Town Tearing Tree House Down

Simple as that. A four level tree house is coming down by the end of the week.  Here’s the story, from over in Australia.

I get that it’s a liability. All tree houses are. I just wonder when and how society will ever get back to accepting SOME risk, now that even the tiniest risk (and this is a little bigger than tiny) is seen as abominable. — L.

28 Responses

  1. Well, at least it’s not in the USA for a change. Australia is a bit worse than we are when it comes to stuff like this.

  2. Wow that’s just around the corner from where I grew up – I’d love to go and check it out! What a shame it wasn’t built on private property, although, you’d still need council approval.

    Just started reading your blog Lenore! Looking forward to making my way throug the archives…

  3. Well, I am all for letting kids be kids, and of course I agree with Lenore that it is a major problem in our society that we have become averse to ANY risk. So, I have no problem in principle with kids building and playing in an improvised tree house. It does seem to me, however, that in this case there are two other issues that we may be overlooking:

    1) A neighboring landowner has legitimate privacy concerns.

    2) This has been built, without permission, on PUBLIC land. This is not a case of people being told what they can and cannot do on their own property by a nanny state.

    I say move the treehouse to the property of one of those parents who is willing to volunteer it…

  4. Silver fang you have got to be kidding me! Australia is not anywhere near as bad as the US for this sort of thing! Sadly it is going that way but so far we are not as bad as the US. Where do you get your info from!

  5. lol Silver Fang.. Australia is much more relaxed than the US!!

    This tree house is a couple of suburbs from where i live. The lord mayor wrote in the local newspaper that he was sorry. He with his kids actually made a teepee years ago that was also taken down. He said it is was a shame, but if something is open to the public than the authorities have to check it out to see if it is safe for public. It was deemed not and will be torn down.

    He said that he will look into a safer alternative being built there.

    Very sad, but thats the way it goes I suppose.

  6. “safety, privacy and liability issue”

    This guy is spewing nonsense. Tree houses haven’t become more dangerous in the past few years. If anything, they’re more safe because of improved construction techniques. Liability lies completely with the builders: the kids and their dads. And there might be a privacy issue. But I suspect one of the families lives on that supposed private plot of land the tree house oversees. If that isn’t the case. Did the council ever bother asking them about it?

    Like the kid said: overregulation!

  7. ironic, though, that one parent in favor of the treehouse woud not let the 6-year-old child (qoted near the beginning of the article) be named.

  8. The top platform is 4 meters (13 feet) off the ground. I was climbing twice as high at that age.

  9. I’m afraid to say that by the looks of it I would not let my kids up in that thing, and I’d probably want it torn down, too. They are just platforms with no railings! Knowing how my 2 boys can fight with each other I can see kids dropping like flies from that thing.

    But when we visit my friend (and farmer), I have no problems at all letting them play in the treehouse

  10. I don’t know exactly what “council land” is, but I don’t really have a problem with the idea that private citizens of any age shouldn’t be allowed to build structures on public property without securing permission and following appropriate procedures, including agreed-upon safety guidelines.

  11. “Liability lies completely with the builders: the kids and their dads. ”

    That’s how it SHOULD be. That’s not how it is, if a jury decides otherwise. And even before the jury decides, the town has to spend time and money defending itself.

    I, too, have no problem with the idea that structures shouldn’t be built on public land without permission. This is NOT a free-range issue!

  12. It IS pentamom. If you build something you’re responsible for it. Anyone who thinks they can blame the council for something they had no part in are in serious need of a brain check.

    @bushidoka: I agree that a lack of railings might pose an unneccesary risk, but surely the solution is to force them to build them instead of tearing the entire thing down.

    @alexicographer: I would agree with you if the council was planning to build something there, but nothing like that was mentioned. Something as mundane as a children’s treehouse should not be subject to the bureaucracy of building permits and things like that.

    If I were on that council I would do a couple of things:
    1) Get permission from anyone who might be overseen from the treehouse in case they think their privacy is not being upheld.
    2) Ensure safety railings are added.
    3) Make everyone sign a waiver that absolves the council from any liability if an accident does happen.

    That way the council’s problems are solved and the kids can have a treehouse until the land is actually needed to build something (and if it is, the treehouse should be moved instead of demolished).

  13. “That’s how it SHOULD be. That’s not how it is, if a jury decides otherwise. And even before the jury decides, the town has to spend time and money defending itself.”

    That’s another one of those things I can’t stand. If a kid falls out of the treehouse and scrapes their knee — or heaven forbids – dies, the council still isn’t responsible.

    The whole sueing mentality in the US has to change.
    It’s not always someone else’s fault.

  14. @Ben, again, I don’t know enough about what “council land” is to argue this one way or another. I live in the US in a town that is home to a large state university. We have public parks, some of which are moderately vast (say 100 acres), and large sections of “public” (state) land that is currently unimproved except for some walking/biking trails and utility easements but that belongs to and will eventually be built on by the university. I don’t know how either of those compares to “council land” but am going to use them in what follows because they are what I do know.

    Honestly I don’t think private citizens should be “allowed” to build things in either of those spaces. As a practical matter I’d say that this means if anything is built that is too visible to be ignored, it needs to be removed. So in my opinion the tents and shelters of homeless people together with treehouses and (what are far more common around here) built structures to allow mountain bikers to challenge themselves are all OK as long as they meet a sort of plausible deniability standard such that a park (or University) worker could reasonably say, “Oh, I had no idea that was there.” Given that some sections of the forests are pretty deep and the trails largely unpoliced, this definitely happens (I’ve seen all of the following in these parks/lands: tents, stick shelters, deer stands, mountain bike obstacles, and all met this criterion). But really, what are private citizens doing building (visible, permanent) structures on public land?

