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Social Media Liability: Are you liable for comments made on your Facebook page?

The realm of social media liability has been a relatively untouched legal subject up until a recent landmark case in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The case of Voller v Nationwide News Pty Ltd; Voller v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd; Voller v Australian News Channel Pty Ltd [2019] NSWSC 766 held that three media companies were classed as the ‘publishers’ of comments made by the public on their Facebook posts for the purposes of a defamation class.

The three companies typically used their facebook page to disseminate links to news stories, which would also invite the public to leave comments on their public facebook page or their respective news website. Liability in defamation arises because the actual publication of the material is defamatory in nature, and ‘publication’ occurs when the material is delivered to the public. In this case, the Court found that ‘publication’ only occurs in respect of the comments when the comment is placed in a form that is easy to understand and able to be viewed by the public, which is done by the owner of the facebook page as opposed to the actual author of the comments.
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Local Councils: Waste Less, Recycle More Grants

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has released a timetable for the next four years of Waste Less, Recycle More grants.    Waste Less, Recycle More Grants are aimed at stimulating new investment to transform waste and recycling in NSW.  The grants assist Local Councils to recycle more and reduce dumping and littering in their local government areas.

The Grants program is designed to modernise the waste sector in NSW, including for local councils to improve the delivery of waste services to the community and to ensure a clean environment.

Local Councils are encouraged to participate in reducing waste and litter whilst increasing recycling.

A full timetable of the grants is available on the EPA Website.

Funding

Funding for the next four years is $337 million including $30 million for litter reduction grants, $4 million of that is specifically for Council litter grants and $70 million is for Council’s waste and resource recovery projects.

Waste Less, Recycle More

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Swimming Pools – Selling or Leasing a property

From April 2016 new laws were enacted relating to the sale or leasing of properties in NSW with swimming pools.

Who is affected?

The laws affect the following stakeholders, in relation to properties with pools:

  • the vendor;
  • the purchaser;
  • the tenant;
  • the landlord;
  • the real estate agent;
  • the local Council;
  • an accredited Certifier.

What are the requirements?

Properties sold with a pool must have either:

  • a certificate of compliance;
  • relevant occupation certificate and certificate of registration; or
  • a certificate of non-compliance.

Properties leased with a pool must have either:

  • a certificate of compliance; or
  • a relevant occupation certificate and certificate of registration.

What is the role of Local Councils?

Local Councils are responsible for educating about backyard pool safety in their local communities including swimming pool inspections and community education.  The NSW Government also encourages safety through its swimming pool register and “Be Pool Safe” campaign.

Councils are required to:

  1. Develop and implement a swimming pool barrier inspection program in consultation with their communities.
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Resolving Issues with Local Councils

It is not uncommon for issues to arise between local councils and the residents or businesses who make up the local government area.  We have outlined a general process of dispute resolution that can be followed if such an issue were to arise.

Dispute Resolution Steps

Step One

The first step that should be taken in trying to resolve a dispute with a Local Council is to approach Council directly.  This is because Councils are autonomous bodies with rights and powers under law.  As such, many problems are able to be resolved directly with the Local Councils.

Step Two

If the first step fails to resolve the issue, you should write to the General Manager and request that they look into your complaint.  It is a good idea to allow the General Manager a reasonable time to respond to the complaint, so that they can liaise with the relevant department.  Usually, four weeks is a good time frame, however, if the problem is long or complex you should allow more time for a response.
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DA lodgement to move online

The Department of Planning and Environment (the Department) has announced plans to move submission of a Development Application (DA) online, potentially saving significant time for applicants.

On average, the time to prepare and submit a traditional DA can take up to ten (10) days, however, through the proposed online system this could be reduced to half an hour (30 mins).

The online lodgement of DAs will be through the Department’s Planning Portal.

Whilst some local Councils currently provide for the online submissions of a DA, the planning portal will be the “one stop shop” for DAs and complying development certificates in the future.  It is predicted that the system will connect any type of application to be lodged to any local council within New South Wales.

The Department will need to make amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 to allow for online applications and is currently seeking feedback from the community and councils in relation to those amendments.  The relevant documents in relation to the Environmental Planning and Assessment (eplanning) Amendment 2017 can be viewed and online submissions can be made here.
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