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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Pub Test: Should Council kick out people living in sheds in these difficult of times

Should Council kick out people living in sheds for want of having no-where to live? During this period of an extreme housing shortage should Council be looking to get rid of some of its draconian red tape that is being imposed on people who are daring in live in sheds on their own properties rather than live out of their car on the streets? Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher says action is needed by all levels of government to ease the shire’s housing crisis, and he’s starting locally. The Mayor said this week “We need to think differently about this and explore new ways to help our residents, and we need the NSW and Federal governments to do the same.

“NSW Government regulations prevent people staying in campgrounds for longer than 50 days in one year. Obviously we’re overlooking that at the moment so families have somewhere to be in the midst of this crisis.”

“We’ve also this month written to the NSW Government calling on them to provide worker housing ahead of the Moruya bypass and regional hospital construction. That housing could be used by locals once the projects are complete.

“Council staff have also worked with local agencies to pilot a program providing free hot showers and laundry services for people experiencing homelessness, and through my own contacts I’ve arranged for 500 blankets to be donated and distributed locally to those in need.

“We’re doing our bit, and we’re now asking the NSW and federal government to do theirs.” The Mayor might like to look at the Council's own actions in giving notices to those who are living in sheds on their own property either awaiting Development applications for new or replacement homes. Generally speaking, living in a shed is not allowed. This is because your standard shed is classed as a 10a building making it non-habitable. Sheds, carports, private garages and similar structures fall under this category. If you want to live in a shed, it must meet the criteria of a Class 1a building. The perversity of removing someone from their property and forcing them to find rental accommodation that is a rarity and unaffordable is worthy of mentioning. The reality that someone living in their shed in the middle of winter for want of living in a Class 1a building if they could afford it raises the issues of mental health and wellbeing. Obviously they are already doing it hard for whatever reason and to be TOLD to vacate their own property via an official Notice and to do so by a particular date is immoral. Yes, Council will say that they have no option but to comply with the rules, and that most actions are a result of a neighbour complaining, but really? Is this who we have become? New planning provisions, announced by the NSW Government in February, allow people affected by bushfire to establish temporary accommodation like caravans on their property without the need for council approval.

Shipping containers will also be permitted to store belongings while rebuilding takes place, while extended stays in a caravan park or camping ground are now allowed for up to two years under the expanded exemptions.

The changes were effective immediately, and according to Eurobodalla Council’s director of planning and sustainability Lindsay Usher, represented a swift and helpful response to bushfire impacted communities by the NSW Government. But who qualifies? It turns out that only "people affected by bushfire" qualify, and in order to qualify you need to have evidence that your house burnt down. But 500 homes burnt down. Adding to the immediate demand for 500 rentals came the major projects in Batemans Bay that brought an influx of out-of-towners. They too added to the rental demand. The final straw was Covid and the influx of life-changers who added their own demands to rentals or aided in the real-estate spike that saw long term rentals emptied and then sold to take advantage of a market that was going vertical. Our homeless are "people affected by bushfire". It was more than 500 families who lost their homes. The domino effect set in place by the bushfires and then exacerbated by surging demands and life-changers sees us where we are today. The greater perversity in all of this is that someone who is fortunate enough to have a shed, a borrowed tent or caravan and locate that safely out of harms way on a property is considered, by law, to be infringing and Council has no option but to remove them with no obligation to find a housing solution and force them to live in a car, a tent or under a bridge. In Moruya alone we have 50 families living in tents at North Moruya camping ground. The camping ground sites are unpowered, there are rudimentary septic toilets with the bonus of cold showers only and all this can be yours for just $78 per week. Temporary camping equipment only is allowed onsite. Basically you are not allowed to set up a home or any semblance of permanence. Unoccupied caravans, campervans and tents are not to be allowed to remain in the camping ground for more than 24 hours. God forbid that someone becomes ill and needs to stay in hospital or leave the area for medical treatment. Best of all the Council or its agents reserve the right to direct any persons to vacate the area at any time without the necessity of stipulating the reason for such action and any person so directed shall vacate the area without delay. So where can the homeless turn to. Fortunately there is a NSW Government Homeless People Policy that might be of use in regards to establishing Council protocols for the homeless we have the the more to come. NSW Government agencies including National Parks follow guidelines to ensure that homeless people are treated appropriately and receive services if they need or request them.

These guidelines are derived from the NSW Government Protocol for homeless people in public places (the Protocol).

The Protocol is based on the following principles:

  • Homeless people have the same entitlement as other members of the public to:

    • be in public places (while respecting the right of local communities to live in a safe and peaceful environment)

    • participate in public activities or events

    • carry with them and store their belongings.

