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Byron Shire
October 1, 2023

Neighbour speaks of war vet’s tiny home demolition order

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Some of the road that Dr Michelle Olivier says needs repair. Photo Dr Michelle Olivier

Further to last week’s story, ‘Disabled war veteran’s tiny home faces Council demolition order’, a neighbour of Afghanistan veteran Matt Bruce, approached The Echo to tell her side of the story.

As reported, Mr Bruce faces the demolition of his professionally built tiny home, which is located on rural land in Wilsons Creek owned by the Scali family.

The issue has been ongoing for over two years, with Council recently issuing Nicholas Scali a $9,000 fine, something that Mr Bruce says he is responsible for.

Neighbour, Dr Michelle Olivier said, ‘I’ve lived there for 13 years, and when Matt appeared unannounced at my house one evening two years ago, he told me and the other neighbour up here that he wanted to bring in a very small, moveable dwelling, promising that it would be only for a few months while he spent some time in the bush, and to do some bush regeneration on the land’.

Dr Olivier said she assumed that his dwelling ‘would just be a small caravan, or something small on wheels, as it was only for a few months’.

Mr Bruce disputes this, telling The Echo he always intended to stay for up to two years, and was upfront in saying so.

Dr Olivier said, ‘I thought that there was nothing I could do about the situation, and that it would be best to remain positive about this temporary three-month stay, despite the likely increased traffic on our private, narrow, steep, one-lane driveway with no passing bays’.

‘The two house owners up here built this driveway over 30 years ago, and are responsible for the maintenance of it, as it is a private driveway, not a Council road’.

‘I expressed my concerns about the extra driveway use to Matt, and he said that it would just be him and that he would be very considerate’.

Dr Olivier says substantial infrastructure development was carried out ‘that was very obviously for a long-term dwelling’.

While Dr Olivier agrees that camphor trees (considered a weed) were removed, she maintains that many native trees were also cleared, and that as Council claim, it is  a high conservation area.

‘Shortly after this event I spoke separately to Nicholas Scali, who lives in the main house on the property about my issue with Matt, and my concerns about the driveway, but he was not helpful. Instead, he said he wanted to help Matt.

She says, ‘As the driveway broke up over the next month, Matt assured me and the neighbour many times that he would fix the damage arising from the truck that had brought his dwelling in’.

‘However, after much stalling and assurances, Matt did no repairs to the driveway. So, seven months later when the [February 2022] floods came, the driveway was already in a very bad state after the many months of use, and the summer rains that had already been, and it was completely vulnerable to the heavy flood rains’.

Road repair dispute

Again, Mr Bruce disputes this version of events, and says that he spent $5,000 repairing the road post flood, and that inadequate roadwork, paid for by Dr Olivier prior to the floods, led to the road’s degradation.

Dr Olivier said, ‘After the flood, Matt filled in some of the worst, very large holes and drainage with rocks so that we could still drive on it, as he was now in danger of losing access to his home, as were I, and the other neighbour up here. He didn’t repair the bitumen damage’.

‘Now another year later, Matt has still not repaired the driveway, which is now in danger of degrading to the point where we could lose access to our properties if he doesn’t repair it before the next summer rains come’.

Dr Olivier says the driveway was built ‘to a high standard’, and that it has always been in very good condition, ‘but it was never engineered for withstanding a truck loaded with weight.’

She claims to have evidence that the driveway was in good condition ‘prior to the truck smashing it’.

Feel duped

‘If someone damages your property, they must pay for its repair. Matt and Nicholas seem to be completely ignoring this simple fact.

‘I feel duped by both of these men. The entire ordeal is incredibly stressful and traumatic. Matt and Nicholas should have never built here in the first place’.

Another neighbour, Dr Martin Hartmann, told The Echo that parts of a perfectly good road ‘were trashed’, adding the road was like ‘brand new before the truck brought in the tiny home’.

‘The location is totally inappropriate, as it’s bushfire and landslip prone’.

He said, ‘I did meet with Matt when he proposed the idea and I was against it. I said it wouldn’t work. He ignored everybody’s “No”.’

Mr Bruce replied to the suitability of the location by saying it withstood the 2022 floods, yet acknowledged that the road entrance to his dwelling was blocked from landslips. Dr Hartmann told The Echo, ‘Over the years, different landowners had sought to get dwelling approval for the land in question, but it is unsuitable’. 

Attempts to contact the third resident on the road were unsuccessful.

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  1. So it was a matter for small claims court. By all means, he needs to replace any loss of infrastructure functionality he may have caused, however there are building standards for sealed driveways, and they are supposed to be able to support the weight of road traffic. Maybe you should consider a gravel or paved driveway to ensure compliance, and prevent contractors mistakenly presuming your driveway is constructed to the correct specifications. Insurance may not cover your liability from injuries or deaths that may arise should a vehicle tip over.


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