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Love Thy Neighbour

(ASNSW Avicultural Review- August 2000)
(Printable Version - PDF file - Free Adobe Reader download)

By Brian Healy

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

Brian Healy It has become apparent that the majority of problems with local Councils have occurred because of some dispute with a neighbour and many of these could have been avoided if the above rules had been followed.  Admittedly some neighbours complain about anything, make up stories, or are so difficult, that it appears impossible to have a dialogue with them.  A move away to another location by one or the other party often presents the only practical solution.

Some local Councils have a fairly laid back attitude to the keeping of animals in backyards and give owners free reign.  They may not even have a policy, or may have no intention of enforcing a policy, which may unnecessarily restrict animal owners.  This situation may not last.  In fact, the tide is already turning as population densities increase, backyards shrink and people move further towards self first and bugger anyone else.

Members may recall recent real cases of a person with over 100 cocker spaniels in the house, or a lady with over 150 cats locked inside.  Even in these cases it wasn't the Council that took action, but the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals).

Other local Councils, fortunately apparently few in number, take the opposite extreme and draft draconian policies which are rigorously interpreted for every application that comes before the Council, regardless of whether or not any neighbour objects or has complained.  This attitude can be created by Councillors as happened at Kogarah where political motives existed (and continue to do so).  It can also be created by an arrogant, authoritarian or simply a zealous staff member who has responsibility for the policy.  These staff members are usually short term employees buoyed by the power of their position but they lack practical experience or foresight of the consequences of their decisions.  These are the Councils to avoid.  It may be best not to submit an application.  However, no matter what kind of Council is involved, prior agreement by each and every neighbour becomes absolutely essential.  "Love Thy Neighbour" becomes critical.  A disgruntled neighbour, especially one with significant political clout, poses a serious threat to the continuing enjoyment of your hobby. For your own sake and for the future of bird keeping, don't allow this situation to develop.

The best Councils are those that have or will develop policies for the keeping of animals but only enforce them when problems emerge.  In other words Councils that rely on performance rather than on arbitrary figures like numbers of birds, number of aviaries or distances between structures.  If your management of your animals causes a problem then it becomes your responsibility to fix it. Consequentially it would appear far better to prevent the problem occurring in the first place.

The key is contented neighbours.  The ball is definitely in the animal keeper's court to achieve this harmony.  The following are some suggestions as to how this may be achieved.

When moving to a new home or planning to set up your first aviaries or even remodelling old aviaries or pens, several important steps must be taken.

Sample Statement:
We have no objection to the proposed aviary construction and bird keeping as explained in the proposal given to us by Mr Smith on ..... (date) .....

The main reasons for complaints are noise, smell, drainage, rodents, unsightly structures and conduct of business.

There are many things that bird keepers can do to prevent vermin becoming a problem.

Feed storage and disposal are also important.
It may be nice to you to attract native birds to your yard by throwing out waste seed, but beware, you are more likely to encourage pest species which can spread disease to your birds, or noisy species, which may be a greater source of annoyance to your neighbour.  Such waste provides a very ready source for nocturnal rodents.  It may even result in odours when the dumping site becomes wet.

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