Over the Summer of 2019–2020, Australia was ravaged by some of the most devastating bushfires ever experienced which acutely impacted our regional communities directly in the path of destruction. Mogo was one of the hardest hit communities losing 11 commercial properties in the centre of the village. 

Being a small village located between the towns of Batemans Bay and Moruya, Mogo relies on visitation and tourism. Therefore, the impacts of the bushfires extended beyond the physical environment to have significant effects on the social fabric of the community. Compounding these impacts has been the COVID-19 pandemic, further affecting the tourism sector and ability to recover. 

Looking to contribute what we best could to the recovery effort, Ethos Urban made the decision to do more than dedicate money and donations. Rather, we decided to put forward our strongest asset, our people dedicating our time and skills to help the community of Mogo and by connecting with Eurobodalla Shire Council were engaged on a pro-bono basis to prepare a study for the rebuild of destroyed properties.

Ethos Urban combined its in-house urban design, social strategy, economics, engagement and planning services to deliver a ‘Rebuilding Mogo’ study offering a flexible framework for Council staff, landowners and the community to not only assist in the rebuild of destroyed properties, but to guide the growth of Mogo as a special place for the local community to connect with and call home. 

The study included a deep understanding of place through opportunity and constraint analysis, meetings with the community, development of key principles as well as a demonstration plan which gave a visionary roadmap to recovery. The result has therefore not been a prescribed master plan, but rather a set of guiding principles for rebuilding tailored to different aspirations, lifestyle choices, and budgets. The demonstration plan has allowed individual landowners to decide the right setbacks, building typologies, parking solutions and landscape approaches unlocking greater flexibility for landowners, all while retaining and promoting a strong focus on local village identity and character, streetscape and improving pedestrian connectivity, legibility and safety.

Ultimately, Council staff intend to use this study as a ‘development guide’ to permit variations to the Mogo Village Commercial Centre DCP that provide cost and time savings for property owners who have been impacted by the devastation. More detailed built form guidance in the form of building elevations and sections was also provided to support business owners in preparing their development applications. This work celebrated the unique architectural expression of buildings in Mogo while also acknowledging what was lost or could complement the village in the future. 

Despite the devastation caused by the bushfire disaster, the community of Mogo and Eurobodalla Shire Council have continued to move forward, and will now be supported by the ‘Rebuilding Mogo’ study. Since adoption, five of the destroyed properties in Mogo have had development applications submitted, with four of those applications approved, benefiting from the flexibility and ready-made-solutions of the Study. 

Many of the commercial properties affected have since rebuilt with some trading for a couple of years. In 2021, the ‘Rebuilding Mogo’ project received a NSW Award and National Commendation from the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) in the category of Community Wellbeing & Diversity. This recognition highlights Ethos Urbans commitment to projects which plan for people and deliver outstanding social sustainability outcomes. 

Key features of the Rebuilding Mogo Study include: 

  • Bushfire recovery and resilience planning.
  • Detailed built-form guidance including an understanding of local character and identity.
  • Navigate the added challenge of COVID-19 with engagement with the affected property owners and key stakeholders completed over videoconference, except for an initial site visit and meet-and-greet. 
  • Community ownership of the process and outcomes including a shared vision and principles informing the study.
  • Site visits over multiple days including a street meet and walk through the village with Council and the community.
  • Developing a demonstration plan which provided flexibility for landowners.


Eurobodalla Shire Council


Mogo, NSW




Chee Heng Tan

Chee Heng Tan

Principal | Sydney

Daniel Pantelas

Daniel Pantelas

Associate Director | Sydney

Jordan Lane

Jordan Lane

Senior Graphic Designer | Sydney

Ross Hornsey

Ross Hornsey

Director and National Lead (Social Strategy and Engagement) | Sydney