New byelaws for our parks

May 30 2017

The new byelaws have been a long time coming, but, as Councillor Martin Fodor explains, at last the frustrations are past...

The new byelaws have been a long time coming, but, as Councillor Martin Fodor explains, at last the frustrations are past...

A review of the Victorian Bye Laws started long ago as a response to anti-social behaviour in parks and open spaces, and had a number of false starts, as well as passing through the hands of various Cabinet members of different persuasions. 

There have also been some misunderstandings, including the difference between bye laws - that allow a response when needed, to protect communities or facilities - and criminal law, that makes something illegal. 

There have also been concerns that there's a bye law to ban foraging, when some of us encourage local food and the use of edible plants - what might be unacceptable is commercial foraging, or organised mass collection of herbs to strip an area of wild plants. There's a fine balance sometimes, but the point is not to cause damage.

We've had lots of feedback, thanks in part to the city Parks Forum. Of course views differ about where or whether activities should happen, like fishing, camping (as a last resort for homeless people), cycling, and music. Indeed some said there's no need for any rules at all.

A thousand page report was finally compiled for the March Council meeting where I called for a commitment to communicate the changes and bye laws. We also need a very clear message about when, if, and by whom there can be enforcement so there isn't confusion or misunderstanding.

Permission from the Council is required before doing any of these activities: 

• Camping

• Lighting fires

• Letting animals graze

• Putting up structures, such as buildings, barriers, posts, rides or swings, this doesn't apply to gazebos or day tents

• Putting on entertainment, shows or performances

• Parking overnight, between 10pm and 6am

• Taking off or landing aircraft, hot air balloons, helicopters or hang gliders

• Providing a service that you charge for, such as, running a forest school or providing fitness instruction.

Having taken part in a few years of this process, including a detailed inquiry day and many Scrutiny meetings I and my colleagues did endorse the adoption of new bye laws and related decisions. They can’t solve all the problems but should help. One particular issue for some parks, like St Andrews, is whether the damage caused by barbecues left on the turf can be reduced.