John Dockery and his wife, Carmen, have to meet “ridiculous” new fire safety standards to build their home thanks to the overgrown property next door.
John Dockery and his wife, Carmen, have to meet “ridiculous” new fire safety standards to build their home thanks to the overgrown property next door.

'Ridiculous' new fire standards

METAL flyscreens, aluminium coverings on every door and window: Anyone would think John and Carmen Dockery were planning to build a bunker in the middle of the Black Saturday disaster zone.

But thanks to “ridiculous” new bushfire standards, these are just some of the requirements that must be met by the Maryborough couple – so they can build a steel frame house on a cleared block of land at Aldershot.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Mr Dockery said. “We are looking at an extra $8000.

“And it’s all because of the overgrown block next door. Because it’s so close, it means our block is classified as a bushfire hazard under the new law.”

The Dockerys believe they would be able to build their house without the “extreme” measures if the unruly block was cleared.

But all attempts to contact the New South Wales owner over the past month have proven fruitless – and the couple is not prepared to foot the bill of clearing the block.

“Our grass gets a foot long and we get a letter from the council asking us to cut it. Why doesn’t that apply to (the owners of the block next door)?” Ms Dockery said.

“Surely, if this block is a fire hazard then the council should do something about it anyway.

“We’ve tried absolutely everything but no one really knows about this new law.”

Michael Tappenden, the owner of Greencrest Homes – and the Dockerys’ builder – said yesterday  “all the builders” were shaking their heads at the new laws, which came in around Christmas time.

“It’s overkill,” he said.

“With the situation at Aldershot, they have to have full security screens not just over the sliding windows, but every window. Every window, every opening must have full screening with aluminium coverings.

“All the glass has to be 5mm thick ... it’s just ridiculous.”

Mr Tappenden said, to his understanding, most of Aldershot was classed as a low fire danger area.

“Aldershot is low because it’s residential, however, all the houses on the edge are subjected to higher ratings.

“There’s bush about 30 metres across the road from (the Dockerys) but that’s not a problem. It’s the block next door. If the owner would come along and clear it then everybody would be happy.”

According to a Fraser Coast Regional Council spokesperson, the new Australian Standard (AS3959-2009) applies to new homes in bushfire prone areas – the main purpose being to protect life and property as a potentially safe refuge in bushfires.

Property owners have a responsibility to make themselves aware of the financial and non-financial implications associated with building in a bushfire-prone area.

“While the removal of vegetation is made assessable development under the Hervey Bay City Planning Scheme 2006, the provisions relating to bushfire management make it clear that vegetation can be removed for the purposes of providing fire breaks around houses.”



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