Feedback on rest areas in WA

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 19:11
ThreadID: 10548 Views:2033 Replies:8 FollowUps:11
This Thread has been Archived

I work with Main Roads WA, and currently my area of responsibility is remote site rest areas. Specifically, toilets in rest areas.

To cut a long story short, most if not all of the toilets that we provide in rest areas are in a bad state. In the past we put in long-drop pits, but we are no longer allowed to do that (take it up with the department of health if you disagree). So recently, on decommissioning old pits, we've been putting in Enviro Loos. These are a composting design, but one that hasn't worked for us because the mechanisms inside them break very easily. There are 3 such toilets on the Eyre Highway, a few in the Gascoyne Area, and quite a few in the Pilbara area such as at De Grey River. They look quite new, and most are less than 2 years old, but we have big problems with them. You can tell them apart from a pit because they have a black lid out the back, and the bowl is made of porcelain rather than steel. They also look newish compared to pits, which are all quite old and battered.

We have huge problems with these. We cannot seem to maintain them to a point where they remain functional, and no matter what we do, someone finds a way of ruining or wrecking it. Understanding that we are Government and cannot spend a kings ransom on maintenance or even the facility itself (mind you, for the cost to us of installing such a toilet, you could build yourself a small brick house). We've had to shut up most of the facilities while we work on a solution, which will hopefully be in place for the grey brigade and you guys in a few months.

But anyway, I'd like to know of any people here who've used the toilets in our rest areas, and get your opinions. I know they are generally disgusting, and I know there probably aren't enough of them. But would people have any useful ideas to contribute? Like the idea of somehow pricing the use of these facilities (they are free)? The providing of buckets and brushes and information? Whether graffiti is an issue to you? Your willingness to perform a small amount of 'toilet maintenance' like you would in your own toilets? The nature of people you think might be wrecking our facilities? Are they not sturdy enough? How busy they can get at times? Or places where you feel rest area toilets are now required but aren't provided? We are very likely to replace the pit toilet at the free Murchison River campsite on Northwest Coastal Highway, with an alternative in the next month or two, and would people have any suggestions they would like made and considered?

All comment will be read and responded to if appropriate, and all comment is appreciated. Please respond to this message, which will go to my work email address, or to If anyone would like to discuss the matter over the phone during work hours, I am happy to do so, but please respond indicating as much.

Ian Peters
Back Expand Un-Read 0 Moderator

Reply By: Member - Errol (York WA) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 20:53

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 20:53
G,DAY Ian . First thing that comes to mind , do away with porcelain and go for stainless steel bowls . Ive seen them elsewere in Oz , and thay seem to work well . A bit more expencive but i tend to think thay last longer .Why go overseas when you can ExplorOz
AnswerID: 46806

Follow Up By: eyesspee - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 13:29

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 13:29

This is certainly an issue particularly where the toilets are in close proximity to aboriginal communities. Certainly where bowls are smashed, we will replace them with stainless steel bowls, but they're installed as ceramic because that is what comes with the toilet when it is purchased.

What are your thoughts on toilet seats? Ones with plastic hinges seem to get ripped off and smashed, so I put some heavier duty steel hinge ones in on the Eyre Highway. Are toilet seats a necessity, or am I wasting time and money on them?
FollowupID: 308885

Follow Up By: Member - Errol (York WA) - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 18:05

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 18:05
I think the seats are something you are going to have to live with . Some sort of cover over the bowl i think is needed to stop the flies . You will allways have sombody who just has to mess it up for the next person who comes along . I know my wife always uses them when thay are available and she hasent been to happy with them . I myself used one down in Doyup Brook yesterday , the person befor me left the seat up , the stench was somthing to write home about .Why go overseas when you can ExplorOz
FollowupID: 308910

Reply By: WOMBAT - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 23:19

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 23:19
Hi Ian , read with interest about the Enviro loos , at this time i am fitting two of these enviro loos for a corporation , THE sheds are simlular design to the one at Arrow smith on the Brand high way which i had a look at today ( not very nice ) (dirty) I also had a look at the one which had been pulled out .Do you know about the mod??? I help put one (enviro loo) in on the canning stock route two years ago with the old flap system which is not working properly ,We are going out to the c,s,r in March to do the mod (converor system )hope it works .
Would like to have a meeting with you if possible and discuss a few ideas. Please e-mail me on;
AnswerID: 46834

Follow Up By: eyesspee - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 14:07

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 14:07

I have emailed you privately about this and am keen to hear some of your opinions. I was actually up there at Arrowsmith supervising the installing of the Ecosan toilet just after Christmas.

