MOST neighbourhoods have one: the blight of a house with an overgrown yard and junk collection or, in the worst of cases, derelict properties that decay, becoming hazards that attract squatters.
To clean them up, councils – including Newcastle’s – are urging the state government to make it simpler for them to issue clean-up notices and respond to lax property owners and hoarders.
A State Parliament inquiry heard from representatives of several councils about the issues yesterday, along with details of the worsening problem of illegally dumped asbestos.
But it was also cautioned against creating ‘‘the pretty police’’ by establishing too stringent requirements about the upkeep of properties.
Newcastle City Council is seeking clearer powers to serve orders to maintain premises, so owners not only ‘‘mow the grass, but keep mowing it’’.
At present, it can issue orders if premises or land are in an unsafe or unhealthy condition.
An alternate test could be whether they are unkept, untidy or poorly maintained, it said.
For waste, a list of limits could be produced, such as no more than 10 tyres per home.
The provision of low-cost property maintenance should also be considered because many of the orders the council issued were to people physically or financially unable to maintain their home, the inquiry was told.
In the case of derelict buildings, a major concern of recent years for Newcastle, providing councils with power to require reporting on the condition of premises ‘‘based on reasonable suspicion’’ would help.
Reducing from five years the time before a development approval must be acted on would also be useful for dealing with derelict buildings.
Councils told the inquiry illegal dumping was a mounting financial burden on ratepayers.
Newcastle council spent more than $100,000 a year removing and disposing of dumped rubbish.
The inquiry was urged to recommend the government waive waste levy costs to encourage people to properly dispose of the hazardous material asbestos.
A council spokeswoman said it had cleaned up 4.6tonnes of dumped asbestos last year, and two tonnes so far this year.