On Wednesday, September 29th I finally received a “lengthy” response from the one and only Danielle Lee-Ryder, Media/Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Waverley Council. This response was to a set of questions that I had sent to her on September 17th. These questions – which sought further clarification on the matter of still photography within the Waverley Council LGA – were as follows:
Hello Danielle – I have received your email of September 16th but you have still not given me an answer to several of the questions that I put to Waverley Council on Tuesday. These questions are:
Waverley Council has produced a document titled “Commercial Filming and Photography in and of Public Open Spaces in Waverley”. This document can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/2w8f68v
According to this document, you need a permit … ‘If you want to capture aerial images of Waverley for commercial purposes from aircraft flying over the area’ and … ‘If you want to use an image of the Waverley area for a commercial purpose (for example you may be a picture editor, a commercial film library or tour operator).’
My question therefore is this: On what basis can Waverley Council insist on permits in either of these situations? What legal right do you have to ask for such permits? (In your response of September 13th you claimed: “Many commercial products and events seek to align their product with the Bondi brand. It is in the interest of all parties to protect and maintain its iconic status and image.” However this does not answer the question that I put to Waverley Council and further, I can see nothing in the Local Government Act 1993 which would give Waverley Council any such powers which are claimed in the document that I have cited.)
You noted in your response of September 13th that, “Waverley Council receives thousands of applications each year for photography and filming.”
My question is this, how many photographic applications did Waverley Council receive in the past year (financial year 2009-2010, or calendar year 2009) and how many were approved?
On Page Four of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009, the Minister for Local Government notes the following: “Fees and charges related to location filming activity are, at a maximum, to be cost reflective.”
My question is this. In what way can the Waverley Council charges for still photography ($150 application fee and $75 per hour for low impact) be said to be “cost reflective”, when a low impact photographer incurs no cost to council apart from your own self-imposed cost of processing an application?
Further, aren’t “commercial” photographers entitled to feel that they are being unfairly treated by Waverley Council when you impose a cost upon them of an application fee of $150 plus $75 per hour for both low and medium impact photography (thus making a one-day shoot of eight hours a very costly exercise at $750) when a personal fitness trainer can make use of Waverley Council’s public open spaces throughout the entire year for as little as $700?
Question Four: (new question)
What is Waverley Council’s definition of “commercial photography”? Does your definition of commercial photography only apply to commissioned photography or does it also apply to speculative photography where a photographer does imagery which may in the future provide them with a “reward” (i.e. payment)?
Question Five: (new question)
You noted in your email of September 13th that, “We (Waverley Council) are well within our right to charge a fee as do many other organisations and Councils.”
You also noted in that email the fee structure that Waverley Council applies to low and medium impact photography – which obviously does not require street closures, set construction or additional parking – as being $75 per hour plus an application fee of $150.
Given that Waverley Council requires approval for and applies fees to small-scale “commercial photography”, what does your council actually think was meant by the paragraph that I have previously highlighted on Page 8 of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009? This paragraph being:
“This Protocol does not cover stills photography – the Filming Related Legislation Amendment Act 2008 and the Local Government Act 1993 specifically exclude still photography, and it does not require council approval or attract council fees unless it involves additional activity such as blocking streets, constructing a set or additional parking. In these cases, the Protocol can provide guidance for councils in processing high impact stills shoots. Those contemplating still photography should approach councils for further information.”
Forgive me for my persistence on this matter but when I have shown that section of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009 to “ordinary mortals” the clear majority of them have concluded that local councils do not have a right to charge fees or require approval from what you would describe as low or medium impact photography.
I look forward to your considered response.
The response I have got from Danielle Lee-Ryder is as follows:
Thank you for your questions relating to fees and charges for commercial still photography. I wanted to ensure all your concerns were fully reviewed by the appropriate officers before finalising your enquiries, so I appreciate your patience.
Council sets its fees and charges each year as part of development of its Operational Plan for the following financial year. Preparations for this begin at the start of each calendar year and recommendations are included in the draft plan placed on public exhibition in April / May. Final recommendations, taking account of any public feedback, are then put to Council for resolution in June. This process provides a regular opportunity to review various policy implications relating to fees and charges, including any for commercial still photographers. Of course, Council welcomes suggestions on policy matters at any time and these should be submitted in writing to the General Manager or Mayor accordingly.
The filming protocol released by the Division of Local Government (NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet) carries the weight of law. However, this protocol deals exclusively with filming and not still photography. It does not place any prohibitions on local government authorities around the setting of fees and charges in relation to use of community facilities for commercial photography.
The document you have seen entitled ‘Commercial Filming and Photography in and of Public Open Spaces in Waverley’ is useful as a discussion paper. Its current status is that of a working document and it has not been endorsed as formal operating policy.
In relation to the figures of how many applications we receive – “thousands of applications” was intended as a figure of speech. It is indisputable that Bondi Beach is widely seen as a high demand location. For example, in the State Government’s media release dated 22 September 2009 announcing the revised filming protocol, Bondi was cited as an example of a “hot spot” or frequent filming site. Our permit and fee system covers a range of activities including commercial photography, filming, personal training activities, promotions and various other events. In the last financial year 67 permits were granted in relation to photography around beach areas and 12 were granted for local parks. There were no applications in relation to photography in Waverley Cemetery in the same period.
Council acknowledges that many photographers use locations in the Waverley area without seeking permits, and recognises that most of them do not alienate the amenity of areas set aside for the community at large.
Media/Executive Assistant to Mayor
Ph: 9369 8126
Fax: 9369 8065
Mob: 0416 075 532
Notice how in Lee-Ryder’s response that by and large, answers are NOT provided to my direct questions. Instead she has given me back what might best be described as a rambling piece of spin. This “habit” of not replying to many of my direct questions is sadly, something that I have got used to from other functionaries as I have been researching my story for A********* P********** magazine during the past few months.