City of Greater Geraldton stands by building fees for cyclone Seroja affected properties

Headshot of Elise Van Aken
Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
A fence which blew down in Mahomets Flats during cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconA fence which blew down in Mahomets Flats during cyclone Seroja. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

The City of Greater Geraldton has opted not to waive building and planning application fees for properties damaged by cyclone Seroja earlier this year, saying to do so would be illegal.

At the August ordinary council meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Shane Van Styn opposed the City executive’s recommendation, citing sections of the Building Act which he said would make it illegal, despite the Perenjori, Mingenew and Chapman Valley councils agreeing to waive the same fees in May.

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“Section 22 of the Building Act 2011 states a building application must not be granted by the permanent authority unless ... the application must be accompanied by the prescribed fee,” he said.

“So therefore it seems to be the case if the fee is not received, a building permit authority cannot grant an application for the building.

“I notice the Shire of Northampton did not waive building fees in their area on the basis that insurance companies are going to be the entities that are funding building works by and large, and waiving fees to large insurance companies seems to be not such a good idea.

“It’s a loss of revenue and would probably cost the City around $20,000-$25,000.”

City of Greater Geraldton's chief executive officer Ross McKim.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton's chief executive officer Ross McKim. Credit: Supplied

City chief executive Ross McKim said the reason the item still went to the council was the legal advice had been finalised only after it was too late to change the published meeting agenda.

“We followed in the footsteps of Chapman (Valley) here, and the intention of the paper was good,” he said.

“Legally it appears we can’t go far with this one tonight but we would, if councillors are of the mind, have a chat with the building commissioner and see if there is any way around ... maybe they pay and we refund, depending on if there’s an appetite from councillors, but that’s something we can look at down the track.”

Cr Jenny Critch spoke to the motion, saying while she understood the motion had legal ramifications, not all residents would benefit from an insurance company covering their building or planning application fees.

Jennifer Critch.
Camera IconJennifer Critch. Credit: Natasha Gilmartin

“I just wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention that not everyone was covered by insurance that was affected by the cyclone,” she said.

“There are still many residents living under tarpaulins and many having issues with even just getting their insurance.

“The clean-up of asbestos is taking time and (more) money than some of those houses were actually insured for, especially on farms.

“This small gesture would have been a big help to some of those living in limbo, so I’d love to see some other way we could show some help.”

A motion not to waive the fees was passed 11 votes to one.

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