Question: Vehicle Removal, Tea Tree Gully Council


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:07 ): Today, I wish to bring to members' attention some information that has been presented to me by Mayor Kevin Knight of the City of Tea Tree Gully in relation to the issue of removal of vehicles. Mayor Knight wrote to me last week, and I assume that he has also written to a number of other members of parliament representing constituents in the Tea Tree Gully area. Either way, for the benefit of the house, I will quote his letter to ensure that his message is accurately represented and so that all members may consider his point of view: 

Dear Mr Gardner 

I write to you regarding Section 32 of the Local Government (Accountability and Governance) Amendment Act 2015. This amended section 237(3) to include: 

(3a) To avoid doubt, a vehicle parked or left standing on a public road in a manner that does not contravene a law regulating the parking or standing of vehicles on public roads will be taken not to have been left on a public road for the purposes of subsection (1), unless the vehicle has, in the opinion of an authorised person, been abandoned. 

This change to the Local Government Act which commenced on 31 March 2016 has restricted Council's ability to remove vehicles left on public roads. In effect, if the vehicle is not contravening a law regulating the parking or standing of vehicles on public road (for example leaving an unregistered vehicle on a road), an authorised person is not empowered to have the vehicle removed unless they form the opinion that the vehicle has been abandoned. 

I wonder if you were aware, when this legislation was passed, that the outcome would be that Council's ability to remove registered vehicles left on public roads would be greatly reduced? 

I ask for your support to have this legislation reviewed and the problem addressed for the benefit of our community. 

Yours sincerely 

Kevin Knight 

Of course, members may have their own point of view on this matter. Indeed, I know that there was extensive consultation particularly with the local government sector in our consideration as a house of this legislation. I am interested to know what local councils think when we pass legislation that is going to impact on their operations. The councils have to work with the legislation we pass, so sometimes the way things work in practice needs to be considered. 

There of course also may well be a policy point which the parliament wishes to pursue which might override the objections of council, or indeed different councils may have different points of view, but at the very least council's point of view should be taken into account. In this case, as it turns out, the same council might have multiple points of view depending on when they are asked. 

Today, I have written to Mayor Knight to thank him for sharing his current point of view and to advise him that, as per his request for my support for this legislation to be reviewed, I would be happy to advise the house of the matter, which I am doing in this speech. For accuracy, I am happy to advise the house of the exact terms of my correspondence to him, as follows: 

Dear Mayor Knight 

Thank you for your correspondence in relation to the issue of Section 32 of the Local Government Act—and in particular amendments made as a result of the Local Government (Accountability and Governance) Amendment Bill 2015. 

I note your question: 'I wonder if you were aware, when this legislation was passed, that the outcome would be that Council's ability to remove registered vehicles left on public roads would be great ly reduced?' Further I note your request for my support in having this legislation reviewed. 

I can advise that the Liberal Opposition in South Australia takes seriously any concerns raised by Councils in relation to the Local Government Act. That is why, when Minister Brock and the Government introduced the Local Government (Accountability and Governance) Amendment Bill, we sought to consult with local government on whether or not they welcomed or opposed the proposed measures. I understand that the Local Government Association consulted directly with all Councils and they provided us with their feedback. 

You may be interested to know that the Local Government Association supported the passage of many measures including the reform that you have raised in your correspondence to me. 

Further, you may recall yourself that your own Council considered this matter on 26 May 2015 and resolved to support the proposal with which you now have raised concerns. I have attached the relevant section of the minutes of your meeting below to assist. 

For members' benefit, the minutes of the meeting of the day in question identify a schedule, entitled 'Local Government (Accountability and Governance) Amendment Bill 2015', with topics such as clause 32, amendment of section 237, removal of vehicles. Under the heading of Proposal is written that this clarifies that vehicles that are merely legally parked on a road are not subject to removal under this section unless they have been abandoned. Under the heading of Comment is written that the City of Tea Tree Gully supports the proposal. To continue with my letter: 

Given your request for my support in having this legislation reviewed, I am happy to provide advice to the House of your changed position on this matter—and will endeavour to do so this afternoon so that my colleagues may take these issues on board. 

However, given the extensive work the Local Government Association did prior to the Bill's passage in consulting with Councils such as yours, as well as providing their own analysis and advocacy, I suspect Members would be interested in whether the Tea Tree Gully Council as a whole, and indeed the Local Government Association in representing all Councils, have also withdrawn their support for this measure. 

Yours sincerely 

John Gardner 

I am always interested in the points of view that the Local Government Association and member councils put forward in relation to their legislation. If those bodies have different points of view now to that which they put forward to two years ago, then I am sure we shall consider it. I note that Mayor Knight has since responded to my email, thanking me for pointing this out.