Spotlight: The Lane

Since the British theft of Australia in 1778, waves of non-indigenous people have come to the Sunshine Coast region in South East Queensland to recklessly exploit nature to make their fortunes.

First off the mark were the sail-in sail-out capitalists who recognised the abundant magnificent and ancient rainforest trees were outrageously profitable to cut down and ship out. The subtropical climate and rich volcanic soils now plundered and exposed after logging provided prime targets for agricultural magnates to move in, lay claim and further exploit. Cattle were introduced, and not only trampled and displaced the endemic wildlife, but scarred and degraded the landscape in ways that we are still only beginning to wake up to and understand. Gold was then found in Gympie and the craziness ensued. Next came sugar cane, citrus and pineapples with their pesticides, both chemical and biological. The cane toad’s introduction still remains the dominant textbook example of human stupidity and hubris in trying to control nature. The closing of the sugar cane mill in Nambour, wholly due to economic profitability disappearing, has left swathes of degraded land ripe for yet another wave of capitalists to exploit for housing development. Macadamia and avocado production, once a trendy attraction for the new wave of “hobby” farmers, has peaked and is now in decline. Now tourism and residential development are the latest dollar-making enterprises touted by growth advocates such as business chambers and local government for the cashed-up to invest in and make even more money.

Economic exploitation and the old destructive ways of doing things are not only rapidly becoming less viable, but, more importantly and encouragingly, more and more distasteful, as more and more of us become acutely aware of the social and environmental devastation caused by the mindless race to “get ahead”. The rise of alternative economies and lifestyles has been humbly but steadily growing in this fertile region. Maleny justifiably claims to be the co-op centre of the world and the proud history, and long list of success stories, of the Sunshine Coast Environmental Council (SCEC), is an exemplar for other regions and groups battling the relentless expansive onslaught of industrialised civilisation. The plethora of alternative enterprises in the region, such as spiritual retreats, eco resorts, organic produce centres and grass-roots musical events, cannot be dismissed as merely “hippy” bullshit or cynically seen as simply a new way to make a buck. It is mostly a natural outcome of the growing discontent with “business as usual” and a yearning for a slower and more authentic lifestyle (and relationships). Sure some unscrupulous operators are “cashing in” on this new wave, but overpriced products and pseudo-celebrity endorsed services that outrageously promise miracles will only last as long as any fashion or fad that is mindlessly consumed and then discarded. Real sustainable products and services, shared fairly in the community, will naturally have the resilience to outlast the uncertainties the future is sure to throw at us.

The Lane in Palmwoods is one of the more recent examples of a genuine grass-roots initiative creatively emerging on the Sunshine Coast. The Lane is three businesses: Homegrown Café, The Shed, and Renae’s Pantry – all committed to operating sustainably and building community, whilst sharing a communal space – that is “The Lane”.  There is an emphasis on local products and providing a hub for people to get together in a relaxed and social way. This is best exemplified by the event that is locally known as Friday night at The Lane. The word has been quickly spreading around the coast and hinterland, and people are flocking in ever-increasing numbers to The Lane for both good food and real face to face interaction. The sounds of children playing and adults reconnecting is the soundtrack to some very casual dining and just as casual shopping as the standard working week draws to a close.

Sarah at “The Homegrown Café” literally open’s up her kitchen’s back door to serve a small choice of wholesome organic meals. “Renae’s Pantry” is a vibrant community exchange where local growers and producers drop off their goods, and they themselves and other savvy locavores shop for an ever swelling range of organic foods and other ethical products. Renae and Ben, the husband and wife team who set up the Pantry, are supported by Ben’s mum, dad and sister, who each Friday night set up an outdoor kitchen next to the Pantry to add a further selection of wholesome meals available to the milling mob.  “The Shed” up the back end of the Lane, where owner Katie stocks a selection of Australian-made clothing, books and gifts, and where Gary roasts coffee for both the Homegrown Café and the general public, on Friday night transforms into the dessert bar as Sascha from Daisy Cakes sells a selection of her irresistable desserts for eating in The Lane or for taking home.

The overwhelming participation of the locals in this initiative is testament to the reality that many of us are opting to do things differently. Prior to the invasion of western expansionist culture this region was known by indigenous peoples from as far away as Charleville, Dubbo, Bundaberg and Grafton as a meeting place to share the abundant local bounty of the Bunya nut. Every three or so years thousands of people flocked to the Blackall Range to gather bunya nuts and share stories and culture. The Bunya nut pine tree that bears this invaluable food source was held sacred by the first peoples and was protected. Maybe in the long term humans will once again learn to protect the natural bounty of this region, and the coming together of people will be a sustainable and socially nurturing celebration of life. Places like The Lane in Palmwoods are the seeds for this new future.

Spotlight – The Lane

Where: Main St, Palmwoods, Queensland 4555

When: Tue – Thu: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Fri: 8:00 am – 8:30 pm

Sat: 6:30 am – 2:00 pm

What: The Lane is a joint effort by Homegrown Cafe, Renae’s Pantry and Mother Maria Clothing. Coffee, cake, breakfast and lunch is available Tuesday to Saturday. Fresh community & organic produce, books, clothing, coffee roasting & much more every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Street food & late night shopping every Friday Night.


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