Government mum as rural living takes pounding


p2216-Ross-Copland-OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
A resident in Petrick Road says he is at his wits’ end with the inaction of NT Government about what he describes as blatant breaches of planning laws, turning rural residential land into an industrial block.
Ross Copland says his neighbour is running a plumbing business from the two hectares, in violation of the Rural Living zoning, resulting in significant noise, dust and traffic.
Mr Copland says the facts, as he had been putting them to government bodies in a three year campaign, are open and shut.
When the Alice Springs News Online sought a comment from Lands Minister Dave Tollner he did not reply but flicked the matter to the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment. That in turn passed the buck to the Development Consent Authority (DCA).
According to the department the DCA had:-
• considered this matter in April last year;
• determined the use to be consistent with “home based contracting” under the NT Planning Scheme;
• ordered certain works (including additional landscaping and the siting of material) relating to the amenity of the area. (The DCA clearly has an odd understanding of the word amenity: “a pleasant or useful feature; pleasantness of a place or person,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Amenity is clearly something that affects a wider area, would certainly refer also to noise, dust and traffic, and would not be something that can be fixed by planting a few shrubs and moving around some materials. “The purpose of this clause is to ensure that home based contracting is established and operated in a manner that does not detract from the amenity of the locality,” says the Act.)
• and there was no new evidence of a breach of the Planning Scheme.
All this comes as a big surprise for Mr Copland: His last of many meetings with the DCA had been well after April last year, and the authority had indicated that breaches of the Act had indeed been committed.
The local members of the DCA are David Koch, Alistair Feehan, Brendan Heenan and Steve Brown. Chansey Paech is an “alternate” for Cr Heenan and Cr Brown.
p2218-Burke-Denis-in-2201The chairman was Peter McQueen. Since August last year the chairman is former Chief Minister Denis Burke (pictured in 2001).
The News yesterday morning asked to interview the chairman. This morning we were told Mr Burke “is not available to talk”.
We have passed on the invitation “to provide your questions in writing,” but have invited Mr Burke to provide comment on this report – entirely at his leisure, of course.
Mr Copland says while the regulatory bodies keep re-iterating what the neighbour is allowed to do under “home based contracting”, they do not act on what he is doing that is obviously not permitted.
In more than three years of fighting to get his rights acknowledged, and after numerous e-mails and meetings, Mr Copland says: “They simply regurgitate what is allowed but have never actually done anything to enforce compliance.”
Noisy manufacturing-type work is being carried out, apparently grinding or sawing, and there is significant vehicle traffic.
Mr Copland says the Development Consent Authority, the Development Assessment Services, the Minister for Planning and the Department of Lands and Planning are clearly not obtaining any first-hand information about the breaches. He says:–
• Contrary to the Planning Act, the business operates in a manner that detracts from the amenity of the locality.
• The neighbour is exceeding by far the 200 square meters he is allowed to use for “home based contracting”.
• A greater demand or load than ordinarily required is imposed on public utilities.
• Goods and equipment are visible from outside the site.
• More than three vehicles are kept on the site. (Mr Copland says today, for example, there are four 4WDs, a truck low loader about nine meters long, a truck and trailer with a digger on the back, another digger truck, four vehicles in the front under the car port, and going to work he passed another car coming in.)
“There were 11 vehicles that I could see, and more ’round the back,” says Mr Copland.
He says there is “permanent and temporary storage of plant, vehicles, containers, specific work related equipment, fill and gravel on this site.
“This does not included the numerous vehicles coming and going from the site which provide further daily occupation of the site area.
“Even highlighting a small portion of the area used aggregates to an area exceeding 1,200 square meters,” says Mr Copland.
“This does not account for the main shed which has a total area of around 430 square meters. A significant component of it is used directly in conjunction with the business on both a permanent and temporary basis.”
Part of the shed, apparently without the proper permissions, has been fitted out as an office complete with ablutions.
He says increased traffic density “not only creates a significant impost and danger to the locality but has already begun to damage the bitumen and road verge.
“The whole of the yard, storage, plant, vehicles, containers, equipment and parking areas encompass a significant area of the allotment every day.”
There are irregular hours of operation between, 5.30 am and 7 pm on any given day, including weekends.
Mr Copland says “home based contracting” would suggest the property needs to be the principal place of residence and occupied on a full time basis.
“This is not the case.
“How is the council able to reconcile an industrial and commercial use on an RL zoned allotment without making provision for a higher rateable value?
“Any commercial use on appropriately zoned land attracts a significantly higher rateable value and rate amount, commensurate with the significantly higher use of such land.
“Obviously those who carry out non compliant uses on lower density zoned land avoid any commercial rate payments to the detriment of all rate payers and local residents.”
PHOTO AT TOP: The red rectangle denotes the new shed. The yellow enclosures denote land the neighbour says is used for home based contracting. The parallel red lines in the top left of the photo denotes the access track. It alone takes up land well in excess of the 200 square meters permitted.
DECLARATION OF INTEREST: The writer lives in the neighbourhood.


