Homeless man fined thousands over toilet


AN ILL homeless man's battle with Gold Coast City Council over toilet block access has escalated after he was issued a fourth fine and he's now looking to move to Victoria.

Graeme Aitken, 66, has now accrued $2668 via four fines since August last year for parking his van near the public toilets at Burleigh Beach.

The location provides safe 24-hour access to a toilet facility so Mr Aitken can manage a debilitating bladder condition.

He strongly disputes claims made by the council that they have offered to assist him by connecting him with homeless support services.

Instead, Mr Aitken says he and his dog Duke were startled at 5am on Sunday by a council officer who issued a $667 fine for illegal camping.

"They haven't offered any help. They have fined me over $2000."

Graeme Aitken lives with his dog Duke in a van at Burleigh Beach. Picture: Jerad Williams
Graeme Aitken lives with his dog Duke in a van at Burleigh Beach. Picture: Jerad Williams

With the debts mounting, Mr Aitken said he tried to contest the first two infringement notices but was yet to hear back from council, whom he said had already sent the first infringement to State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) which incurs an additional administration fee.

"I thought they were supposed to inform you before a fine went to SPER because I've had no call back, not anything," he said

With few options left and faced with an agonising wait for surgery, a fed-up Mr Aitken said he is now assessing his legal options and a potential move interstate.

"I've approached human rights lawyers because I want to find out if the laws the council are using to fine me are legal or otherwise," he said.

"If a lawyer can't help me then I won't just stay here. I'll have to go to Victoria to get my health issues fixed, the health system is stuffed in Queensland."

Mr Aitken said at the moment he was parking up at Burleigh Beach until about 1am "which is when I have to go to the toilet, and then I take off because I won't need to go again until about 4am, then I just come back to Burleigh".

Graeme has medical issue. Picture: Jerad Williams
Graeme has medical issue. Picture: Jerad Williams

"My health's going down quickly, and I need a bit of help from the council so I can get through this and get it fixed.

"I just want to be left alone, stop knocking on my door between two and five in the morning, I haven't had a decent night's sleep in years."

In a statement, a council spokesman said: "City officers have tried numerous times over a number of months to connect Mr Aitken with support agencies that can provide more suitable accommodation and assistance with his medical condition.

"The City is sympathetic to his situation however he has refused all offers of assistance, and refused to move from the car park."

In response to a question about fining him at 5am on a Sunday, the council statement said: "The City is obliged to respond to complaints and in this situation, it received a number of complaints about illegal camping in a public car park. Officers have no alternative but to respond to reports of anyone illegally camping.

"Officers patrol in key areas early morning and late-night to ensure that no illegal camping is occurring."