Waverley Council – Questions and “Answers”

I am in the process of completing an article for A********* P********** magazine about the various photographic regulations around the country. As part of the research for that article, I sent an email to Waverley Council on August 27th. Just today (September 13th), I have received a response.

My initial email read as follows:

“I am a Sydney-based writer who has written quite extensively about the issue of photographic access and restrictions in Australia, particularly as they apply in national parks and some local council areas. I am currently working on a large feature on this subject for A********* P********** magazine, which updates and expands a story that I did for the magazine back in 2004 (“Daylight Robbery”, October 2004).

As you would have been aware the issue of photographic access, fees and permits was raised again in the Sydney media just two weeks ago. There were articles in both the Wentworth Courier and The Sydney Morning Herald and an item on the Channel Ten evening news on August 12th.

I wanted to clarify something for my new article for A********* P********** and would hope that you would be able to help me. Firstly, I understand that Waverley Council requires permits from low-impact “commercial” photographers who wish to take pictures in council’s “public open spaces” and then charges fees on top of that. This seems to happen despite the fact that the Local Government Filming Protocol of 2009 says that the Filming Related Legislation Amendment Act 2008 and the Local Government Act 1993 specifically exclude still photography, and therefore still photography doesn’t require council approval or attract fees unless it involves additional activity such as blocking streets, constructing a set or requires additional parking. This protocol is supposed to be binding upon local councils. My question therefore is this: On what basis is Waverley Council requiring permits from low-impact “commercial” photographers and charging them fees?

Secondly, Waverley Council seems to have produced a recent document titled “Commercial Filming and Photography in and of Public Open Spaces in Waverley”. I have attached a copy of this Word Document which can also 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?”

I look forward to your response.

Thanking you

Ross Barnett


And this is the response I got today from Danielle Lee-Ryder, who is the Media/Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Waverley Council.

Hi Ross

Thanks for your query relating to photography.

Waverley Council receives thousands of applications each year for photography and filming. There is a high demand from a myriad of groups such as photographers, filming crews, sporting groups, and fitness trainers. It would be physically impossible to allow all these groups to use our area without some form of administration. Like many other councils, we have a permit system to help manage the high demand, make it equitable and help minimise the impact on residents, visitors and the local environment. The permit also ensures the proposed filming and/or photography is suitable for the location, residents are notified where applicable, and that organisations have public liability insurance.

At some locations such as the historic Waverley Cemetery, certain filming and photographic activities are not appropriate. Similarly, Bondi is an iconic venue with world-wide recognition. 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.

Consequently commercial film crews and still photographers need to apply for a permit to carry out commercial work in Waverley’s public open spaces (e.g. beaches, parks and malls). Rangers are notified of all Council issued permits. Rangers will only approach a photographer or filming crew if they appear to be undertaking commercial operations without a valid permit, or behaving in an inappropriate or dangerous manner, or causing disruption to the general amenity of the public.

Waverley Council is extremely supportive of arts and cultural activities. We regularly host arts and photographic exhibitions at the Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Road Arts Centre and the Waverley Library. We also have an artist in residence program to support up and coming local artists where we provide them with a studio and they work towards developing a community minded exhibition. We also hold the Waverley Youth Art Award, Waverley Art Prize, CAL/ Waverley Library Award for Literature and public arts projects. The Bondi Pavilion is also an affiliated venue for the annual Head On photography festival. We also manage and promote a legal graffiti art wall at Bondi Beach.

Fee information is below. In relation to the Filming Protocol this does not apply to still photography, however in consultation with other Councils we amended our fee structure to low, medium and high impact in 2009. We are well within our right to charge a fee as do many other organisations and Councils. All fees go into our general budget and used to help maintain our highly visited area. Council at times negotiates the waiving of fees on a case by case basis.

Application Fee for Low/Medium Impact Photography is $150.00 per application. Rate per hour is $75.00. Application Fee for High Impact Photography or exclusive use is $300.00 per application. Rate per hour is $150.00.


About rossbmedia

Journalist ... interested in the truth not public service spin.
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17 Responses to Waverley Council – Questions and “Answers”

  1. Rob Walls says:

    I’m no clearer on this than before. Ross. Can a photojournalist take editorial photos without a permit, or not?

  2. rossbmedia says:

    Stay tuned, Rob. I will try to get an answer for you.

  3. Harry Phillips says:

    They never answered the question directly and probably never will, your response should be along the lines.

    “As an artists it’s good that you have a program of support, however it still did not answer the question of what basis you are charging these fees. Can I summarise your response as ‘We is popular, pay the fee, deal with it’ when I publish the article?”

