Sunday, December 5, 2010

A few more for the crusher

A short stroll around the suburb last week unearthed a handful of abandoned vehicles. I don't go for a walk looking for these things - I go for a walk to stretch my legs. I just have an eye for spotting things that look out of place - like rusting, spider web covered out of rego abandoned vehicles.

The first was a courier van that hasn't done any deliveries for 18 months - the rego expired in Feb 2009.

If I can find the rego sticker (not all abandoned cars have one visible), I photograph it and email it to Council, along with a photo of the vehicle and the street address where I found it. Council can only remove vehicles if the rego has expired, so they know you're not wasting their time if you send them evidence that the rego expired long ago. They don't want to have to do a pile of paperwork, only to find that the vehicle is still registered. (Sometimes it is registered, but the owner hasn't bothered to attach the new rego sticker - you can cop a $75 fine for forgetting to do that).

I found two abandoned cars on opposite sides of the street. The rego of one expired almost 12 months ago, and the other one about 6 months ago.

I guess this car was crashed into something, and the owner couldn't be bothered fixing it - so they just abandoned it in the street - leaving it to the ratepayer to pay for its removal. Some people have no class at all.

Art - cabinets and laneways

I spotted these in a laneway in the city last week - it's a series of 5 babushka dolls that have been glued to the wall.

The lower part of each doll is a montage of photos of large dolls that someone has lugged around Sydney and photographed in iconic locations. I'm assuming this is guerrilla art of some sort - it makes a lovely change from the tags that are sometimes scrawled along these walls.

Canada Bay Council has engaged an artist to beautify a number of RTA traffic light cabinets around the Drummoyne area. Personally, I think the cabinets in Leichhardt are better - but that's just my personal taste. This is certainly much better than the graffiti tags that were there previously.

I just hope that Council views this as a success, and rolls it out across the rest of the Canada Bay area.

More of these dolls - anyone for a pie floater?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Smashing stuff - update

Someone - I am assuming Council - cleaned up this smashed pay phone very quickly. I reported it after 5pm on Thursday, and by 7am on Friday, the pay phone had been wrapped in warning tape and all the glass on the footpath had been swept up.

They didn't get all the glass - some was left on the road and in the bike lane - but the turnaround time was quite amazing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smashing stuff

A Telstra pay phone tonight - a car went over the kerb and smashed the advertising screen on the back of it. Might have been an impatient driver who didn't want to wait for someone turning right, went around them and found that the road wasn't wide enough. The police turned up, and a tow truck took the car away.

Result - broken glass all over the footpath and road.

The impact must have been fairly hard, as glass was sprayed a good 10 metres down the road.

The owner of the car isn't going to clean up all that glass. The police won't do it either, or the tow truck driver. Lot's of people had a look at the glass when I went past, but no one seemed inclined to do anything about it.

I've emailed these photos to Council, along with the location. They'll probably have it cleaned up tomorrow. If you don't tell them about it, how can they take care of it?

Monday, November 15, 2010

How a rubbish trap is supposed to work

We've had good rain for the last few days - the run off has flushed plenty of rubbish down the local canals and into the rubbish traps that line the harbour. This trap in Lilyfield has come adrift twice so far this year - when it's floating around aimlessly, it isn't collecting rubbish like this.

When I see all this rubbish being scooped up by the trap, it makes the minor hassle of reporting it all seem worthwhile.

Pot holes filled - success

The pot holes in Lilyfield that I reported on Wednesday have all been filled in.

See - all you have to do is report them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Testing, testing...

John Rolfe, the "public defender" at the Daily Telegraph has started a campaign to get councils to fix basic services - like pot holes in our streets.

Good on him.

Canada Bay Council is generally pretty good at fixing pot holes - if you bother to tell them where they are. When I spot a pot hole, I try and photograph it, then email it to Council along with the location and approximate size. In some cases, I've reported one I've seen on the way to work and then found that it's been fixed by the time I've headed for home. The key thing is letting Council know they've got a problem - they can't be everywhere at once.

We've had some heavy rain around here lately, and possibly as a result, at least a dozen pot holes have opened up in Perry Lane, Lilyfield (near Le Montage). Most are the size of dinner plates or larger, and a few inches deep.

By the look of all those tar patches, plenty of pot holes have opened up here previously.

I emailed the top photo to Leichhardt Council on Wednesday morning, and got a response just after lunch. The pot holes have been logged. I go past here every few days - I'll keep an eye on how long it takes them to fill them in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Destruction of public property

Vandals just love smashing up our local bus shelters. This is the 2nd or 3rd time that I've reported this particular one in Abbotsford. Last time, the glass panel was completely smashed and there was glass all over the footpath. This one is right outside a primary school and day care centre- big chunks of broken glass and little kids don't go well together.

