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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Is Byron becoming too regimented?

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Mellanie Coppin’s treehouse is considered a permanent installation by Council staff. Photo Jeff Dawson
Mellanie Coppin’s treehouse is considered a permanent installation by Council staff. Photo Jeff Dawson

Aslan Shand

Is it a case of the fun place gone mad or just the fear of liability claims against the council?

Byron Bay resident Mellanie Coppin built a treehouse on the nature strip near her house. Her son and his friends and other kids on holiday or from nearby who have the skill to shimmy up the rope have enjoyed the chance to have some fun.

‘Virtually every day people stop in their tracks or in their cars to take photos of this treehouse. Neighbours have instagramed it, kids play in it and the positive feedback has been curiously overwhelming,’ said Mellanie.

‘I’ve lived in Massinger Street for several years now and know that the treehouse does not impede any wildlife corridors. The installation was done with consideration of the tree, as well as the safety of visitors.’

Removal request

But in August, the Byron Shire Council wrote to Mellanie requesting that she remove the treehouse.

Council told The Echo, ‘While Council supports the great benefits of children playing outside and being active, unfortunately treehouses and other structures built in trees in public spaces such as footpaths and nature strips are difficult to regulate in terms of safety, construction etc.’

Since then, Mellanie has been talking to Council about ways they could possibly look at keeping the treehouse in place.

‘As a long-term resident of Byron, I love that this town celebrates art, nature, beauty and the quirky in a way that is appreciated by its many visitors and nurtured by its residents,’ continued Mellanie.

‘Certainly it is these traits that attracts us all to living in this beautiful place. But could the removal of a humble, aesthetically pleasing, well-used and very much photographed treehouse represent all that is rotten and out of whack?’

Rope removed

Mellanie has now removed the rope that allowed access to the treehouse, which removes the liability issue.

The treehouse should be left there as a ‘free-of-charge art installation,’ she says.

‘Apparently the council are advocates and supporters of public art and of retaining our unique and alternative lifestyle. Yet put up a piece of public art that is admired and photographed on a daily basis and it’s an “encroachment” that has 14 days to be taken down.

‘Council themselves facilitated a Placemakers Seed Fund in recent times that attracted up to $400,000 to be spent on events, installations, pop-up spaces and activities. It’s just too pretty and loved to be taken down.’

The treehouse is built on a road reserve and the council has further stated that they are unable to provide permission for a ‘permanent installation’ on the site and can only authorise temporary installations.

‘It seems all too regimented for the Byron I fell in love with 35 years ago. The sign on the way into Byron suggests to “Chill Out” – I wish the council could get on board with that notion.

‘It’s our council who oversees the look and feel of our community and sadly they are feeling like the city councils that we had left behind. The whole world will look the same soon enough.’

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  1. Main point to note – “constructed in the nature strip near her house”. It’s public land lady, not for exclusive use. If it’s that important to you, then why not build it on your own property? And/or seek relevant approvals 1st? A structure in a wildlife corridor would generally be expected to have some kind of impact on the effectiveness of a corridor, but so long as people can photograph it and post it on Idiotgram that somehow makes everything ok?

    Typical instance of the Byron sense of entitlement.

  2. When some drunk idiot falls out and whacks his head, are the rate-payers going to be hit with the bill, or is this lady assuming ALL responsibility for the structure?

  3. I’m amazed that she feels entitled to do it. Besides the valid factors already mentioned she has significantly diminished the aesthetic value of a big public tree.
    Get rid of it!
    She also should pay the costs the Council has incurred.

  4. Unfortunately I understand the Council’s concerns. We’re living in litiginous times, and if someone gets injured there’s always a pack of ambulance chasers waiting to take up the case – for a percentage, of course.

  5. Leave it there!! Invite the homeless mob occupying the Bus Station in town to live there. Its compact, eco friendly and then the Travellers waiting for a bus wont have to stand outside in the rain until the bus comes.
    Maybe Council should use it for Affordable housing they are always on about, but wont build on the land they control

  6. What a lovely thing to do, build it on the nature strip so that all the kids get access. A great way of ‘making place’ and binding the community. Let it stay.

    On the other hand, perhaps Byron Council could spend the money allocated for place making on cottonwool rations in case any of us do something with any element of risk and get a booboo.

  7. Ropes are not allowed over rivers and creeks according to all councils. Byron Council is demonised when common sense should prevail to keep children out of danger. The construction also could be detrimental to the growth of the tree.
    Has public liability insurance been taken out as the structure could be injurious to the public.

  8. By the looks of it it should be just above high water mark in about 10 years. I drive past this treehouse often and it doesn’t bother me. Yeah, just paint it green , or rainbow colours , and call it community affordable housing. Or do AirBnB. I do wonder wether the tree is happy though.

  9. Unfortunately there are always going to be idiots ruining things for the honest people. There will be thugs climbing the tree when they are drunk or drugged up and injure themselves and they will slap a lawsuit on the council.

  10. As an example of community driven public art, it should be considered by Council’s Public Art Panel. Council does support community initiatives but only if the risk factor and its art-worthiness have been considered.
    It may have started out as a tree-cubby house but it might become a Byron Bay icon or – be demolished!

  11. I know of another one. The council asked the builder to remove it, but he never did. Now he has sold his house and moved and there is no-one to take responsibilty for the deteriorating structure which is obstructing the footpath.

  12. If it was on her own private property it probably would have been ignored, but being on the public nature strip kind of changed the game.

    Maybe the council could also look at the problem of people blocking the nature stip with gardens that force people to walk on the road, and modified garages that add rooms to homes that cause lots of cars to be parked on the street.

  13. I think you have all forgotten why you moved to this town. It’s a beautiful treehouse that remind people of happy summers and childhood.
    Move back to Bondi if you don’t like.


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