Meaningless Words: Another Waverley Council “Response”

On Monday, September 13th I published an email that I had sent to Waverley Council in August and the response that I got that day from the Media/Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Waverley Council. I wasn’t very impressed with the response I had got to my questions of August 27th, so I wrote back to the Media/Executive Assistant on Tuesday asking for some clarification. Today, I have received the response to the set of questions that I sent to Waverley Council on September 14th. The email that I wrote to Waverley Council read as follows:

                                                                              September 14th, 2010

Hello Danielle

Yesterday I received a response from you to an email that had originally been sent to Dov Midalia on August 27th. Unfortunately I do not really consider that the response you gave me has adequately answered the two questions that were in my original email. So I am putting them to Waverley Council again.

Question One:

On Page Eight of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009, under the heading ‘The New Local Government Filming Protocol’, the following is stated:

“Amendments to the Local Government Act 1993 provided that the Director General may issue a filming protocol which is binding on local councils in relation to the approvals and services provided to location filming production.

This revised protocol, is binding on local councils, and spells out the dynamic of the relationship between the screen industry in NSW and local government under these new arrangements. It seeks to generate a shared intelligence between filmmakers and councils of the issues associated with the needs of each party to support the screen industry and meet the needs of local communities.

The act of filming does not of itself require an approval by councils, nor is it subject to fees.

What may require approval, and attract fees, are activities associated with filming where approval is required under legislated or regulatory authority or services are provided to the filmmaker. …

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.”

You will note that I have highlighted in red and further underlined some very relevant parts of this page of the Local Government Filming Protocol.

So my question is this: If Waverley Council is charging small-scale photographers who are either low impact or medium impact (according to council definitions) both an application fee and a per hour fee for such “commercial photography” when their photography activity has no additional impact such as blocking streets, etc. – doesn’t this put the current Waverley Council policy in breach of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009, which is supposedly binding upon all councils in New South Wales?

And if Waverley Council does not consider itself to be in breach of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009, doesn’t this show that the section that I have highlighted in red from Page Eight of the Protocol is in effect meaningless?

Question Two

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.)

 FURTHER QUESTIONS

 Question Three:

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?

Question Four:

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 Five:

In 2004 I was told by a Waverley Council official that I would need a council permit in order to take pictures in the Waverley Cemetery which were to be used in conjunction with a magazine article. Does this situation still apply? And further, does your definition of “commercial” photography extend to photographers who are doing pictures for magazine features in Public Open Spaces, or whose photography will be used in books, calendars, postcards etc.?

Question Six:

On September 6th, Woollahra Council passed a motion stating, “That an urgent report be brought to Council on the cost and impact of removing all regulations and fees for low impact photography in Woollahra.” This successful motion was proposed by Councillors Shoebridge, Grieve and Jarnason and their rationale was that: “There appears no earthly reason to regulate small scale photography in the area when it causes no or minimal impact on residents or the use of public space.”

My understanding is that the removal of fees and permits for low impact “commercial” photography in the Woollahra Council area will happen very soon. My question is this, isn’t this action by Woollahra Council indicative of the fact that fees charged and permits required by small-scale photographers are actually unjustifiable?

I look forward to your considered response.

Thanking you,

Ross Barnett

_______________________________________________

And this was the response I received today, September 16th from Danielle Lee-Ryder, the Media/Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Waverley Council.

Hi Ross

Commercial still photography is not covered by the filming protocol. This was made clear by the Office of Filming when the NSW Filming Policy was gazetted in 2009.

Waverley Council was involved in the consultation when the NSW Filming Policy was developed along with many other councils. From this consultation Council reviewed its still photography fee structure to reflect the filming structure. There are now two categories, low/medium impact and high impact/exclusive use. While location fees have been retained for still photography, for low/medium impact shoots both application and location fees are now lower than before.

Council will consider reviewing the current situation for low impact commercial still photography. We will meet with other councils, the Office of Filming, the Department of Local Government and the LGSA on this matter.

In the meantime, the current fees and charges apply for all photography and filming of all public places in Waverley. As previously mentioned, under certain conditions (e.g. community benefit) the hourly fee may be waived for low impact commercial photography, however a permit is still required.

Regards

Danielle

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About rossbmedia

Journalist ... interested in the truth not public service spin.
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6 Responses to Meaningless Words: Another Waverley Council “Response”

  1. Rob Walls says:

    This really needs a legal challenge. Perhaps one of the civil liberties groups might take it up.

    A thought occurs to me; have you asked them for their definition of a “commercial photography”?

  2. Harry Phillips says:

    Ross, you need to ask them HOW their enforcement officers on the ground determine if a photographer is “commercial” or not, size of camera? How stupid would that be, a hobbyist with a dSLR gets harassed while a pro with a P&S is ignored.

    If the Protocol does not cover still photography and councils can do whatever they want why does not simply read:
    This Protocol does not cover stills photography – the Filming Related Legislation Amendment Act 2008 and the Local Government Act 1993 specifically exclude still photography.

    • Rob Walls says:

      This why I now carry a Canon G11, Harry. I’ve shot pictures of commuters on Melbourne suburban trains in recent weeks for a project, with that not so little point-and -shoot that would have entailed endless negotiation to get permission to do…and probably a refusal on the spurious grounds of “safety or security”, if I had applied for permission.. Real too hard basket country. And to Metrolink’s mind, illegal.

      You can see the result here:http://thisworkinglife.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/homeward-bound/

      My attitude is that if I have to become an outlaw photographer to record the world around me, that is what I’ll do. So sue me…

      • Geoff Rehmet says:

        Rob,

        I occasionally shoot with a Powershot G11 on Melbourne stations, and only once have I been hauled up for not having a permit (at Yarraville station). I pleaded ignorance. Even though I am not shooting professionally, I am just as irritated as you. – Who says that I may not want to sell my material one day. (At any rate, some of my shots do get used to promote my wife’s work.)
        If you really want to fly below the radar with your G11, just get an enthusiast permit, and I defy Metro to prove that you are shooting professionally!
        A agree about getting a permit being in the “too hard basket” – it is generally easier to shoot surreptitiously and then beg forgiveness when accosted.

  3. johitchcock says:

    who owns railway stations – are they privately owned or public land?

  4. johitchcock says:

    Also Ross I have been advised that while the Film Protocol specifically excludes stills photography it states that the legislation does not require council approval or fees. While it does not require them it does not prohibit councils from introducing these regulations.

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