Do our Real Estate Agents care if they’re selling coastal destruction?

You probably wouldn’t spend 5, 10 or 20 million dollars on a house with broken windows. But how about one with broken ethics? Would you buy, or sell, a house that you knew was causing environmental damage? 

This is a pointed issue in Noosa because some Real Estate Agents are selling houses that are clearly doing the wrong thing by their neighbours, the environment and what we call the Noosa ‘brand’.

These are houses that encroach on public land, destroy native vegetation and make volunteer bush-carers shake their heads in frustration. And there are hundreds of them.

We know that Real Estate Agents are engaged by property owners to sell their property at the best possible price. 

To do so, agents market the property by highlighting all its good points but, by law, they are required to ensure that buyers are not misled or deceived as to what is being sold.

So when local agents market properties which back on to the publicly owned dunes, why would they imply that the encroachment is a benefit to be purchased and prized? 

Destroying native plants, landscaping the dunes with lawn and installing invasive, non-native plants, sprinklers and barbecues and other infrastructure is totally inappropriate. 

The fact that neighbours have done it or that previous Councils have not acted does not justify this encroachment.

Clearing the dunes behind a property for a fire trail is limited to accord with Noosa Council by-laws to 3 to 4 metres. Your own personal “bowling green” stretching towards the beach does not qualify as a fire trail.

Yes “private beach accesses” have been allowed, but that does not allow for the destruction of the native vegetation to cut a swathe to the beach. 

Proximity to the beach can be highlighted but a property owner’s prior misuse of public land is not a legitimate selling point.

Real Estate Agents acting in the interest of the property owner have an obligation to inform potential purchasers that they may be required to rectify illegal encroachment on public land by restoring the native vegetation.

Likewise, Real Estate Agents managing rental properties could assist the community with education of renters about the value of the dunal system in preserving the rented property for storm surges and erosion while providing a habitat for wildlife and for the enjoyment of the community.

Noosa Council provides clearly signposted public beach accesses and use of these by the public preserves the dunes. Too many beach accesses emanating from private properties introduces weeds, and the tracks and their maintenance can damage vegetation.

Agents should assist the community and Council in preserving and regenerating the dunes if they wish to have a product that is attractive and marketable into the future.

Agents are responsible for marketing, subject to the owner’s instructions, but the property owner is responsible for any encroachment.

Our new Council has promised to ‘educate’ those doing the wrong thing by our fragile coastal defences.  Perhaps our Real Estate Agents would be a good place to start.  

The thoughtful, responsible agents will stand out in the crowd, and – who knows – they might even give the industry a good name.

Barry Cotterell is a retired barrister and a former chairperson of several Qld tribunals including two years as the full-time Chairperson of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Tribunal and six years as the part-time Chairperson of the REIQ Professional Standards Tribunal.


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