Council has eye in the sky

Council has eye in the sky

March 2016 | Marguerite McNeill

SOMETIMES IT might appear that your every move is under scrutiny.

With today’s technology it seems that Big Brother is looking over your shoulder whichever way you turn.

Cameras check your every movement in department stores, on pavements and roads, at public venues and, in some cases, even in and around private homes.

There’s no doubt that most of those cameras, sited in the name of security, provide a safeguard to the welfare of communities and have proved to be of great assistance in the face of crime.

But how far does that surveillance of our private lives extend and who is watching?

At the local level that leads to the question of building codes and what council does to make sure it is meeting its obligations to check what is being built under the State Government legislation.

The Building Act 2000 requires Council to be aware of building works in its municipality to ensure all building and plumbing work is safe and built to regulation.

Meander Valley Council’s Development Services Director, Martin Gill, said that information about building activities was gathered in a variety of ways.

In addition to the publicly available satellite imagery and maps on websites such as the state government “the List”, Council has its own satellite images that are renewed every five years. Changes to the historical images are quickly evident.

Reports of building works also came from planners speaking to building teams, neighbours and other community members.

Council’s attention is also drawn to buildings and accompanying permits when properties are put up for sale.

“Council does not proactively spy on people,” Mr Gill said.

“But we are obliged to keep track of new building and plumbing works. Government legislation demands it.”

Although most building works do require a Council permit there are certain outbuildings that are exempt.

Currently exemptions include sheds less than 18sqm, with roof spans less than 3m and no higher than 2.4 m.

Decks and pergolas and garden arches are also exempt if they are less than 20 square metres in area, not covered, or only covered by an open-weave material and no more than 3 metres above the ground.

However, Government legislation is set to change later this year and in many cases it should become easier and less expensive to meet the standards.

Meantime, building regulations are complex and rural and urban rules can vary, so it is best to ask.