The Old Man’s Tale

Opinion Piece

14th January 2023

The Old Man’s Tale

by Viv Forbes

The council man was adamant:
“The Law must have its way,
The shed you built is not approved
It must come down today.”

“No doubt the shed is safe and strong
And no one has complained,
But plans and rules must bind us all
Or anarchy will reign.”

The old man clenched his horny hands,
He gripped the planner’s arm,
Then changed his mind and led him out
To look around the farm.

“You see that shed” the old man said,
“With shingle roof and wattle wall,
With no advice from coots like you
My Grandpa built it all.”

“He came out here from Birmingham
With no help from the Crown,
Without a passport or a card
He sailed to Sydney town.”

“He got himself a riding horse
Bought cows and found a dray,
But sought no travel permits
As he left for Moreton Bay.”

“There were no maps to guide him
Once he left the city blocks,
And flooding of the Richmond
Cost him half his mob of stock.”

“But when he got to Moreton Bay
A sickness swept the place,
So Grandpa saddled up again
To see a safer base.”

“For weeks he struggled northwards
Thru the bush and hostile blacks,
Until he reached a mighty stream
Which stopped him in his tracks.”

“The soil was deep and fertile
And the flats were green and lush,
So Grandad thought he’d squat a while
He had no need to rush.”

“He cleared the scrub and dug a well
And found himself a wife,
He brought her to that wattle shed
To start their married life.”

“Then rangers tried to take his land
(For squatters rights were spurned.)
My folks were forced to sell their stock
To buy the land they’d earned.”

“My Pa was born in that old shed
He worked to earn his land
‘Twas he who built the homestead
And no planner lent a hand.”

“The sweat of generations
Feeds parasites like you,
And now you tell us builders:
‘This shed will never do.’

“With subtlety and cunning
You have nibbled at our rights,
You’ve taxed away our substance
So now we cannot fight.”

“But this is where I draw the line
And I won’t be alone,
So if you try to smash my shed
I’ll fight for what I own.”

“So clear off or I’ll clout you
Do not bother us again,
Take all your forms and files and fees
And shove them up the drain.”

The planner started shouting
But old Nigger bit his leg.
He cleared the fence, and yelled a threat:
“When next I come you’ll beg.”

The wreckers came next morning
But the neighbours got there first.
They stood six deep across the gate
And bid them do their worst.

Before the planners could react
Before the police could call
The old man’s son, a barrister,
Restrained them with the law.

He quoted laws and precedents,
He combed the ancient books,
He tied the council up for months
In writs and counter suits.

By then there were elections
And the old man led a team;
They sent the planners packing
And restored the builder’s dreams.

Once more a man could build a shed
Without a planner’s chit
And no one could invade his home
Unless he had a writ.

The planner got an honest job
The red tape was undone,
The Old Man got a Knighthood
His mighty fight was won.

Way back in 1975, Viv and Judy Forbes bought a bush block of 160 acres near Fernvale in Queensland.

With two small children, and no approvals, plans or tradesmen, they built their own pole house on this bush block. They cut ironbark poles with chainsaws, barked them with axes, dug postholes, erected them, and bought recycled corrugated iron, windows and doors, an old wood-burning stove and a kerosene fridge. Then they built a small stockyard and bail to milk their two cows.
They got hassled by the local council, but then discovered that the council had built a gravel road on their property, not where it should have been, within the road reservation. The hassles stopped. That house still stands.

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