Safety for our community and environment has to come first

The aim of Council’s 15 month moratorium on unauthorised dwellings is to work with the community to ensure all housing structures in the Byron Shire are safe, compliant and formally documented.

“This is not a new approach – compliance has been a priority for Council for more than 10 years,” Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson said.

“Our motivation is simply to try and ensure all dwellings lived in by our community are safe and allowable – and we’re taking a thorough and fair, Shire-wide approach to achieve this, not an ad hoc one,” he said.

The moratorium is supported by Council’s existing Enforcement Policy; a Policy first adopted by Council in 2011. The Enforcement Policy refers to Council’s annual Compliance Priorities Program which allocates Council’s regulatory responsibilities and functions into Very High, High, Medium and Routine categories.

Council resolved at the 27 February 2020 Ordinary Meeting to adopt its 2020 Compliance Priorities Program. The Program recognises that unapproved dwellings are a ‘High Priority’ while those unapproved dwellings that place people’s lives at immediate risk or that are likely to cause a significant risk of environmental harm or pollution are a ‘Very High Priority’.

Council’s draft Unauthorised Dwellings Policy which is currently on exhibition until 21 October, builds on the existing Enforcement Policy, outlining planning pathways for unauthorised dwellings in the Byron Shire.

“We would love to finish with a result at the end of this process in September 2021 that means solutions have been reached for all our residents – and that people can continue living in their houses safely – that is our hope,” Mayor Richardson said.

“This initiative came about after representatives of the Main Arm Residents Association (MARA) informed Council about some houses on land subject to a disputed DA near Main Arm as being non-compliant, in danger from bushfire and unsafe.

“This information led to a Resolution of Council to ensure that staff didn’t only investigate the Main Arm illegal dwellings raised by MARA and promoted in the Echo in articles by Aslan Shand, but to develop a way to apply a fair, thorough and reasonable process to help resolve issues with illegal dwellings across the Shire.

“That’s how the moratorium initiative came about, underpinned by the need we now have to keep residents safe from the reality of bushfires reaching our hinterland areas.

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