General Local Law 2 (Community Amenity and Municipal Places) was passed in February 2020 despite considerable concern expressed in local media, social media and by members of the public at Council meetings. At the July 2020 Council meeting, Council resolved to establish Community Reference Groups relating to firewood collection on Council land, salvaging at Council managed transfer stations and planting on nature strips. Council adopted terms of reference for the groups and advertised for expressions of interest. At the September 2020 meeting, Council appointed community members to each of the reference groups.
Council formed three separate community reference groups which comprised community members, Councillors and Council staff and held three facilitated sessions for each group to understand the views of the community. In addition to meetings, the Salvaging reference group conducted site visits. The reference groups developed guidelines, which are consistent with Local Law 2 and strike a balance between the Law and the views of the community.
At last month’s Council meeting, the new guidelines were endorsed.
Collection of Firewood
Section 2.18 of LL2 states that “A person must not, without a permit, remove firewood, including dead trees and fallen branches, from a road reserve or municipal place, unless permitted to do so by Council signage.”
The reference group considered the need to balance biodiversity and safety requirements with the needs of residents who depend on firewood for domestic purposes. The guidelines outline a permit system and designated firewood collections areas.
Planting on Nature Strips
Section 2.21 of LL2 states that “A person must not, without a permit, plant any trees or other vegetation on any part of a road other than in compliance with Council’s Planting Vegetation on Roads Policy”. Reference group members raised the fact that many verges were already planted out and some residents use verges for their vegetable gardens. Issues of climate change, fire safety and erosion, among others, were raised by community representatives.
The guidelines distinguish between Residential and Rural nature strips and place limits on what can be done with and without a permit. For example, plants up to 1.2m high including edible plants and organic mulch can be placed on a nature strip without a Council permit. Raised garden beds, planter boxes, small to medium fruit trees and hardscapes (rocks, boulders, benches, sculptures) require a permit. There is no fee for a permit. The guidelines outline requirements in detail. This guideline is not retrospective, but relates to vegetation planted from now onwards.
Salvaging in Council Waste Transfer Stations
Section 4.7 of LL2 states that “A person must not search through or remove any articles of rubbish, recyclables or items: (a) from a transfer station, unless in compliance with any Council signage displayed at the transfer station; or (b) left for collection in a municipal place.”
The rationale for the change in salvaging requirements was related to a risk assessment conducted in 2019. The reference group primarily argued from an environmental and sustainability perspective. As part of their discussions, the reference group conducted site visits to Bendigo’s Eaglehawk facility and the Daylesford transfer station. The guidelines recommended some capital investment, additional staff time and staff training to make salvaging feasible at Council facilities.
The salvaging guidelines focus on improving the existing accessibility to reusable goods left at Council’s waste Transfer stations. The guidelines outline the items that can be dropped at transfer stations for free and establish self-service salvaging areas for building materials, fencing plumbing, garden equipment, and other reusable items. Tip shops at each of the transfer stations will continue. Metal scrap piles will be off limits to all but transfer station staff.
“The reference groups have done a fantastic job in working together with Council to develop these guidelines,” said Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt. “It was important that we heard from the community while also ensuring that the guidelines comply with relevant legislation. We believe this balance has been struck and the guidelines clearly outline the rights and responsibilities for community members.”
Cr Hewitt said that the guidelines accommodate most of the wishes expressed by the community while providing clarity on what is permitted on Council land. She thanked the reference group participants for their constructive contribution to the process.
The guidelines are not yet available on the Council website but are available in the October Ordinary Council Meeting papers.