Bus shelters are owned and maintained by our local Councils, not the bus companies. So ratepayers are paying for this damage directly.

I've emailed this photo to Canada Bay Council, along with the address of the bus shelter. Council are generally very good at getting onto problems like this - once they know about them. If there is glass all over the footpath, they'll have someone out straight away to clean it up. Replacing the glass panel usually takes a little longer.

Unfortunately, a lot of people (including bus passengers) look at the broken glass and think that somebody else will take care of fixing it up. No they won't - if you want it fixed, you need to do something about it. Something as simple as emailing Council to tell them about the problem.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beautifying our streetscapes

The Leichhardt Council area has had them for some time - artistically decorated RTA traffic light cabinets. Normally, these cabinets are a dull grey, enlivened quite regularly with a variety of graffiti tags. Rather than endlessly paint them to cover the tags, the RTA allows Councils to decorate them with public art.

There are a lot of these cabinets around Canada Bay - every set of traffic lights has one. Council made a start this week by working on half a dozen of them in an area that is high visibility (in terms of passing traffic) and high impact (in terms of the amount of graffiti applied).

It's a great start - I hope to see more of it in future.

Who does what around here?

I received a response from NSW Maritime last week regarding a broken rubbish trap in Rodd Point. It turns out the trap is owned by Sydney Water, even though NSW Maritime removes the rubbish. Ah, what a tangled web our government departments weave.

The good news is that next time the trap fails, I know who to report it to - NSW Maritime were kind enough to give me the direct phone number and email address of the person responsible at Sydney Water. I suppose they are sick of me writing to the Chief Executive, and want me to annoy someone else. And I can do it for free - sending an email beats paying for a letter and stamp.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I know the courts are slow, but this is ridiculous

In April this year, I emailed the people responsible for managing the Downing Centre court house and asked them to replace the flags out the front - they were completely worn out. Faded, torn and tattered. I like seeing the Australian flag flying outside public buildings - but I also want to see that it's flown properly and with respect. Those responsible for the flags at the Downing Centre appeared to have no idea about flag protocol.

I noticed last week that they've finally raised two new flags.

It's incredible that it's taken them six months to procure two flags. Six months!

Monday, October 25, 2010

How fifty cents can save the world

Maybe that's just a slight exaggeration. But spending fifty cents on a stamp has helped to keep Sydney harbour clean.

Maritime NSW has installed rubbish traps on a number of canals that drain into the harbour. From time to time - either due to foul weather or foul play - the traps come adrift from their moorings. When that happens, rubbish flows straight into the harbour.

The first photo was taken on 11 October, showing the trap wide open. It had been like this since at least 29 September, when I first noticed it. I wasn't organised enough to report it straight away, although this just goes to show how many other users of the Bay Run have been paying attention to the rubbish traps (or noticing and not caring) - none!

I wrote and posted a very simple letter to NSW Maritime on 11 Oct:

Mr Steve Dunn

Chief Executive

NSW Maritime
James Craig Road

Rozelle NSW 2039

11 October 2010

Dear Mr Dunn

Reporting of broken rubbish trap on Iron Cove Creek, Rodd Point

I wrote to you in July 2010 regarding the rubbish trap on Iron Cove Creek having come adrift.

It was fixed shortly afterwards, but it has since become adrift again.

Yours sincerely

On 14 October, the trap was fixed. Last time I wrote to NSW Maritime about this problem, they fixed the trap within a day. NSW Maritime is a fairly small organisation, so the CEO doesn't need to go through a lot of management layers to get the problem fixed.

When I went past tonight, it was good to see that the trap had already collected a lot of rubbish - not that it's a good thing that a lot of rubbish is drifting down this canal, but it's good to see that at least the trap is grabbing it before it ends up in the harbour.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The article below appeared in this week's edition of the Inner West Courier. I pity the poor property owners in parts of Strathfield that are being hammered by vandals - it's always the businesses that get hit the most.

The problem here appears to be a disjointed approach to cleaning up an entire area. Graffiti attracts graffiti, so if a number of property owners don't pull their weight and leave their premises in an appalling state, their neighbours suffer as vandals repeatedly come back to hit the cleaned areas. You need to clean an entire area all at once, and then keep it clean, rather than just hitting single points every now and then.