  1. Hi Ross, perhaps the next step is to take your issue to the wider audience on the popular The Project show.

  2. Whats going on in town? People are running businesses from residences and people are living on industrial blocks.
    We have a council crying on everybody’s shoulder that they are missing out on government grants and want to put council rates. A good solution is for council to spend the $25m they have in the bank on some services that have been cut. If they have all this money they could improve services.

  3. This problem is not confined the RL Zones in the rural area, but also occurs in other Zones north of the Heavitree Range, and the DCA and the Department, for whatever reason, are less than consistent in their dealing with the issue.
    But firstly the term “amenity” is defined in the NT Planning Scheme specifically for use by the DCA, and that seems to also be treated inconsistently.
    The Scheme says: “Amenity” in relation to a locality or building, means any quality, condition or factor that makes or contributes to making the locality or building harmonious, pleasant or enjoyable.
    Over the last 15 or so years, I am aware of five blocks zoned RL where the DCA and/or the Department have stepped in and either directed the owners, in breach of the Scheme, to cease; or intentionally or otherwise have given the owners enough grief, that has resulted in the cessation of the activities: Two in the Colonel Rose Dve. area, two in the Ilparpa subdivision, and one on Ragonesi Rd.
    One of the Ilparpa ones was not proved to be in breach, but capitulated early.
    After one such incident initiated by the DCA about 10 years ago, I asked the then Chair of the DCA, John Pinney, what was the intention of the DCA on this issue, and his answer was quite clear – to ensure that property owners are acting legally – i.e. complying with the NT Planning Scheme.
    I urged Mr Pinney to take the community with him on this course (e.g. through education), else “there’d be tears before bedtime”. I see no evidence that any such education of property owners has occurred, and hence we have the situation we have today.
    Currently I (and I’m sure the Department) are aware of at least six such blocks including the one in this story, that are clearly in breach of the Scheme, or sailing very close to the wind – two in Ilparpa, two on Ross Hwy and two in the Colonel Rose Drive. area.
    The DCA and the Department must take responsibility for this situation in another aspect.
    A number of these blocks, now and in the past, have been operating transport terminals or similar. In the late 70s the Sargent / Cameron / Power St area was specifically set up as an area to support the transport industry, and supply the large blocks needed for terminals. But the DCA has allowed many of them to be subdivided, or used for other purposes, and so …
    Both the DCA, the Department and the NT Government need more people to be involved in keeping them to account, and protect the lifestyles and investments that so many folk have chosen. Unfortunately our democracy is well oiled with apathy, and the battle is left to too few.

  4. There is much about the DCA. What I have read to me has the rantings of someone sneaking around taking photos of people going about their life on their land. A person counting vehicles and taking photos, please that is harassment to me and an invasion of people’s privacy.
    Fact of life, we don’t always get want we want. A lesson Rod learnt with regards to the claypans. There are always rules and there are exceptions. This story to me is a beat up by a person who has no desire to accept a neighbour’s right to his land. I would never support a land owner’s right to disturb the life style of the neighbour.
    In this situation I have found no information about noise after afters as stated in law. Nothing that would disturb this person except his over developed spying addiction.
    If this was dealt with in court I am sure it would be thrown out as malicious. This is not a story about the problem with DCA it is about a man who wants to be heard because he does not have right in his side.

