The Byron Shire Council chambers in Mullumbimby.
The Byron Shire Council chambers in Mullumbimby.

‘Robo-letters' sent to owners of illegal properties

SOME residents in the Main Arm area have received letters from Byron Shire Council regarding unauthorised dwellings.

A draft policy to tackle unauthorised dwellings across the shire is in the works.

In a submission to the council’s planning meeting on Thursday, Duncan Dey, who was representing Main Arm Residents Association and will be a council candidate at the 2021 election, raised issue with the approach taken by the council’s staff.

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Mr Dey said the letter sent to some addresses was akin to a “robo-letter”.

He said some of the locality’s residents lived in homes which were constructed prior to the council rules cited in the letter.

“I’ve got a request, pretty simple, which is that councillors actually represent the community and take some action,” he said.

“The policy under which this is being done hasn’t been adopted.”

He said the circulation of the letter was “pre-emptive and a little bit unfair” and asked councillors to delay any action on those residents.

Matthew Lambourne meanwhile queried under which council resolution led to this decision.

The council’s director of sustainable environment and economy, Shannon Burt, said the council had voted on the matter in June, in a motion that was borne from a request to legitimise an unauthorised building on a Skinners Shoot property.

Ms Burt said public exhibition was due to begin in the next week and the council had now entered the second phase of a moratorium.

“The letter is a show cause letter,” she said.

“It’s not an enforcement letter.

“This is standard practise. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Ms Burt said last summer’s bushfires “highlighted all too well” how unauthorised dwellings, which the council has no record of, “add another layer of complexity in emergency situations”.

“If they have built in a high bushfire risk area … the potential risk of loss of property and life is amplified,” she said.

“If we know what is out there, we simply can’t ignore it because it’s too hard to deal with or we hope this will go away.

“This is not a defendable (in court).”