Local News

Beware, a ranger will be watching

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) will employ three additional fulltime rangers, pending adoption of its 2020/2021 budget.

At the April 28 CVC meeting, councillors voted unanimously in favour of Cr Peter Ellem’s motion; staff had recommended employing two new rangers.

The council’s full-time ranger numbers have not increased over the past ten years, staff advised councillors, however, “on occasions, temporary staff have been engaged through a local skill-hire company”.

“The ranger duties have a high risk factor when dealing with irate public – eg campers and vicious dogs – hence, it is not desirable to have casual staff given the training needed.”

Cr Ellem’s motion, which matched the staff’s Option 3, will result in a $170,000 net impact on the draft budget – the gross budget estimate to pay three rangers and supply vehicles is $255,000.

One of the three rangers will be a dedicated parking officer – staff expected that tickets written by the parking officer will cover that officer’s wages.

However, staff pointed out that “the number of infringements will generally decrease as the community awareness of the patrols increases”.

At the council meeting, Cr Ellem said he was “absolutely certain there is enough work” for three new rangers.

He based his statement on “many meetings” of the illegal camping working party, which he chaired.

“Head ranger Tim was on that committee and he has detailed the workload that our existing compliment of rangers face, year to year,” Cr Ellem said.

Cr Ellem said he wanted CVC to “maybe not raise revenue for the sake of it, but to look at the whole valley, and look at ways to improve the amenity of our local residents … [while] cracking down on people showing disrespect for the communities they travel through”.

“I’d also love to see one of the positions go to and indigenous person … or a couple of indigenous rangers – on country looking after country for all of us,” he said.

Cr Karen Toms said that the “majority of people will applaud” having more rangers.

“They want the council to do something about freedom campers and people coming to town [spreading their] rubbish and defecating…”

Cr Richie Williamson said he was in favour of the motion “on this occasion; but if everyone does the right thing, the business case collapses”.

“I’m most uncomfortable in setting KPIs [key performance indicators],” he said.

“We are talking about writing five tickets a day in Clarence Valley school zones … 48 weeks a year. “We need to be upfront; they are unlikely to be tourists.

“While I support it, it is worthy of our attention that it is a double edged sword – we may see less revenue if people do the right thing.”

Cr Greg Clancy said he “fully supported” Cr Ellem’s motion.

“I live in Coutts Crossing and the dog issue keeps rangers extremely busy.

“…I think we need to fund a sufficient number of rangers to do the job and, if all the dogs stop barking and all the people do the right thing, then consider reducing the number of rangers.”

Cr Andrew Baker said “we are only just scratching the surface”.

“I can justify increasing resourcing – funds for more parking signs or metered parking – because I know those things will only impact on the wrong doers,” he said.

“The right doers will benefit …; for residents in the Clarence Valley, I’d like to go further.”

The council currently employs eight fulltime staff in its regulatory services team.

The full suite of CVC’s 2020-21 Integrated Planning and Reporting documents, which are on exhibition until 4.30 pm on Wednesday June 3, and other relevant information can be downloaded here.

A strategic estimate of revenue generated by one permanent full-time parking officer. Image: CVC