The Politics of Sustainability and Heritage in two Western Australia Coastal Shack Settlements
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In the early twentieth century many shack settlements were established around the Western Australian coast as families discovered isolated camping and fishing sites on Crown (public) Land and began to construct holiday shacks for themselves. Settlements of several hundred shacks developed in many places and they frequently displayed a number of highly sustainable characteristics. The shacks were constructed at low cost, usually from recycled materials. As time went on, they incorporated increasingly ingenious methods of wind and solar power generation and of water supply and sewage disposal. Over time also, extremely close social bonds developed between the 'shackie' families. Several generations of the same families occupied the same shacks and developed long term friendships and local social rituals. However, the shacks had been built on public land without any official permission so their builders (and their descendants) had no legal title to them. As the state's population grew and as the shack sites became less isolated, development pressures onthese localities increased and many of the shack settlements have been demolished, often to make way for mainstream recreational and residential developments that were more expensive, less restrained in their building material, energy and water use and with looser social bonds between the inhabitants. This paper focuses on the political struggle for survival/sustainability of two coastal shack settlements, Wedge and Grey, which are located about 200 kilometers north of Perth, the state capital. Both have been recommended for demolition by the state government. However, their community associations are fighting this decision, notably by liaising witl1 the National Trust of Western Australia to gain heritage listing for these two settlements. Should this move succeed, it will be, to a large extent, because of the environmental sustainability of their distinctive building techniques and the social sustainability of their community ties.
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