The last Ballina Shire Council meeting included a discussion about how best to respond to the ongoing vandalism problem at Lake Ainsworth.
The initial motion in the business papers included the idea of hidden surveillance cameras to catch offenders, but this was watered down in the final motion, to instead call for a report on management issues and investigate the use of a special vacuum machine to remove broken glass in park areas.
Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader said these ongoing issues were brought to her attention by the Friends of Lake Ainsworth, who are continually having to clean up broken glass and deal with the residue of burnt Koppers logs around the reserve for the last six months.
She explained that the logs contain chromated copper arsenic, and ‘a tiny bit of ash can kill adults, harm animals and poison water.’
Cr Cadwallader said volunteers shouldn’t be left to clear this material up on a regular basis, which is often done early in the morning, with the wider community unaware of the magnitude of the problem.
‘We need to address this public health problem,’ she said.
‘It’s not unique to our shire, or to this area, but Lake Ainsworth is well-used by families, broken glass is dangerous, and fire pits and melting plastic bottles on BBQs etc is not a healthy thing.’
Cr Willis suggests another approach
Cr Nathan Willis said he was concerned about surveillance and council purchasing additional equipment.
‘The best way to handle this issue to have volunteers and police working on it,’ he said. ‘How does it help for council to do a report?’
Acknowledging his law experience was not criminal, Cr Willis said, ‘A well-informed magistrate can ask people as part of the process of being caught in the act to go and pick it up and undertake community service.
‘Let’s leave it with police and facilitate community service to people who wish to engage with this sort of conduct.’
Cr Phillip Meehan asked if people are picking up broken glass virtually every day, does that mean people are burning and smashing things at the lake every day?’
Council staff responded by saying the Lake Ainsworth area was not unique in its problems, but there were many complaints about glass around the BBQs in the northern section of the reserve, and people not always taking their waste with them (there are no bins there, or truck access, since the removal of the road).
Cr Meehan said the vandalism was most likely being done by young people, who ‘often have short attention spans with places and things they do.’ He said that the group responsible would likely ‘evolve and change and then this this will stop happening’.
He agreed it was worth monitoring the problem, and looking at the bin and BBQ issue again in the northern section of the reserve.
Fantastic area, says Mr Mayor
Mayor David Wright said, ‘What we’ve got is a fantastic area. I wouldn’t take the BBQ away from that end just because there’s some damage. I go there every day and at Christmas two or three times a day.’
He acknowledged the glass problem, particularly on weekends, and brought in a bag of broken glass he’d collected recently from the area, where a family were trying to have a picnic.
‘We need to enforce the no alcohol rule or if we do have some, need to have no bottles,’ said Mayor Wright.
Cr Keith Williams, who seconded the motion, said, ‘This is being brought to me on at least a weekly basis, I’m getting phone calls about glass down at the lake.’
He said he agreed council should be working with police and crime prevention officers, but wouldn’t have supported the original hidden surveillance camera idea.
‘I would make it bright orange rather than hiding it. But there are issues there. Should we have a large camera? Does that help control people’s behaviour? I’m happy to receive a report on that. It’s not a waste of staff resources.
‘What’s a waste of staff resources is having to continually go down there and clean it up.’
Cr Stephen McCarthy asked about mobile bins. Mayor David Wright reminded councillors that the kiosk skip bin was once carried down to the northern end and reported stolen.
A hovercraft full of eels?
Cr Eoin Johnston was concerned about the complications of a glass vacuum machine. ‘Is there such a beast? How far are we going to look for one? Are we going to get a Slovenian hovercraft with a magnetic blaster tractor or something?’
Mayor Wright said the existing sweeper could only get stuff off the path, and more investigations were needed.
Cr Cadwallader said they they had to deal with the problem somehow. ‘The Friends of Lake Ainsworth wear gloves but you can get stabbed through them.’
She said if a suitable machine could be found it could work in other areas too, such as behind Missingham Skate Park.
‘We know this is happening all over the shire. Fortunately staff do an exceptional job cleaning up after this anti-social behavior.’
She took issue with Cr Willis’s idea of leaving it to the police, because ‘police can’t be there all the time. Let’s recognise that we have a problem and do a report to do something about it.’
The motion was carried with Cr Willis voting against.