Higher fines fail to deter litter bugs

DUMPED: Higher fines have failed to deter people from dumping their rubbish in public places, like here in South Brighton Domain.

A new graduated scale to fine people for littering has failed to deter people from doing it.

The city council changed the rules in June last year by introducing a new graduated scale for fines, depending on the type and amount of rubbish dumped.

In the past, the maximum fine was $100. That increased to $400 under the new rules.

But figures released under the Local Government and Official Information Act show of the 389 litter and roadside litter complaints the city council received since the rule changes, just two fines were issued.

Both of those were $200 fines.

A city council spokeswoman said the number of complaints remained consistent with previous years.

“One of the constraints of the Litter Act is that the council officer must personally witness the offence and/or be able to identify the person committing the offence to be able to issue an infringement notice,” she said.

“Therefore, the level of infringements issued is low in comparison to the number of complaints.”

The new system had five tiers.

Less than 1-litre of rubbish dropped would be a $100 fine, between one to 20-litres was a $200 fine, 20-120-litres was $300, while more than 120-litres or hazardous, offensive or commercial material was $400.

City council head of regulatory compliance Tracey Weston said the maximum fine of $400 was intended to be a greater deterrent.

She said nearly all the complaints were received after the litter had been found.

“This means that there is little, if any, evidence of the identity of the person responsible for the dumping,” she said.

“There is little the council can do to increase the number of fines issued due to the evidential challenges around establishing the identity of the offender.”

Ms Weston said the city council spent about $120,000 in the last financial year removing rubbish that had been dumped.

The residential red zone had been a hot spot for dumping after the February 22, 2011, earthquake.

The city council had not issued any infringement notices in the years leading up to the rule changes due to a “change in personnel.”