Neighbourhood disputes could be cleared up by QCAT.
Neighbourhood disputes could be cleared up by QCAT.

Council rid of neighbourhood blues

UP to 50 per cent of council staff time could be saved from time-consuming and complicated neighbourhood disputes if the State Government decides to step in and sort out the mess.

The Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Bill 2010 aims to tackle disputes over trees and fences by clarifying responsibility and introducing the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal as a “neighbours court”.

According to media reports, Attorney-General Cameron Dick said, if successful, the State Government may consider using it to tackle other neighbour disputes, such as noise and odour.

The news is music to the ears of Southern Downs officials and councillors who constantly finish up as “piggy in the middle” in backyard battles.

Director of engineering Ken Harris said that any proposal to help resolve disputes and in turn reduce costs to ratepayers would be welcomed.

“I'd estimate around one third to one half of what we do in planning and development is really neighbourhood disputes over dogs, noise, overgrown allotments, home businesses without approval etc that council becomes drawn in to,” he said.

In cases, complainants use councils as a way of furthering their fight with their neighbour.

These matters are not always of a residential nature. They can be businesses complaining about other businesses as well.

A council spokeswoman added: “Sadly, all councils expend a great deal of resources in trying to solve these problems and in some cases, investigations roll in other government departments so there is even more cost to the community.”

The bill has been tabled in parliament and will be drafted in coming months.

CHANGES
Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Bill 2010 changes include:

  • The “tree owner” is responsible for maintenance and care of the tree
  • Ownership of a dividing fence on a common boundary is shared equally between neighbours
  • Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has jurisdiction
  • Distinction between retaining wall and a fence
  • Clearer rule for pastoral and agricultural fences


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