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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Demolition order issued on habitable home 

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Joshua and Kylie recieved a demolition order on their prefab home the day after an inspection. The demolition order was because the home was unapproved. Photo Eve Jeffery

A week after the devastating floods in early March, Left Bank Road residents Joshua Kinnear and his wife Kylie received a visit from ‘Community Enforcement’ compliance officers, regarding their rented prefab home.

It’s been home to two women in their 50s and 60s for around a year-and-a-half, says Mr Kinnear.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly a friendly encounter, Joshua told The Echo, given the stress from the unfolding devastation. 

And given the home is habitable, and poses no threat to human health, Mr Kinnear says it was an inappropriate and untimely visit. 

When the conversation became heated, Mr Kinnear says the compliance officers openly spoke of demolition orders, ‘within hearing range of the two women who are living happily in the house’.

He said, ‘Both Kylie and I have experienced extreme distress at the prospect of being compelled to evict two local hardworking women from a perfectly safe dwelling’. 

The next day, to their astonishment, Joshua and Kylie were sent an email from comliance officers demanding that their alleged unapproved home be demolished within 30 days.

The reason, according to the letter provided to The Echo, was that it was unapproved, and the onsite sewage system was located just over a boundary on the neighbour’s property. 

‘That is my mother’s property’, Mr Kinnear told The Echo, adding he is working to make the sewage system compliant and reach a boundary agreement with his mother.

He claims to have compliance certificates for the electrics, and gas, adding he is working on a DA for the property. 

He also claims to have a composting system that meets policy standards, although Council staff claim it isn’t approved.

Mr Kinnear says he contacted both Mayor Michael Lyon and Cr Mark Swivel regarding the matter. 

He said only Cr Swivel replied at the time, and there was yet to be any follow up.

When asked if there will be any intervention from either the mayor or Cr Swivel on this matter, Cr Swivel told The Echo, he ‘would much prefer to deal’ with the landowner than The Echo. 

Staff mute

Claims by Mr Kinnear, and The Echo’s questions, were put to Council staff, however staff refused to comment.

Cr Lyon replied on behalf of staff, and repeated the position of the compliance officers. 

He said, ‘After a year of enquiring and chasing and getting no satisfactory response as to when Council could expect a DA to be lodged, community enforcement officers attended the site last month to, at least, ensure that the On-site Sewage Management System (OSMS) is satisfactory in the meantime while we await the DA’.

‘It was advised that the system is currently not compliant with Council guidelines. It was also noted that smoke alarms were on the floor and not installed. It was also asked, during this visit, whether there was an intention to lodge a DA to deal with the unapproved structure, to which officers received the answer ‘No’.

‘Following this, an order to demolish or remove the structure was issued on March 11, and I completely support this course of action. Since the order was issued Council had not, until this evening, received a response, request for an extension of time, or been given any commitment by the owner that a DA would be lodged. If the owners are not going to take their responsibility to lodge a DA seriously then compliance action is necessary’.

It’s a statement both Joshua and Kylie strenuously deny, and they have provided The Echo with correspondence between an intermediary which indicates an intention to work towards a solution. 

Cr Lyon also made the statement: ‘When Council receives a complaint of this nature, it is bound to investigate and follow through on compliance’. 

The Echo ask the mayor to point to the law which supports that statement, given compliance officers have flexibility and discretion when pursuing complaints.

The mayor added, ‘It is my intention to move a Mayoral Minute on Thursday to grant an extension of time and a temporary stay on the order’. 

Cultural change

Mr Kinnear added, ‘Kylie has been experiencing panic attacks and is receiving counselling to manage her anxiety around this issue’.

‘The primary reason for contacting the media is to bring attention this kind of behaviour. 

‘Our main concern is to facilitate a cultural change within Council staff, and to ensure this does not happen to less resilient people’.

Unanswered Echo questions to both the mayor and executive Council staff:

• ‘How common it is to issue demolition orders?
How many such orders are issued every year for example?

• ‘The compliance officer who issued the order claims they have sub-delegated powers to issue this order from the GM. Is he required to inform his superior, Shannon Burt, of his decisions when ordering a home to be demolished?

• ‘How does this decision align with compliance priorities, given the only reasons to demolish provided were that it is not DA approved and has an unapproved sewage management system on a neighbouring property? This home appears to be structurally sound and generally compliant, and provides housing for two women.

• ‘So, why wasn’t more background information provided in the demolition letter to support this extreme decision? ‘What information is missing that adds weight to Council’s decision making?’

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  1. This kind of behaviour is exactly what the average Echo reader winges to have.
    More government, bigger government, the government must solve all problems, and eliminate all misfortune.
    These two have set up problems for anyone who may buy the place latter. People have screamed for the government intervention about shoddy building, and this is the result.
    Instead of home buyers checking thing out before they purchase, or hiring someone to for them, they expect government to enact and enforce draconian rules comprised of every complaint, mostly made through current affairs programs, that everyone has ever made after being to lazy to “buyer beware”.
    Governments do things badly, and often end up having to opposite effect. Do for yourselves.

    These people have hurt no one. No one is in danger. If they let potential buyers know of any issues, then selling it in that state wouldn’t hurt anyone.
    Keep screaming for legalism to give you a quick fix for your own inaction and it comes back to bite you, or others like you.
    This is true for all issues.

  2. Sad to say it, I feel for the owners , but shoulda just spent 15 grand on consultants fees and 1 grand on council approval and maybe 5 to 10 % more on upgrades . Its a lot in the beginning , seems like it when your broke , but compared to half a mill , compared to 1 and a half mill . It’s a pittance . 40 grand extra compared to a mill more in value .

  3. Says a lot about a process that is most inappropriate not to mention very unkind in an era of shortage of affordable dwellings. We can do better!


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