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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Posted in Australia, Photography | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Australia, Photography | 17 Comments

Garrett No More – New Environment Minister in Canberra

In the brand new Federal cabinet line-up that has been put together by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the one-time Minister for Burning Batts (aka Peter Garrett) has been shifted sideways from his position as Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts to the new portfolio of Schools, Early Childhood and Youth. Tony Burke, the former Minister for Sustainable Population and  Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has taken up the position of Minister for Sustainable Population, Communities, Environment and Water.

Let’s hope that this new minister will prove to be less gullible than his predecessor and more resistant to the hoodwinking activities of the pious and pompous prats bureaucrats within Parks Australia.

Posted in Australia, National Parks, Photography | 1 Comment

The Australian “Disease” Rears Its Ugly Head in Hobart

A screenshot of the Hobart City Council webpage devoted to Licence Certificates

I had always thought that the Tasmanians were the “good guys” when it came to an understanding of photography – after all there is no fee charged or a permit required for non-advertising photography in their national parks – but sadly it seems that the Hobart City Council don’t exactly live up to the “good guys” creed.

As you can see above there is a Commercial Street Photographer (Licence) fee of $50 per half day, or $100 per full day. Note that hawkers and kerbside vendors only pay $100 for an annual licence, although the impact of a “street photographer” is bound to be less than that of a hawker or kerbside vendor.

And whilst the Commercial Street Photographer charge is considerably less than that demanded by the rogues at Sydney’s Manly and Waverley Councils, this is not the only photography charge imposed by the Hobart City Council.

If you want to do “commercial” photography in one of the parks or gardens administered by Hobart City Council, the fee is $200 per application. If you want to do “commercial” photography in one of the council’s bushland reserves (such as Wellington Park) the fee is $250 for a half day, or $500 for a full day. Obviously a charge like that has got nothing to do with a “recovery of costs” by Hobart City Council but is all to do with monopoly price gouging.

Posted in Australia, Photography | Leave a comment

More About This Blog

I started this blog four months ago today and by some measure of coincidence I have just reached 1,000 blog views today as well. But this blog isn’t about numbers but about getting a message across and making sure that valuable information gets out into the readily accessible public sphere.

I make no apology for being pro-photographer in this blog – after all I take pictures as well as write words and I get paid for both of those endeavours. But what makes me “mad” if you like, is the petty requirement that the photographer side of me needs a permit or has to pay fees when the writer side of me doesn’t.

I was reminded of how absolutely silly these requirements was when my wife and I visited the rural city of Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales just after Easter earlier this year. While we were there we spent one morning – about three hours – climbing to the top of The Rock and back again. The Rock is a large, rocky hill that is located about 30 kilometres south of Wagga Wagga and is part of a nature reserve managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales. 

Although I didn’t do it, I could have easily penned a story about climbing The Rock and sent it off to a camping/travel magazine, had it published and been paid for it. No permits, no fees required. After all, any such requirement would have been an attack on the freedom of the press.

But somehow if I had taken my camera along I would have been subject to the bizarre rules of the National Parks and Wildlife Service which even now still requires me to ge a permit, tell them in advance as to where I wanted to go “shooting” and hold $10 million in public liability insurance. And if I didn’t hold a permit, doing such photography – yes being published in a small circulation magazine – would have rendered me liable to being fined for a breach of Clause 21 (1) (d) of the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.

Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and ratified this document in 1980. Article 19 (2) of the Covenant, a United Nations document which is legally binding for those States that ratify or accede to it, is concerned with freedom of expression.

That article states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” As photography can be considered as being a form of both art and media, it is clearly a protected form of freedom of expression – or should be seen as such.

This blog will keep running and be a thorn in the side of the Peter Cochranes or Ross Woodwards of this world, until bureaucrats and politicians at all three levels of government respect the civil rights that photographers are clearly due.

Posted in Australia, National Parks, Photography | 5 Comments

New South Wales – Not Photographer Friendly

On March 30, 2009, the New South Wales government brought into force a new Local Government Filming Protocol.  You can access this protocol here … http://www.dlg.nsw.gov.au/Files/Information/Local_Government_Filming_Protocol_-_2009.pdf

This protocol was part of a process that was intended to make New South Wales “film friendly.” Or as the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader noted in an article dated May 27, 2009 (http://www.theleader.com.au/news/local/news/general/protocol-curbs-filming-fees/1523434.aspx), it was a means to curb filming fees that were being charged by local councils.  

However somewhere in the creation of this new filming protocol the bureaucrats who put it together forgot about the ongoing gouging of small-scale “commercial” photographers by some local councils within the Sydney area.

