Council may demand trolley ransom

COUNCIL officers would impound errant shopping trolleys and require supermarkets and department stores to hand over $100 to get them back under a new plan raised at a Ballina Shire Council meeting.

The idea of officers putting stray trolleys in the back of their utes and taking them back to a council depot has been raised before in Ballina.

However, councillors have raised the stakes by ordering officers to ‘investigate' formalising the idea, which would effectively require the supermarkets and stores to pay a ransom on their trolleys, as policy.

Ballina Mayor Phillip Silver raised the idea, at first suggesting the council adopt it as a policy but level a smaller $25 fee on retailers wanting their trolleys returned to them. By the end of the debate, the call had been moderated to investigating a policy, but the ransom demand had been quadrupled.

Councillor Alan Brown raised an even more radical idea to help the council's ongoing quest to stifle the presence of abandoned trolleys on the town's streets, calling on the State Government to introduce $1000 fines for people who abandon shopping trolleys.

That idea was shot down after David Wright pointed out that would mean a stiffer penalty for abandoning a shopping trolley than for drink driving and after Keith Johnson warned it would be difficult to police and lead to higher costs to businesses, which would then be passed on to consumers.

The proposals come as Ballina's supermarkets and stores quietly ignore the council's politely stated ‘preference' that they introduce a coin or token deposit system to encourage shoppers to return their trolleys – similar to the one operating at Byron Bay's Woolworths supermarket.

“We have stated clearly we want a token system,” Cr Jeff Johnson said.

“We don't want them lying around and they (the retailers) are not doing that (introducing a token system), so we need to start to impound them and fine them as much as we can so they get the message.”

The debate strayed into silliness a few times, with councillors making quips about trolleys behaving indecently or being abducted by ‘criminals'. However, the issue has been a serious one for the town in the past.

During debate on the issue in March, councillors expressed concern about trolleys dumped at roadsides being a hazard to traffic or trolleys being dumped in waterways presenting an environmental and boating hazard.

There have been reports of residents stockpiling shopping trolleys at their homes, with one reportedly having a collection of 60 trolleys at their house.

Councillors Susan Meehan and Robyn Horden both said things had improved substantially since then and added that Ballina's retailers were making a genuine effort to stop their trolleys being left in streets.

It was also pointed out that putting a giant steel cage on wheels into the back of a council ute was not necessarily a simple procedure. “If we solved this problem, we should be put in for a Nobel prize,” Cr Brown quipped.

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