Council in a flap over widow’s flagpole

Enid Robinson from Mount Warrigal has been told to remove her flagpole or face fines of $1.1 million and $110,000 a day. Picture: GREG TOTMANShellharbour City Council has threatened to fine a Mount Warrigal widow more than $1 million if a flagpole in her backyard is not taken down.

Enid Robinson, 77 (pictured), moved into her home in May and had her late husband Eddie’s beloved flagpole erected this month in time for what would have been his 80th birthday.

The nine-metre flagpole, which flies the Australian flag, had been in place at her two previous homes in the Shellharbour area and Enid said there had never been a problem before.

VOTE: Should Enid be allowed to keep the flagpole in her backyard?

‘‘We moved into The Boulevarde, Oak Flats, in 2004,’’ she said. ‘‘My husband loved flags and as soon as we moved to Oak Flats he put the flagpole up.’’

After Eddie died in 2009, Enid moved to Albion Park Rail and so did the flagpole.

She moved to her existing home in Reddall Parade, Mount Warrigal, in May.

‘‘We put it up on August 5 ready for what would have been Eddie’s 80th birthday on August 31,’’ Enid said.

‘‘My son put it up on the Sunday and on the Tuesday morning my doorbell went and there were two council workers and they wanted to have a look at the flag.

‘‘They measured from the back fence and they claimed it is 2 metres away when it should be three metres from the fence.

‘‘They left me a note about flagpoles, which says the maximum height allowed for a flagpole is six metres, and said I would be receiving a letter.

‘‘The council workers said I had to pull it down because there had been a complaint and because it is too high.’’

Last week Enid received the letter saying council was proposing to make an order requiring the removal of the flagpole.

They also requested removal of one of two smaller flagpoles, installed by a previous owner, as each lot was permitted to have just one flagpole.

Those two poles had already been removed, Enid said.

The letter said Enid had until September 5 to respond as to why the order should not be given.

Failure to comply would incur a maximum penalty of $1.1million and a further daily penalty of $110,000, the letter said.

‘‘I tell you that it has really upset me so much to think my flagpole has caused all this trouble after all these years.

‘‘A million dollars, plus $110,000 a day … it is like I am in a dream. It is a nightmare. It really has upset me.’’

Enid said she asked what she could do to keep the flagpole and was told she could put in a development application.

‘‘So I went to the council on Friday after I received the letter and said I was thinking of making an application, but I was told because this doesn’t happen very often they hadn’t decided what type of application I was to go for.

‘‘Apparently it costs around $1000 and there was no guarantee it would be approved.’’

By Wednesday this week Enid still had not heard back from the council. However, following Mercury inquiries council officers were quickly in touch with Enid.

She said the officer apologised for the letter and for her not being referred to the correct department, but Enid said the issue of approval remained.

Enid said her husband had been ‘‘a flag person’’.

‘‘He loved the flag and this has a lot of sentimental value for me.

‘‘He only died three years ago on July 11 and I still miss him something terrible. It is just a blow.

‘‘We were married when I was 17 and he was 19, we were married 57 years.

‘‘Whatever happens I will put in a six-metre flagpole to keep the memory of my husband going.’’

A Shellharbour City Council spokeswoman said the council responded to a complaint and advised Enid of the development code restrictions that applied to flagpoles on urban properties.

‘‘Council officers will continue to assist Mrs Robinson to undertake the correct process and to ensure the pole complies with regulations,’’ she said.

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