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Laws for the Paws

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what we used to consider a “normal” working environment as working from home is now the new status quo. Fortunately, this has allowed many of us to bond with our pets but what happens when our beloved pets get themselves into trouble? And the next question that follows, to what extent can local council officers enter our property to seize our pets?

Powers to entry property under the CAA Ct

In New South Wales, the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) confers large powers upon local councils to regulate the effective and responsible care and management of our little furry companions.

One of the key provisions in the CAA Act is section 69A Powers of authorised officers to enter property, which allows an authorised officer to:

  • enter any property to seize or secure any companion animal, or
  • determine whether there has been compliance with, or contravention of the Companion Act or the Companion Regulations.
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Impact of Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 on Local Governments

In December 2020, the Commonwealth parliament passed the Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 (Cth) (Foreign Relations Act), which will impose new restrictions on local governments’ autonomy in making certain types of arrangements with foreign entities.

The Foreign Relations Act requires State and Territory statutory bodies, including local governments, to notify the responsible Minister (which is currently the Foreign Minister) before entering into arrangements with foreign public entities. The type of “arrangement” that will trigger compliance with this requirement are extremely wide and include:- any written arrangement; agreement; contracts; understandings; or undertakings, whether legally binding or not. The types of foreign entities with whom arrangements are entered into that will trigger the notification requirement are also very wide, including:- foreign countries; foreign local governments; and certain types of universities.

Under section 34 of the Foreign Relations Act, a local government must notify the Foreign Minister when it proposes to enter into an arrangement with a foreign entity. The Foreign Minister may then, under sections 35 and 36, make a binding declaration that the local government must not enter into the notified arrangement if the Foreign Minister is satisfied that the arrangement would adversely affect, or would be likely to adverse affect, Australia’s foreign relations, or would be, or would be likely to be, inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy.
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New Practice Note Issued in NSW on Voluntary Planning Agreements

On 12 February 2021, the Planning Secretary issued a new Planning Agreement Practice Note (VPA Practice Note) under clause 25B(2) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations 2000 (EPA Regulations), replacing the Development Contributions – Practice Note – Planning Agreements (Former VPA Practice Note) issued on 19 July 2005. This clause provides guidance on the making, administration and negotiation of VPAs under section 7.4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EPA Act). On the same day, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Development Contributions) Regulations 2021 (Amendment Regulations) made numerous amendments to the EPA Regulations.

VPA Practice Note Differences to Former VPA Practice Note

The VPA Practice Note contains numerous differences from the Former VPA Practice Note; most notably:

  • Providing specific guidance on offers to enter into VPAs,
  • Providing specific guidance on developer’s obligations under a VPA through security for enforcement,
  • Providing specific guidance on VPA registration,
  • Providing specific guidance on re-notifications of draft VPAs where material changes are made post-public notice,
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Thinking of building or renovating? Don’t underestimate the importance of Council approval!

It’s likely crossed most home owners’ minds:  it might be nice to replace the front fence, or it’s time to upgrade to a bigger backyard garden shed. But before home owners get too excited, it’s crucial that any plans for any kind of development are submitted to the local Council. Omitting this step could result in not only a potential fine and conviction, but the demolition of that dream development.

Why do I need Council approval?

When you’re sitting on your deck admiring the view and being thankful that there are no high rise developments in your line of sight, you can thank your Council’s Local Environment Plan. Each Council’s Local Environment Plan sets out what each parcel of land in your suburb and community is zoned as and therefore what can or cannot be built there. So in a residential area, it may be prohibited for buildings taller than two stories to be built, or for a rubbish dump to be next to your child’s primary school. But these same regulations also limit what you can and cannot do with your own land, from what kinds of home businesses you can run, to what kind of additions, renovations and developments can be constructed as well as what kinds of development require consent.
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Overlapping responsibilities in Condition of consents for music festivals

The entertainment and live music industry has undoubtedly taken the biggest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. To grapple with the economic fallout, the Federal Government announced a $250 million targeted package to help restart the creative, entertainment, arts and screen sectors.

