Tyranny Demanded By Complaining Citizens
'No-no's rule the neighbourhood' by Lachlan Heywood The Courier-Mail, 10/8/2002

YOUR home is your castle —or is it? One thing's for sure, it is under attack from a growing list of rules and regulations.

A bombardment of government "no no's", with hefty penalties to ensure adherence, is changing the way we live. On almost every front, home-owners are seeing their personal freedoms eroded for the common good. In Brisbane, backyard burning is out; knocking down trees in certain areas is out; and advertising your car on the street is out. Other planned restrictions include a ban on new open fire places and hot-water systems, and a crackdown on jetties, pontoons and swimming pools from the shores of the Brisbane River's upper reaches.

University of Queensland local government specialist Doug Tucker said the daunting array of restrictions was a reflection of our increasingly urban society.

"Out in the countryside, your next-door neighbours are considerably further away and you don't often feel that sort of pressure from neighbours," he said.

Mr Tucker said most rules were in place for a legitimate reason, usually to stop residents ruining the quality of life of others in the neighbourhood.

"I don't think councils or governments do these things just because they think: 'how are we going to stick it to the citizens next week?'. They do it because they get a rising volume of complaints and if they don't do something, there will be electoral consequences." He said.

But Mr Tucker said that elected representatives had an obligation to get the balance right.

"They are the ones who must strike a balance between not intruding too much on individual freedoms, but at the same time ensuring people on the receiving end of noise and various things are not unduly disturbed too," he said. "People may say there are too many of these damn restrictions, but if they don't want so many, they should really take themselves off to a rural environment where the need for those sorts of curbs are not so great."

Local Government Association of Queensland executive director Greg Hallam said councils were only reacting to community pressures.

"Unfortunately in a modern society, good neighbourly processes are diminishing and people are resorting more to rules and legislation, and that is reflected through local government," he said.

Mr Hallam said the issues that really irked the community were those that impacted on amenity, such as noise and air quality.

"For instance with noisy pool filters and air-conditioners, councils have to try and balance the individual freedoms against those of the broader community," he said.

But Mr Hallam conceded it was not always an easy task. "One person's treasure is another person's poison," he said.

Mr Hallam said councils were limited in the powers they had, and many of the laws administered by local authorities, were in fact introduced by the state.

Brisbane Liberal councillor Carol Cashman said it was the fines linked to rules and regulations which most upset the community. "I think there could be a case for more warnings before fines are issued," she said.

Councillor Cashman said as Brisbane's density increased so would the number of complaints, particularly in relation to noise.