a key sustainability issue

☑︎  Gardens and green spaces are essential

☑︎  Splitting up the ‘clean’ (top level) and ‘dirty’ spaces (bottom level) is a good idea 


What Next? Agreed actions

A number of actions were agreed by participants during the course of the forums.

These include:

  1. A (brief) Outcomes Report will be prepared for circulation to participants and other interested parties and posting on the 7 Sibley Street project website (Michelle, Guy & Nat).  NNIC will continue to gather feedback and input.
  2. The Design Team will be reconvened to consider the suggestions made and commence work on building plans in readiness for a development application.

In particular the Design Team to consider:

  • Curved arbour
  • Sliding ‘walls’ on arbour
  • Alternate lift (elevator) technologies
  • Use the existing driveway access as the In/Out access and create a one-way driveway between that and the other side of the old skate park
  • Create turn around area in the courtyard area in front of the building
  • Lower level – single multifunctional space which can be divided up
  • Flooring on lower level – can we get away from concrete
  • Can we have lower level built of straw bale and upper level built with hemp?
  • Using hemp for landscaping?

3. Dave Fawkner to create a list of Nimbin buildings and architecture. To facilitate discussion around what the essence of Nimbin is.

4.  Food Security group to further examine the concept of a community kitchen          space – what would be needed and uses.

5.   Project team to explore:

  • Possible links with Waste Transfer Station
  • Links with SCU (Uni) and TAFE re training opportunities, partnership opportunities
  • Links with engineering school at SCU re embedding monitoring technologies across the site.




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