What will Council do next over the illegal gate across Coopers Island Road

After two years of an illegal gate being erected across the public road known as Coopers Island Road council staff have finally succumbed to community pressure to see the issue brought before the councillors and the general public at an upcoming Council meeting, most likely scheduled for May. FACT: The Eurobodalla Council and its councillors have knowingly allowed a gate to be erected on a Public Road since October 2019 and have allowed it to remain in full knowledge that, as the Roads Authority under the Road Act 1993 , the gate had no authority, that there was no approved Gate Permit (as required) and that the gate was in breach of the Road Act 138 Works and structures

(1) A person must not— (a) erect a structure or carry out a work in, on or over a public road otherwise than with the consent of the appropriate roads authority. Maximum penalty—10 penalty units. Council has formally accepted that they have been aware of the illegal gate advising The Beagle that "Council was made aware of the gate and forwarded a request to the property owners to provide an application for a permit on 28 October 2019." Under a GIPA request The Beagle has established that the owner did not provide an application and for the past sixteen months has been allowed, by Council, to continue to maintain an illegal gate across a public road way that, from all appearances, also sets out to imply by signage, that the road is private.

Above: Councillor Anthony Mayne on March 28th, 2021 at the illegal gate that is erected across the Public Road known as Coopers Island Road. It is clearly evident that the farm has no signs under the Biosecurity Act 2015 so any suggestion by the Mayor that the gate is in place for bio-security reasons is groundless. When The Beagle asked Council why the illegal gate was allowed to remain and not removed, as required by law, the Council responded "At this time the devastating Black

Summer bushfires had commenced, and Council was already redirecting its resources to

higher priority issues to prepare for summer. As the fires progressed and left considerable

destruction in their wake, Council spent much of 2020 focused on supporting and

rebuilding our infrastructure and communities."

On the 15th of April, 2021, some seventeen months after the first official complaint about the illegal erection was lodged, Council advised The Beagle the "Council has since received complaints from both visitors to Coopers Island Road, and the landowners, regarding activity on the road, causeway and bridge. These complaints are being investigated.

"Council prefers not to take an initial punitive stance on various regulatory matters,

preferring an educational and cooperative approach in the first instance. To this end, we

again requested an application for the public gates earlier this year, which we received 17

February 2021. We are reviewing the application in the overall context of the current

situation, and a decision will be made on this matter shortly."

In its response to questions from The Beagle Eurobodalla Council also advised "Council is hopeful an acceptable solution can be negotiated which would maintain public

access to the waterway for the purposes of recreational fishing. The landowners are

communicating with Council also, and a formal report to Council on the issue will be

forthcoming where a decision by Councillors is expected to be made."

Council add "It should be noted that gates across public roads for the purposes of controlling stock are not unusual in an agricultural Shire such as Eurobodalla. To reduce inflammatory incidents, we thank the community for applying care and common sense when driving through farms." While the Council might consider that their response to The Beagle is the final word on the matter this issue until a report comes before Council with recommendations the fact of the matter is that a Road Authority, our Council, has failed in its duty under the Roads Act 1993 to remove the illegal gate having been approached by the members of community, representatives of the recreational fishers, local community associations and members of the Koorie community. While Council might offer that it was "redirecting its resources to higher priority issues to prepare for summer" the fact remains that the illegal gate on a Public Road was first brought to their attention well before the bushfires and that, irrespective of their priorities, the gate was in breach of THE LAW. It would have taken an hour at most to remove the gate to a Council depot, as Council has done on several earlier occasions with other illegal erections. So why not this gate? The Roads Act 1993 sets out the rights of members of the public to pass along public roads. Coopers Island Road is a PUBLIC ROAD. Objects of Act

The objects of this Act are— (a) to set out the rights of members of the public to pass along public roads, and (b) to set out the rights of persons who own land adjoining a public road to have access to the public road, and (c) to establish the procedures for the opening and closing of a public road, and (d) to provide for the classification of roads, and (e) to provide for the declaration of TfNSW and other public authorities as roads authorities for both classified and unclassified roads, and (f) to confer certain functions (in particular, the function of carrying out road work) on TfNSW and on other roads authorities, and (g) to provide for the distribution of the functions conferred by this Act between TfNSW and other roads authorities, and (h) to regulate the carrying out of various activities on public roads. In a nutshell The Roads Act 1993 is the rule book and Council have been delegated the task of regulating the rules for Public Roads because "7 (4) The council of a local government area is the roads authority for all public roads within the area" So what are the rules about Gates on Public Roads? Division 2 Public gates

128 Roads authority may grant permit (1) A roads authority may permit the occupier of any land through which an unfenced public road passes to erect a gate across the road at any place at which the road intersects a boundary fence. (3) A roads authority must cause notice of the granting of the permit to be published in a local newspaper. In regards to the above we know that Council HAS NOT granted a permit and that they have only recently been approached with a Gate Permit application (February 17th 2021) As to where that application has moved to in its processing it is evident that it has not reached the stage where a Notice has been placed similar to the one below.

