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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

Priorities? Compliance

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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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  1. Both Hans and Micheal are right here.
    There is a major issue with compliance in the Shire.
    In areas there are real risk of public health issues with the amount of human waste and other in public spaces. It has got way out of hand as the speakers at the last Council meeting presented.
    I am not confident the numbers are right because I could issue 20 dog off leash infringements every hour. People don’t bother reporting as there is no change often or nobody answering the phones – there needs a number that disks direct to on call.
    Council confirmed that we have gone from one infringement a week to 2 for dogs. This is not short of ridiculous given we are a place founded on nature and biodiversity and have one of the highest numbers of dog attacks etc.
    I have mistakingly forgotten to pay my parking locals fee and not got a fine for a year! This goes to show how much revenue is lost that the Shire urgently needs.
    Whilst I support funding for compliance as I know having spent hours on it how much is going unpaid or not even collected as areas of the Shire don’t even collect parking where they should or have timed parking which allows a fair turnover of spots there needs to be a fundamental change in how this money is spent and a transparency.
    Solutions are presented to Council on a regular basis and these are often not adopted even in consultation process.
    The system and process needs to change if this money is to be spent so that we get a major turn around in revenue but most importantly respect and protect of our Shire and community.
    Compliance doesn’t work last 3pm for example.
    There is no 24 hour on call number
    Animal compliance need to do on the ground area patrols
    Half the dogs in the Shire aren’t registered so even when they are found they can’t be located – have a look at the Community Board they are awash with dog lost or got out. What about all the wildlife impacted?
    There are signs missing all
    Over the Shire we need a Dog Walking Map that is clear for visitors and most importantly locals
    Honours of work need to change
    We need to use this money for new community driven technology platforms ie live maps so we can report dogs with a location and description of the dogs to help staff and better use funding.

    Compliance is so different to other areas of Council it is time to disrupt the systems and start to get more efficient and effective.

    The Councillors also need to look deeper into these issues as it is not simply a matter of voting one way or another its more complex and requires listening to community and changes the system to get results

    • You could put cameras everywhere. Have constant drone surveillance everywhere. And of course, summary execution of infringers. Or you could look into why people just don’t care anymore. Why, getting away with something subversive, is more valuable than maintaining a nice community. I know the answers, but no-one wants to hear it, so you will have to learn the hard way, or just end up with a dangerous slum. Here’s a clue, White western civilisation has always relied on the vast majority having a sense of social cohesion, and moral righteousness of society and its institutions.

  2. Here here Alison compliance needs a good shake up. Living in the north of the Shire and fighting to get sand keep our reserves, Crown land etc is now becoming a joke re dogs. They are everywhere4 they are not meant to be. We need regular sweeps at different times we need on the beach rangers or what ever their new name is to help our wildlife recover. Many who own dogs are amazing and do the right thing but to the entitle people who believe they can go anywhere YOU CANNOT. North head is a prime example of what happens when a place becomes popular a National Park did a rekey one day and saw people coming back of the beach with massive sound system, from their all-night fun. Parking, dogs, etc. If you moved to this shire for the love of the culture then start protecting it…. leave dogs on leads till you get to off lead areas, don’t park where you can’t. A new and refreshed compliance team who get out of their cars and fine people for the thousands of none compliance is issues is needed now. In 6 months, many believe that they will have paid for their jobs and the monthly car payment for the new car council says it needs.


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