Volunteer organisation Find A Bed has had its offer to donate caravans as emergency accommodation for those affected by the bushfire crisis blocked because of local government legislation.
If you lose your home in a house fire, you can normally rely on your neighbours for temporary accommodation but when a whole community has been destroyed in a bushfire, your options are limited indeed. In an effort to help out victims of the recent bushfires in NSW, volunteer organisation Find A Bed was set up as a safe and accessible point of contact for those in need of emergency accommodation. The group gathers requests for accommodation and matches them with the most suitable free temporary or long-term accommodation including caravans donated by people from all over Australia.
Now this service has hit a snag thanks to an obscure regulation that could prohibit people from using caravans as emergency accommodation.
The Regulation at the heart of the issue is the Local Government (Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2005. Under the Regulation, homeowners are restricted to having just one caravan on their land without prior council approval, “so long as it is used for habitation only by the owner or by members of the owner’s household”.
That’s not all. The regulation also states that people can only use caravans, tents and other RVs for a maximum of two days at a time. They cannot occupy them for more than 60 days in total over a 12-month period without receiving prior approval from the local council.
The organisation’s co-founder Erin Riley said locals in the Batemans Bay area were concerned about the legal restrictions around caravan use. “Some people already own caravans or have access to caravans and just want to live on their land or nearby. In other cases, we have been offered donor caravans that people want to provide but can’t as long as the regulations are the way they are”.
The NSW State Government is currently scrambling to amend the law. A spokesperson for Planning Minister Rob Stokes said, “We are committed to removing any obstacle or red tape that would get in the way of helping bushfire-affected communities to recover.”
In addition to the need for emergency accommodation, Find a Bed is also trying to resolve another major problem. Their website states “Fire-affected communities are in desperate need of generators. We have requests from a number of communities to provide generators. We are seeking to raise money to purchase the generators directly, from local suppliers in or around affected communities where possible.”
“We are starting by raising $10,000 to purchase generators for people in the heavily fire-affected region of Eurobodalla: six for people around Moruya, and three for Katungal Aboriginal medical centre in Bateman’s Bay.”
“We’ll also be happy to facilitate direct donations of new or like-new generators.”
With any luck, there won’t be any more obscure laws or regulations getting in the way of that initiative.