Basic right

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 19-Oct-2017

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The draft public toilet strategy considered by councillors on Wednesday night has been placed on review for public comment, and while public toilets might not be the most pleasant topics of conversation any of us want to have, the reality is we all need them, and it’s a conversation this community needs to have.

The report included a potential option to one day implement a small fee – a pay as you go proposal, where in return for a small fee paid by the would be user, patrons are guaranteed a high level of cleanliness and hygiene as well as constant passive surveillance of our public toilets.

But that guarantee should already exist.

We already pay for toilets across the municipality to be serviced, cleaned and maintained.

The Greater Bendigo Public Toilet Strategy report rightly points out that there a range of challenges associated with a user-paid system, primarily the risk to isolated vulnerable members of the community. 

“There are however many ways that a user paid system can operate and it does not necessarily need to apply to all toilets and locations.”

The recommendation does not support the adoption of a user paid system in the short to medium term, but says should such a system arise in the longer term, council should undertake further investigations and consultation with the community.

So for that to happen, what is required to change, we may all well ask?

The City of Greater Bendigo would firstly owe ratepayers an explanation as to why it cannot afford to maintain toilets, if it opted to impose a toilet tax.

Where has the money that used to pay for toilets to be cleaned gone?

Are public toilets, or more pointedly, clean public toilets, an early casualty of rate capping? 

Council is right to state that visitors to a town will long remember and often comment on the standard of amenities provided for their use. 

But Bendigo should not want to be the city remembered by those passing through as the place with a toilet tax.

One of the suggestions that has arisen as part of this discussion has been how private toilet providers – fast food chains, service stations etc can also no longer guarantee clean and hygienic toilets either – and those places need to be held to account by environmental health services, and their own standards.

The provision of clean, safe and hygienic public facilities must surely rank above many other services and programs provided by council, both now and into the future. 

The council can’t continue to describe access to clean toilets as a basic right and then possibly consider imposing a fee on would be users.

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