Minister says ticketless parking fines must meet community expectations

BELLINGEN Shire Council is one of 48 NSW local government areas that have been told to review their parking fine systems to meet community expectations.

The Council has accepted the decree but called on the State Government to work with it, before proposing a one-size-fits-all solution.

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NSW Finance Minister Courtney Houssos has written to Bellingen Shire and 47 other councils that issue ticketless parking fines – including Nambucca Shire – asking them to ‘address shortcomings in their approach’.

Ms Houssos has also written to the 80 councils that do not issue ticketless parking fines, telling them they cannot sign up to the system while Revenue NSW undertakes ‘more consultation’.

The ticketless fine system began as a trial in May 2020 by the former Coalition Government, before being expanded to more councils in December 2020.

Some have labelled it sneaky and unfair due to the difficulty of disputing a ticket, with notification often arriving weeks after an alleged offence.

The system allows issuing authorities to send details of a fine directly to Revenue NSW, which then sends an infringement notice by post or to the Service NSW app. In most cases the driver has no idea they have received a ticket.

In her letter, Ms Houssos said she was aware of community concerns around the issuing of ticketless parking fines, ‘particularly the timeliness of fine notifications’.

“I am requesting your council enhances your parking fine process so that drivers are provided immediate, written notification at the time they are issued with a parking fine,” she said.

“This is currently not a requirement of the scheme.

“This could be as simple as a note, which could take the form of a standardised, pre-printed card, noting that a fine has been issued.”

Ms Houssos said such a change would ensure drivers knew they had been booked by a parking officer upon returning to their car.

It would also ensure they could capture evidence – including photos and details of where they parked – so they could more easily have the fine reviewed, if required.

“The current implementation of the ticketless parking system has eroded trust in the parking fine system,” Ms Houssos said.

“Providing immediate notification to drivers is the right thing to do and is an important first step to restoring community trust in the administration of the fines system.”

Bellingen Shire Council’s 2022-23 Annual Financial Statements report income of $131,000 from parking fines, a significant jump from the $36,000 reported in 2021-22, $75,000 in 2020-21, and $103,000 in 2019-20.

Bellingen Shire Council General Manager Mark Griffioen said the Council had used ticketless parking fines for about two years.

“Our decision to implement ticketless parking fines stemmed from Council’s commitment to workplace health and safety,” Mr Griffioen said.

“Traditional ticketing processes exposed our rangers to unacceptable levels of abuse, necessitating a safer approach.

“With the adoption of a ticketless system, we’ve successfully mitigated this risk whilst enhancing operational efficiency, which is critical for smaller local government areas with constrained resources.

“We would request that the State Government engage local councils, in particular regional councils, for a chance to express our challenges around staff resourcing and safety before proposing a one-size-fits-all solution that will have a direct operational impact.”

He said Bellingen Shire Council remained open to suggestions for “further improving compliance-related processes” as it continues to “prioritise staff safety and community expectations”.

By Mike HELY

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