I have been intrigued about the “legality” of this extortion racket by both Manly Council and Waverley Council for some time, as my reading of the relevant section of the Local Government Filming Protocol of 2009 strongly suggested that in imposing fees and permit requirements upon small-scale photographers that these two councils were both operating against the spirit of the filming protocol.

You can see my post where I discussed this matter at … https://rossbmedia.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/are-sydney-councils-that-require-photography-permits-acting-illegally/

However I have today received an email from the Chief Executive, Local Government in New South Wales, telling me that I am wrong. And as his first name is Ross also, I just have to bow down to that superior advice.

Anyway, this is what that other Ross has told me:

“I can confirm that stills photography is excluded from the Local Government Filming Protocol. However, commercial stills photography and associated fees continue to fall within the following provisions of the Local Government Act 1993:

  • Section 68 (D)(1) – approval to engage in trade or business on community land
  • Sections 35 and 36 – plans of management for community land
  • Sections 80, 608, 610D and 610F – council fees
  • Sections 124-153 – orders
  • Section 626 – failure to obtain approval.

The provisions should be considered in the context of the Act as a whole. You may wish to obtain independent legal advice on their interpretation. You can access the Local Government Act online at: http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/maintop/view/inforce/act+30+1993+cd+0+N

I have noted the additional issues you have raised regarding the definition of commercial photography, low impact stills photography and aerial photography. As previously advised, councils are established as autonomous bodies with rights and powers under the Local Government Act. The Act does not give the Minister for Local Government, or the Division of Local Government, [or the] Department of Premier and Cabinet, the power to direct councils in matters such as these.

However, given the apparent inconsistencies between the fees charged by some councils for stills photography and the provisions of the Local Government Filming Protocol, the Division will be considering these issues further in conjunction with a review of the Protocol that is currently underway.”

________________________________________________

So there you have it. Local councils can act like complete prats – they can impose ridiculous charges upon small-scale photographers and can ride roughshod over concepts of freedom of expression – and the various state government departments will turn a blind eye to it.

Posted in Australia, Photography | 18 Comments

Cockatoo Island Offers Exciting Locations and Sky-High Fees

I am taking this straight from the Commercial filming and photography page for Sydney’s Cockatoo Island, a piece of public land that lies in Sydney Harbour “upstream” from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and at the junction of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers.

“Cockatoo Island offers some exciting locations for film and photographic projects. As well as a striking harbour location, Cockatoo provides backdrops ranging from striking heritage buildings to gritty industrial remnants.

The island contains remains of a convict prison, houses dating from the 1840s, immense workshop spaces, cranes and dry docks and many more unusual locations – all within a 10-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.”

So it sounds like this island, the largest in Sydney Harbour, might be worthwhile for a photo-shoot. I then checked the rates and just about fell backwards out of my chair. For a full day (10 hours, daylight only) the published rate is $1,250 including GST. That’s for a “low intensity” shoot which limits photography to publicly accessible areas only, with minimal set up allowed. If you want to do “medium intensity” commercial photography – which allows you one ‘back-of-house’ location per day, that’s $1,500 for the daylight hours.

And how does the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust – the gatekeepers of Cockatoo Island – define “commercial photography”? Is it just high-level advertising photography? No … many other image-taking activities are considered to be commercial as well.

This is the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust’s definition of a commercial activity: “Use of Trust lands as a backdrop for other filming or photography purposes is classed as commercial activity requiring prior consent and the payment of a licence fee. Examples of this use include teaching photography, taking photos for publications, public display or sale, creation of filming/photography portfolios, photoshoots and the making of short films.”

So on that basis editorial photography for magazines is a commercial activity and thus liable to pay the $1,250 a day fee. As is taking pictures for postcards or public exhibition and the creation of filming or photography portfolios. To class all of them and especially the latter as commercial activities leaves me more than a little gobsmacked.

My 18-year-old son is a budding film-maker – well he has just completed his major work for the Higher School Certificate which was a short film – but the very idea that you would class him as a “commercial” film-maker because he is making a short film which he may put into a portfolio is absolutely absurd. OK, the Trust … “permits photography or short-film making without a fee by enrolled students for the sole purpose of completing an education assignment set by an accredited secondary or tertiary education provider.” But anything beyond that is considered a commercial activity. (“Low intensity” filming will set you back $2,000 a day on Cockatoo Island.)

Now the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has probably done a very good job on preserving and restoring Cockatoo Island’s maritime heritage. Indeed, since August 2nd of this year Cockatoo Island  has been part of Australia’s latest World Heritage site addition as a component of the Australian Convict Sites that were first nominated back in January 2008.

However when it comes to understanding the extreme financial pressures that can bear down on small-scale film-makers and photographers – or even attempting to understand the concept of “freedom of expression” – it would appear that the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust are complete galahs.

For further details see – http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/venues/film.html

Posted in Australia, Photography | 13 Comments