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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Pontoon – who gets to use public land for free in Tweed?

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Tweed Shire Council debated the equity of charging fees for pontoons 2022.

The debate over the use of public land and who gets charged and who doesn’t was up for debate under the innocuous resolution ‘that Council adopts the Canal Management Policy’ at the Tweed Shire Council meeting last week (18 March).

The staff recommendation was to commence charging a pontoon licence fee in 2022 and Councillor Katie Milne (Green) argued that the charge to use of public land for the pontoon or jetty was a matter of equity.

‘We haven’t been charging theses fees for a long time even though it was voted to do so,’ Cr Milne told the council meeting.

‘It is an issue of equity. When we are talking about charging for the use of public land, that’s what we [council] do all the time. We do it with outdoor footpath dining;, when people get an exclusive use of a parcel of public land then they should be contributing for the use of that land. It is not as if people feel free to use other peoples pontoons and jetties, they don’t do that. These people are getting a benefit and use of public land so I think it is fair to charge.’

Already pay more

Objecting to the pontoon charge Councillor Warren Polglase (Conservative) pointed out that ‘when people purchase property as waterfront they pay an increased price. I’ve got a pontoon, I’d be obliged to pay. But next door they don’t have a pontoon and our neighbour just puts his boat on sand and ties it up. He doesn’t have to pay.

‘Here we are getting a fee out of people who have a pontoon. Just another tax on people who have a waterfront property.’

Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) clarified for the meeting that the difference between a pontoon and someone leaving their boat on the land next to the waterway was that they owned the land where they were leaving their boat.

‘We are talking about pontoons that go out into the public area and we are only charging $250 per year. This is not an exorbitant fee. For years it has stated on licence that we will charge these fees but it just hasn’t been done.’

The council cost of canal management and clearing flood debris and the importance of recognising the risks of private use of public lands were also raised.

‘When we talk about private use of public lands we draw a strong line in the sand there. For example in relation to caravan park owners on the foreshore that encroach onto crown lands, we try to be vigilant because it is public lands. It’s a policy we need to stand by or where does it stop?’ said Cr Milne.

‘You just don’t get to have the use of public land without contributing. It’s not for exclusive use. If you are going to have that benefit it is right that you should contribute, it is not a free ride.’

The motion was carried with Crs Pryce Allsop (Conservative) and Polglase against. Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes was absent.

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