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REDLANDS COUNCIL ‘SPOKESPERSON’ RESPONDS TO CRITICISMS OF RESTRICTIVE COUNCIL SEWERAGE DESIGN POLICY

Redland City Council has responded to specific questions from The Friendly Bay Islander in relation to new regulations relating to building homes in the Redlands that require a septic sewerage system. A decision made by council’s plumbing section, has had a huge impact on the quality and style of homes now able to be built on our islands and elsewhere in the Redlands where septic sewera ge systems are necessary. It applies to all the SMB Islands as well as Coochiemudlo and most parts of North Stradbroke Islands. The council decision by the plumbing sector was carried out by council staff without any reference to the councillors around the Redland City Council table. They were able to do this because State Government legislation give them that power. The only way the decision can be overturned, is from a direct motion to do so by Redland City Council councillors. Since an outcry from the Friendly Bay Islander, the building and design industry as well as prospective new island home owners and some Redland City councillors, particularly Deputy Mayor Cr Julie Talty, have taken up the cause. Division 5 councillor Mark Edwards was unable to comment or even vote on the issue because it was an ‘island only’ matter at the time. However, since then the ’scheme’ has been expanded to all of the Redlands and Cr Edwards will now be able to comment and vote on the matter. After ‘promises’ that the plumbing section of council would ‘look at the decision and present a case to the councillors at a workshop, that has not actually happened. Instead, council has commissioned an ‘expert consultant’ to help address issues concerning the application of state-wide plumbing regulations for non-sewered properties. When this ‘report’ is eventually received, the long-awaited ‘workshop’ will supposedly happened. Council claims it has received increasing community concerns that some new homes are being built with insufficient wastewater treatment systems for the number of occupants, as well as industry concerns that applying State Government regulations are too restrictive given the unique circumstances on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, where lot sizes are typically around 600m². The number of complaints received has been challenged by The Friendly Bay Islander and we asked council ‘directly’ to explain more about the complaints received. We also said that a high rate of complaints would be ’surprising’ because according to the most recent Australian census figures, the average occupancy of all homes on the islands ranges between 1.7 and 2.4 people per island home. In a reply to our questions, a council ‘spokesperson’ stated the following: “Plumbing and environmental health concerns officially reported to Council have almost doubled over the past five years from about 30 properties to around 60 each year. “There is also a large number of system failures which are rectified by property owners and plumbers without the direct involvement of Council. All the on-site treatment facilities concerned would have an approval. “Council’s role is to assess an on-site treatment facility and Council must be satisfied that the on-site treatment facility is suitable for the building taking into account the potential occupancy of the building, for the life of the building, not just the specific use by the current property holder. “Council does not accuse anyone of misrepresentation, however, the relevant State laws that determine potential occupancy may apply to rooms that can be used for multiple purposes given their configuration. “As stated, Council is currently considering what alternative solutions could apply to provide additional flexibility where appropriate,” the statement said. The consultants’ report, which will look at design practices, is expected to be presented to Council later this year. Council is likely to also consider measures to improve consumer protection for homeowners to help raise awareness around capacity limits and maintenance requirements for residential wastewater treatment plants. Also, a councillor such as Cr Talty could also move a possible successful motion to council to revert to the previous policies which, she has stated, were ‘perfectly adequate’.