Rebuilding Mogo: Supporting the Bushfire Recovery

Our ‘Rebuilding Mogo Study’ offers a framework for council staff, landowners, and the community to guide the regrowth of Mogo

Ethos Urban has dedicated its strongest asset – our people, to play an instrumental role in assisting Eurobodalla Shire Council and Mogo landowners in their recovery and rebuilding efforts after the devastating bushfires last summer.

We have combined our urban design, social strategy, economic, engagement and planning services to deliver a ‘Rebuilding Mogo Study’ which offers a flexible framework for council staff, landowners and the community to not only assist in the rebuild of destroyed properties, but also to guide the growth of Mogo as a special place for the local community to connect with and call home.

Over the Summer of 2019–2020, Australia was ravaged by some of the most devastating bushfires ever experienced. The devastation of these bushfires was felt far and wide, but most strongly in the communities where the bushfires left a trail of destruction. One of the hardest hit communities was Mogo, a small town on the south coast of NSW between the towns of Batemans Bay and Moruya, where 11 properties were destroyed.

Recognising the need to contribute what we could to the recovery, Ethos Urban made the decision to put forward our strongest asset in the form of our people. We made the decision to dedicate hours and the skills of our people to help a local community in the recovery. Luckily for Ethos Urban, we were able to connect with Eurobodalla Shire Council and the community in Mogo, and it was decided that a study should be completed to inform a range of principles and guidance to support the rebuild, and also to develop a vision for a more people centric and landscape driven village. The study would also provide a range of different ideas for the future growth of Mogo as a sustainable and desirable tourism village.

Our journey with Mogo

The following is a brief summary of the journey we have been on with the community of Mogo and Eurobodalla Shire Council, culminating in a Study which will help shape the rebuild of Mogo.

Understanding Mogo

Mogo is a small, regional tourism destination located in the Eurobodalla Local Government Area, which forms part of the broader south east and tablelands region. Mogo is 10minutes from Batemans Bay, and at a regional scale, it forms part of an iconic nature-based and regional arts and crafts destination that thrives on tourism. The Mogo Village is defined by the meandering Cabbage Tree Creek and diverse mix of commercial activity along the Princes Highway, with a collection of artisan stores, all set against a spectacular backdrop of coastal bushland.

The blessings of Mogo also present challenges, with the most apparent being the bushfire risk of such a natural bushland setting. Other constraints include flooding due to low lying land, a need to balance parking demands during peak tourism periods, and the need to create a safe and consistent streetscape along the busy Princes highway.

Engaging the community

Navigating through the restrictions of COVID-19, a mixture of in-person and online workshops were conducted. This engagement included an in-person street meet in the Mogo village, an online survey, and three targeted workshops with key stakeholders. The feedback and collaboration achieved in these workshops was invaluable for the Study, and has underpinned strong stakeholder buy-in on a way forward for rebuilding Mogo and the development of shared principles and aspirations for the Village. Overall, we learnt that Mogo has a community with a strong passion and resilience to rebuild.

Defining the principles for rebuilding

In collaboration with the local stakeholders and Council staff, we undertook a thorough assessment of the Village from an urban design, social and economic perspective to understand the constraints, and recognise the opportunities available for rebuilding Mogo. Based on this assessment, we collectively arrived at six design principles to both specifically guide the rebuilding of destroyed properties, and also to recognise and plan for the wider aspirations for Mogo moving forward.

Unlocking the rebuild

As a small village primarily servicing a tourist population, one of the keys to unlocking Mogo was finding the right balance between car parking and the placement of new buildings. Individual landowners of destroyed properties on largely narrow blocks found themselves in a situation where substantial car parking requirements would restrict a new building fronting the street and contributing to the Village atmosphere. Overcoming this parking barrier, and devising strategies to accommodate both parking and new buildings was a key achievement of the Study. Working with Complete Streets consultants to understand parking demand, we were able to recommend several car parking strategies which allowed for on-site parking, but also offered solutions of no on-site parking where existing parking could be used more efficiently and other new parking delivered across the Village.

These solutions led to a variety of built form options and layouts, providing opportunities for reduced setbacks, new building typologies, alternative programs and uses, and a greater contribution to the identity, character and charm of Mogo. Overall, the Study was able to unlock flexibility for landowners, all while retaining and promoting a strong focus on the streetscape and improving pedestrian connectivity, legibility and safety.

Further to unlocking these opportunities, the remaining principles of the Study look to the future, providing guidance on how Mogo can take advantage of some of its great qualities – tourism and nature.

What’s next?

With the Rebuilding Mogo Study now completed, the next step for landowners is to commence the rebuild using the shared vision and principles of the Study. We have been both humbled and inspired by the spirit and resilience of the people of Mogo, and this spirit has truly shone through and we are looking forward to seeing it now come into fruition. Despite the devastation caused by the bushfire disaster, the community of Mogo and Eurobodalla Shire Council have continued to move forward and we are thankful for the opportunity they have given us to help rebuild such a special place.

To find out more about the Rebuilding Mogo Study, or to explore new opportunities, contact Brendan Hoskins or Daniel Pantelas.