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Byron Shire
September 26, 2022

Lilac house saga revisited  – Mullum

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Nicole Haberecht’s lilac house colour is incompatible with NSW and Council heritage conservation policy. Photo supplied.

The $3,000 fine imposed on a Mullumbimby homeowner for giving her home a purple paint job could be revoked and the colour rules applying to heritage houses reviewed, under a motion being considered by Byron Council.

In the latest chapter of the ‘Lilac House Saga’, Byron Mayor, Michael Lyon, has put forward a motion proposing that the penalty given to Nicole Haberecht for daubing her Stuart Street home in a forbidden colour be formally scrapped and all instalments returned to her by Revenue NSW.

The motion, to be debated at this week’s Council planning meeting, also proposes that the colour restrictions applying to houses in Mullum’s heritage conservation area be reviewed with an eye to ‘liberalising the range of colours from which a homeowner may choose’.

Cr Lyon decribed the previous decision as a mistake.

The proposal to revoke Ms Haberecht’s fine is yet another twist in the long-running saga surrounding the Stuart Street cottage, which began more than two years ago when Council received a complaint that it had been painted an ‘unsympathetic heritage colour’.

Local planning rules dictate that development consent is required to change the appearance of a building in a heritage conservation area, and that ‘appropriate colour schemes must be used’. This specifically excludes ‘bold primary colours, black, white, or textured paint finishes’.

Council compliance staff subsequently issued Ms Haberecht with a ‘show cause’ letter and demanded that she submit a development application for the paint job. This sparked two years of correspondence between the two parties in which a great deal of ink was expended, but not a drop of conservatively coloured house paint.

A beleaguered Ms Haberecht eventually sold the house, but responsibility for repainting was handed on to the new owners, and the $3,000 fine remained in place.

This was despite Ms Haberecht’s argument that Mullumbimby’s housing stock featured a wide range of different colours; backed by an online petition with over 2,000 signatures supporting her choice of colour.

In his Notice of Motion, Cr Lyon said that the case for revoking the fine was set out in a letter Ms Haberecht sent to Council.

Confidential debate 

However, this letter has been deemed confidential and is thus unavailable for viewing by the public.

The debate on the matter at this week’s meeting will also be kept from view on the grounds that it will cover ‘personal matters concerning particular individuals’ and ‘discussion in relation to personal hardship of a resident or ratepayer’. 

Also designated confidential is much of the legal advice provided by Council’s lawyer, Ralph James, in relation to the matter.

This legal advice is said to relate to the ‘law and policy of revoking fines and on whether the elected council can/should not [sic] intervene in the operational aspects of the exercise of Council’s regulatory functions’.

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  1. It’s becoming more and more ridiculous how bureaucrats
    and elected officials now tend to hide behind “privacy” or “confidentiality” when it comes to justify any decision to the concerned public.

  2. Some councils [like Lismore City] can arrange a partial payment/subsidy for using Heritage colours if the dwelling is sited in a Heritage Conservation Zone.
    I’m all in favour of this, as ‘Streetscape’ is vitally important in the overall conservation of our vanishing local history precincts.


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