Neighbour pitted against neighbour …



… but it should not be necessary

PHOTOS: Above – A rural block as its owners love it, with orange tailed cockatoos feasting on native flora. Below – The shed that’s got them all stirred up.
The Ruling Living zoning should be enough to protect rural residents: neighbour would not be pitted against neighbour if the zoning were meaningfully regulated and enforced.
So argued Angela Copland today when the application by her neighbours in Petrick Road, Connellan – to allow their plumbing business to be run from their rural block – was heard by the Development Consent Authority.
People formally commenting to the Development Consent Authority on the proposal were 37 to five against it.
Authority chairman Denis Burke, formerly a CLP Chief Minister in the NT, had already agreed that there were “issues with enforcement right across” the rural areas of the NT.
He asked the applicant, Lily Tan, to explain why the DCA should approve the application when it was “well outside” the requirements of the Planning Scheme and when she had “shown little regard” for the proper processes, such as the screening of the (already existing) shed, machinery and activities.
Screening along the northern boundary had been promised by 2012-13, but nothing has been done to date.
Mrs Tan said she and her husband, plumber Steven Zanca, have been working progressively over four years towards getting everything into place. Mr Zanca is often on jobs out bush, so work on the block falls to her. They have hired the services of architect Domenico Pecorari to help them meet the requirements of the Act. “Over four years we are getting there,” she said.
Mr Burke warned that if the DCA moves against the application, Mrs Tan would have to “shut it down in a heartbeat”. The decision would be enforced, he said. Doing their best “to get around to it” would not be accepted. He acknowledged the applicants’ “heavy investment” in their business but also acknowledged the effect it is having on their neighbours.
The Planning Department’s advice to the authority is to approve the application with conditions. Mr Burke’s stern words towards the end of the two-hour meeting thus came as something of a surprise.
Earlier in the meeting he had seemed to be trying to find grounds for a compromise. He asked Ross Copland what kind of Home Based Contracting (HBC) he would find acceptable.
The kind that is allowed by the Planning Scheme said Mr Copland, that is, confined to storage on 200sqm.
That is the area within the shed being proposed for the applicants’ HBC activity, Mr Burke said.
But it was never their intention to maintain a simple shed, said Mr Copland.
(The plans show an office, a recreation area, bedrooms, ablution facilities. Plumbing went in with the slab. Only the framework exists for the bedrooms at present.)
“I take your point,” said Mr Burke.
He had pointed out to the applicants that their shed (400sqm) is not properly certified. He had advice from Fire and Emergency Services that it needs to be reclassified.
The original shed was certified but there have since been modifications, said Mr Pecorari. “But that is something I imagine would be complied with.”
It won’t be simple, however. Authority member Steve Brown pointed out that an Independent Unit dwelling would have to be “isolated by a firewall”. The applicants’ plans do not seem to have allowed for that.
This came after Erwin Chlanda (editor of this site but speaking as a resident objecting to the application) raised the spectre of 1000sqm sheds going up all over the rural area, housing Independent Units. There is no limit on the floor area of a shed in the rural area, only on its height. Mr Burke agreed that the Scheme could do with more definitions (for example, on the size of sheds).
Mr Burke said he would “take advice” on Mr Chlanda’s other key point, which is that Home Occupation, which Mrs Tan and Mr Zanca are applying for, would not allow them to run their plumbing business from the block, yet that is what they are hoping to do with Home Based Contracting, which they are also applying for.
Mr Burke did venture that the activity of doing the books for a business is not actually ‘running’ the business.
If that is so, countered Mr Chlanda, then dozens of different industries that operate like plumbers do – builders, carpenters etc – could well start looking at the rural area as an attractive base for their contracting operations. The land is cheaper, the rates are cheaper – less than a quarter of those applicable in the town’s industrial areas.
Mr Burke pointed out that Home Based Contracting would not be allowed for in the Planning Scheme if some sort of activity were not anticipated.
Given that, enforcement is not simple, he said. It involves trying to get compatibility between different values and uses: pristine rural living, activities allowed under the Scheme, and historic uses some of which lie “way outside” of any scheme.
In this situation, it is not surprising perhaps that we are facing the possibility of “forgiveness” after the event rather than actual “permission”, as president of the Alice Springs Rural Area Association Rod Cramer pointed out. (Mr Cramer was urging more education of the public about what they are and are not allowed to do on their properties.)
But will allowing yet another development that falls “well outside” the requirements of the Planning Scheme (quoting Mr Burke) do anything other than compound the situation?
The DCA gets to decide and there is no appeal.
Declaration of interest: The reporter lives in Petrick Road and formally objected to the application.


