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Nuisances Bylaw 2005 Review

Well blow me down with a feather, talk about crashing into a brick wall with good intentions.

A recommendation will go to our Council from Scott Summerfield our Strategic Planning Team Leader on Tuesday to drop the review until 2019.

The reason for this sudden change of position appears toi arise from what staff perceive to be a misconception by the majority of submitters as to the reason for the proposed changes that were promulgated on 13 December 2016. 

This confusing situation is explained in the following way:

"The intention of the revised bylaw is primarily to give Council an effective tool for dealing with public health and safety risks arising from nuisances on private property, including from a lack of property maintenance.

The proposed bylaw has a high bar for what constitutes a nuisance that puts the health and safety or wellbeing of the public at risk.

The focus of the bylaw is explicitly around public health and safety. This does not seem to have been well understood by the public, with submissions in support of the bylaw referring to a range of situations where the bylaw will not give powers to act.

Following public consultation and consideration of submissions, staff consider that there is a widespread view that the proposed Property Maintenance and Nuisances bylaw will allow Council officers to take enforcement action against property owners who have property that is in a state that is considered to be a nuisance to a neighbour or the public based on its amenity value. Support for the bylaw from submissions seems to be mostly on this basis.

The proposed bylaw is not intended to apply to amenity-related perceived nuisances and Council officers would not have an ability to undertake enforcement action under the proposed bylaw for such perceived nuisances."

This staggering realisation that has led to the recommended withdrawal is based on the content of the submissions, the nature of complaints and requests for service under the  existing Bylaw, and the input of staff who are dealing with existing complaints.

So it would seem that the definition of the existing Bylaw relating to 'nuisances' is totally faulty, and that those of us who submitted were completely under mis-apprehension regarding exactly what the Bylaw was in place to achieve. I need not remind readers that the aggravation about the conduct, or non-performance of neighbours in regard to the maintenance of their properties is magnified beyond measure in a District with over 50% of properties unoccupied for substantial periods of time - generally between holidays.

But unless the presence of vermin can be proven, there is apparently no way that staff are able to take action regarding actual maintenance. I guess the interpretation of what constitutes 'adequate' upkeep revolves around subjective judgment that staff are considered incapable of exercising. Rats, mice and other vermin are easy to identify, but difficult to find, in the main.

Staff (led by Summerfield) have obviously had cold feet on this issue - a very embarrassing back-down that will cause considerable consternation amongst rate-payers (and submitters in particular, including myself!) who were looking forward to at last being able call on Council to take action against recalcitrant neighbours whose disregard for even moderate requirements regarding home maintenance, and respect for the rights of others. 

That "'nuisances' as defined in section 29 of the Health Act 1956, which primarily relates to issues which may pose a public health risk," is a reality with which we will all need to come to terms, and stoically face when the Review is revisited in 2019:

"Staff consider that a review of the existing bylaw is necessary even if only to tidy up definitions and make it less onerous on the community to enforce, however this can wait until a review is legislatively required in 2019." What a cop-out!

I don't know why staff could not have been more specific when they promulgated these proposals back in December - it would saved a great deal of time, and now angst. Perhaps they should recall the glee of certain councilors when the proposal was introduced - all on the basis of being able to bring house owners to book whose properties they considered a disgrace. No-one took the trouble to disabuse them, or me at the time. 

They need to think before they venture into the unknown, or inadequately understood territory of Bylaws - indeed, there lies wild woods!  



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Reader Comments (1)

Are they sure Mr Summerfield hasn't lost his focus and interest in his day job? At what cost to ratepayers was that bungle?

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSidelined

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