Fines for dropping a cigarette butt in the ACT will increase dramatically from $60 to $500 under new littering and illegal dumping laws introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday (June 6).
Fines for the dangerous practice of driving a vehicle with an unsecured load will also increase from $500 to $1500 under the proposed new laws, which will also provide for abandoned vehicles to be removed more quickly and the use of CCTV footage of dumping as evidence for issuing fines.
ACT City Services Minister Chris Steel said the legislation will also extend existing offences to capture all types of littering and dumping, and will introduce a framework for escalating offences, where penalties increase according to the volume, mass or nature of litter dumped.
In 2017-18 there were almost 800 recorded reports of illegal dumping incidents by Transport Canberra and City Services which cost $2 million to clean up.
“Cleaning up after illegal dumping is a financial burden on ratepayers as our city services staff spend a considerable amount of time and money removing litter,” Mr Steel said.
“These stronger littering laws reflect the importance of reducing and deterring littering in our community to protect and enhance the natural and built environment, while ensuring the health, amenity and wellbeing of ACT residents.
“Canberrans should be able to be proud of a clean, liveable city without illegal dumping in their streets, parks and local schools.”
Mr Steel said that cigarette butts are a significant risk to the environment and have been the cause of 13 per cent of landscape fires in the ACT.
He said that under the proposed laws, dropping a cigarette will incur a fine that reflects the seriousness of the offence. The fines will apply regardless of whether the cigarette butt is lit, unlit or extinguished.
Under the bill, fines will also increase for driving a vehicle with an uncovered load to reflect the danger that this poses for other road users and the environment.
“The new laws will amend the existing offence provisions to ensure all kinds of littering and dumping are appropriately captured,” Mr Steel said.
“I know that in new suburbs, building materials on private land sometimes blow away into local waterways as well as other people’s property. This bill will ensure that builders store material securely to prevent it from becoming litter.
“The new provisions will allow for clearly abandoned vehicles to be removed more quickly and more efficiently from areas such as car parks or inside school grounds, and other private areas that the public can access.
“CCTV is increasingly being used to monitor areas known for dumping in the ACT and at other public areas, such as recycling centres and schools, and the Government will use this evidence to issue fines.”
Mr Steel said that an important innovation in the proposed laws is that vehicle registration details will be used to identify people who are illegally dumping to enable infringement notices to be issued more easily, similar to speeding fines.
“Under these laws if you litter, from or near a vehicle, it will be up to the vehicle owner to explain who pays the fine.”
The new bill also deals with the vexed issue of hoarding by setting up a staged approach for dealing with litter on a private site, including the hoarding of items that are litter. This starts with education and awareness about the problem, and then could proceed with a show cause and a notice to remedy.
If none of these steps are successful it could then be followed by an abatement order, where TCCS are allowed to enter a site to clean-up and abate the hoarding of litter. However, the legislation makes clear that this framework does not criminalise the mental health issue of hoarding.
Mr Steel said that the recently announced compliance team from TCCS will play an important role in policing the new laws after the government has first undertaken a comprehensive community education program about them.
He said there are many options available for ACT residents to dispose of their unwanted items responsibly. For more information about this visit www.act.gov.au/recyclopaedia