  5. Legal issues do seem petty to many as the law seeks clarity of meaning.
    Is it a breach of law for any Minister, Authority or person with Legislated or Delegated Authority failing to excercise such authority correctly?
    Were Development Consent Authority, the Development Assessment Services, the Minister for Planning, and the Department of Lands and Planning, each or all, clearly ignoring evidence?
    Issue IF yes, is whether this was by instruction or negligence, perhaps whether corruption exists?
    Persons holding assigned or delegated authorities known sometimes to feel restricted in their professional capability to perform their roles correctly. Doing the right thing should not effect careers, yet often such happens.
    Were any instructions re this clear, or implied ?
    Advising not to perform statutory duties may be an offence, involving whether such instructions are clear or implied.
    How superiors react to duties not performed may become an issue.
    The issue here is whether a proper investigation is needed?
    IF these claims are supported by facts, then an independent investigation appears necessary.

  6. I agree with Ross. Properties are ZONED for a reason and no land owner has the right to step over the line to make their life more comfortable (greed, selfish) and to make surrounding neighbours’ life a misery.
    There are plenty of business owners who live rural operating from a commercial / industrial zoned site. DCA has got to put a stop to anyone crossing the line.

  7. We have a “Transport Terminal” business running next door to us on Ross Highway, without consent.
    We are RL Zoned and DCA should have made the decision in 2012 that they operated from an industrial site and not put us directly affected in the so called “Due Process”.
    Plenty of rural owners operate from a commercial / industrial site zoned specifically for their business. We are one of them. We did NOT buy rural to live next door to a “Transport Terminal”. It was as everyone knows for the peace and quite.
    Trolls who support these large business operating out side “Home Base Contracting” should keep their opinions to them selves because they have NO IDEA of what’s going on unless they are one of them.

  8. Seeing as you publicly made it quite clear you have absolutely no idea “want I want” re the claypans, Janet Brown, I am waiting with great anticipation for you to explain your bizarre and quite irrelevant comments.
    The fact is, that every landowner (indeed, every resident) has a very reasonable right to expect their neighbour/s to abide by the zoning applying the land, just as every driver has a very reasonable right to expect other drivers to drive on the left hand side of the road.
    In the absence of the responsible entities not enforcing these statutes, for whatever reason, it is left to the public (and they have every right to), draw attention to the case i.e. voluntarily do the job of the Government (like many unpaid volunteers in many fields do), but there is a bonus – you get to get abused for exercising your rights, and not only by the alleged “offender”, as you have so ineloquently demonstrated.

  9. Again this shows an appalling lack of vision and long term strategic planning from a series of successive governments on both sides.
    There has been an obvious need for a system of catering for business from home entities and the obvious place to cater for these was Brewer estate.
    The problem has been brewing for years but ignored. There is where all the infrastructure is – power and water and future industrial development based around gas and electricity.
    In relation to Kilgarrif (another short sighted blunder, which should have been the dormitory suburb for Brewer and its inevitable industrialisation) I once asked Government planners why development was not taking place along the railway line as recommended by the Kilgarrif consultants.
    The reply was that although this was all signposted as Crown land it was not available for the Crown to acquire and use!
    How can that be?
    Had this been sorted out then it would have provided a useful alternative for people operating businesses such as this from home legally. There has never been any effort from Governments to address this problem.
    If there had been, the Northside industrial area would have flowed North along the railway line and given an opportunity to avert such situations as we see now and preserve the amenity of the rural community.
    Much the same logic applies to houses. Kilgarif was simply the easiest way out and not in the best interests of anyone apart from the real estate industry.
    There will obviously more and more pressure put on those who invest in a rural lifestyle to either industrialize or subdivide just as is happening in Darwin.
    It was so obvious over the longer term that the demand for industrial land would exceed supply but in the interests of political expediency nothing was done to cater for this.
    The same has happened with research land, where a once prominent facility which should have been used to blatantly advertise to the investing fraternity what can be done here has been hidden away where not many people know where to look. We needed a new industrial facility at Brewer.
    Further obvious evidence of this is the accumulation of mining equipment at the Bohning yards.
    That should have been telling a very shortsighted Government something. The Petrick Road situation is appalling, but only the tip of the iceberg unless the DCA acts immediately to enforced the regulations.


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