FollowupID: 308887

Reply By: Alex_W - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 00:25

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 00:25
G'day Ian, I've just come back from Quoin Head in the Fitzgerald National Park where they have a composting toilet. It was not pretty! Linda, my wife, came out looking seriously crook - she actually had tears rolling down her cheeks - after her morning constitutional. This is a fairly isolated spot and I can't imagine the dunny will recieve anywhere near as many deposits as the rest areas you are responsible for. Clearly the person who visited before Linda didn't feel the need to do any of the "toilet maintenance" you mentioned the fact that all of the tools were available nothwithstanding.

At the other end of the spectrum I walked the Overland track in Tasmania a while back. the composting toilets there were very clean. I guess the fact that it was the dead of winter might have played a part but also suspect that the chaff that users were encouraged to poor down the spout before they left might also have contributed.

Good luck!
AnswerID: 46840

Reply By: silvia - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 00:38

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 00:38
Hiya Ian

Working at Ramset have a fair amount of contact with people at Main Roads in the Metro department and they are a nice bunch work hard with a lot of limits =)

I am travelling up the coast next month and no doubt will experience a few of these (a first for me), be back before the end of March. If it's of use to you I can make some notes of the ones I find along the way and will have something to contribute in the way of suggestions by then.
AnswerID: 46842

Follow Up By: eyesspee - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 14:10

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 14:10

I'd be very pleased to know your thoughts on the matter. Please take suitable notes and relay them to me via email to

I'd be very grateful for that. Cheers!
FollowupID: 308888

Reply By: Willem - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 10:20

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 10:20
G'day Ian,

A very interesting post. I always look for redbacks on or under the toilet seat.

I cannot comment on your WA rest areas as it has been a while since I have been in your state. South Australia has recently started building rest areas with ablutions along the Stuart Highway whereas the Northern Territory are bulldozing rest areas(so as to force travellers to use commercial ventures...or so they presume). The SA facilities are in the form of the Windy Loo (which you find on NSW outback highways) with stainless steel fittings. I am not sure of the composting mechanisms.

As far as graffiti goes I see that of late there has been a more and more writing on benches, poles, doors and rafters by overseas visitors travelling the country. The other groups are the indigenes from various communities in the outback who are not ashamed to even state which community they are from. I suspect that a majority of graffiti appears when alcohol consumption is invoved. The only way to combat this is to spend big money on materials which are designed to be vandal proof or to have road crews do more regular maintenance on facilities. Man has been scribbling his name since writing was invented. You will never stop graffiti.

My main gripe with facilities provided(in general...Australia wide) is that the regional councils do NOT clear the rubbish bins provided at rest stops on a regular basis. Recently I drove north on the Calder Hwy in Victoria and the number of overflowing rubbish bins was amazing. Once they start overflowing the crows have a field day and spread the litter even further. I normally try to clean up if I have stopped there but it is a health risk.

Hope you get some helpful answers.