    That’s basically what they are saying.

  4. Harry Phillips says:

    ha ha ha… you just gave yourself away by linking to the doc I have hosted, you ain’t getting no response now, I am sure they hate me and my pointy questions, they gunna hate you too 🙂

  5. rossbmedia says:

    Harry, unlike you I am a journalist and by using correct spelling and not slang and by framing questions in a direct or pointed way (not pointy) I attempt to get answers. If government bodies do not provide responses which actually answer my questions, then I note that in my articles.

  6. Geoff Rehmet says:

    So here are a couple more interesting thoughts:
    Has Google applied for a permit for commercial photography in Waverley? – Would Google be likely to comment on that?
    I notice, when doing a search for Waverley, NSW on realestate.com.au, a lot of photos taken from the street (i.e. council property) of properties for sale. In my mind, these kinds of images do constitute commercial photography, since the images are being used to promote a product. It would then be interesting to see how many permits the Waverly council has issued for photography of residential properties for sale.
    If the council is not forthcoming with information, it may be interesting to speak to local estate agents, who in all likelihood are not aware of the permit requirement. No doubt estate agents would be up in arms about the suggestion that they need to apply for permits to take photos from public places of properties for sale. If the Waverley Council is not enforcing permit regulations on real estate photographers, then it further shows the ridiculous nature of the regulations, and the intent just to gouge money from landscape photographers. If anything, I would hazard a guess that real estate photography is the most prolific form of commercial photography conducted from public roads.

  7. B Harpley says:

    I’ve been following this topic for a while. Many years ago (50+) I used to take photos of areas like street scenes to record the ‘time stamp’ of a moment in time. I’ve never sold these images rather they formed the basis of some of my painting work. Many photos were destroyed, but that’s another matter.

    It seems to me that many people are angry about the request to be upfront about what they want the images for. I appreciate the ‘ownership’ organisations have over their property (public or private). Why are ‘we’ photographers being so angry and demanding confrontational reactions?

    Just of interest I’ve spoken to several councils about capturing more ‘time stamps’ of the places that I still have those old originals for. When I tell them its not for commercial re-sale, everyone of them have given approval.

    Can I assume it’s the photographers who are looking to make a “buck” out of exploiting others “work” (the built landscape, houses, human modifications, etc) that is causing the anger?

    • Rob Walls says:

      @ B Harpley…you misread despair as “anger”. That Australians are so apathetic about freedom of expression, frankly saddens me.

      This issue has nothing to do with making money. Whether a photographer makes anything from their pictures is incidental. In real accounting terms the kind of pictures that photographers wish to make, without hindrance from councils, would invariably be at a financial cost to them them. i.e. a loss. (See my blog piece, “How I became an outlaw” here: http://tinyurl.com/276qdtr

      You mention your “time stamp” paintings and your experience of gaining permission when you “tell them it is not for commercial re-sale”. (I’ll assume you mean “sale”, rather than “re-sale”.)

      Hypothetically speaking, let’s assume that your art gains a positive response. Someone seeing your work offers you money for one of your paintings. Being a good upstanding citizen, ever willing to be subservient to rules and regulations, you will of course, refuse the offer on the grounds that when you made the picture you were not licenced to make commercial gain from the pictures.

      You will of course, also in your will, instruct your family that none of your pictures must ever be sold.

      Be realistic; do you think photographers should pay to record Australian life? Or should we, like you, strictly abide be these ridiculous laws, so that when in the future, Waverley Council (insert names of other organisations with restrictions on photography) is looking for the historic record of what the council area looked like in the 2000s, they discover that there is nothing available?

    • Harry Phillips says:

      B Harpley – you’re funny, how is my time and effort taking photos any more making a “buck” exploiting other’s “work” than yours when you turn photos into paintings? You are taking “the built landscape, houses, human modifications etc and making your buck.

      Anything you can say about photographers can be said about painters, musicians, writers or any other art. Are you some sort of elitist that thinks photography is too “easy” compared to your paintings?

      This issue gets us (or is it just me?) “angry” because photographers are being unfairly targeted, if they charged every other artist then fair enough. Can you imagine the uproar if they wanted to introduce permits for other types of artists?

      JUST because a photographer has commercial intent should not mean they are required to get a permit or be charged. If the council based their permits on impact and access (like they do with filming) I would be on their side, they don’t and I plan on getting a judge to rule their permit system illegal.

      The council DO NOT “own” public land, we the people own the land, they manage and maintain it our behalf. If my activity does not require any more management or maintenance than normal then why should I be charged a cent?

