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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 12:10

New dividing fence legislation in QLD

Legislation passed in Queensland Parliament last night will provide an affordable framework to help people resolve issues with overhanging branches and dividing fences.


Disputes over trees and fences are often difficult to resolve with the old laws ill equipped to deal with them without a big legal cost, with some disputes ending up in violence or worse.


New laws passed by the Queensland Parliament spell out clearly neighbours obligations in relation to fences and trees to better reflect fair treatment for all involved.


Deputy Premier and Attorney General Paul Lucas said the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011 clearly outlined neighbours' responsibilities in relation to the matter. It also provides safeguards for the elderly and people who might not have the physical capacity to lop branches themselves.


"One of the key aspects of this legislation is fast-tracked mechanisms for demonstrated costs of up to $300 for trees below 2.5 metres to be recovered where the parties can't agree on resolving it themselves," Mr Lucas said.


"Whilst able-bodied people might find it easy to trim a neighbour's overhanging branches, for many pensioners, this is an impossibility and could possibly create a very stressful situation.


"These provisions give neighbours the opportunity of getting a quote from a tree lopper up to an amount of $300.


"The Act does not allow a general claim of $300 but only where there is a bona fide quote of equal to or above that amount.


"This means that people won't have to worry about a protracted dispute if there is an issue with overhanging branches.


"Any next door neighbour with a tree on their property, if they believe that amount is unreasonable, can either lop the overhanging branches, get a cheaper quote themselves or let their neighbour do it.


"Where agreement between neighbours can't be reached, they will have access to a simplified, low-cost solution by applying to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an amount up to $300.


"For trees larger than 2.5 metres, if people are unable to agree, they will need to go to QCAT to seek an order to have the tree trimmed or lopped, depending on the circumstances of the case.


"Obviously disputes will arise from time to time but this legislation will go a long way to helping neighbours maintain a harmonious relationship."


Mr Lucas said a draft of the legislation released for public consultation last year had attracted more than 200 submissions, with trees arousing the most interest.


He said the legislation also included a clear definition of what is a sufficient dividing fence and how cost should be apportioned.


"The legislation provides a clear picture of when a fence needs to be replaced and what is a reasonable contribution to its installation and/or maintenance," he said.


The legislation is expected to come into effect towards the end of 2011 after a public education campaign.


3 August 2011.

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