Moonee Valley councillors have denied new local laws ban ‘begging’ despite a council officer report stating the 2018 General Local Laws prohibit begging within the municipality.
Moonee Valley Council approved the new Local Laws unanimously at their ordinary meeting last night.
A report by officers stated that “[b]oth the proposed Activities and General Amenities Local Law and the draft revised Footpath Trading Policy include measures to improve the management of busking activities, whilst spruiking and begging on Council managed land will be prohibited activities within the municipality” (emphasis added).
In response to inquiries about which local law specifically bans begging, and whether Moonee Valley Council is permitted to pass a law related to a matter dealt with by state legislation, MVCC said the law relates to persons who may commit a “nuisance” under section 2.1.1:
It was explained this could be through interfering or blocking access to a footpath or road, or any manner, in a municipal place.
In Council debate, Cr Nation said that “in the body of the report there is a reference to begging … begging is obviously a state government matter, so it’s not actually formalized in our Local Laws, but it is referenced in the report.”
It’s “important for people who haven’t taken the time to read the entire document, not suggesting councillors, but members of the community,” he said.
In addition, references to ‘spruiking’ and ‘soliciting gifts’ in the Local Laws have caused confusion.
Cr Nation said “these are not new items in this 2018 Local Laws – in fact they were part of Council’s General Local Laws in 2008. That’s really important. They have been slightly contemporized … they existed in the 2008 document … we are not making any radical changes. We are just updating this document.”
The commission of a ‘nuisance’ is not a general offence under the 2008 laws.
In the 2008 Local Laws, ‘spruiking’ was allowed with a Council permit; in the new laws it is a prohibited activity. There were no references to ‘spruiking’ in the draft 2018 local laws.
Defined as “using a human voice to generally promote goods or services to passing pedestrians on a street or in a public place”, spruiking of any kind is now banned in all Council buildings, municipal places and on roads.
It has been further connected to on-street charity collecting through Cr Nation’s Notice of Motion “seeking changes that could be made to Council’s by-laws to ban on-street charity spruiking in Moonee Valley’s activity centres”.
Further measures to address charity collecting in Moonee Valley are contained in the draft Footpath Trading Policy restrict charity collections on footpaths to not-for-profit groups who apply for a permit and only for three days per year. Subscriptions and automatic debiting is not permitted under the draft document.
The draft document has been approved for consultation, with Cr Lawrence commending the policy as providing measures to protect the community from “pests” who collect for charity.
Cr Nation also said the newly constructed law against ‘soliciting gifts’ existed in the 2008 laws. The newly phrased law is not defined, and was not clarified at the meeting.
Only two councillors spoke on the agenda item, with Cr Lawrence speaking for less than half a minute.
In trying to clarify the laws that will soon prevail in Moonee Valley, the author is wondering whether, in fact, she will be charged with being a nuisance.