Back in March, I was going through Auburn when I spotted some posters that had been put up illegally on roadside power poles. After doing a bit of web browsing when I got home, I found that the posters belonged to the Nature Conservation Council. The NCC received $1.3 million in grants and sponsorship in 2007/2008, and although a breakdown of that income is not readily available, it's clear that around 80% of it's funding comes from the taxpayer, presumably funneled through the Department of Environment and Climate Change.
The problem with posters is that when they eventually fall down, they either blow up and down the street as rubbish, or they clog storm water drains, or they get washed down storm water drains into our creeks, rivers and harbours. Putting up posters is a form of littering, and I did not think it appropriate that an organisation devoted to environment causes should be littering! It's as bad as them dumping their unsorted rubbish in a park, or in the harbour.
It's even worse when that organisation is funded by the taxpayer. The taxpayer gets stung twice - once to pay for the posters, and a second time to clean up the mess afterwards. To me, that's a shocking form of waste and abuse of taxpayer's funds.
I emailed Irene Simms, the Mayor of Auburn, and got the following response straight away:
Thanks for your email. I agree about the eyesore that bill posting presents, but my information is that we must catch the culprits in the act of bill posting.We cannot assume (although to me there are only 2 likely sources, the venue or the 'act' ) that the venue is responsible for the bill posting.I would be happy to discuss further as this is a pet grievance of mine.
So it seems pretty clear from that email that Auburn Council are less than impressed, and would prosecute the perpetrators if they caught them in the act.
I then wrote to the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change:
Dear MinisterI have attached a photo of one of a number of posters that have been put up illegally around the entry ramps to the Western Motorway at Silverwater Road. The posters direct the reader to http://www.saveourlastsharks.org.au/, which then redirects to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.The NCC’s annual report notes that up to 85% of its funding comes from state government grants – and most, if not all of those grants presumably come from your department.Under the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act, bill posting is considered an illegal form of pollution. Councils can issue fines directly to the venue responsible for producing the poster.I request that you write to the NCC and instruct them to immediately cease illegal bill posting, and to remove any posters that have been put up to date. I am amazed that an environmental group like this would indulge in polluting the environment in this manner, and that taxpayer funds would be used to erect illegal, polluting material.This is a disgrace, and it warrants immediate investigation. At the very least, all grants to the NCC should be suspended until they have made good the damage that they have caused, and further taxpayer funds should not be used to effect a cleanup. I am going to write to the council responsible for this area and request that the NCC be prosecuted for these activities, and once again, taxpayer funds should not be used to pay any fines that may be levied against the NCC or its officers.
I had to chase up Carmel Tebbutt's office twice over a 3 month period before I finally got a response, which I have posted below:
What a load of rubbish! And note that they refer to the NCC's "alleged" bill posting. If the NCC didn't put them up, then who did? A group of shark-hating maniacs who were trying to discredit the NCC?
Essentially, they are trying to get off the hook by insinuating that Auburn Council might permit this sort of activity. Well, Auburn Council don't, and the Mayor tells me that they have been handing out fines of late and are cracking down on the practice. If they had bothered to check with Auburn Council before writing me this letter, they could have found that out for themselves.
I've asked the Mayor to write to the Department (or the Minister) to explain the position of Auburn Council, and to tell them to cease and desist!
In short, the Department of the Environment and Climate Change is going to take no action against the NCC for littering. The rivers of taxpayer funded grants will continue to flow uninterrupted, and no one will be punished. So much for the Minister for the Environment actually caring for the environment!