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Pensioner’s fight to keep living on bus

Written by on May 20, 2024

A pensioner who lives in a bus has been summonsed to court by a local council that claims he cannot live on his land because it is not a caravan park.

Dan Reinhold has been battling poor health and like many Aussies caught up in the housing crisis, even if he could find a rental property he would not be able to afford the “ridiculous” cost.

Mr Reinhold had little options but to move into a bus on land he owns with a friend in the small rural town of Darkan, about 250km southeast of Perth in the Shire of West Arthur, with a population of just 194.

He and his friend had planned to build a shed and septic tank but a tradie never did the work.

Then problems with the shire started, the pair where told they could not stay on the property because they lived on a bus, with the shire telling them they could go to the local caravan park instead.

“Why would we stay at the caravan park when we own the land?” Mr Reinhold said.

“The bus is fully equipped and self-contained, it has just got out of hand.”

Mr Reinhold claims in the past 12 months a number of authorities have been to his property to try to “rattle and intimidate” him.

Then last week, he discovered the shire had launched legal action against him when he received a summons to appear in a criminal court.

He has been charged with camping outside of a caravan park or camping ground.

“They are using barristers and solicitors to get this old bloke off his land. It is really over the top, it is absolutely and utterly ridiculous,” he said.

“There is a housing crisis.”

He was told by the shire that he could stay at the Darkan Caravan Park, which the shire manages, but guests can only stay a maximum of 28 consecutive days in any three-month period.

A rule applied under the Caravan and Camping Grounds Act 1995 (WA) and Clause 5A Schedule 7 Caravan Parks and Camping Grounds Regulations 1997.

The Shire of West Arthur was contacted for comment but did not respond before publication.

A state government spokesperson said under the Caravan Parks and Camping Grounds Regulations, local governments could issue approvals for people to camp on their own land for up to three months.

The local government minister could also provide approvals for up to 12 months.

“Applications can only be approved if important health and safety requirements outlined in the regulations have been met,” the spokesperson said.

“Generally, the Minister for Local Government will only approve an application if the local government has advised that it is satisfied that health and safety requirements have been met.

“Due to privacy considerations, we are unable to provide comment on whether a specific person had lodged an application.

“However, applications are considered on a case-by-case basis as quickly as possible.”

The spokesperson said the WA government was continuing to do everything it could to bolster housing supply throughout the state – including through nation-leading planning reforms that cut unnecessary red tape.

New exemptions for granny flats have been introduced by the state government to cut unnecessary red tape to open more housing opportunities but that does not extend to caravans.

The spokesperson said under the current regulations, caravans or homes on wheels could only be approved for permanent living in caravan parks.