There’s an exciting new development taking place south of Bonny Hills … Eagle Nest Park is the first “eco-tourist facility” approved by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and will offer luxurious accommodation, a wealth of activities and beautiful scenery to its visitors. Owner Paul Mansfield has a strong connection to the Greater Port Macquarie area, and his vision for Eagle Nest Park has been a long time in the making …
Hi Paul. What’s your association with the Greater Port Macquarie area?
At age 45, I have only missed one year coming to Bonny Hills for summer holidays. This area is in my blood and a spiritual home for my entire family. My wife and I plan to relocate permanently to the region in two years.
I was born in Taree in May 1972. My parents helped establish the Uniting Church Conference Centre at Bonny Hills in December that year. This became an annual working holiday for my parents and their friends.
I’m also a direct descendant of William Delaforce, an 1830s convict who fled to Green Hills (now Bonny Hills) and spent time with the Aboriginals, before being handed in to police.
What kept you coming back for holidays in the area year after year – what was the attraction for you and your family?
Once the Conference Centre was established, the trip to Bonny Hills evolved into an annual tradition for around 70 people from the Mansfield family and our friends – known as the “Bonny Hills Summer Family Camp”.
We had a permanent booking every summer until 2014, before the Uniting Church sold the site in 2015.
I have four children, four sisters and over 20 nieces and nephews. We all look forward to our yearly Bonny Hills trip – our love for the beach, surfing, nature, fishing and watersports makes it the ultimate location to create amazing memories.
You purchased your 600 acre property, Eagle Nest Park (south of Bonny Hills) in 2013. Tell us a bit about the land?
Everyone who visits Eagle Nest Park says it is a hidden treasure.
With a strong attachment to the region, I have wanted to buy rural land here since I was 10! In September 2013 that dream became reality, when I bought this beautiful farming and grazing property.
I purchased the property from Bob Bucton, the founder of Wiggly Tail Butchery, who still lives next door. It is made up of 160 acres of cleared grazing land and 440 acres of native bushland. It features ocean views across Grants Head at Bonny Hills and a stretch of waterfront along Queens Lake.
On the drive in to the property, there is a dead tree with a large nest used by Osprey Eagles for breeding each year. This, along with the expansive open paddocks, inspired the name, Eagle Nest Park.
What is the environmental significance of this property?
The property safeguards an important link between Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land and Queens Lake Nature Reserve.
The property preserves large areas of koala habitat, which provides preferred food trees and a migration corridor for the local koala population.
Threatened fauna species which may be seen or heard on this property include the koala, Squirrel Glider, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Powerful Owl, Varied Sittella, Little Lorikeet and Wallum Froglet.
There are exciting plans underway for Eagle Nest Park. What will you be offering to both holidaymakers and locals once you’re up and running – and what types of people will you be catering for?
We want the venue to give other families the opportunity to get together for reunions and gatherings.
We also want to attract corporate and startup businesses for retreats, and we hope they will come back and holiday in the area with their families.
I would love to see locals share in the beauty of the land. We hope community groups and business chambers will use the venue for their meetings and events. Community clubs, such as archery and drone, could use the wide, open space.
We hope to hold local concerts, family fun days, and drive-in cinema events on the grass hills. Perhaps adventure races with kayaking on Queens Lake, trail runs and mountain biking. There are so many opportunities!
The accommodation on the property looks amazing! Why did you decide to use shipping containers for this purpose – and what challenges have you had to overcome during the building process?
I’m inspired by the creative use of recycled shipping containers for their sturdy structure, low environmental footprint, preservation of trees and aesthetics.
Local architecture and planning firm, King & Campbell, were instrumental in bringing the concept to life and all the development approvals.
We are the first “eco-tourist facility” development application approved by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. That category was introduced into the Local Environment Plan in May 2014, and we were the first to navigate the definitions and conditions unique to this type of development.
We engaged specialists to help us meet the conditions around environment, fire and koalas, while also balancing community interests and running a successful facility.
Eagle Nest Park will use off grid power and have its own water supply. What infrastructure did you need to establish to achieve this aim?
We wanted to build a sustainable off grid power system to operate the site. With the help of a local business, GA Martin Electrical, we designed a scalable system of solar panels and battery storage.
At present the site has a 50 kw solar system, with a large battery bank that can run the site without recharge for three to five days. It also has a back-up diesel generator if required.
We have 260,000 litres of water captured, stored and filtered onsite for drinking and showers. Dam water from three established dams is used for watering and cattle.
Apart from superb accommodation, what other facilities/activities will Eagle Nest Park offer?
The site will feature a commercial kitchen, communal dining and lounge room, alfresco BBQ area and fire pit.
There will also be a swimming pool, recreation shed and easy access to Queens Lake for kayaking and standup paddle boarding.
There is so much to do – 4WD tracks, fishing, swimming, playing table tennis and basketball, bush walking, mountain biking, and toasting marshmallows by the fire. You can also just sit quietly and watch the wildlife and listen to the birds.
When’s the proposed completion date for the property?
We aim to launch and start taking bookings by mid 2018, in time for summer holidays.
Where can we find out more info?
Visit www.eaglenestpark.com and sign up for regular updates or follow us on Facebook.
Interview by Jo Robinson.
Photos Lindsay Molller Productions. Thanks also to Parker & Co Communications.