Like a lot of modern legislation, the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011 adopts a title which somewhat overstates its actual effect. In reality the Act deals with two topics that cause problems between neighbours – fences and trees – and tactfully declines to go any further.
Don’t get me wrong, without an Act describing how to get agreement between neighbours on fence construction we would be on the slippery slope to suburban anarchy! But we already had the Dividing Fences Act 1953. Overhanging tree branches, falling leaves and undermining roots can be dangerous or just plain annoying. It was a brave move to finally introduce legislation allowing ordinary people to bring these matters to QCAT rather than having to seek injunctions from the superior courts.
But what about retaining walls? What about surface water drainage? What about noise? These are the issues that really get people’s backs up and there’s precious little the average punter can do about any of them. It’s a matter of trying to get Council or Government authorities to do something about it, or bring expensive and risky proceedings in court.
And what about when it all turns really sour and neighbours are starting to make, and carry out, threats to person and property? The outdated Peace and Good Behaviour Act 1982 just doesn’t cut it in 2013. How about we wrap up all of the above topics in one great big Act? Then we can really call it the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act!
Julian Porter is Principal Solicitor of Suncoast Community Legal Service.
This column contains legal information only. Legal advice should be sought in relation to individual circumstances.