Squat­ting in va­cant homes causes is­sues

Pilbara News - - News - Alicia Per­era

A rise in cases of squat­ting in the Pil­bara and its as­so­ci­ated safety risks has pro­voked con­cern from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and res­i­dents.

Long-term Kar­ratha res­i­dent Ian With­nell was shocked to ar­rive back from sev­eral months’ hol­i­day in Fe­bru­ary to find his locked Nickol home had been bro­ken into, trashed and “left wide open” for peo­ple to come and go.

Piles of rub­bish in rooms, dis­carded sy­ringes and the dis­ap­pear­ance of per­sonal items rang­ing from tele­vi­sion sets to cut­lery in­di­cated peo­ple had been stay­ing at the prop­erty for some time.

“When I went in the house, I ba­si­cally cried,” he said.

“You go away and there’s a nice, ba­si­cally or­di­nary neat lit­tle house, and you come back and it’s just trashed.”

Pil­bara District po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Paul Coombes said po­lice had been see­ing a no­tice­able in­crease in squat­ting in the Pil­bara in the past six months.

“We have been no­ti­fied of in­ci­dents of squat­ting, and there’s a whole pile of so­cial is­sues which are caus­ing that as well,” he said, listing home­less­ness, al­co­holism and drug use as some.

Supt Coombes said most cases in­volved peo­ple stay­ing in va­cant pub­lic hous­ing, but some pri­vate houses had also been tar­geted.

Hous­ing Au­thor­ity gen­eral man­ager of ser­vice de­liv­ery Greg Cash said the agency was mon­i­tor­ing squat­ting and van­dal­ism cases in va­cant Pil­bara pub­lic hous­ing.

He said as well as fac­ing le­gal ac­tion, there were nu­mer­ous safety risks as­so­ci­ated with squat­ting.

“Squat­ters may en­dan­ger them­selves by light­ing fires and us­ing can­dles in va­cant prop­er­ties with­out con­nec­tion to power,” he said.

“A prop­erty await­ing re­fur­bish­ment or de­mo­li­tion may of­fer other haz­ards due to ex­ist­ing dam­age.”

Mr With­nell said the homes of sev­eral Kar­ratha friends had been tar­geted by squat­ters as well, and noted weeks later the ex­pe­ri­ence still played on his mind.

“If I got all-new gear in my house and then had to go away again, you’re think­ing, well, is it go­ing to hap­pen again,” he said.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about squat­ters is asked to call po­lice.

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