Council 'a bully' in home fight
BATTLING severe depression following the deaths of her two sons, Bundaberg woman Karen Bailey accuses the council of acting like a bully in a five-year legal struggle over her incomplete house.
The mental health worker had an old house moved on to land at Avondale but the necessary structural rebuild, installation of septic tanks, water and connection to power fell years behind.
She blames her fragile health, severe depression and hospitalisation, and financial issues.
Ms Bailey runs Harts Accommodation Services and said she originally planned for the house to be used for respite or mental health care but there was opposition to this. Then, due to financial problems, she decided she needed to live there.
Bundaberg Regional Council took the matter to the Planning and Environment Court in 2012 and orders were made for Ms Bailey to complete the work.
All building works including roof, windows and floor were to be completed by October 2012 with an inspection certificate issued.
But due to her problems the work was not done and the council took her back to court in May, saying she was in contempt of its Sustainable Planning Act and it had little choice but to take legal action over her "flagrant and continued disregard of the order”.
Struggling and in desperation, Ms Bailey asked the council in 2013 to pay work contractors $9500 for the septic and water connections as she had become homeless.
"I've become homeless and need to live there permanently so it is a matter of urgency for me. Having the water and septic would help a lot,” she said.
"The Westpac Bank is also quite appalled at how you would treat someone that is making a difference in your region with mental health patients ... domestic violence against families, pregnant teenage girls and of course, the homeless.”
Ms Bailey told the council the ongoing proceedings were distressing to her and she had engaged mental health lawyers to act for her.
"Can't this matter be sorted without legal action? At least work with me and help me,” she pleaded.
She informed the council she had not complied, saying that she was grieving over the death of two sons, receiving medical treatment, and her business had suffered, putting her into financial hardship and on the edge of bankruptcy.
Ms Bailey said her house had been called "an eyesore” and she questioned why the council had not used some of the $40,000 bond she gave to have the streetscape of the house improved, such as painting.
In the latest court development, Judge Richard Jones found her contempt proven but, in a small victory for Ms Bailey, gave her more time to comply, by March 2018.
He accepted that financial circumstances, mental and other health issues caused her difficulty in complying with the previous court orders but said this did not fully explain the extent of the delay.
"It's knocked me for a sixer but since the court decision I can see the light. I thank the judge,” Ms Bailey said.
"But the council is still bullying. It even contacted my building certifier and did not want him to take me on as a client,” she said.
"I've obviously been very sick, depression got hold of me and I've been hospitalised. Some of it because of the stresses of dealing with council.
"A lot of the work has been done and if I can get some help from tradies it will be completed.”
"Council relies on the record of the court which is a public document and provides a detailed summary of the issues in the case,” a spokesman said.
"The judgment itself is in response to an earlier breach of a court order by Karen Bailey from 2012, where building development works had not been finalised in the manner and timing directed by the court.
"Council officers have attempted to work constructively with Ms Bailey over the past five years to achieve compliance with the requirements of the earlier court order, however, the required works have not been completed. This recent judement itself confirms that the council was left with no alternative, other than to bring these current proceedings and in doing so, has been successful.
"It is council's view that this development compliance matter has been ongoing for an extended period without resolution and has continued to be the subject of public complaint during this time.”