A long-standing dispute between Caloundra residents has led to a claim that trees on one block so severely obstructed views of the sky, that their neighbour’s use and enjoyment of his land was severely affected.

Anthony Watson-Brown brought the claim against Golden Beach neighbours Robin and Ron Robinson who took care of much of the anticipated pruning and clearing – on the recommendation of an arborist – before selling to reluctant newbies who automatically inherited the dispute upon buying the Robinson’s property.

Watson-Brown was  successful in obtaining QCAT orders that more vegetation close to the common boundary be removed or pruned, to preserve the boundary fence and a timber deck.

At the centre of the dispute before tribunal member Dr Bridget Cullen, was a large clump of “Budda Bamboo” on the opposite side of the neighbours’ property at the eastern end of their pool deck.

That particular greenery had no potential to cause damage, drop leaves or obstruct sunlight and Watson-Brown’s only complaint in relation to it was that it obstructed his view “of the sky and surrounds”.

Dr Cullen noted that the “view” in contest was in no way “iconic”.

While both properties were, she ruled, “well kept, highly maintained and are a credit to their respective owners, they are only on standard suburban blocks. As lovely as they are, there is no ocean view, no city lights, no bushforest or anything else of note. Rather, as is the case for most suburban dwellers, the view is of other adjoining suburban blocks.”

The case demonstrates that a mere “sky” view is not something that is capable of protection by the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act but it also seems an outlook on the mundane is of no worth at all in the eyes of this law.

In this particular case, Mr Watson-Brown’s sky views affected by the Budda Bamboo was from only one part of his property. He could readily view the heavens from other parts thereof and this alone was sufficient reason to deny him an order that the neighbours have it removed.

The ruling emphasises an important qualification that will be relevant to the hundreds of trees vs views battles being played out in QCAT across the state.

Perhaps an ordinary view is nothing special but then again isn’t there something exceptional in being able to see beauty in the commonplace. Or are we confusing art with life?

Watson-Brown v Heaton & Anor [2014] QCAT 346 Dr Cullen, Member 08/07/2014


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