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'God' defence rejected

A downstairs extension to this South Golden Beach house will have to be pulled down on the orders of Mullumbimby Local Court.
A downstairs extension to this South Golden Beach house will have to be pulled down on the orders of Mullumbimby Local Court. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

A MOTHER and daughter told a court only God had the authority to order them to pull down an illegal extension to their South Golden Beach property, but the magistrate took a different view.

In a hearing at Mullumbimby Local Court on Thursday, Byron Shire Council argued the downstairs area of the property was not approved to live in as part of the original development consent and it should be demolished.

The council's governance manager, Ralph James, said despite several requests over the past two years, the property owner had not taken any reasonable steps to get the downstairs development approved or cease use of the area.

"Of concern was the fact that the house was located in an area that is subject to flooding," he said.

"The closed-in downstairs area was 1.6m below the Council's flood planning level, and 0.7m below the level of the flood that occurred in 2005."

The shire argued the pair breached the Building Code of Australia by using poor quality brackets on a rear veranda extension, no complying handrails on the stairs and no smoke detectors on the lower part of the property.

The council was originally notified of the illegal extensions by a community member and the matter was listed for December 1, 2011 but the defendants failed to attend.

When the matter was heard, the women submitted a written argument stating they did not have to submit to the jurisdiction of the court, or the council

God was only jurisdiction they recognised, she told the court.

Southern Cross University lecturer in the school of law and justice, Warwick Fisher, said it was an unusual defence.

"It's a strict rule of Australian government that the church and state are separate. The church deals with spiritual matters and the state makes laws regarding its citizens and that includes land law," he said.

The magistrate found against the pair, fining them a total $6000 and ordering they pay the council's professional costs of $3000.

Mr James said it was a signal to property owners to seek council development approval.

Topics:  court god illegal magistrate



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