Noosa Council will apply a velvet glove over a steel fist approach to countering encroachment on council land.
Education will be the glove, in what has become a major and diverse problem across Noosa Shire.
Recent media covering coastal-dwelling residents unlawfully vegetating sand dunes and creating private paths across the dunes to beaches have highlighted a particularly egregious example of encroachment.
But council has been advised of others, including removing/interfering with vegetation, dumping fill or rubbish, yard extensions, private infrastructure and paths, materials storage, and unauthorised planting and landscaping.
“Encroachments can exist across council-managed land, including road verges, esplanade areas, parks and bushland reserves,” a staff report informed councillors at the June General Committee meeting.
Priority cases will be those which impact on safety, such as unauthorised fencing or other structures which can impede firefighters’ ability to contain a fire in a pocket of bushland near residences.
But broadly, resident and business education will be the first step, according to the draft Encroachments Policy and Operational Procedures for the Noosa Shire.
“This is a big tick in terms of a long-term, very annoying problem in this council,” Cr Brian Stockwell told the meeting.
“In the absence of a policy [on this] we’ve had different members of council going out and giving different advice … now we’ve got one approach,” he said.
Cr Stockwell said educating people who often unwittingly created problems was a good approach.
“We shouldn’t be waiting for a council officer to come and knock on their door; we need to have people saying: ‘I need to do something about it’.
Cr Stockwell also provided the alarming statistic that a study of eastern beach land showed “90% of properties on eastern beaches had some form of encroachment”.
“That’s massive,” he said.
“Some of these encroachments existed even before the present owners even owned their block of land.
“(This) will give them the clearest picture of what is acceptable and what is not.
“But … our first (task) is to get them to understand what the policy says, seek their voluntary compliance, and use what we have in our enforcement mechanism if needed.”
Councillors unanimously endorsed the proposal (Crs Amelia Lorentson and Karen Finzel excused themselves prior to debate due to potential conflicts of interest).