As for the Liberal Party policy - I like the idea of a centralised hotline for cleaning up graffiti. I've spent months wading through bureaucratic thickets trying to find out which agency or department is responsible for cleaning up certain areas - sometimes without result. Public servants love to pass the buck to someone else - a graffiti hotline will eliminate the pain of having to contact multiple agencies before you finally find someone that will take responsibility and action.

As for taking away the driving licences of vandals - I'd handover vandal's cars to people who have had their property vandalised and let the victims spray paint them as much as they like. Let vandals feel what it is like to have their property rights abused - that might change their attitude towards graffiti.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Graffiti in EnergyAustralia’s sights

The title of this post comes from a press release that Energy Australia sent me back in April.

Energy Australia cleans up about 40 instances of graffiti per week, and graffiti reports are up by 50% since 2007. It costs Energy Australia (and energy consumers) $500,000 a year to remove graffiti. From the press release:

“Residents in suburbs with high reports of graffiti are doing the right thing in alerting us to the problem so our crews can remove the graffiti quickly.

“We’ve found that the quicker we remove graffiti from our equipment the more of a deterrent it is to other vandals.

“Graffiti vandalism is not only a blight on neighbourhoods but it’s a safety risk and most importantly, it’s a crime.

“That’s why we’ve doubled our efforts and appealed to the community to report graffiti to help us keep the network clean and safe.”
The table below is from the press release. Between 2008 and April 2010, there were 194 graffiti reports in Canada Bay. About 100 of those reports were from me, so it's nice to know there are others out there lodging reports. I've noticed that over the last two years, Energy Australia's turn around time has improved dramatically. They now sometimes remove graffiti only a few days after its been reported - which is great to see.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How Green is the electorate really?

Balmain is supposed to be one of the greenest areas in Australia. Leichhardt Council is dominated by Greens. The state seat may go Green at the next election.

The Bay Run sits right in the middle of this Green Utopia. If Greens like to exercise like everyone else, 10% of the people who walk or run around the Bay must vote Green.

All of them walk past this rubbish trap when doing a lap of The Bay. This rubbish trap keeps an enormous amount of litter out of the harbour. It is a Very Good Thing. However, it's completel useless when it comes adrift from its moorings - like it has in this photo.

Whenever this trap comes adrift, I report it to Maritime NSW. They usually come out and fix it pretty quickly. Although this area is awash with Greens, how come none of them ever, ever bother to report it? Why are they happy to walk past it, watching rubbish drift into the harbour, without feeling the urge to do something about it?

Greens - all talk, no action.

Two more cars heading for the dump

It's not a car - just a humorous amendment to a sign.

This vehicle didn't have any plates on it, and the rego expired back in April.

The rego on this one expired back in August.

I emailed all these photos to Council last week (except the "knob" photo) - they're usually pretty quick when it comes to getting rid of abandoned cars.

Three for the price of one

I dropped Ashfield Council a line this week to let them know that one of their bus shelters in Haberfield had been vandalised.

About an hour later, one of their staff rang me to ask which one exactly I had been talking about - they had been to the street in question, checked all the bus shelters and found that three had been vandalised. Three for the price of one.

Nice work Ashfield - they were onto it quickly and without any fuss.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

CPTED for dummies

CPTED means "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design". In other words, don't make things easy for crooks.

A classis CPTED strategy for reducing graffiti is to put plants in front of walls that are easy to vandalise. This road side noise wall is a classic example - the RTA has planted all along the side of it facing the houses, and although the wall stretches for several hundred metres, this spot here is the only one with graffiti on it. The creepers and bushes do a great job of discouraging vandals. (I've written to the RTA and suggested that they extend the trellising to cover this spot so that creepers will eventually cover it over).

The rest of the wall looks like this - green, pleasant and clean.

It's not so easy to use this strategy where there's not enough sunlight to encourage plant growth. When that happens, you end up with "art work" like this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quick work

This van has been sitting here for months, slowly getting covered in leaves as the tyres go flat. As the rego expired last month, I finally got around to reporting it last week. When I went past a few days later, there was already an orange council sticker on it communicating an intention to tow it away. See the plastic box on the roof with beach gear in it? That's been sitting there for at least 3 months as well.

If the car has a visible rego sticker, I take a photo of that as well and email it to Council. That lets them know all the details of the car (make, model, rego and expiry date) and seems to help things along. Councils can't tow a vehicle away if the registration is current, so if you can show that the rego has expired, it makes their life easier.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Common sense appears at Sydney Water

My com-padre sent me the following email earlier this week:

Please be informed that this location is currently under our Fortnightly inspection that our contractor attends the site every 2 weeks and they will remove the graffiti if there is any.
The idea is to send the message to offender that Sydney water will persistently remove the graffiti at this site until they stop.
Any question please feel free to contact me via this email address

It's only taken a few years, but it's great to see that they've finally gotten the point. Inspect regularly, paint quickly and the problem quickly diminishes. Be proactive.

