I haven’t yet written about the pros and cons of living on a multiple occupancy block and all that that entails. So here goes…
For starters we never, ever, thought we would buy land on an already existing community. J has talked for years about starting up a community from scratch and therefore being instrumental in the governance and the ‘vibe’ of the place. When we got serious about buying this block we tried to imagine what it would be like being inserted into a group of people who all knew each other and had particular views about how things should be done. We took heart in the other resident’s descriptions of the community as ‘live and let live’ and ‘hands off’. We also took heart in the immediate offers of advice, phone numbers and welcome. We wanted to believe that we could have all the benefits of living with other share holders that have an invested interest in our happiness without them dictating our lives.
Our experience so far has been in line with these assumptions. We live in a community of generous people who care about us rather than micro manage us. We have not felt restricted in our actions on our own block due to community regulations (except maybe the rule about not having a dog) and have benefited hugely from community member’s generosity and local knowledge. We have had cups of tea, garden cuttings, pot belly stoves and sound advice given to us freely and have never had to partake in a mandatory hug or any other onerous community practice.
The last few days have really highlighted the benefits of living communally and especially the collective knowledge and manpower that exists on our doorstep. We were away when we received an email from a shareholder about a fire that was heading (slowly) towards our place. The email was addressed to all the shareholders and was detailed, informative and not panicky. We decided to come home to ready our place just in case. It is very early in the fire season here and the nights are still cool and damp which is a good thing when it comes to fires. The fire started on a neighbour’s property (burning off that got out of control) and has taken a few days to get onto our communal property.
We got back here and were up dated on the situation – the fire brigade had been out to assess the situation including the state of our fire trails. The fireys then returned to the property on which the fire started to fight it on that side. This was 3 days ago. In the meantime it has been action stations here. The fire trails around our place have been cleared and pushed with the communal tractor. We’ve been busy with the brush cutter and up on the roof with the leaf blower. One of the shareholders acted as the central control – receiving and passing on all updates about the fire and about works in progress. The fire seems to have burnt itself out when it reached one of the property’s fire trails. It probably got within about 1.8km from our house and closer to another share. It got a little smoky at home but that’s about it.
During all this I felt, simultaneously, out of my depths and in very good hands. Fires come through here every second year or so and the community understand how they behave and are familiar with the topography and the fire trails and watering points. This collective knowledge is worth more than gold to us. Without it we would be novices sitting on a fire prone property trying to get up to speed. And these events have forced me to think about certain questions. Had we not been living on a community would we have even known about the threat? Would we even know our neighbours at this stage of the game? Would they have been so informative and helpful cutting fire trails and communicating changes in events with us? I for one believe that we won finding this group of people to share land with and that we are far safer with them around.
So the threat from this fire seems to have passed but it is just the beginning of fire season in this part of the world and apparently September and October are the worst because of strong winds. We will busy ourselves over the next few weeks clearing undergrowth and weeds. Living on a community is great for many reasons but living on a community does not mean you can always rope people into clearing lantana for you!