DISPLACED | Council demolishes children’s tree house

Posted on 18/04/2010

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Yesterday a friend was telling me about a battle raging in nearby Newmarket, so I’ve searched around for some news updates. A group of children will have their tree house torn down by Brisbane City Council. The tree house, constructed as a series of platforms in a massive rubber tree, is used as a meeting place for residents in the street, with birthday parties and other local gatherings held there, as well as many informal play sessions. According to an ABC story, eight boys from six families have spent hundreds of hours building it, scavenging building materials and tools to construct four platforms. Local dads have supervised, intervening to ensure the safety of the structure.

Fear of litigation has prompted the move to demolish the ‘unsafe’ structure and an offer from the Lord Mayor to rebuild the tree house, which was located on Council land. Another Councillor has said that more effort should be made to make the exisiting structure, which the children had designed and built themselves, safer. It appears that there is little room for negotiation.

Apparently, someone in the locality complained about it. The basis of the complaint was not the safety of the children but rather that it overlooked their yard and imposed on their privacy …

Read the story online at:
http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/04/13/2871056.htm

I particularly liked this response on a news blog: “my kids want a tree house in their local park … should I build a dodgy one, and then get Council to pull it down and build a council approved one!!” Unfortunately, important questions like this remain unanswered. When I posted this story to facebook someone asked if allowing the treehouse to remain meant we all have the right to build in our local parks. There’s obviously some considerations of precedent here. Perhaps, if adopting a legal lens, there are issues of vandalism to consider – graffitti is removed and perpetrators face legal retribution of various kinds.

Obviously Council has regulations, liability is a real issue and citizens have rights, and there are issues about precedent, but some responses seem more arbitrary than the imposition (or not) of regulations. I planted flowers around my street trees and they were ripped out as part of routine footpath maintenance – where is the threat there? We mulch our street trees with organic sugar cane mulch but Council insists on mulching with woodchip, which we understand impacts on the health of the soil. Don’t get me started on the maintenance crews that simply mow over litter, leaving shredded rubbish all over the street to wash into stormwater systems, rather than clean it up.

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