Park permits: Brisbane residents to pay to gather in large groups

C'mwlth games 1982[Editor’s note: There have been plenty of political gatherings in parks in recent years. The 30th anniversary of the Commonwealth Games in Musgrave Park in 2012 is one that comes to mind. The Tent Embassy was removed from Musgrave Park by BCC and government on 16 March 2012. Musgrave Park is designated as a place for G20 protests. Will organising groups have to pay $300 for the right to assemble in such parks? See article from Brisbane Times below.] 

Groups of more than 50 who want to use any of the city’s parks or open spaces will have to pay more than $300 for a permit or risk being fined under a new plan.

Council officers could soon have the power to slap fines of up to $5500 on large groups of people who do not purchase a permit to gather in Brisbane’s public outdoor spaces. 

Under a new proposal from City Hall, groups of more than 50 who want to use any of the city’s parks or open spaces will have to pay more than $300 in advance for a permit or risk being fined.

Labor councillor Shayne Sutton attacked the proposal’s fee-or-fine structure, saying public spaces belonged to everyone in Brisbane.

“The size of your credit limit should not be a pre-determinant as to whether you can access a park for your birthday party,” she said.

“Parks are public spaces. With more and more people moving into the city, council should not be charging large amounts of money for people to hire parks.”

But Brisbane City Council’s parks and environment chairman Matthew Bourke hosed down speculation from opposition councillors that large children’s birthday parties, impromptu sports games and small community events would suffer from Groups of more than 50 who want to use any of the city's parks or open spaces will have to pay more than $300 for a permit or risk being fined under a new planhaving to pay to use free public land or pay a fine.

Cr Bourke said the consolidation of 11 local laws governing the use of public spaces citywide – some dating back to the 1970s – into one local law was a bid to balance the ever-increasing patronage of the city’s parks with the noise concerns of nearby residents and the protection of its green spaces.

“More and more people are using our open spaces and parks and that’s putting more pressure on them,” he said.

“This is providing a framework to help people understand what they can do in booking a space.”

Cr Bourke said an online checklist would help anyone planning an event to determine if they needed a permit and he insisted the consolidation would “simplify” the process.

But opposition councillors and independent councillor Nicole Johnston attacked the move as tying park use up in unnecessary red tape.

“Why on earth should a local neighbourhood watch group with a barbecue have to go and pay hundreds of dollars for a permit?” she asked.

“It is not practical, it’s silly and not thought through.

“…Adding red tape and making people get permits for basic activities is wrong.”

Opposition Leader Milton Dick agreed.

“This is political correctness gone mad, a backwards step when it comes to kids’ birthdays,” he said.

“If a local resident is celebrating a child’s fifth birthday and invites the prep class, parents, grandparents and siblings, it will easily top 50 people and easily now be council assessable.”

“Now they will be required to lodge paperwork and not only lodging and letting the council know, but also paying for the privilege.”

The new laws will also empower council officers to issue oral directions to anyone caught flouting the laws in parks, removing the current requirement to issue written notices.

Cr Bourke said the move would enable officers to better enforce existing laws that stemmed the impact of noise from groups participating in activities such as outdoor fitness classes.

“While there is a process in place, it needs more rigour and needs backing up in a local law,” he said.

Both Cr Sutton and fellow Labor councillor Kim Flesser expressed concern at how the new oral directive powers would be received by the large number of people who use the city’s parks and have English as their second language.

As did Cr Johnston, who also raised concerns for the safety of officers.

“Turning council officers into policemen is not acceptable,” she said.

“They do not have the same training, support and this could be putting them into an untenable situation.”

Kim Stephens September 10, 2014 Brisbane Times

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