Deputy Mayor councillor Gavin Jones (Photo: SBRC)

February 10, 2021

South Burnett Regional Council will crack down on residents living in unapproved dwellings who repeatedly ignore Council directions or put their own health and safety at risk.

At Wednesday’s Community Standing Committee meeting, officers said where an approved Class 1a building (ie. a house) has not yet been established on a property, anyone living on that property was illegally occupying it.

They said while some owners opt to live in temporary accommodation while their house was being built, this type of occupancy potentially breached public health and safety regulations.

Where the health and safety of residents were not at risk and good progress was being made on putting up an approved permanent home, Council tended to take a soft approach towards enforcement.

But where health and safety were at risk or owners had ignored previous warnings, a tougher approach was required.

Officers recommended Council develop an Illegal Occupation Of Private Land Policy, along with a related procedure and enforcement strategy, to guide staff when they were called on to tackle problems in this area.

Cr Gavin Jones said the problem was not new and had also been discussed by the previous Council.

However, he warned any new policy could potentially affect “thousands” of people if it were poorly drafted.

Cr Danita Potter said she wanted to see health and safety matters included in the new policy as these were the issues that caused most concern.

Cr Kathy Duff said she agreed that health and safety were the key motivations.

“We don’t want to be (seen as) a heavy-handed Council,” Cr Duff said.

Cr Roz Frohloff  said safety and welfare were very important but so was tackling a small group of “repeat offenders” who repeatedly ignored Council directions.

Councillors agreed unanimously to develop the new policy and procedures.

The policy will now be workshopped with relevant Council officers over the next few months before coming back to a future meeting for adoption.


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3 Responses to "Council To Target Illegal Campers"

  1. Bouncer  February 11, 2021

    If unapproved dwellings includes sheds, then I can understand the council point of view. I know of at least two 5 acre block properties that have had sheds on them with the owners dwelling in them for about 20 years. One of these has even changed ownership at least twice.

    But I can also understand the position of some of the owners of these properties. In many cases they probably cannot afford to have a traditionally constructed house built, or a removeable house placed on the land.

    Perhaps one solution would be for a “tiny house” to be built. I’m guessing they would cost far less than traditional house construction, though even that cost would not be within some people’s budget.

    Tiny houses have a lot going for them. Properly built, with solar panels etc., they are regarded as being environmentally friendly and as having a much smaller “eco footprint”.

    If council starts getting heavy-handed with these residents and starts hitting them with escalating fines or worse, then we could see these people either selling up and moving elsewhere, thus reducing the total number of ratepayers, or becoming “homeless” people, despite still owning a small acreage and still paying rates. This latter possibility would most certainly put their health and safety at a far greater risk.

    As far as I’m aware, the South Burnett currently doesn’t have people living on the streets and begging for handouts. It would no doubt result in more break-ins and general criminal activity in and around urban and suburban areas. It would also see violence being committed against these homeless people. As is the case in almost any large city, there would be a dramatic increase in the workload of police, paramedics and firefighters. This alone would come at a higher financial cost, if not directly upon council then certainly on the state government.

    Further, hospital beds would be taken up by people who would otherwise be in reasonable health if they weren’t being forced to live on the streets and being exposed to the elements, especially in winter.

    I know this is sounding like a doomsday scenario, but who knows where harsh actions by council could lead?

    This would be a situation none of would like to see.

    Reply
  2. Jane Erkens  February 12, 2021

    I see some of these ‘illegal dwellings’ and as far as health and safety, they are cleaner than some council-approved homes. I currently have a number of families looking for rentals and there are none available. Add those who could be forced out of illegal dwellings and we will have a huge homeless problem. Not to mention the mental stress which if you have nowhere to live is a pretty tough road to travel.

    Reply
  3. Ben  February 15, 2021

    Yes agree on this, Jane.

    Reality is though, there ARE homeless folk in the SB region, far more than perhaps many are even aware let alone consider. Unless eyes are open sadly there are too many lives not seen in very real terms.

    Not to forget the “Cashless Welfare Card” that by intent restricts spending of our most in need, with the LNP Gov program to even include the aged and or disabled and their carers, too, NOT just the unemployed folk. The effects are being spoken out about, despite the LNP MPs and Ministers entirely claiming it to be working. We all pay much more for its implementation.

    From Housing to Health to Crime to Business and Economics, the impacts of conservative economic management is on display and lived, with clearly worsening results that is our lives.

    Very troubling ideology indeed.

    Reply

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