Neighbourhood disputes about plants bill 2017 (No. 8)
Ms Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank the Acting Leader for the briefing because it cleared up a few issues surrounding this bill.
I understand the intent of the bill. I am not sure it is going to be as easy to deal with issues when the bill becomes law as it may be to put on paper. We know how hard issues with trees or views can be. I know more than most about trees, having had a huge tree fall across my house. I am well aware of the issues with neighbouring trees and the difficulties one can have.
When it comes to the clause, it needs to be clearer. I mentioned retrospectivity in the briefings. Clause 7 states -
Subject to this section …/ … the plant has caused, is causing, or is likely within the next 12 months to cause –
How long the plant has caused and is going to be - we have an end at the other side, within the next 12 months. As mentioned by one of the members, someone may have bought a house 20 or 30 years ago when there may not have been any trees then and they could have a nice view. In the meantime, the trees have grown. We have been told if you buy something, you buy a house and the trees are low, so you take your photos. We all have photos when we purchase a place. Maybe you can see the water and over time those trees have grown up past the 2.5 metres and you cannot see the view anymore. How long does it go back?
One of the cases mentioned was a fair while ago. If someone bought the house in 1950 and the trees have grown since that time, would it be reasonable to expect those trees to be cut back? Because we have within the next 12 months at an end, should there also be a starting date? Otherwise it leaves it open-ended and there could be difficulties there.
I have a few questions but it will probably be easier to ask them at each clause.
If someone has an issue, it is not a council issue and is probably going to be one of the problems. People tend to think they should go to their local council. I checked with the Launceston Council. It is a large council and it had no issues with the bill. Obviously not, because it does not apply to it. People will not go to the council for these issues; they will go to the tribunal. As mentioned, they will first try to mediate with their neighbour. If mediation is not successful, they will proceed to the tribunal at a cost of around $300. Councils are out of the loop, but most people would think this was a council issue because most people think councils deal with things like planning, trees and sunlight.
Mrs Hiscutt - I have had local councils refer people to me. A lot of local councils do not deal with it.
Ms Armitage - I understand they do not deal with it. The majority of constituents think this would come under their local council.
The other issue the Acting Leader might be able to answer or put an answer on the record. I mentioned a lady who had an issue with a neighbouring tree, not for view or sunlight, but for safety. When she backed out of her driveway onto a busy road, her vision was obscured by a tree. The neighbours refused to trim the tree back. I asked the local police officer to go and have a word to say she was an elderly lady and could not see. They refused his request; in the end, she had to hope nothing was coming because she could not see. Does the safety aspect come into this? I know it is mainly for view and for sunlight over the 2.5 metres, but safety is also an issue.
The member for Windermere asked about local councils, but one of my questions is to do with the reserve. Could the Acting Leader clarify whether a reserve in the exclusions would be counted as a road reserve or whether reserve is in the true meaning of a reserve? If a council were asked to cut down a tree on a footpath for a road safety issue, could it say a reserve is excluded? Can we can get a definition of what a reserve is? Is it a road reserve or is it a reserve almost like a park? It is important we have a definition of what is meant by the word 'reserve' in the exclusions.
My other question is about the tribunal rulings. I believe they go for 10 years. At the end of the 10 years, if someone else buys that property, do they go back to the tribunal and go through the same process? During that 10‑year period the tree has grown so that it is over the 2.5 metres because no-one has bothered to trim it back. Does that order come into effect, or is it where the trees are at that time because an order can go for 10 years? I know it is a bit confusing. Does the order take effect from where the trees are at the time someone buys the property and the order is no longer in effect because no-one has bothered to trim the trees?
I will support the bill, but I have few questions about it because I am not sure it will be easy to manage.