  1. I have driven out to these areas and most properties are poorly maintained and are a true eyesore.
    I am confused why there is such a big objection to the building or even running a small family business from their home.
    Is it loud? Does it interrupt your life in some way? OR is it simply just an objection to how it looks? If so I expect all objecting property owners to take a good look at their own properties and be sure they have been properly maintained.

  2. Hi Anonymous, as one rural resident (and objector to the application) I agree with you about the disgraceful state of many blocks.
    The Alice Springs News Online has frequently reported about this issue, and the failure of regulatory bodies to regulate.
    It is quite a task – albeit a joyful one – to keep two hectares in good shape.
    We spent hundreds of man hours getting rid of buffel. Our reward is in some 25 species of native vegetation.
    Very little of our block is cleared.
    We leave fallen timber on the ground, as a habitat for insects, to the delight of hundreds of birds feeding on them and enhancing our lifestyle with their marvelous songs.
    Under the logs on the ground and throughout the block live lots of reptiles, including one or two really big perenties.
    We have no quarrel with Home Based Contracting and Home Occupation as they are currently defined.
    Turning our lovely neighborhood into an industrial area? No, thanks.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor and rural dweller

  3. Enforcement is the major issue. The regulator is certainly looking like a paper tiger. What about for the plumbers who do the right thing in town, the right thing for our economy and respect the zoning rules? They are unfairly competing against a rule flouting, low cost operator.
    There are many examples though. There is a builder in Smith Street who has recently set up a large block of demountable buildings. Looks like a workers camp – how is the regulator satisfied? Perhaps they are just demountable “display homes”.

  4. As an ex Alice resident now far away from your town it strikes me that someone in planning is not doing their job properly.
    It seems to me that the operative word here is “Rural” blocks. For people to purchase rural blocks for any other reason than for rural uses, knowing the Zoning of the area, then to turn their “rural” block into a business and an eyesore are obliviously breaking local regulations, and possibly even the law. Come on Alice Council. Do your job.

  5. Or they could just be waiting to be deployed out bush when the need arises. Do you think their employees live out of a swag when they’re building community infrastructure, Alice Local?

  6. Harold, that’s a bit naive. If they are waiting to “be deployed” then they would not need a high privacy fence, a connection to power, water and sewer (PWC – are you aware of this?) nor would there be lights on at night …

  7. I would have to agree, they are starting to turn this area into an industrial waste land.
    The zoning needs to be adhered to and the structures which are to be built or have been built need to conform with zoning regulation.
    I used to live next to a neighbour who built a similar shed and he was instructed by council, as they have power in the state I lived, to lower the shed by 4ft or they were going to demolish it.
    Also, he had to plant trees, so that the shed was not visible.
    People buying rural living blocks need to abide by the zoning laws.
    Oh, that’s right “this is Alice Springs”, so the saying goes, there is no law!
    What are the Department of Land doing? That is the question. Are they getting sit down monies as well?

  8. Anoymous: Did you not drive out along Ross hwy? if you did you must have turned a blind eye to the ‘Transport Business’ operating with out consent. Yes it is loud go stand in a transport yard in the industrial area and you will get the idea.


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