Out on the Gibber
AnswerID: 46861

Follow Up By: Coops (Pilbara) - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 11:18

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 11:18
I agree with you on the bins and whilst it is a problem, I cannot see how regional councils like shire of East Pilbara, Broome or Port Hedland for example could possibly be expected to empty these bins on a regular basis (I presume you mean daily or thereabouts).
I think people who use these areas should take their rubbish with them until they come to a facility. Impossible I know but it's the only feasible solution as the logistics are not manageable.
I also think graffiti should be a mandatory jail term regardless of whether Man has been scribbling his name ever since he could. I've never done it and I doubt that any of my true friends have either and I doubt that you have. Why should we tolerate it ?Live the life you love -
Love the life you live !!!
FollowupID: 308871

Follow Up By: Willem - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 20:32

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 20:32
G'day Allyn,

If the councils are not in the position to clear the bins REGULARKY why put them there in the first place. Everything in life is interconnected. Councils provide a service to travellers...travellers contribute to the welfare of the council district.......the council charges their rate payers higher rates as they have become more well off......more money comes in to the coffers of the council.....counils can utilise some of the money to pay workers to empty the bins on regular basis.

Graffiti......We could argue on this over a mug of sweet stuff at a campfire and come to a reasonable conclusion but here on the forum I have to tell you that to my mind your train of thought is very narrow and limiting.

For example....These days we make a great fuss of the countless aboriginal art sites across this country and the world for that matter.We admire petroglyphs left by ancient peoples with awe and admiration. We also take great value in describing names scribbled on rocks by early Ausralian explorers as 'of historic significance'....but please do not add your name as you may incur a $5000 fine. So where does this leave the graffiti artist? Why has the expression of graffiti art( be it spraycan paintings or written words) in todays society become such a criminal offence that it warrants jail sentences? In 1000 years hence, if any of these expressions survive, what will the people of the future say about our society and our intolerance to expression of our art or historic markings? A moot point, I know, but indeed something to ponder.

In the mean time if we need to combat graffiti then we must think up new ways other than imprisoning people.

Out on the Gibber
FollowupID: 308925

Follow Up By: Coops (Pilbara) - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2004 at 05:30

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2004 at 05:30
Willem, Some figures just for interests sake :
Shire of East Pilbara is the largest Shire in the world comprising an area of over 378,533 square kilometres (larger than the State of Victoria).
Total population of the region was 7,912. (ABS, Census 1996).
Area (378,533 sq km),
Length of Sealed Roads (814.62 km)
Length of Unsealed Roads (224.6 km)
Number of Employees = 49

It's not hard to see how a bin would rarely get emptied and it would be a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge really.

I concur that my train of thought on graffiti is somewhat narrow. That comes about from years of cleaning it off my fences and personal property (that which wasn't stolen anyway). I've considered other methods of combating Graffiti and nearly all of them would see me end up in the slammer myself. They can scribe what they like on their own property, but I tell ya if I catch the bastards doing it to mine - they'd wish they had gone to prison !!!

I look forward to sharing a campfire and a mug of that sweet stuff one day, regardless of the outcome.
Live the life you love -
Love the life you live !!!
FollowupID: 308973

Reply By: Michelle from ExplorOz - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 14:27

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 14:27
Thank you for using our Forum for gaining feedback from our audience on this important and relevant issue. As you can see already, we have an Australia-wide audience that is able to contribute on both local and interstate experiences so hopefully this will be of help to your cause.

David and myself have of course, travelled extensively, and I've seen most of the loos you are referring to. I'll attempt to answer the specific qns you have raised based on this experience:

1. pricing - no
2. buckets, brushes, information - yes absolutely. Many people will indeed like to contribute to keep them clean if given the necessary gear.
3. graffiti - I ignore it but I don't condone it. Acceptance that you can't stop it is fine, but acceptance that if the council provides the structure then they need to budget a 6mthly graffiti clean-up perhaps.
4. who is wrecking them? - there is an element in all societies that is undesireable. But I do sense that if a toilet is presented badly then there is no respect. If a person finds a toilet in good condition then by default more respect for the premises is gained. Catch-22.
5. toilet seats - although a toilet looks repulsive without one, I don't think they are necessary in this situation. No woman in her right mind actually sits on one and men mostly lift the seat or go in the bush for short visits. For longer sitting (the reason most toilets are used) they are certainly welcome, but most people accept the reasons why they are often not provided and can manage.
6. A big factor not mentioned here is the case for/against doors and to leave seats up or down. In some areas, toilets have instructions to close it all up to alleviate flies coming in - however, then the flies that invariably do get in breed whilst closed up and as soon as someone opens the toilet lid they get hit with a zillion flies - most repulsive. I've been to some toilets where the opposite approach works well - no seat or lid, and no door, and no door. Flies come and go, but at least you aren't bombarded with the swarm when you attempt to do your business. This usually only works if something is put down the toilet after doing the business - such as chemicals or water to clean the sides of the bowl.

