A Townsville homeowner whose health was severely affected by pollen drifting from a flowering tree for 10 weeks every year has obtained a court order requiring the neighbouring owner to destroy it.

Pollen allergy was debilitating for Townsville nneighbourBarbara Harloe resorted to lying in a bath tub full of cold water at night to gain relief from the severe allergic reaction to the pollen of an Indian Raintree.

The retired schoolteacher made it a habit to keep away from her home during the flowering season to avoid swollen eyes, hives and burning in her throat and on her hands & feet. She also sought treatment for depression as a result of the debilitating effects of the allergy.

Her allergy specialist identified a positive reaction to the pollen of Acacia Mimosa – a close relative of the Indian Raintree – but could not test for the specific plant itself.

He prescribed medication and provided an expert opinion that her condition was likely caused by the pollen.

Harloe applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order under Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act s 52, that neighbours David and Lisa Leonardi be required to remove the shrub.

The Leonardis were sympathetic and did not doubt the severity of her reported symptoms.

Their preference though, was to trim the tree which they loved and made the point that the severe reaction only occurred for 6 – 10 weeks each year.

To convince the tribunal to issue a removal order, Harloe was required to convince it “that serious harm is being caused the only way to cease the effects is to remove the tree”.

QCAT member Mark Johnston was satisfied that Mrs Harloe whose “constellation of symptoms” constituted a “serious injury” in the context of the NDDFTA.

Given that there was no other way to resolve the matter and that the tree had no specific historic, cultural or scientific value, he reluctantly ordered that the tree be removed at the Leonardis’ expense.

Watson & Harloe v Leonardi [2015] QCAT 238 Member Johnston 24/06/2015


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