If there’s any doubt over whether ordinary people can collect items abandoned by fellow-citizens and left on the nature-strip as hard rubbish for their council to collect – and based on statements by various police members yesterday, it appears there’s a bit of confusion in the force on the subject – then parliament should promptly legislate to clear that up.
If there’s any possibility that councils can successfully declare via by-laws that all property on nature strips belongs to them, the Crimes Act 1958 should be amended to specify – if section 73(2) doesn’t make it clear already – that it is no offence to collect material abandoned by homeowners in a public place, with the obvious intention of it being treated as rubbish and collected or recycled, regardless of any local by-laws to the contrary. That law should be consistent around the state, not vary council to council.
As for the argument that councils will have to pay for rubbish collection if the contractors are losing “the best stuff” – well, maybe. The metals etc still have value. But if not – well, that’s what rates are for. Council services like rubbish collection.
Of course it’s much better for the community that items are immediately recycled than eventually dumped in landfill. Only a lazy council, a profiteer company that wants the stuff for itself, or someone with absolute contempt for the poor, would argue they should be charged with a criminal offence for doing just that.