  15. I’m not allowed to just go build something on someone else’s private property without permission, so I don’t see why one group of citizens should be allowed to just go build something on all the other citizens’ property.

    I agree that the suing mentality is foolish, but at least in the US, that’s how it is and denial doesn’t change it. I really don’t want any branch of my government spending money defending itself from a stupid lawsuit that could have been avoided by treating public land like public land, not a particular group of citizens’ private group property.

  16. How sad. I’d give anything to have a tree house for our kids. They are a timeless sanctuary for toddlers to teens. I hope their tree house stays!

  17. lol that being said.. I didnt know about this tree house until news it was being pulled down…. shame.. might have let my kids cllimb it.. lol lol

  18. alexicographer et al – With one of the stories in the Australian paper that Lenore referenced there was a photo of the tree house, which clearly showed it to be on a small lot – probaby the equivalent of a single corner building lot, and the house whose privacy was being invaded was in clear view, just feet away. The kids in the tree house are seen at pretty much bedroom window height vis a vis that house.

    I don’t think that particular element of this story should be brushed aside too quickly.

  19. Hmmm…we built forts on “public land” all the time as kids – we built a wood fort in the public forest near our house; we dug a mud fort with several rooms down into the side of a dirt hill on one side of a gulley too, and there were “hideouts” along the creek…nobody cared as far as I knew. That’s just what kids did then. And it wasn’t that long ago (20 years or so). I don’t know what’s changed. Law hasn’t, so I can only guess the number of lawsuits have, or simply the culture. Yeah, if an injury happens on public land, you can sue the group responsible for that public land. But it’s always been like that, as far as I know. People just wouldn’t have thought to sue if their kid did something stupid in a tree house and broke a bone. I don’t know that any kid has a right to build on public land, certianly, but there was a time when nobody got their panties in a bunch about it or tore down things. Of course, much of the time, I guess, no one but the kids knew they were there.

  20. @David (and, I suppose, @Sky), yes, that’s pretty much my point … I mean, I think we’re basically in agreement: if it’s a modest/hidden kid- (or adult-) built structure on public land, great (as far as I’m concerned); if it’s visible/obvious/prominent (or invasive of someone’s privacy), then it should probably be torn down. This one seems to be the latter.

    I do think this ties into the lawsuit issue; I suspect that at least in the US an (e.g.) town might be held liable for structures built on its parklands, but if such a structure were back in the woods where “no one goes,” and the authorities could not reasonably be expected to have discovered it, I’d guess it’s much less likely they’d be held liable if an injury occurred.

  21. This story is from my local area. Although it seems harsh to take the kids’ cubby down, I do think some good could come out of the situation. The Lord Mayor has said the kids can work with the council to design a replacement. If indeed they do involve the children in the designing and building process, it could be a very exciting and rewarding experience for the kids. (That said, I still hope they build super awesome amazing cubbies in their own backyards too!)

  22. The council here had talked about rebuilding it with an architect, and I paraphrase one of the boys quoted after that statement; “it’s just not the same as building it yourself”. Touche kiddo.
    I find it troubling the distinctions some are making regarding public and private land. What about the diminishing of public space – of the commons, which is so vital to community life? Where can a kid go and be a kid? What if s/he lives in a unit with no backyard?
    I’ve worked in child protection and child care here and Australia is very litigous, or more to the point fearful of being sued, when it comes to kids. It’s not just about building it in a private backyard, because they can be torn down too.
    Richard Louv has some pretty insightful things to stuff to say about all of the above.

  23. How sad, this is just around the corner from me. I think we will be going on a walk to see it before it goes.

    Oddly this hasnt been in our local paper. Too bad it had to appear in Courier, the people who probably do know how to fight it will not be aware of it.

  24. Oh, and this particular suburb is full of “green” spaces (not a term usually used here!)
    Within toddler-esque walking of my place are three parks with play equipment. Make that a 10year olds walking distance and you have about 7 (not sure on this one).
    Mind you, none have awesome treehouses built by the Council😉

    Brisbane City Council is also terrible to deal with with all planning matters. Currently going through court with them about a parking matter. They changed the zoning with no warning AFTER I parked the car.
    I dont expect any logic from BCC.

  25. Did we always have this many people from Brisbane lurking on the forum, or have more come on board in response to this story? Either way, welcome!

    Can any of you locals tell me the address in question? I am going to be in Brisbane in a couple of months, and now my curiosity is sufficiently piqued to stop by to see this park firsthand…

  26. Im not sure of this “Spencer Park”. It doesnt appear on my maps, and my friend who is a paramedic in the area (a bit South, but this is still within her overall area) also does not know the park. Keep in mind though council has renamed alot of parks, so this could explain the discrepancy.
    However, the name Market Street is given. Therefore, googlemap Market Street, Newmarket and check out what the nearest parks are.

  27. Its old news now but FYI. The council did tear down the treehouse. They did however replace it with a new ‘Fort’ style construction. My kids go and play out there sometimes, but it doesn’t have the same attraction as did their very own hand-made one. Shame really the original treehouse really brought the kids in the neighbourhood together.

  28. […] cases where treehouses have been torn down. As she puts it, “I get that it’s a liability. All treehouses are. I […]

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