History of Billen Cliffs
The Village of Billen Cliffs is nestled on the slopes of Mount Billen
on the Rock Valley road between the villages of Larnook and Cawongla,
at the crossroads of the towns of Lismore, Kyogle and Murwillumbah in
the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, Australia.
Beginning as a new rural residential model in 1982 with blessings of
the Lismore City Council, the village of Billen Cliffs gives residents
all the comforts of freehold ownership through the strata title with
the benefits of ownership in common of hundreds of acres of nature reserve
and the village business centre.
History of the District
Up till 1847 the landscape surrounding Mount Billen was shaded by a
wealth of tall timbers and maintained by the Wiyabal tribe of Bundjalung
people who inhabited the lands on the South-Eastern rim of Mount Warning
from Wadeville and Cawongla to Kyogle and Lismore.
Soon after the arrival by Captain Rous at the mouth of the Richmond
River in the Frigate “Rainbow” the region was settled through
pastoral leases at Fairymount, Larnook, Cawongla and throughout the
district. The squatters were followed by a wave of timber getters, followed
in turn by dairy farming cooperatives when the railway was build into
the district. Over the course of a hundred and fifty years the combined
effect of forestry and farming practices dramatically changed the natural
landscape of the Big Scrub.
The Creation of the Village of Billen Cliffs
lands that now form the village of Billen Cliffs had been a cattle farm
since the beginning of the last century. Purchased under company title
by the first forty residents, the village settlement stems back to 1982,
when the first stage of Billen Cliffs was approved, and road works and
surveying transformed the estate.
The growing number of new settlers did not stand still from 1982 to
1986. Much of the ground work was performed in these years by the first
residents, working tirelessly as volunteers, building causeways, planting
trees and making firebreaks, revitalising the old farm house, building
dams, clearing weeds and gradually improving the newly constructed roads
into graceful curving country lanes.
Cliffs was conceived as an intentional community that valued the natural
environment, and the founders made generous commitment to wilderness
areas in the village with renewable energy, organic and grass roots
small is beautiful development guidelines.
While the first eight houses went up as ‘workers cottages’
on the farm, the initial development was passed by Council under the
M.O. code. Lismore City Council had forward thinking policies in economic
development, and was facilitating new rural residential use on old farms
after the near collapse of the Dairy Industry.
The Campaign for Strata Title
Early on, the right of granting development consent was questioned in
the land and environment court. Residents mounted a credible case why
settlement should be allowed and how the environment would benefit.
The hearings were eventually in Sydney, and much to everyone’s
delight Justice “Diamond Jim” McClelland found for the Lismore
City Council. From that day the settlement started to blossom with investment
in housing and infrastructure with renewed vigour.
A practical solution was worked out with the help of Lismore City Council
to convert company title into strata title. In doing so Billen Cliffs
Village pioneered a new and more practical framework for sustainable
rural residential development, with accents on renewable energy, permaculture,
organics and co-existence with the wildlife through extensive green
belts and nature reserves.
Developing a Village Economy
Residents of the Village of Billen Cliffs usually centre on Lismore
for work and services. Residents also generate income home based industry
or trades but local employment is limited. Mt Billen is a part of Webster’s
Creek Cawongla/Wadeville catchment, which moves in economic activity
more with Kyogle’s farming district.
During the early 1990’s Billen Cliffs received funding to build
a Craft Centre with community volunteers under a project funded by the
Department of Employment, Education and Training, pioneering NSW first
Community Enterprise Incubator to foster creative industries. The facility
was officially opened by the Hon. Peter Baldwin, the Federal Minister
for Higher Education and Employment Services in the Keating Government,
on February 2, 1993. The Craft Centre was the focal point of many small
Funding was also received via Lismore City Council to construct the
The hall has a special acoustic design and a recording studio for multi
media production work. Its design and size could be the venue for plays,
dances, markets, weddings, celebrations and all sorts of events. The
hall is still under construction and the Hall Committee is always looking
for new ideas and participation.
From Intentional Community to Sustainable Village
aspirations of new residents to the district often include a passion
for gardening and caring for the land, pursuit of creative activity,
a belief in community, and for some the dream of being an owner builder
in pioneering circumstances. The self regulating system of governance
that came with strata title allowed the village of Billen Cliffs to
be innovative in its development standards.
The creation of the village of Billen Cliffs was driven by the growing
market for small rural acreage in the Northern Rivers. As a rural residential
development, the village community benefits from cost-effectiveness
that comes with body corporate management of the roads, fencing, firebreak,
nature reserves, village commercial zones and administration. It makes
living on the land easier and more affordable and guarantees minimum
standards of maintenance.
Another important aspect of our heritage as a village is our strong
foundation in arts and crafts, fine musicians and performers, graphic,
audio-visual and creative industry, traditional crafts like wood working
and instrument making, rural skills, hospitality and healing. Now several
decades old, the village of Billen Cliffs is coming of age like many
communities in the district. The village centre development is still
in progress, aware of its sensitive location surrounded by world heritage
forests, slowly building a sustainable village community and encouraging