It is often said that government in Australia is out of control, a situation that could be a great deal worse if the federal government was not mired in gridlock of minority status. Probably the worst example of draconian overregulation though tends to come from local authorities where minor political functionaries in hundreds of councils across Australia impose their will on the residents of their allotted ministate, usually claiming that the state or federal governments require it.
You just couldn’t make up though, the reaction of Wollongong City Council to the building of a child’s cubby house:
Earlier this year, Sonja Keller and husband Andrew Bergmann used leftover building supplies to build the cubby for their son, Yaan, 9, behind their home at Tumbling Waters Resort in Stanwell Tops.Years ago someone said that you would suffer a lower penalty for murder than what you would cop for breaking some of the government's ‘orderly marketing’ laws, and this is fairly consistent with this thought. It seems that the smaller the authority, the more snarky and authoritarian the petty functionary that is attracted to it is.
They returned from holidays before Christmas to find mail telling them to remove the cubby as it posed a bushfire threat and they did not have "development consent".
"Council has become aware that a cubby house has been erected within the premises adjacent to a dwelling; within a bushfire prone and environmentally sensitive area, without development consent," the council wrote.
"Failure to comply with the order is an offence under section 125 of the (Environmental Planning and Assessment) Act. The maximum penalty for that offence is $1,100,000.00 and a further daily penalty of $110,000.00.
"If the order is not complied with, Council may give effect to the order and recover the costs of doing so from you."
Mrs Keller said council staff first inspected the cubby house earlier this month.
"Three people from the council came to inspect some of the work we had done at the resort," he said.
"I thought they were joking when they said they needed to look at the cubby house."
She said the cubby was barely visible from the street and no more of a fire risk than other garden furniture.
"This decision is a joke. It's ridiculous to say it's in a fire-sensitive area," she said. "The garden shed is in a fire-sensitive area. The pergola is in a fire-sensitive area. The whole house is in a fire-sensitive area."