I've noticed around our area that the same idea seems to have sunk in at Australia Post, and things have much improved with the RTA. However, Energy Australia just don't appear to be interested in being more proactive. If I can convince Energy Australia to start undertaking regular visual inspections of their kiosks, I can hang up my camera and find a more interesting past time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to attract people to public transport

Public transport is one area that cops a beating from vandals. Big graffiti murals on trains make the news, but the acres of small tags spread across all the bus infrastructure has been forgotten about. Bus shelters, seats and signage are repeatedly hit by vandals. Cleaning a shelter or seat isn't that hard, but cleaning the signage tends to result in the information on the sign being erased by the chemical cleaning agents.

Apart from being a mess, this sign is out of date. It advertises a "travelpass", which has been replaced by the "mybus" or "myzone" travel system. I guess the people in charge of marketing the new ticketing system forgot about cleaning up and updating all the bus info poles out there in the suburbs.

What continues to frustrate me is that a bus driver pulls up at this spot every 15 minutes or so between 6am and 8pm. Dozens of bus drivers would see the state of this sign (and many others like it) every day. However, none can ever be bothered to report the vandalism. The excuse from Sydney Buses is that councils are responsible for the seating and signage. Fine - but why is there no mechanism for communicating damage to that infrastructure between Sydney Buses and councils? Why do Sydney Buses just wash their hands of the matter and claim that it is somebody else's problem?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reasons to be grumpy

It took Maritime NSW the better part of a month to fix this rubbish trap on the harbour. I had to hassle them three times before they finally took action.

Here's a photo I took last year of the same trap, showing how much rubbish it collected. The trap is at least a metre deep, and they tend to fill right up between visits from the Maritime rubbish boat. Imagine how much junk flowed into the harbour during the month when it was inoperable....

Charming little sods

If you do a bit of searching, you'll quickly find academics who spend their time running around at the taxpayer's expense defending graffiti. For once, I'd like to hear one of them defend graffiti like this - a dozen tags of "cum" splashed across the top of a local business. That's so erudite, so witty, so artistic - not.

Just around the corner, we have a new boy in town. There must be a war going on in graffiti-land over turf. This bloke has been going around crossing out the tags of the long established vandals, and putting his own up instead. If the two groups involved happen to meet by accident on a dark night, things could get ugly.

Here's an example of engineering vandalism being undertaken by Leichhardt Council. I describe it as that because they're currently repeating the same mistakes they made with the last section of path that they laid through here - the path slopes the wrong way, and has no drainage, so that it turns into a canal when it rains.

I wrote to Council not long ago, and got a response saying that my letter had been passed to a particular gentleman within Council. I bet that by the time he gets around to responding, the path (or canal) will be complete and it will be too late to do anything about it. If you're going to build a path, at least build it properly. It makes my blood boil to see our money spent on such badly engineered works, when it would cost no more to do it sensibly.

I emailed the Mayor of Leichhardt about this several months ago, but I guess he decided to ignore that email - the results speak for themselves.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Not so eggcelent

I was having a drink with a friend last year and she told me a story about how she was running around the Bay and she had an egg thrown at her from a car.... I think. Or maybe the story was about a friend of hers that was egged. The details are lost in the mists of time.

I'd forgotten all about it until I was going around the Bay Run on Monday morning and spotted a number of broken eggs on the path. I went past three before I twigged to the possibility that some idiots had been driving along Henley Marine Drive and throwing eggs at pedestrians and cyclists. When I got to the next egg, I stopped and took a photo - the way it is streaked across the path suggests that it was hurled, rather than dropped.

I'm going to do a bit of asking around and see if anyone I know has ever been the victim of an attempted egging. I wouldn't want to get hit by an egg thrown from a car travelling at 40-50km/h.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

To the scrap yard

I went for a wander around the Concord/North Strathfield area this morning and found six abandoned cars - which is a record. One was only 2 months out of rego, but a few had been sitting around rotting since 2008.

Reporting abandoned cars is easy. I simply email Council with a photo of the car, along with a photo of the rego sticker and the street address. They take care of the rest.

When I photograph an abandoned car, I also photograph the nearest house number and the street signs at the nearest cross street - just so I remember where they are when I get home.