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Byron Shire
June 22, 2021

Illegal dwellings

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Asphyxia, Byron Shire

In response to Lifting the lid on Byron Shire Council’s unauthorised dwelling amnesty, I write to support the comment that ‘if you come forward, you enter a potential bureaucratic nightmare. It is so convoluted and expensive and can give people nervous breakdowns.’

As a landowner currently trying to get a permit for an unauthorised dwelling (which I had been told would tick all the boxes for Council certification), I can confirm the nightmare and expense. I am a DIY person, but the Council requirements force you to hire a long line of very expensive experts for every aspect of approval.

Not only that, but I am forced to upgrade from an inexpensive, low-resource, waste management system, which my research shows is environmentally safe and friendly, to an expensive system that is much more resource-intensive. The stress in trying to find DIY low-resource and low-cost solutions while navigating confusing requirements has indeed driven me close to a nervous breakdown.

The total bill looks set to be $35,000 (not a cent of which will improve my life in any way) and I have given up trying to adhere to my low-cost/low-resource principles, which is soul-destroying. No wonder Byron Shire has a problem with affordable housing!

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  1. “Asphyxia”, your pitiful and feeble excuse to justify your illegal actions does not excuse you breaking the law. You are on par with developers who knowingly break planning law and plead ignorance and forgiveness when caught.

  2. Sadly ignorant rude respondents are becoming more of a regular feature. The difference between someone wanting a simple existence with clean water food and shelter has now been denied to a growing percentage of the population. A far cry from the greedy cashed up developers.

  3. Colin, someone who wants a “simple existence with clean water,food and shelter’ can easily obtain these. Part of it is by following the law and obtaining development consent for their dwelling. All residents of Byron Shire lose out by having thousands of these illegal dwelling owners not paying their due planning fees. Rudeness and ignorance are not involved. Bluntness and to the point are. Being a resident of Byron Shire for over 40 years I am very knowledgeable of sociological features of the Shire and local politics.

  4. This hotly debated issue over illegal dwellings has polarised into two extreme positions. One is that everyone should be able to do exactly what he or she wants regardless of the law. The other is that no one should ever knock a nail into a piece of wood or take another breath without permission from a controlling authority.
    There is a middle path between this black or white kind of thinking. But it requires intelligent maturity and responsibility. That’s what’s often lacking.
    Multiple Occupancies can for example readily create their own legally obligatory internal laws to build only in accordance with building and environmental regulations and not to build for rental purposes, etc.
    Why can we not work out a fair financial contribution to the public coffers for such people willing to share land instead of having it all to themselves and to build their own homes on a shoestring budget instead of supporting the banking industry with a lifetime mortgage?
    That some people behave like irresponsible self-serving two year olds doesn’t mean that everyone must be controlled by a de facto parental authority.
    Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes lived in a barrel. When Alexander the Great stood before him and asked, ‘Can I do something for you?’, Diogenes answered, ‘Stand aside so that the sun can shine on me’.

  5. John Jennings, you state that the other position is ” The other is that no one should ever knock a nail into a piece of wood or take another breath without permission from a controlling authority” Completely incorrect. You mist be joking. I live near a MO where no DA consent has been granted for 10 dwellings. It looks like a slum!

  6. Yes John, of course I’m joking about the two extremes – designed as an amusing contrast to highlight the absurdity of black/white, yes/no thinking. Sorry you didn’t get the point. I’ll try harder next time.
    But the ‘middle path’ is not a joke.
    And slums are people, not buildings. A slummy could turn an DA approved mansion into a garbage tip just as well as a non DA approved MO
    I’m sorry you live near a slum. But Development Approval won’t turn slobs into saints. And because one MO looks like a slum doesn’t mean they all do or that some Approved developments don’t also look like slums.

  7. Thank you for your responses. To set the record straight, Asphyxia is my legal name, though I will point out that this is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    John, you said ‘your pitiful and feeble excuse to justify your illegal actions does not excuse you breaking the law.’ I did not give any excuse for my actions. Just to let you know, when I was searching for land to buy, almost every property I looked at had an unauthorised dwelling on it! Land owners are not always the law-breakers. I don’t believe I am on par with ‘greedy developers’, and like John Jennings I believe a distinction should be made.

    John, you also said, ‘someone who wants a “simple existence with clean water, food and shelter’ can easily obtain these. Part of it is by following the law and obtaining development consent for their dwelling.’ I will point out that this is exactly what I am in the middle of doing – obtaining development consent for the dwelling on my property. The bill has blown out from $35k to $50k (I had not yet understood all the contributions I would be required to make to the council, at the time my letter went to print). As a person who is on disability support pension without a great deal of spare cash floating around, this is really devasating. I do believe that bills like these interfere with my desire for a simple existence.

    I actually agree with John Jennings, that a middle road is needed, and I personally support that. I understand the need for and reason for the council to have laws regarding development (and I also agree that the laws do not prevent hideously ugly buildings/sites from occurring). I recognise that someone needs to pay for the roads and the water infrastructure here, and that’s what the contributions are all about. I am not quibbling about the fact of having laws nor contributing, even if my letter might have seemed that way.

    The point I am making is that the process seems bureaucratic and expensive in the extreme, putting it out of reach of the individual and forcing dependence on numerous expensive experts. It would be better for the council to state their requirements in plain English, in a format that the lay-person can understand. This would reduce confusion not only for people applying but for the council themselves – I had so many different answers from different staff to the very same question, on different occasions and this led to so much stress as I attempted to plan for one path then discovered it was not appropriate, so tried another path and so on. I am not stupid – if it is difficult for me, then it must be difficult for everyone!

    Council fees and contributions seem excessive. I understand the need to cover council costs and shire infrastructure, but payments seem to be inappropriately skewed. For example, I have to contribute almost $10,000 for road infrastructure and almost $6,000. Surely this should be spread evenly across all shire residents, rather than landing excessively on the shoulders of those who seek approval for unauthorised dwellings on their land. I would have expected this to come out of our rates.

    Or perhaps we should ask the ‘greedy developers’ to pay rather than the individuals on disability support pension who are just trying to do the right thing.

    I also want to point out that not everyone is in a position to afford housing at the level that is properly approved by the shire. Health issues (now) and homelessness (in the recent past) have both been an issue for me which have prevented me from living in approved housing. When land-owners are forced to spend $50k to legalise their dwellings, the price of rent for those dwellings will go up, and this puts affordable housing out of reach of even more people.

    I am not saying that landowners should not legalise their dwellings. I am saying that the system needs to improve. It needs to change from being nervous-breakdown-level stressful, mind-blowingly expensive, and not cause further damage to the people who are already struggling to afford housing.


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