I actually think the reason toilets are so poorly maintained by users, is that they tend to hurry the job to get away from the flies, the stench etc as fast as possible. There is little care when one is so revolted they can't stay longer than necessary yet are shamed to have to use it whenyou have little alternative.

Ian - have you thought of talking with Track Care on this issue too?

Last year I was the Secretary of Track Care and this year due to limited time, I've taken the less demanding role of Newsletter Editor but I am still very much involved in the group. Track Care was responsible for the CSR enviro loo installed at Well 6 refered to by WOMBAT above (a Track Care member), and I was pleased to see his input into this thread as I am aware of many other toilets in the state that he has been recently concerned about. It would be good to discuss this more with him.

We hope you get some useful response to this thread.ExplorOz
AnswerID: 46890

Follow Up By: Member - Errol (York WA) - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 17:50

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 17:50
Well said Michelle ! Why go overseas when you can ExplorOz
FollowupID: 308908

Follow Up By: eyesspee - Monday, Feb 23, 2004 at 13:17

Monday, Feb 23, 2004 at 13:17

Your comments are noted and appreciated. In terms of the Enviro-Loo on the CSR, I wish you the best of luck with it. Perhaps CSR travellers are the types who will actually care for and look after a facility like that, which is what it needs. They are a very fragile system.

On the Eyre Highway we have just put in cheap brushes and buckets at the three retrofitted toilets. They are cheap and basic because I suspect the theft/damage risk on such items is high. However, I may put in better quality ones if it later seems my risks were unfounded.
FollowupID: 309688

Reply By: Peter Guy - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 18:32

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 18:32
Hi Ian we travel around the state a fair bit and I do my level best to avoid stopping in WA "rest areas" as they seriously depress me due to the disgusting amount of litter.
It is a shame as the rest stops in SA and other Eastern States as a rule are significantly cleaner.
The SA bins are better designed with lids to stop the litter being blown out and/or dragged out by birds and animals.
We prefer to rest in virgin bush rather than the designated rest stops in WA.
I hate to think what the interstate tourists must think of us!
I'm embarrassed when we take visitors touring.
If you can get Main Roads to improve the bins that would be a start.
Forget about the dunnies-if they are not regularly patrolled/cleaned you will never keep them in a good state.
Cheers Peter Guy.
AnswerID: 46930

Follow Up By: eyesspee - Monday, Feb 23, 2004 at 13:08

Monday, Feb 23, 2004 at 13:08

If I have my way, we will look at retrofitting all our bins with grate coverings to prevent birds pulling out rubbish.

We are between a rock and a hard place. If we don't provide rest areas, it's an excuse to sue us for negligence when someone drives too far and has an accident. However, when we do provide rest areas, those responsible for our budget aren't prepared to allocate the ongoing resources to keep the rest areas in a good state.

Take matters such as that up with a minister spending $1.5b on an urban-sprawl promoting railway.
FollowupID: 309685

Reply By: bruce.h (WA) - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 20:57

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 20:57
Gday Ian
have you thought of adobting the american idea of haveing the local unimployed people look after them so instead of having to aply for howevermany jobs per week to maintian their payments if they choose to look after the toilets this would make them eligible for their payments
just an idea
AnswerID: 46950

Follow Up By: eyesspee - Monday, Feb 23, 2004 at 13:09

Monday, Feb 23, 2004 at 13:09

Unfortunately, in most of our locations there aren't many locals at all! They're usually remote, isolated, unpopoulated areas, far from any communities (especially the Eyre Highway). Areas that have locals (be they unemployed or otherwise) are usually catered for in terms of areas to rest, so we don't provide rest areas in those spots.
FollowupID: 309686

Sponsored Links