It is understood that Council might be considering the option of selling the road. It is understood that Councillors have been advised that the Crown might support such a decision with 'the department' recognising that many Crown roads within the public road network are not required to maintain public access saying "In these cases, Crown roads may be sold or closed without compromising the broader public interest." If they choose to go down that path Council will need to recognise the concerns of the Public around their traditional rights to access the creek and launching area known as Bowns Creek that is accessed via Coopers Island Road.

This section of the Bowns Creek is adjacent to the concrete weir build by Council with ratepayer funds and located at the end of the graded section of Coopers Island Road that has been maintained annually for more than four decades. This section of Coopers Island Road is a favourite family recreational fishing spot, a popular prawning site, a launch area for kayaks to navigate the western reaches of Bowns Creek and Trunkatabella Lake and also, most importantly, a traditional cultural fishing location of the local aboriginal groups and families. If Council decide with a six to three vote to sell Coopers Island Road (as they might to rid themselves of the maintenance burden) then the following process applies: The Crown road purchase application process After an application has been received, the department will consider the suitability for the Crown road/s to be withdrawn from the public road network for the purpose of sale. The department administers road purchase applications in accordance with the statutory requirements provided for in the Roads Act 1993 and Roads Regulation 2008; the department’s policy, Administration of Crown roads; and the supporting guidelines. The minimum processing time for a successful road purchase application is 10–11 months. This estimate relates to applications with no complex issues or unforeseeable administrative delays. Complex negotiations during the consultation with affected land owners will generally influence processing time frames. The processing time is from the date of application commencement and not the date of application receipt. The statewide interest in the purchase of Crown roads has led to a backlog of road purchase applications awaiting processing and should be factored into your planning. The 28-day submission period The department advises affected and interested parties of all proposed road purchases to ensure procedural fairness. Public consultation occurs through: • publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper and inviting submissions from interested parties • notifying all adjoining and affected landowners • notifying relevant public authorities (for example, NSW Fisheries) In a nutshell if Council intends to sell Coopers Island Road then the public will be advised, engaged, invited to comment and the NSW Fisheries If Council want to pursue the idea of a sale then they need to be advised that there are additional processes where recreational fishing access may be affected. The Mayor has spoken of concerns around public access along the road possibly compromising the bio-security of the farm. For the Mayor and anyone else who might have heard this as a possible justification the following are the rules around bio-security. The bio security act was put in place to prevent activists entering farmers properties without approval. The members of the Tuross Head Progress Association were recently informed that for the Mayor or anyone else to to suggest the gate on Coopers Island Road or lock out via fencing at the Bowns Creek foreshore was for bio-security reasons "seems a lot of crap, particularly when you read the requirement of the management plan which included approved plans/signs." "Land Services refer to the same Government documents. As you are aware no such signs are displayed. The amendment to the Biosecurity Regulation 2017 provides extra protection against biosecurity risks caused by unlawful entry to premises. The changes make it mandatory for any farm or site visitors to comply with a biosecurity management plan. "Having a biosecurity management plan remains voluntary for farmers, but where a biosecurity management plan is in operation it will become a legal requirement to obey relevant signs, procedures and measures outlined in the plan.

Anyone who enters the designated management area, deals with biosecurity matter, such as animals or produce, and doesn’t comply with the biosecurity management plan’s requirements may be guilty of an offence under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The community meeting was told: "To ensure that you are protected by the new arrangements, you must:

  • ensure your biosecurity management plan is up-to-date and sets out reasonable measures to prevent, eliminate or minimise biosecurity risks, and ensure you are actively following it;

  • ensure there are signs at each entrance to the management area where biosecurity management plan applies (see the maps below for examples on where signs are needed).

Signs must:

  • advise that a biosecurity management plan is in place

  • outline that it may be an offence under the Biosecurity Act 2015 for a person to fail to comply with the measures set out in the biosecurity management plan

  • tell visitors how they can contact you (or a property manager), for purposes of inspecting the biosecurity management plan and understanding their biosecurity obligations on your property

"Most importantly for any bio-security farm You must display signs at every entrance to the area covered by the biosecurity management plan." It is understood that a report will come to Council in May for their consideration.

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