Elderly couple in stoush with water authority to build home

Don Woodward

Don Woodward

AN elderly Waubra couple are facing an extraordinary battle to build their dream home, despite it being already approved by Pyrenees council.

A planning permit lodged by Don and Maxine Woodward has been stalled by ministerial guidelines on waste water, which were introduced in November 2012.

The house plans have been approved by Pyrenees Shire Council, however, the couple are at a stalemate with Central Highlands Water (CHW). The pensioners were granted a planning permit in 2001 to build a two-bedroom home on their 1.4-hectare block in Waubra Heights. 

However construction was halted when Mr Woodward became ill and underwent double-bypass surgery.

“I’ve been crook for 10 years and that’s why I didn’t build in the first place,” he said.

“So what is the block worth if I can’t build on it?” Mr Woodward said.

“I’m paying for water and electricity to pass the block and I keep it mowed so I don’t get fined.

“I pay $1400 rates for unimproved land, on land I can’t improve.”

The site, which will require a standard septic tank, is on the southern edge of the Evansford Water Supply Catchment and is 10 kilometres from the nearest drinking water reservoir, located to the north. 

The 2012 ministerial guidelines state that dwellings in such catchment areas must be built on a minimum two-hectare block.

The guidelines also state that dwelling densities in the catchment must not exceed one in 40 hectares.

Forty-two of the Waubra Heights estate’s 49 blocks were built on prior to November 2012, without objection from CHW.

Pyrenees Shire Council has completed research for a Domestic Wastewater Management Plan. 

Mayor Robert Vance said the plan concluded that there was “no justifiable reason why the proposal should not be able to be assessed on the basis of merits”. 

A land capability report issued by Bruce Hollioake and Partners deemed the site OK to build on with a standard septic tank.

Sewerage is connected to homes just 800 metres from the Woodwards’ property.

The couple currently live in a house on the neighbouring property, which is owned by their daughter, and which is currently for sale. 

The Woodwards previously owned the house for six decades.

“If the house sells I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Mr Woodward said.

Ms Woodward, who volunteers at the local school and is Don’s carer, was not available for comment because of health reasons.

A CHW spokesperson said there have been “significant changes to the guidelines water authorities and local councils must comply with in assessing planning applications within designated water supply catchments.”

david.jeans@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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