As event organisers slowly formulate management plans, local councils will undoubtedly play a significant role to consult with other agencies to ensure a COVID-safe environment. The following case of NSW Commissioner of Police v Rabbits Eat Lettuce Pty Ltd [2019] NSWCA 182 is relevant as it demonstrates the complexities of having a condition of consent that involves multiple local agencies.

Background

In 2015, the Richmond Valley Council granted the applicant, Rabbits Eats Lettuce Pty Ltd (REL), temporary development consent to hold music festivals in Koppenduff (the Consent).

One of the conditions, which the Court found was unusual, stated:

Condition 7

 An event must not proceed if either New South Wales Police, New South Wales Rural Fire Service or Richmond Valley Council advises it is unsafe to do so.
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Universal 1919 Pty Ltd v 122 Pitt Street Pty Ltd [2020] NSWCA 50

The Court of Appeal recently considered and upheld a judicial review decision, Universal 1919 Pty Ltd v 122 Pitt Street Pty Ltd [2019] NSWLEC 117 (“Universal  1”). As a result, we now have a unanimous decision from the Court of Appeal of NSW that the statutory requirements found in Schedule 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to afford procedural fairness to a recipient of a section 9.34 Notice are sufficient to exclude any remaining common law rights.

Universal 1 was a decision made by Justice Biscoe in the Class 4 jurisdiction of the Land and Environment Court, in relation to the validity of a Development Control Order No. 10, Restore Works Order issued under section 9.34 and 9.35 and Schedule 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (‘the Act’).

This case also deals with the validity of orders (pursuant to section 9.34) issued to an Owner of a building (the landlord), as opposed to an Occupier.
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Clarity Regarding Council Entry to a Residential Premise

The recent decision of the Land and Environment Court in Bobolas v Waverly Council (No 2) [2020], the latest instalment of cases between Bobolas and Waverly Council (‘Council’), provides clarity as to the powers of entry possessed by councils onto residential land. This decision considered an application for judicial review challenging a section 22A order issued by Council is accordance to section 124 of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) (‘the Act’).

The order sought by Council on 29 January 2020 was to remove waste and refrain from collecting further waste at the property by 26 February 2020. Pursuant to section 124 of the Act, a section 22A order enables council to issue such an order ‘to remove or dispose of waste that is on any residential premises or to refrain from keeping waste on those premises’ if ‘the waste is causing or is likely to cause a threat to public health or the health of any individual’.
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Difficulties due to COVID-19 not an excuse to vacate a hearing date

A recent decision in the Land and Environment Court to set aside a Registrar’s order that a three-day hearing be set aside substantially due to the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the Court’s willingness to facilitate the continuation of hearings, where appropriate, despite the difficulties associated with virtual hearings.

In DVCI Pty Ltd v City of Parramatta Council [2020] NSWLEC 31, during a general call over of all matters pursuant to the Court’s adoption of the COVID-19 Pandemic Arrangements Policy, the solicitor for the City of Parramatta Council sought an order that the hearing the subject of the Class 1 Appeal, scheduled to take place in May 2020, be vacated.

The hearing was scheduled to be heard before Acting Commissioner Bindon, who had, as part of the section 34 process, attended the subject site and heard submissions from nearby residents. Council argued that the hearing should be vacated as it was necessary for all relevant parties to attend the site as part of the hearing, which would be difficult in the current climate. Further, Council had only recently retained a planning expert who had not yet attended the site, and was unwilling to go the site due to COVID-19. Despite submissions from the developer as to the prejudice to the developer if the hearing was vacated, and a submission that the matter should proceed by way of audio-visual link due to the fact that Acting Commissioner Bindon had already attended the site and heard from residents, the Registrar ultimately made the decision to vacate the hearing date.
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