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Council power to remove abandoned vehicles which pose a fire risk - Circular 51.19

To Chief Executive Officer
Emergency and Risk Management Staff
Environment Staff
Environmental Health Staff
General Inspector
Marketing and Public Relations Staff
Parks and Recreation Staff
Recycling - Waste Management
Sustainability Officers
Date 19 December 2019
Contact Katherine Russell
Email: katherine.russell@lga.sa.gov.au
Response Required No
Summary Abandoned vehicles on roadsides can be the target of opportunistic property damage, including arson. Councils have power to remove the vehicle immediately under the Road Traffic Act if the vehicle is causing harm or creating a risk of harm to public safety.

Abandoned vehicles on roadsides can be the target of opportunistic property damage, including arson.  A review by SAPOL’s ‘Operation Nomad’ (arson) has determined the arson of stolen or abandoned vehicles contributed to several bushfires within South Australia in previous fire danger seasons and this risk is unabated.

SAPOL wishes to remind local councils of the need to look for, identify and remove abandoned vehicles as a priority, and that councils have emergency powers to deal with vehicles which cause harm or create a risk of harm to public safety (Road Traffic Act s.40N).

If s.40N of the Road Traffic Act applies because of the risk to public safety, SAPOL has advised that councils do not need to wait for 24 hours and notify the owner as per the requirements of section 237 of the Local Government Act, 1999.

SAPOL advises that the risk posed by an abandoned vehicle in an area of high fire risk (e.g. with dense undergrowth at the verge) would allow police or council to determine that a tow pursuant to section 40N of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 is more appropriate:

                 40N—Removing unattended or broken down vehicle if danger or obstruction

(1) This section applies if—

(a) an authorised officer believes on reasonable grounds that a light vehicle is unattended or broken down on a bridge, culvert or freeway; or

(b) an authorised officer believes on reasonable grounds that—

(i) a light vehicle is unattended or broken down on any road; and

(ii) the vehicle is—

(A) causing harm, or creating a risk of harm, to public safety, the environment or road infrastructure; or

(B) causing or likely to cause an obstruction to traffic or any event lawfully authorised to be held on the road; or

(C) obstructing or hindering, or likely to obstruct or hinder, vehicles from entering or leaving land adjacent to the road.

This advice is supported by DPTI’s publication Guidance Paper - Section 23—Removal of Vehicles:

https://www.dpti.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/152520/Guidance_Paper_No.2_-_Section_237.pdf

 

Given the catastrophic consequences posed by a bushfire, as seen from the unfortunate incidents interstate, SAPOL advises that an abandoned vehicle may pose the risk of harm to public safety and councils are advised to exercise these powers of removal.

If you have any queries, please contact:

Sergeant Shaun Blundell

Intelligence Supervisor, State Intelligence Branch

South Australia Police

100 Angas Street

ADELAIDE SA 5000

T 08 7322 4542 

E shaun.blundell@police.sa.gov.au 

 If you have any queries about this Circular, please contact:

Katherine Russell, Senior Policy Officer, LGA

E katherine.russell@lga.sa.gov.au  

 If you are interested in more information about the LGA Emergency Management Support Unit, please subscribe to our newsletters at:

 https://www.lga.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=7524

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