Despite a ‘tough budget environment’, where Council can’t find $15,000 per annum to maintain a tree planting initiative on land it manages, there will be $250,000 spent on employing two more compliance officers and purchasing another ‘enforcement’ vehicle.
It’s worth noting that Council is actually really stretched with its finances, and is dipping into its reserves to stay afloat.
After covid and the floods, most have felt the effects, and the Shire’s largest employer is no different.
There are a few big projects that former Mayor, Simon Richardson, pushed upon us, that have now been found difficult to fund. Vallances Road burial ground, the Myocum solar farm, the bioenergy facility, and Lot 22 ‘affordable housing’ in Mullum are the big items now on the backburner, after serious money and staff time was spent preparing those proposals.
Anyway, the staff report on the compliance priorities program 2022, as tabled in last week’s agenda, was long and detailed.
It contained a lot of self-congratulatory language too, which has become the new norm.
Yet staff were careful not to disclose how many compliance staff are usually employed.
What do they earn? We’ll get to that in a minute.
From the report, author Sarah Nagel breaks Council’s compliance team into four ‘Enforcement’ subgroups: Animal, Community, Parking and Environmental Health Officers.
The total number of requests by the public to attend to compliance matters has decreased from 4,117 in 2021 to 3,624 for this year.
As heard on Thursday’s Council meeting, there are significant resources directed at illegal camping, which saw 400 issues finalised in 2022.
Complaints around dogs have increased to 721 from 653.
As the report states, ‘The vast majority of the team’s work was again dominated by vehicle, illegal works, animals, and camping’.
Illegal works, such as earthworks, clearing, building and the like saw 550 issues finalised in 2022, says the report, while a total of 745 complaints were received.
In response to a ‘resourcing request’, staff’s proposal, which was adopted last Thursday, was to allocate $250,000 to employ two additional staff and purchase an additional enforcement vehicle.
The cost will be $90,000 pa for a Community Enforcement Officer, an additional enforcement vehicle at $45,000 and $77,000 pa to employ another Parking Enforcement Officer.
And buried in the report was the claim that 10,869 penalty infringement notices for parking earned Council $1,910,067, which was slightly up from the previous year.
Nagel writes, ‘To accommodate the impact of a focus on extended unauthorised camping and parking patrols, animal enforcement and education programming, it is recommended that Council reduce the compliance priorities program to two response categories’.
‘To recognise the expanded nature of the services provided by the team (i.e. that they are no longer simply compliance matters, but also include services such as homelessness support), it is also recommended that the Compliance Priorities Program be re-titled to the Environment and Safety Priorities Program.
And Nagel’s new priority recommendations appear to have been adopted by councillors last week.
They are: ‘1. High risk activities which require an urgent and immediate response. High risk activities are defined as activities that place people’s lives at immediate risk or that cause or are likely to cause a significant risk of environmental harm or pollution’.
‘2. Other activities which require a routine response during strategic/regular duties’.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
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