  8. rossbmedia says:

    Hello B Harpley – I have read your comment but I am not quite sure where you see the “anger”, except I guess in a few of the more ‘out-there’ posts by Harry Phillips? But I am not Harry’s keeper, or do you think that I should be?

    I certainly don’t think that photographers are “angry” about a request to be ‘upfront’ about what they want to take images for, or to use them for. But they have a right to be concerned when they are slugged with a substantial fee for what should be seen as the exercising of a democratic right. This being a right to freedom of expression in any medium of their choosing.

    I was bemused by your third paragraph in which you state that you have been given ‘approval’ by several councils to do more “time stamp” pictures. Why exactly do you think you would need approval for this type of activity – which seems to be totally benign – in a democratic country?

    Lastly, all of us makes a “buck” out of exploiting the work of others to some extent. I use our car to pick up my wife from work if it is raining or to drop my younger son at a party and there is a registration fee for the car which helps to pay for my use of the road. But I don’t pay any additional fee when I use the car to drive myself to a location where I take pictures … for possible “commercial gain”. So why should I have to pay a fee to take pictures in a council jurisdiction when I am having no more impact than a solo tourist with a camera?

    As I see it, photographers have every right to object to this “rort” which is carried out by several Sydney councils, especially when it seems to directly conflict with the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009.

    • rossbmedia says:

      And thank you to Rob Walls for replying directly to B Harpley. I can only concur with Rob’s comment, “That Australians are so apathetic about freedom of expression, frankly saddens me.”

      It also disappoints me greatly that after some fifteen or twenty years of all levels of government producing spin instead of substance in their public pronouncements – no make that 23 years given Bob Hawke’s 1987 promise of “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty” – that B Harpley appears to have swallowed hook, line and leaden sinker what the Waverley Council spokesperson has said.

    • Harry Phillips says:

      My ‘out there’ posts are made in jest to poke some fun. I wouldn’t mind a keeper though, maybe B Harpley will apply for the job?

      I hope there will be a breeding program.

  9. rossbmedia says:

    You mean a “captive breeding” program, Harry? ROFL!!

  10. B Harpley says:

    I admit I may be a little old fashioned, however I like to believe I don’t overly complicate things for the sake of it. I prefer to fight the good fight, not loose the bad battle. This is just my opinion.

    With regards the sale of my works now or in the future, I would genuinely offer my creations to a public institution (probably local), and if there was a ‘sale’ or money transaction (I don’t really rely on that kind of income) I would be directed back to the future care of the subjects that were used as inspiration – probably some Council managed land – so it can be there for future inspiration to others.

    We who believe ourselves to be creative are not all the same. This blogg highlights this fact. We are not all out to set the world on fire and topple what we feel to be unjust regimes. Many others may not feel this way – but I digress.

    Some of us (one perhaps) can happily jump through a hoop, even two, if it keeps the bureaucracy machines busy dealing with the important fundamentals. Well at least I can.


    • Harry Phillips says:

      How is it complicated? For $750 a lone photographer can do 8 hours of shooting, for $700 a personal trainer has a permit to take a group of up to 6 people every day for an entire year.

      If you can’t see the injustice then you need to visit an optometrist.

  11. rossbmedia says:

    Betty, I will have to take time at a later juncture to give you a proper response however I would have to disagree with you about the matter of local council photography permits and fees being a “bad battle”. The extortion racket that is still being carried out by both Manly Council and Waverley Council has to be seen in the overall context of the many restrictions on photography (commercial or otherwise) in this supposedly democratic country. And getting rid of these restrictions whether they occur at Bondi, in a New South Wales national park or at Uluru, are all part of a “good fight”.

    There is a definite injustice that happens in the Public Open Spaces of Waverley Council regarding photography and while I may not have been as blunt about the issue as Harry was, it would be good if you recognised this.

  12. Hi Ross.

    It seems to me that Waverley City Council still continues to evade the “direct questions” and in reply. retrieve it’s responses from the “spin Doctor’s Bin “.

    Funny how the same old cliches keep bobbing up…….. here’s an excerpt from a response I got from them late last year….. “Council acts on behalf of the community as custodian for such areas and seeks to obtain reasonable recompense accordingly. Enterprises such as the one that you mentioned are expected to meet permit requirements and pay accordingly …”
    The sentence that sparked my interest was this ….”Waverley is more concerned about photography activity that alienates the amenity of public open space areas…”

    “ALIENATES THE AMENITY “….. sounds familiar doesn’t it.

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