- Parking fines will drop from $110 to around $80 under a plan from the NSW government.
- But the reduction only applies to areas run by the government, such as the Botanic Gardens and Sydney Olympic Park.
- That means only 10% of around $200 million worth of fines issued annually.
With an election less than 12 months away, the NSW government is doing its best to look good, announcing on the weekend that it will cut the cost of parking fines by 25% in the state budget being handed down in a fortnight.
But there’s a catch that means that 90% of motorists in Sydney and across the state will most likely still be hit with a $110 penalty the next time they overstay a meter or spend longer in the time limited zone than allowed.
The reduction, which comes into effect on July 1, only applies to areas under the government’s control – and that’s just a handful of places such as Sydney Olympic Park, Centennial Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens (where $7ph street parking is another debate) and Parramatta Park.
Local government controls and issues most of the parking fines in NSW, and it’s a $172 million annual revenue stream for cash-strapped councils.
That figure is expected to top $200 million this year. The City of Sydney alone takes in around $35 million annually, followed by the Inner West Council with more than $13 million. Waverley Council in the city’s east, which includes Bondi, pockets more than $9 million from fines.
So NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet wants Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore to voluntarily take a nearly $9 million hit to the city council’s budget.
That’s around half the total of nearly $18 million in fines from government-run parking zones that the NSW government and police actually collected last financial year.
Which means the cost to the government of the weekend’s announcement is just $4.5 million.
The other important thing to note is that the government gets a cut of around one-third of the revenue from council-issued fines – so about $60 million under the current arrangement.
Given the longstanding enmity between the Coalition government, which has done its best to try and blast the Lord Mayor out of power over the last five years, and Moore, you can imagine how that idea will go down.
In response, a City of Sydney spokesperson said: “The City is still considering the impacts of the State Government’s announcement about parking fines.
“Any decision by the City about the issuing of fines will need to be reviewed and approved by Council.”
A spokesperson for the Lord Mayor said Moore noted the plan to undertake community consultation about parking fines and signage encouraged residents to take part.
“The Lord Mayor has long been calling on the state government to reduce the clutter and confusion created by multiple signs in metropolitan Sydney,” they said.
“Parking restrictions are an important tool to balance the competing demands of road users, but it is vital that the rules are fair and easy to follow for residents and visitors to Sydney.”
And while the government’s reduction sounds generous, it’s worth remembering that just a year ago, Perrottet increased the fines for a number of parking offences by 143% – from $110 to $257 – including parking in your own driveway and blocking the footpath.
Even with the 25% discount to just over $80, the fine for overstaying a parking meter will be roughly the same as in downtown Manhattan, where it’s $US65, although elsewhere in New York City, the cost drops to $US35.
In Melbourne, an expired ticket will cost you $32. Brisbane’s fine is $94.
Parking continuously for longer than permitted, and parking without a valid ticket or after it’s expired make up around 80% of all the fines issued.
The NSW Government sets parking fine levels in the state, with the current minimum mandated amount at $110.
Which means the easiest way to fix this would be for the government to mandate a lower rate. But that’s not what Perrottet announced for his budget.
This way he can blame councils for the fines and still pocket the government’s share of the revenue while claiming to have done his bit for NSW motorists.
The NSW treasurer said his weekend announcement is the first step of a major review of fines – excluding those focused on road safety – and parking signs, with the view to make signs that can be piled 4-5 signs high on a pole simpler to understand.
The government is also looking at a grace period for overstaying metered parking so you’re not slugged the minute it expires.
“It’s time to make the system simpler and fairer, that is why we will cut 10 of the most common parking fines when issued by the NSW Government by 25% and undertake a review into others,” Perrottet said.
The minister now wants local government authorities to follow the Government’s lead.
“I would hope they do the right thing by residents, ratepayers and visitors and undertake a review of their own approach to parking fines,” Perrottet said.
“Fines should be a deterrent to an offence, but they also should be fair, and not used as an easy option to build a bankroll for whatever project is flavour of the day.”
The NSW government is launching a website nswfinesreview.com.au to seek feedback on parking fines and signs from the community.
The survey will also allow drivers to upload pictures of confusing parking signs in their communities.
* This is an opinion column.
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