Character test comes with Uriarra's growth

OUR VILLAGE LIFE

Part II

Forester reflects on happy solitude in Uriarra

Village where community was paramount and life idyllic

Part I - Tharwa

Uriarra is still recovering from the 2003 Canberra firestorm, with older residents saying their worst fears of the distinctive forestry outpost losing its character are coming to pass.

However, newcomers to the 1920s forestry settlement say its isolation will be preserved and will remain a strong drawcard.

Plumber Michael Coulson, who has snapped up a large block, doesn't mind the drive into the country.

''I prefer the bigger blocks and they are a long way from the city. In the newer suburbs, the homes are too close for me and it is too congested.

''I just like how quiet it is, really.''

His partner Annabel Allen was previously from a rural property at Temora and loves the isolation. Ms Allen said, ''[We] were so drawn to Uriarra Village because they have larger blocks than a standard suburban block, around half an acre for many of them.

''The views of Brindabella mountains and the Cotter Dam are amazing and everyone in the village is so friendly and welcoming.

''There are great community facilities, like the community hall, swimming pool, tennis court, basketball court and horse paddocks.''

Luton Properties agent Christine Shaw, who has sold large blocks and former forestry cottages to newcomers, said views to the Brindabella mountains were magnificent.

''It is a private, little-known retreat only 20 minutes from Cooleman Court and has big city benefits,'' Ms Shaw said.

''You can escape at the village and feel like you are a million miles away from a busy life.''

But a resident of 26 years, Mandy Annetts, says the village is becoming overcrowded with homes. She estimates only nine families, comprising about 25 people, remain from before the bushfires.

They lifted a 25-year-old time capsule last month, but newer residents felt they were not invited.

After the fire, the National Capital Authority and ACT planners resolved to create a new and sustainable village that retained Uriarra's rural character.

Village Building Company developed additional home blocks up to 2200sqm, some with rights to stable horses.

Apart from the individual block areas, land was set aside for horse agistment paddocks. Community assets include a village green with full-size tennis court, swimming pool, a half-size basketball court, children's playground, a community hall and a rural fire service facility.

ACT Strata Management Services body corporate manager Omar Ramsden said under the community title, the first of its kind in the territory, owners paid an annual levy of $1500 and were responsible for upkeep of roads, paddocks and the swimming pool. Levies will also allow funds to grow to pay for significant infrastructure in the future, including roads.

A caretaker maintains the pool and mowed grass in the public areas.

According to the National Trust, the Uriarra Valley is a rich cultural landscape of striking beauty, set against the backdrop of the Australian alps.

  • AT A GLANCE

    HISTORY

    Uriarra Village was established in 1928 to provide housing for forestry industry employees. In the 1980s, management for the settlement transferred to ACT Public Housing, while many tenants retained their links with the forestry industry.

    Until the January 2003 bushfires, Uriarra Village consisted of 22 homes, a community centre, open space areas and a modest forestry depot. The bushfires burned all but six of the homes and the community centre. A study later recommended 100 homes be developed to allow the community to remain and grow.

    DISTINGUISHING FEATURES

    Operating under a body corporate community title arrangement, Uriarra still retains links to its forestry heritage. Off the Brindabella Road, 4km north of the Cotter Reserve, Uriarra sits on the boundary between rural land, remnant woodland and the Uriarra pine plantation. The 50ha village forms a north-facing horseshoe shape, providing a sense of enclosure and good solar access.

    POPULATION

    Uriarra is not listed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Before the 2003 Canberra bush fires, there were 22 dwellings. Six survived the fires. A concept plan has capacity for 100 dwellings. Eighty-three development applications have been lodged for approval since 2003.

    THE FUTURE

    A sustainable village sought by horse enthusiasts and those seeking a quiet rural lifestyle.