Surveillance device regulation by local councils

Question 13–2 Should local councils be empowered to regulate the installation and use of surveillance devices by private individuals?

13.58 A number of submissions have raised concerns regarding CCTV cameras, installed for security in homes and offices, but that may also record the activities of neighbours. Such uses of surveillance may be more appropriately regulated by local councils, rather than surveillance device laws.

13.59 By regulating surveillance devices at the local council level, it may be possible to resolve many disputes without recourse to the criminal law. A clear and transparent resolution process via local council would also potentially increase access to justice in circumstances where criminal penalties may be perceived as too severe.

13.60 Local governments are responsible for duties such as assessing and authorising development of houses, granting or disallowing various structural changes to property and protection of the environment. In New South Wales, for example, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) and related planning instruments set out the types of development that require development consent from the local council. The installation of surveillance devices that overlook neighbouring properties could similarly require development consent.

13.61 Alternatively, the installation of surveillance devices could be included as a type of development that does not require development consent, provided certain conditions are met.[70]

13.62 Some councils already regulate surveillance devices. The City of Sydney Council, for example, has made determinations in the past on details such as the installation location and types of camera that may be used.[71] However, not all councils have such requirements.

13.63 Mechanisms for challenging local council decisions already exist in all states. For example, in NSW, review of a council’s decision by the NSW Land and Environment Court is available under s 82A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). In Victoria, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) can hear appeals against decisions of planning and development applications made by local councils.[72]