Finding Sanctuary

the right place

Finding Sanctuary

Finding Sanctuary

LIFESTYLE 18 NOV 2022 6 MIN READ issue #16

Habitat Matt may not have the global profile or the famously hushed tones of conservationist David Attenborough but when it comes to the wildlife sanctuary he helped to create with Mirvac he is every bit as passionate.

It’s taken 15 years of planning and hard work but the environmental master planner can proudly point to the joint achievement at Gainsborough Greens and say, job well done. Better known locally as Habitat Matt, Matt Keys is the Managing Director of Habitat Environment Management and was engaged by Mirvac as a consultant when it acquired the 493 hectare site in the northern Gold Coast suburb of Pimpama in 2006.

The bold vision was to create a residential community based on ecological values, surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary.

“That was the design ethos from day one even though from day one we had neither,” says Matt. “We had an old golf course, a patch of bush and a paddock but we also had a vision and a very clear dream of what Mirvac wanted to achieve. It has taken 15 years of solid commitment to deliver that.

“We’ve demonstrated how humans can live successfully with native wildlife if communities are well designed. “The wildlife population at Gainsborough Greens is increasing year on year. Think carefully about that for a moment. A developer has come along and built a couple of thousand homes for humans and, at the same time, created a wildlife sanctuary that’s thriving.”

The numbers say it all.

On the human side of the ledger Gainsborough Greens is now home to around 5,000 residents living in 2,000 homes, occupying around 35 per cent of the site. The greater 65 per cent is green open space, including 35 per cent, or 173 hectares, preserved as conservation land. Around 73 hectares of natural koala habitat has been retained and rehabilitated, with 100 hectares of new habitat delivered, through a process Matt coins “rapid rehabilitation”. Regeneration has been so successful that local conservation centre, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, has been harvesting koala fodder from the site since 2018.

More than a million native plants are growing within the sanctuary, supporting a multitude of wildlife species including koalas, kangaroos, gliders, echidnas, wallabies, possums and goannas. “What’s super exciting is that we’re seeing wildlife populations actually increasing as a result of us specifically designing the sanctuary and the plantings to suit the needs of wildlife from the very beginning,” says Matt.

“As the years pass and wildlife populations continue to grow, we’re seeing the sanctuary continue to thrive and become better and better. From a wildlife perspective, the sanctuary is their home and it is filled with loads of year round food resource too. It is quite literally a gift that just keeps giving.” Gainsborough Greens also features 33 hectares of wetland and stormwater treatment areas, 32 hectares of parkland and over 16 kilometres of walking and cycling tracks.

Mirvac General Manager, Residential Development QLD Warwick Bible says the achievement is all the more impressive when you consider the numerous challenges posed in developing the site. “ We had an ambitious vision, and the results speak for themselves,” says Mr Bible.

We have delivered a net positive environmental benefit and, along with the ecological outcomes, the site has withstood flooding, drought and proven to be resilient and self-sufficient. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the contribution of our team and talented consultants who have worked together to create a thriving community and an environmental legacy that will benefit generations to come.”

Gainsborough Greens has won numerous awards, including Project of the Year and Environmental Excellence at the 2021 Queensland Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) awards, and Parks and Recreation and Community Engagement Excellence in the 2020 awards. Its success has paved the way for Mirvac’s newest Queensland masterplanned community Everleigh, in Greenbank, about 30km south of the Brisbane CBD.

Matt Keys, Managing Director of Habitat Environment Management


Bim’bimba Park at Gainsborough Greens

It, too, sets aside a significant 46 per cent of its 480 hectares for green open space, including 180 hectares of conservation area and walking trails and 44 hectares for sports grounds and recreational parks. “We carried the genuine approach to sustainability established at Gainsborough Greens to Everleigh, and tailored it to the site’s specific attributes,” says Mr Bible.

“We’re retaining and protecting areas with the highest ecological value, which will be transferred to Logan City Council to expand its existing Wearing Park conservation area and connected to the community via new walking trails, to promote access and enjoyment.” Mr Bible says learnings from Gainsborough Greens informed visioning for Everleigh.

“This included taking a sustainable approach to sourcing and reusing materials and resources on site, such as investing significantly in stormwater collection, so we reduce our demand on potable water, which has the added benefit of reducing truck movements and carbon emissions,” he says. Along with its environmental emphasis, the fast-growing Everleigh community is raising the bar for social sustainability in the area.

The first residents moved into their homes during 2018 and now, some four year later, over 300 families call Everleigh home. Over 500 homesites have now been completed with a further 150 under construction. On completion, anticipated for 2035, Everleigh will feature 3,450 homes. “Very early on we brought in a community engagement team, Enriching Communities, with the goal of integrating with the existing community,” says Mr Bible.

“We established community infrastructure including the entry statement, first park and events lawn six months before our first residents moved in. This helped to create a sense of place and an environment where people felt welcomed, connected and a sense of pride in where they lived from day one.”

A new primary school, Everleigh State School, opened to its first students this year, with Mirvac’s co-located central 25-hectare sports and recreation park intended to be the heart of the community. The feedback from Everleigh residents is already overwhelmingly positive and community stewardship is taking off.

“Residents are forming their own groups and connections from the platforms we’ve created and that’s the purpose of the community engagement program. We’re empowering people to get involved and connect,” says Mr Bible.


Mirvac acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters of Australia, and we offer our respect to their Elders past and present.  

Artwork: ‘Reimagining Country’, created by Riki Salam (Mualgal, Kaurareg, Kuku Yalanji) of We are 27 Creative.