ACT News


Fine reprieve for teepee man

Canberra's teepee man William Woodbridge has dodged a fine worth thousands of dollars, despite breaching a law forbidding people from living on lakes within the capital.

The lenient gesture by ACT government officials was confirmed yesterday after an Aboriginal elder said it was okay for the 21-year-old to stay wherever he likes ''in Ngambri country''.

Mr Woodbridge's teepee is perched on a homemade raft which was a local talking point during its stay on Lake Ginninderra. But this unconventional housing is in violation of the ACT Lake Act 1976.

The University of Canberra student has been given until the end of the month to leave his floating home, initially created six weeks ago to protest high rental prices after receiving a fine at his on-campus accommodation.

But now it seems Mr Woodbridge has support from traditional owners of the area, in the form of an ''Authorisation Certificate'' from Ngambri elder Shane Mortimer.

''Mr William Woodbridge is hereby authorised to occupy Lake Ginninderra or any other lake estuary or wetland he may so choose upon to reside as suits his needs in Ngambri Country,'' it reads.


The certificate was issued by Mr Mortimer on behalf of his ''Ngambri Ancestors Elders past and present''.

Mr Mortimer said he issued the certificate because he admired the fortitude and creativity of Woodbridge's actions.

''He is doing it for a reason,'' he said.

''He is quite within his rights to stay there with my permission.''

However, the ACT Lake Act 1976 prohibits the use of a boat as a houseboat or place of living in a lake area under section 31(1).

The penalty for breaching the section is a maximum of 30 penalty units, meaning Mr Woodbridge could have faced a fine of up to $3300.

A spokeswoman for the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate said Mr Woodbridge would not be fined if he removed his raft by the agreed date.

The spokeswoman previously stated that the ACT Government was helping Mr Woodbridge find alternative accommodation.