Safety concerns raised after person steps on syringe at vacant block in Shepparton

By Liz Mellino

Public health and safety concerns have been raised after a member of the public reportedly stood on a syringe on a vacant block close to a Shepparton school earlier this month.

Blocks at 131 Rowe St and 300 High St, back onto each other and, with no fence or signage in place, people often walk through.

The News has been told dozens of syringes were found dumped on the blocks, along with piles of rubbish, human faeces, burnt furniture and blankets and items of clothing belonging to squatters.

The News visited the site yesterday and syringes were found alongside other discarded items.

The privately owned blocks are directly opposite ACE College in Rowe St.

School social worker Joel Hoffman said he had watched people walking through the blocks on a daily basis and was concerned about the risk posed to the community.

‘‘We want it cleaned up, not just for us but because people walk through there all the time ... I see kids from other schools walking through there,’’ he said.

‘‘For about a year or so there have been people living there on and off and for the last probably three months we’ve noticed one person living there pretty much full-time.

‘‘The issue for us is that there has been heavy drug use over there and we’ve been finding lots and lots of needles.’’

Mr Hoffman said the school was made aware of an injury to a community member who was walking through the blocks on May 3.

It is believed the person stood on one of the syringes, which Mr Hoffman said raised a number of concerns at the school.

‘‘We went over to investigate and I counted 50 needles just on my own,’’ he said.

‘‘I see people walking through there all day every day, it’s a public health concern and a public health risk.

‘‘At the moment there is no fencing, there’s no signage — it’s all open, there’s nothing there to give an indication that you shouldn’t go through there.’’

Following the incident, Mr Hoffman contacted Greater Shepparton City Council to see what could be done to address the issue.

In the week following the incident Mr Hoffman said council officers came to the site on two separate occasions, collecting syringes and taking photographs to document damage.

In correspondence from May 9, seen by The News, one day after the council visit, Mr Hoffman asked about what could be done to promote public safety and make sure the owners cleaned up the land and provided adequate fencing to stop public access.

In a reply, Mr Hoffman was told photographs and notes from the visit would be forwarded on to the Local Laws Department to follow up.

Four days later, on May 13, Mr Hoffman contacted the council to confirm whether the owners had been made aware of the issue and when a clean-up could be expected.

The following day he received a reply stating the council was unable to give those details, but assured him they were dealing with the matter as previously explained.

In a statement provided to the News, a spokesperson said they were working with the owners of the land to make sure the debris was cleared and public safety maintained.

‘‘Council is working with the owners of the private property to ensure they meet the requirements of legislation under Local Law No.1 Community Living 2018, 2.1 Unsightly or Dangerous Land,’’ the statement said.

The council could not give a timeframe on when the clean-up was expected to be completed.

As of yesterday, Mr Hoffman was still waiting to hear from the council regarding the clean-up operation and syringes could still be found at the site.

While the blocks would not be the only ones in Shepparton posing a health risk to the community, Mr Hoffman was worried other community members could be injured if action was not taken immediately.

The News was unsuccessful in its attempts to contact the block owners yesterday.