  • Any response to homeless people should consider their diverse backgrounds and needs. Aboriginal homeless people, and homeless people from other cultural backgrounds, should be treated with sensitivity and respect.

  • Behaviour by homeless people that appears antisocial may be the result of mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues, or cognitive impairment.

  • Homeless people may have experienced other issues that affect their needs (for example, they may have experienced domestic violence or left custody or statutory care).

  • Homeless people have the same access to a right of reply and appeals/complaints mechanisms as any other members of the public.


  1. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (part of the Department of Planning and Environment) will implement the Protocol.

  2. The Protocol states that, as a general rule, a homeless person should be left alone and not asked to 'move on'. If a homeless person is in a park in an area that is generally accessible to the public, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff will intervene only when:

    • the person asks for help or help is being offered

    • the person appears to be distressed or in need of help

    • the person's behaviour threatens their safety or the safety and security of others

    • the person's behaviour is likely to result in damage to property or the environment.

  1. The Protocol does not prevent NPWS from taking appropriate action where there is an ongoing breach of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) or the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019 (NPW Regulation) that has implications for park management. For example, removing a homeless person and their property from a park may be justified if the person's behaviour threatens park visitors or is likely to result in damage to the park. It may also be appropriate if the person can find suitable accommodation elsewhere (this needs to be ascertained by consulting with relevant support services and/or talking to the homeless person).

  2. If the NPW Act or the NPW Regulation has been breached, NPWS staff should first consider dealing with the matter informally (for instance, by asking that a person cease certain activities, remove a structure and their belongings, and/or leave the park).

  3. If a homeless person needs help, NPWS staff should:

    • contact and involve assistance services directly

    • provide advice or information to the homeless person about available services

    • provide a contact point that the homeless person can call or go to for further advice and help.

  1. NPWS staff should respect homeless people's rights over their own property. Using legal powers to remove a person or his or her property should only be done in exceptional circumstances, such as where:

    • warnings to remove property have failed

    • the property impedes access or is a threat to health and safety

    • the property poses threats to park property and the environment

    • other avenues to offer assistance have failed.

If seizure, impounding or other similar powers are used, this must be done in strict accordance with the law.

  1. Before NPWS staff issue penalty infringement notices to a homeless person they should consider the implications and practicalities of issuing such notices.

  2. If NPWS staff think that acting in accordance with paragraphs 2 and 3 of this policy may be unsafe for staff or others, they should seek the assistance of NSW Police.

  3. If NPWS staff are uncertain about implementing the Protocol (for example, about how to remove from a park a homeless person who has acted unlawfully, or remove or seize unlawful structures or property), they should seek the advice of Legal Services.

  4. NPWS staff should maintain a record of their interactions with homeless people, including:

    • details of the people

    • times and locations of the interactions.

This record should be used to locate homeless people when areas of a park need to be evacuated (for example, if there's a fire or flood).

There has to be some give and take in all of this. Eurobodalla has homeless. They are us. There but for the grace of god go each and all of us. We saw that with the bushfires. One minute you might have it all and the next you don't. Mental health, unemployment, alcohol or drug dependence, abandonment, loneliness, futility, none of us are above that. Yet here it is on our doorstep and we deal with it by way of laws, litigation and coldness that provides nothing. “This is a crisis,” Mayor Hatcher says. “The shire’s homelessness services are providing all the right supports to people, but there’s simply no housing. That’s the issue none of us can address.”

He said this week he was hearing loud and clear the community’s cries to support people living in tents, particularly at the Council-owned North Head campground at Moruya where around 50 families are currently living.

“Case workers are already supporting people at the campground. I understand the good intentions of people calling on Council to open up halls for shelter, but before that can happen we need to examine practicalities like personal safety, privacy, the available facilities, and whether local agencies are resourced to manage them.”

The Mayor said opening up halls was one thing, but more permanent medium-term solutions were needed to help solve homelessness in the Eurobodalla.

“I want to explore the feasibility of a pilot project funded by the Federal government to build tiny homes on Council or Crown land,” he said.

“Council could also consider taking a loan to build a facility to be run by one of our local homelessness services.”

The Mayor said he understood these actions were outside the usual local government responsibilities, but these were extraordinary times.

Lets maintain the momentum and find a solution outside of the box. Maybe rules have to be changed. Maybe policies and guidelines have to be broken.

Above: for some of our homeless this image is luxury. And yes, these camps have hot water and electricity.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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