Coal free signage exemption motion defeated

Council stood firm behind its signage policy last Wednesday night (August 9).

In a close 5-4 vote, councillors defeated a motion to seek an exemption for anti coal signs to be allowed on heritage items in Berrima.

The motion was brought to council by councillors Larry Whipper, Ian Scandrett and Gordon Markwart.

Cr Whipper argued these signs were not permanent, did not harm the environment and were in line with council’s stance of a coal free shire.

“I don’t see there’s as much danger from these signs as there is from coal mining,” he said.

“Councillors, here’s your chance to be recorded as fighters for the freedom of democracy.”

The motion sought support for an exemption from the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Buildings of state heritage significance must adhere to the minimum standards of maintenance and repair, as per the the heritage act. 

Anti-coal signage does not fall into any of the Standard Exemptions for signage.

Some of the councillors had an issue with how an exemption would fit into the recently adopted signage policy.

“We have a policy- in May we all approved it 100 per cent. Here we are three months later trying to change it on the run,” Cr Garry Turland said.

“This policy says you can’t put a sign up without a DA (development application). Get them down or be fined as far as I’m concerned.”

While the motion was prompted by anti coal signage in Berrima, the issue soon extended to illegal signage across the shire.

“It is about the principle, not about coal. The principle is it is fair for everyone,” Cr Duncan Gair said.

Cr Grahame Andrews said giving an exemption for one lot of signage would set a precedent.

He agreed with Cr Ken Halstead that there were thousands of illegal signs across the shire that needed to be looked at.

However, Cr Gordon Markwart said it was important for the community to be able to voice their opinion on such an important matter.

The matter is now with the state government but he said people in the shire still needed to be aware of the issue until a decision was made.

“This is probably the biggest issue that’s facing this community right now,” he said.

“I see the community voice as very important. We need to give our community its voice. We give it through consultation, meetings, briefings and signage as well.”