Council tells family to remove backyard tree house it says breaches Building Code

Anna Burns-Francis
Source: 1News

A Dunedin family has been told to remove a backyard tree house after the council decided it was in breach of the Building Code. 

The tree hut, built by grandad Trevor Norman, has given his grandsons Logan, Devon and Ethan hours of fun.

But a visit from the Dunedin City Council – prompted by a privacy complaint from the neighbours – has seen the tree house in line for the chop.

Trevor – who built the platform with a friend – is questioning what the council is spending its resources on.

"What's wrong with kids playing in their own backyard anymore, are we not allowed that?" he said.

"I don't see why the Council would waste their time on it."

The platform, ladders and railing sit in the plum tree owned by Trevor's daughter Janice Norman-Oke.

"They've all had their friends over. We've got quite a few kids in the neighbourhood, they've all been over climbing it. They all have gone home and said to their parents they want one too," said Janice.

But shortly after it was built, Janice was notified by the Council that a neighbour had complained the tree house disturbed their privacy.

Rachael and Martin Morris said they approached the Council asking about "guidance regarding privacy, and in the process alerted the Council about the tree house structure".

Council inspectors visited, and decided that while there was no breach of privacy – the tree house didn't meet the Building Code.

"I think it's rather ridiculous," said Janice.

The structure isn’t exempt under provisions for private playground equipment, because the safety railing takes the overall height to more than three metres – which means, it needs a building consent.

And the Council – which refused to be interviewed by Fair Go – said in a statement that even if the tree house was within the height limit, the structure "doesn’t meet building code requirements around structural integrity and safety from falls". 

Janice, a health and safety consultant, has no doubt the structure is safe.

"It is bolted and nailed into the tree in numerous places.Yes it's made out of pallets, but it's got Tanalized 4x2 underneath it, it's very safe," she said.

"At the end of the day if they were to hurt themselves it's me that has to look after them, so I'm not going to expose them to an unsafe structure."

The Council would not give further detail to Fair Go about which specific sections of the code it felt the tree house breached, and said it had not done a formal report into its construction.

The Building Act does say councils can make an exemption for work that won’t meet the building code, if they decide it doesn’t endanger any people or property.

And that’s exactly what Janice reckons should happen here.

"I think it's ridiculous... It's a children's playhouse, seriously get a life" she said.