Surveillance camera policy under revision following breach.

The ‘breach’ was an inadvertent use of unmarked cameras at The Bight Cemetery, Wingham.

It was found, following a complaint about cameras at the cemetery, that cameras lacked appropriate signage.

The cameras were installed to monitor the site after vandalism created intense public interest in the area.

Following an investigation I have been advised that signage should have been installed to inform those visiting the site that cameras were in use,” Council’s General Manager, Adrian Panuccio, said.

Mr. Panuccio said the cameras were installed in good faith to protect the monuments which had not been damaged and were in place for a period of four weeks, however it was now clear following the investigation that this was a breach of privacy legislation.

As soon as it came to our attention we advised the Information and Privacy Commission of the breach and have since undertaken a range of actions to ensure we are compliant with the regulations going forward.”

Mr. Panuccio explained the cameras used at the cemetery were single shot motion activated cameras.

Under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act Council can install these cameras without signage for law enforcement purposes, such as the illegal dumping of rubbish. At The Bight Cemetery, there is doubt as to whether this exemption applies as Council is not the law enforcement agency for vandalism.

We have now reviewed our policy around the use of surveillance cameras and are implementing training for staff to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

A register of all surveillance cameras in use by MidCoast Council that require public notification by way of signage, including their location and purpose, will soon be available on Council’s website.

The revised Surveillance Camera Policy will be put to Council’s policy working group, which consists of staff and Councillor representatives, and reported to the March meeting of Council before being placed on public exhibition for community feedback.

Council is also consulting affected families on a draft restoration action plan for the repair of the damaged headstones at The Bight Cemetery. The draft plan is also with Blight of the Bight community group, the National Trust, Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW and Council’s Heritage Advisor for feedback.

The result of this consultation is expected to be reported to Councillors at the February meeting of Council, with work to start on the restoration following the adoption of the plan.