Under Public Land and Council Assets Local Law 2014 Brisbane City Council is intending to limit public assembly in local parks, malls, and gardens. The restrictions on use of public parks require “a person who wants to conduct an activity with exclusive use of a particular site within a park for a set period of time must book the site.” Under this legislation, 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.
This is a return to the Bjelke-Petersen ban on street marches … the council are using local laws to limit public assemblies whether they be for sporting, recreational, cultural or political purposes.
Council already has plenty of laws to prevent ‘dangerous activities’ or ‘damage to plants’ in parks, it does not need these laws. These restrictions apply to public parks, malls and gardens and include traditional gathering places for political and cultural activities, e.g. King George Square and Musgrave Park.
If these laws are necessary for sharing limited space in public parks … whose fault is it that there are not enough public spaces?
Property developers, with council approval, have been taking land for private profit. Council has been increasing the density of housing in Brisbane which has led to greater need for public spaces. Insufficient space has been allowed by developers, council and government. Approvals have been handed out by council to change low-medium density housing to high density without concern about the impact on people and public spaces. For example council has given approval to developments in Annerley that exceed its own rules without. This has met with some resistance by local people (pictured below).
Sale of public land to developers
Meanwhile low cost public housing has been privatised by state government. The laws ignore the cultural meaning of parks for Aboriginal people and for ordinary people. Worse still, Council has been selling land which was classified as parkland to the state government for use as housing land and then state government has sold the land to developers.
This arose in a debate on 28 August 2012 about the sale of Caravan Parks which provided long term low cost housing to residents. The focus of the debate in Brisbane City council was a motion put up by the Labor Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Milton DICK (seconded by Councillor SUTTON), that
“That this Council affirms it will not sell the part of the land owned by Council and occupied by the Monte Carlo Caravan Park, and continues to support the current area classification to ensure residents are not kicked-out to make way for higher density property development.”
The motion was disallowed because the Council had already sold the land which was classified as parkland to the state government for use as housing land (See Monte Carlo Caravan Park Debate).
Restrictions on use of Parks
Public Land and Council Assets Local Law 2014 imposes the following rules on ordinary people:
Council will not accept a booking for an activity (in a park) to which it does not consent.
If under this local law, a direction or notice is given to the holder of a consent or a person acting under the consent, the direction or notice may be given to all or any one or more of those persons, and the obligation to comply with the direction or notice is imposed, jointly and severally, on each person who receives the direction or notice.
The power is for Council officers to give a oral direction and if a person is breaking the local law they can issue a fine on the spot. There is no appeal against the oral direction given by the council officer. That fine can be $2,600 or $5,500. The offences are not getting a permit for:
- Erecting any structure
- Holding a party larger than 50 people
- Conduct a public assembly which is not authorised under the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992.
- Engage in any sporting games whether organised or impromptu.
- Affix notices to a tree or handing out fliers
- Homeless people sleeping rough in a park.
People need Parks
A co-ordinating committee needs to be formed to fight these new laws and to defend people’s use of parks. These laws need to be challenged.
You can write to BCC at http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/about-council/contact-council/write-council