23 Jan 2018

More than 19,000 hoarding and squalor complaints made in Brisbane

Brisbane residents have complained about hoarding and squalor in the city more than 19,000 times in the past three years.

In the past financial year, the council received 6227 complaints, an increase of 364 on the previous year.

The complaints resulted in 32 individual cases of hoarding being identified and managed by the council, with 10 cases ongoing for more than a year.

The cases spanned across 24 suburbs with nine areas having multiple cases.

Suburbs with multiple hoarding and squalor cases include Brighton, Calamvale, Coorparoo, Fairfield, Graceville, Tarragindi, The Gap, Tingalpa and Windsor.

Toowong, Acacia Ridge, Boondall, Deagon, Eight Mile Plains, Holland Park, Kedron, Kelvin Grove, Milton, Moorooka, New Farm, Tennyson, Westlake, Woolloongabba and Wynnum West all had one hoarding case in the 2016-17 financial year.

The council introduced its dedicated response program for cases of hoarding and squalor in 2015 and this program has since attracted 19,373 complaints.

The council’s lifestyle chairman Matthew Bourke said hoarding and squalor were distinctly different to severe cases of hoarding as they are usually a symptom of mental health concerns.

“A council-led working group co-ordinates engagement with residents for hoarding issues and works with specialist community and mental health services as well as arrange cleaning services,” he said.

Cr Bourke said cases of squalor were generally unrelated to mental health issues and council would initially attempt to work with the resident prior to issuing public health orders.

A public health order, under the Public Health Act 2005, allows for either local council or state government to require the recipient of the order to take action to remove, reduce, control or prevent a risk to public health from a public health risk, such as hoarding and squalor.

If the person does not comply with the order they can be fined up to $15,000.

In the past two years, the council has issued about 100 public health orders to Brisbane property owners in both squalor and hoarding cases.

A recently issued public health order applies to a property on Ipswich Road at Annerley.

Over the past three years, the council had received several complaints about overgrown vegetation and objects at the property.

The council said over that time the council had worked with the owner but an inspection in mid-October 2017 resulted in a public health order being issued.

On October 24, while discussing the Annerley hoarding case within the council chambers, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said derelict properties had continued to be a problem for the 30-plus years he had been involved in local government.

“We have been working as an administration to address some of the circumstances surrounding some of these derelict properties,” he said.

“We also have limits within the law in which we can operate.

“So what might be beauty to one person might not be beauty as defined by law.

“We have local laws surrounding this, giving some definition to what is unsightly, what is unhealthy and our officers are required obviously to abide by those constraints and laws.”

At the 2016-17 Brisbane City Council budget, the council introduced a new $500,000 program designed to target unsightly properties.

The new initiative meant if the owners of an identified problem property did not voluntarily clean it, the council would engage contractors to clean up and then charge the resident for the council-ordered work on their next rates notice.

Since the program came into effect on June 30 the council has responded to 108 separate issues and are currently closely monitoring 58 properties.

Cr Bourke said while the council is responsible for ensuring properties are not a risk to public health, the property is ultimately the responsibility of the owner.

“Unsightly vegetation or objects on a property has an impact on neighbours, which is why council takes a proactive approach to managing these cases,” he said.


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